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ANTH 508 A: Current Issues in Sociocultural Anthropology

Meeting Time: 
F 12:30pm - 1:20pm
DEN 313
Ann S. Anagnost

Syllabus Description:

This 2-credit seminar is designed to introduce graduate students to the work of sociocultural anthropologists on faculty at UW, and through that to provide an appreciation of the breadth of topics and approaches in the field. These talks, which double as a colloquium series and are open to all who wish to attend, will meet Fridays 12-1:30 in Denny 313, five times over the course of winter quarter.

Titles will be added as they become available. Each speaker has been asked to select one or more articles for students to read in advance of the talks. These will be posted on Canvas under "files." No written assignments will be required but you will be asked to sign in each time, to confirm your participation for purposes of assigning credit. Feel free to bring your lunch, and please ask questions and take part in the discussion -- this is your opportunity to engage with the work of other sociocultural anthropologists here at UW!

Speaker Schedule

Jan 5: Crisca Bierwart (Affiliate Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, UW).

“Visible on Ancestral Lands: Mapping Contemporary Coast Salish Public Art.”

Dr. Bierwert will give an informal presentation (with visuals) about a website she is developing to map the public art work of contemporary Coast Salish artists, in collaboration with the artists.  This mapping is intended to make more visible not only the art work, but the histories and perspectives of the artists whose land we stand on here in this region.  Discussion of the project will review responses of artists and art promoters contacted to date, and strategies to engage public audiences.  Broader issues include the cultural politics of mapping and land-marking; and the practicing of public scholarship, advocacy and ally-ship.  Those who come will be invited to exchange experiences, engage in a critical examination of the project, and make suggestions for the project.   

You are welcome to bring a brown-bag lunch for this event.

For students signed up for ANTH 508, please find the readings for this presentation here. For the Dhillan reading, Professor Bierwert suggests that readers focus especially beginning on page 67.

A Salish Welcome by Marvin Oliver.jpg        GC Crisca smaller.jpg

Photo: A Salish Welcome by Martin Oliver


Jan 19: Jessica Johnson (Visiting Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, UW).

"Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Desirous Assemblages"

This talk uses auto-ethnography to analyze long-developing affective entanglements that bodily took hold as I watched a 30-minute video of Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle that aired in July 2014. Although controversies surrounding Driscoll’s sermonizing on gender and sexuality and congregant testimonies to systemic bullying and spiritual abuse had been publicly surfacing for years, it was this short video of Pastor Mark that inspired former church members to rally behind the cry, “We Are Not Anonymous.” My paper examines Mars Hill’s use of digital technology and Driscoll’s preaching on gender and sexuality to theorize “conviction” as surplus affective value—a porously open-ended yet embodied process of social subjectivity with biopolitical effects that reinforce and exceed regulatory logics. Using empirical and discursive evidence, I analyze convergences of affective labor and space through which practices of communication and mediation, and dynamics of freedom and control, were conflated, became contagious, and went viral. On the whole, this talk explores how ethnographic engagement with affect is acutely generative for the study of power and religion as it elicits attunement to encounters of vulnerability that trouble felt distinctions between the sacred and profane, sinner and saved, and human and nonhuman, such that ethical potential is animated beyond the purview of ideological affinity.   

For students in ANTH 508, the assigned reading can be found here.

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Feb 2: Jonathan Warren (Professor, International Studies, UW).

"The Poison of Progress: Human Capital and the Discourses of Class."

Development scholars have long concluded that one reason why East Asian economies have been more successful than Latin American economies is the different levels of investment in human capital. What they have been unable to explain, because of their aculturalism, is why. In this talk I offer an answer to this human capital riddle. Drawing on my comparative ethnographic study of Brazil and Vietnam, I map out the different discourses of class that I uncovered and spell out why I believe that these narratives are the reason for the varying degrees of investment in education, health care, housing, and transportation infrastructure. In Brazil, there is a racially inflected elitism that is very different from how the Vietnamese interviewed thought about class and the poor. I demonstrate that as a consequence of this social imaginary there has been a formidable anti-poor bias that has resulted in insufficient investments in capacity-building, irrespective of political regime or macro-economic policy. The implications for development are clear-cut: these elitist features of the Brazilian cultural terrain must be undone in order to ensure robust economic growth. 

For students in ANTH 508, the assigned reading can be found here.

 Warren Image.jpg          Warren author pic.jpg


Feb 16: Devon Pena (Professor, Department of Anthropology, UW).

