“Do you like vegetables?” Sophie asked, hoping to steer the converstion towards a slightly less dangerous kind of food.
“You is trying to change the subject,” the Giant said sternly. “We is having an interesting babblement about the taste of the human bean. The human bean is not a vegetable.” – Roald Dahl, The BFG
Animal? Vegetable? Mineral? Who and what humans are depends a great deal on one’s point of view.
Applying an interdisciplinary approach, this course will bring in literary, historical, anthropological and scientific research to question how we think about ourselves – as humans, as individual subjects or as groups – and how we think about others, other types of subjects/objects or groups.
The classroom will be our laboratory, and contemporary human cultures will be under our microscope. Our scope will extend not only to human social relationships, but also to our relationships with the natural and technological phenomena with which we coexist.
We’ll kick off this course with an in-depth look at some basic concepts – “human”, “subject”, “self” and “other” – discussing the ways these categories might operate in thought, discourse and the social sphere. But we’ll soon move to more concrete terrain and try to hone in on the norms, techniques and political ideologies that have influenced our ideas about ourselves and others.
This a project-oriented course and our ultimate objective is to conduct anthropological investigations: through observation and critical analysis of advertising, political discourse, ethnography, film, news media and social media and more, students will isolate some of the ways our notions of ourselves and others are culturally produced.
Projects will focus on any rites, rituals or technologies that contribute to ways of thinking and acting, and actually constitute the world in which we live and move.
Coursework includes: some reading in preparation for class (theory, poetry, prose and empirical studies); stimulating class discussion; an individual or group “fieldwork” project (e.g., video, advert, visual analysis…) culminating in one 5-page research paper OR fictional/speculative work exploring our theme.