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    Vassar College
  Jan 21, 2018
Catalogue 2017-2018
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ANTH 250 - Language, Culture, and Society

Semester Offered: Spring
1 unit(s)

This course draws on a wide range of theoretical perspectives in exploring a particular problem, emphasizing the contribution of linguistics and linguistic anthropology to issues that bear on research in a number of disciplines. At issue in each selected course topic are the complex ways in which cultures, societies, and individuals are interrelated in the act of using language within and across particular speech communities.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 2017/18a: The Anthropology of Human Rights. Part of the appeal of human rights as an idea is the attempt to set universal standards for justice. In practice, these universalist aspirations are often in tension with efforts to secure national sovereignty and protect local ways of life. This course offers a survey of an anthropological approach to human rights as a practice that straddles local demands and global imperatives. The course also focuses on the tension between the universalist claims and particular realities that shape human rights work. The first unit of the course provides an overview of the history of human rights and the emergence of human rights institutions after World War II. In the second unit, students examine theoretical debates on universalism versus relativism and its impact on anthropological theory and methodology. The third unit of the course focuses on how human rights institutions and human rights activism work in practice. In the final unit, the course examines current topics within human rights such as transitional justice, indigenous rights, gender violence, human trafficking, and human rights-based justifications for military intervention. Throughout we read ethnographic accounts of human rights institutions and workers, as well as historical and theoretical sources. Upon finishing this course, students come away with a more complex understanding of cultural difference, global interconnection, and the bases for transnational solidarity. Louis Römer.

Two 75-minute periods.

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