"On Intimacy with Soils: Indigenous Agroecology and Biodynamics"

Devon Peña is a professor of anthropology and is also himself an organic and biodynamic farmer. He manages the Acequia Institute's almunyah (farm school and grassroots agricultural experiment and research station) in Viejo San Acacio, Colorado. The 181-acre farm is located on traditional Caputa Ute homeland territory and is part of the historic long-lot (vara strip) granted to Dario Diego Gallegos, the founder of La Plaza de San Luis de la Culebra on the 1844 Sangre de Cristo (Mexican period) land grant. It is irrigated by two community acequias, the San Luis Peoples Ditch (1852) and the Robert Allen Ditch (1889), hence the name of the farm, Almunyah de la Dos Acequias. The almunyah is a rare supplier of artisanally-produced chicos del horno, the famous adobe oven-roasted white flint maize listed on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste as an endangered and disappearing heritage food. The lecture will discuss the work at the almunyah focused on ecological restoration and reliance on indigenous soil biodynamic and permaculture [sic] practices while highlighting how this work has been informed by Dr. Peña's research in ethnecology and agroecology. Professor Peña may also address the work he did on the drafting and passage of the 2009 Colorado Acequia Recognition Law, which punched a hole in the Doctrine of Prior Appropriation.
For more information on the work of The Acequia Institute, please visit:

For students in ANTH 508, the assigned reading can be found here.

Chicos del horno and La Sierra Common lands.png      devon_pena.jpg


Mar 2: Andrea Gevurtz Arai (Visiting Lecturer, International Studies, UW).

"What do “DIO” Creators and Heterotopic Spaces Want?: Toward an Anthropology of Assembly in Hyogo and Haenam (Genoa and Detroit)"

This talk opens with the vacant spaces problem in regional and countryside areas in Japan and South Korea. I focus on the revaluing, rebuilding and re-inhabiting of these spaces by (late 1990s) recessionary generation urban “migrants.” These young peoples’ exiting of metropolitan cities and turning to local places represents a turning away from gendered and spatialized divisions of labor, educational hierarchies, and an increasingly criminalized time-of-the-immediate regime of value production that offloads risk onto the individual and makes them the problem. The do-it-ourselves spaces these young migrants gather together to imagine, plan, renovate and create in formerly marginalized, depopulated places are transformed sites of resistance. Examples include: an anchor of public culture local cinema slated for destruction, DIO crowdfunded and rebuilt as hub of free film education, international viewing and events; vacated school buildings rebuilt by migrant artists as sites for art education, workshops and reimagining connection and community; vacated old homes restored as guest houses that sponsor re-learning, reviving and adding to local craft traditions; vegetable container hand built cafes that serve as meeting places across generations and generational time; the DIO created “beautiful world” village and activist center in the southwest of Korea and many more.

Reclaiming the means of production, creating a new aesthetics of life, and in the words of Hardt and Negri--taking power and “the word” (prendre la parole) differently—DIO “migrants” and their spaces of difference seek the revitalization of subjectivities and the common. In this talk, I consider how these practices exemplify and particularize Hardt and Negri’s “assembly,” David Harvey on Lefebvre’s “heterotopic spaces” in which “something different is not only possible but foundational;” the late literary critic Maeda Ai’s “production in space” and more. How does the specificity and unevenness of historical trajectories affect the accumulation, articulation and materialization of sites of resistance and assembly? Engaging with movement and material practices in various locations, I consider the resonances between vacant spaces (akiya) in Japan, “grey spaces” in Detroit, “creative urbanity” in Genoa. I ask about the possibilities of the “political entrepreneur” and “the migrant” across socio-historical contexts and the potential problems for heterotopic spaces and assembly of the commodification of resistance and re-management and containment strategies of local governments.

I conclude with some reflections on the contributions of ethnography to the struggle over concepts, open up of spaces of possibility and an anthropology of assembly and resistance.  

For students in ANTH 508, the assigned reading can be found here.

 araiimage.jpg           andreahead.jpg

Catalog Description: 
Biweekly presentations by participants and guest lecturers of current literature and ongoing research in topics pertaining to social, cultural, and linguistic anthropology. Prerequisite: first-year sociocultural graduate students in good standing or permission of sociocultural faculty. Credit/no-credit only.
Last updated: 
October 22, 2018 - 9:10pm