Trang X. Ta
Delineation and analysis of a specific problem or related problems in anthropology. Offered occasionally by visitors or resident faculty.
ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE SELF
The self, defined vis a vis other selves, is a means for us to playact various social roles. This course approaches a study of the self to understand how, rather than being the same everywhere, the human self is an historically recent, and socially constructed aspect of human experience. As a culturally informed construction, the self is not a single or coherent object of study, but is constituted through a series of practices or what Michel Foucault calls "technologies" to produce a sense of self as "natural." It is through these disciplining processes that conceptual boundaries such as individual/society, private/public, and normal/abnormal come to "make sense." By historicizing and contextualizing genealogies of the self and the practices that adhere to its formation, we will analyze various moral, scientific, and popular regimes that are essential to the production of the self.
Questions explored in this class include: How is the liberal western conception of the self historically situated within the rise of middle class subjectivity? How does the individual preoccupation with the self as an object for improvement come into tension with social participation on a larger scale? How is the self implicated in the production of citizen-subjects within a nation? How can alternative epistemologies of the self offer a different model of political engagement? How do conceptions of the self inform global agendas of human rights, social justice, and equality? The readings in the course draw from a range of theoretical and popular literature focusing primarily on contemporary North America.
Student learning goals
Develop an understanding of the historical formation of your "self."
Practice reading a variety of scholarly texts and learn to synthesize the arguments for writing assignments.
Understand how we come to adopt and naturalize epistemologies that serve to inform how we interact in the world.
General method of instruction
Seminar style discussion.
General liberal arts courses. Familiarity with political philosophy would be very useful.
Class assignments and grading
Three writing assignments, go-posts, and participation.
Grades are based on the clarity of the presentation of ideas, perceptive analysis of the topics, insightful utilization of the course readings, and quality of written prose.