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    Vassar College
  Nov 20, 2017
Catalogue 2017-2018
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ANTH 170 - Topics in Anthropology

Semester Offered: Fall and Spring
1 unit(s)

Introduction to anthropology through a focus on a particular issue or aspect of human experience. Topics vary, but may include Anthropology through Film, American Popular Culture, Extinctions, Peoples of the World. The department.

Topic for 2017/18a:  Anthropology of Water.  Many anthropologists study water as a focus of political contention and environmental impetus to action.  But cultural anthropology’s special contribution to water studies may be its insights into how water is valued, socially and affectively, in culturally and historically different ways.  Water is necessary for human life.  But it is always, also, meaningful in a remarkable range of ways that do not necessarily begin with scarcity, nor end with any one universal goal, even health or profit. Focusing on the relation between drinking water and wider cultural systems, the course introduces three approaches to drinking water:  (1) Semiotics of Bottled Water includes readings from the anthropology of food and beverage, consumer culture, and meaning-making in everyday life.  (2) Water as Global Commodity considers water in the context of the anthropology of gifts and commodities. (3) Water Projects considers state, corporate, and activist discourses about water with attention to anthropological studies of social and environmental impacts.   The course will include (group) projects on water in local cultural contexts.  Martha Kaplan.

Topic for 2017/18b: The Peopling of the Americas.   Did people first come to the Americas from Asia or Europe?  By foot or by boat or by spaceship?  In this course we investigate when and by whom and by what route North and South America were populated.  According to current scientific thought, the Americas are the land mass most recently populated by humans, while many Native American groups firmly believe they have always lived here; Caleb Atwater thought Mississippian sites were founded by one of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel, others think sailors from across the Pacific brought civilization to the Americas.  Such issues have been major foci of Americanist archaeological theory since archaeology began in this country, and we examine both the theories and what they say about the attitudes of the Americans who promulgated and promulgate them. Lucy Johnson.

Open only to freshmen; satisfies the college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

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