Western University AntropologyWestern Social Science

Elective Courses

Professor Randa Farah (4th from left) with students of the 2017 graduate seminar “Displacement & Diasporas.” The students come from a variety of backgrounds including Bangladesh, Iraq, Nigeria, Palestine, Uruguay, Canada, Peru, Venezuela, Lebanon and Iran.

Fall Term 2017 Elective Courses

9001A – Professional Development

Anthropologists develop a suite of valuable transferrable skills that can be effectively applied in a wide range of job settings. This course aims to help students identify and strengthen their marketable skills and learn to present themselves effectively to prospective employers both within and outside of academia. These skills include time management, oral communication, grant writing, teaching, leadership, research, project management, editing, knowledge mobilization, interpersonal skills, and an appreciation of ethical and civic responsibility. The course emphasizes peer and participatory learning and includes a series of collaborative and individual exercises that will not only serve to enrich students’ skills, but also provide them with concrete experiences to add to their CVs.

  • Open to students in all fields of anthropology
Lisa Hodgetts Thursday, 1:00-4:00pm
SSC 3315
Course Outline

9104A - Special Topics in Bioarchaeology: Advanced Analytical Techniques in Archaeology and Bioarchaeology

The objective of this course is to explore how advanced analytical techniques are applied in archaeology and bioarchaeology. As such, the focus is not on any specific analytical technique per se. Rather, the course focuses on:

  • the theoretical context and paradigm within which techniques are applied and results interpreted
  • how such analysis must be done within the interdisciplinary context – including defining interdisciplinarity and exploring the factors that encourage and/or discourage interdisciplinary research
  • and exploring the nature of collaboration, including issues of intellectual property

Course assignments will include ethnographies of successful interdisciplinary projects across campus, an analysis of how granting agencies shape research and a detailed paper exploring a particular analytical technique and its application that is relevant to the students’ research. 


Andrew Nelson Tuesday, 9:30am-12:30pm
SSC 2257
Course Outline

9112A - Digital Archaeology and Digital Heritage

This course will explore the implications of digitizing the practice of archaeology, and interacting with the past digitally. How does this digital world change methodologies, analyses, and even how we interpret and think about the archaeological heritage? What are the implications for understanding the past and making the archaeological heritage accessible beyond archaeology, as it becomes engaged with, challenged, and re-imagined online and within social media and a global digital community? The intent of this course is to understand the implications of a digital archaeology, and of a digital heritage arising from that archaeology. It is NOT a how-to course, and digital novices as well as seasoned veterans will easily manage the expectations for this course, including hands-on experiences using digital equipment.

Neal Ferris Monday, 1:30-4:30pm
SSC 3315
Course Outline

9225A - Special Topics in Sociocultural Anthropology: The Faces and Phases of Nations and Nationalisms

From its liberationist anti-colonial moment, to its ugly racist and fascist face, nationalism - the ideological motor of the ‘nation’ and nation-state has multiple faces and phases. Most scholars agree that the genesis of national consciousness and the concept of the ‘nation’ are attributed to the two momentous revolutions of the 18th century: The North American colonies’ rebellion against Great Britain leading to the American Declaration of Independence (1776), and the French Revolution (1789) – the latter having literally beheaded Absolutism in the figure of Louis the XVI. These momentous events fomented the meaning of the ‘nation’ as a social unit, or in Anderson’s famous expression, imagined community, a unity among equal and free citizens with authority to invest sovereignty in the state – the ‘nation-state’ – thereby obscuring class struggles and other social fissures in society. The history of the emergence of the nation-state is closely entwined with capitalist expansion and the colonial domination of millions of people and a vast stretch of the Earth’s territory for markets and cheap labor. There in the colonial world of ‘natives’, the noble ideals of the Enlightenment were suspended. Thus, anti-colonial national liberation movements in the ‘Third World’ sought to mobilize the largest alliance of classes in a ‘front’ against colonialism. Many of these movements inherited colonial institutions and as new ‘independent’ states became oppressive regimes and continued to orbit in the imperial sphere, unable to achieve real sovereignty and independence. A postcolonial theory and critics of postcolonial scholars emerged out of this condition. In this course, we examine the various theories, types and manifestations of nations and nationalism, and will draw on case studies from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.

  • May be taken for credit towards the MER Collaborative program
Randa Farah Wednesday, 10:30am-1:30pm
SSC 3227
Course Outline (tentative)

9900A - Special Topics in Anthropology: History of Anthropological Thought

We are standing on the shoulders of giants – some of anthropology’s most brilliant minds have grappled with how to understand social organization. In this course we will explore the history of some important anthropological theories about social organization, analyzing how anthropological concepts and categories have been constructed and reconstructed over time. We will do so by examining the work and lives of some foundational figures in sociocultural anthropology from the late-19th and 20th centuries. We will read examples of their original (primary) work, in order to understand how particular kinds of anthropological questions or perspectives emerged out of the intersection of specific life circumstances and interests, intellectual networks and formation of schools of thought, and particular ethnographic circumstances in specific political and historical contexts. The intention is not to try to cover all major figures – many are left out! – but rather to turn an anthropological eye on anthropology itself, exploring both a series of anthropological concepts and the social processes through which anthropological perspectives are actively produced. This course will be of special interest to students who do not have a strong background in the history of anthropological thought, or simply want to enjoy reading/re-reading and discussing some foundational works.

  • Cross-listed with Anthropology 3350F
Kim Clark Thursday, 9:30am -12:30pm
SSC 2257
Course Outline (tentative)

Winter Term 2018 Elective Courses

9003B – Anthropology and Collaboration: Collaborative Anthropology without Hierarchy

Although the conditions of power that have underwritten Anthropology’s history of colonialism are not going to go away, many contemporary anthropologists have worked to produce a countervailing relational mode of research that is dialogic, co-constructed and emergent.  Such a relational ontology acknowledges the embodied realities of all interlocutors, respecting both the materiality and intractability of the world and the contingency and contextuality of our ability to know it.  Much of the logic and vocabulary of the social sciences, including anthropology, carries unrecognized theoretical baggage of evolutionary hierarchy with its accompanying sense of entitlement. 

Critiques of culture have abounded for decades; anthropologists recognize cultures in the plural but struggle to put the individual, grounded in community, back into the equation.  I propose to recuperate Edward Sapir’s distinction of cultures “genuine” or ”spurious” and to revise the traditional humanities definition culture as belonging to a few, whether by education or temperament.   The intention that motivated anthropologists to pluralize “culture” calls for a new term.  I propose to pluralize and rework the properties associated with the term “civilization” to include all functioning human societies. 

The seminar will explore the relationship between the two paragraphs of this précis, testing theory against ethnographic evidence.  Participants are invited to critique and disagree with the premises.  A few possible theorists:  Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Donna Haraway, Paul Radin, Edward Sapir, Dennis Tedlock, James Tully.

Regna Darnell Tuesday, 1:30-4:30pm
SSC 3227
Course Outline

9108B – Advanced Research in Paleopathology and Paleodiet

This course will explore disease and diet in past human populations with particular focus on the interaction of health and nutrition. A range of topics within paleopathology, the study of ancient disease, and paleodiet, the study of ancient diet, will be investigated to learn what can and cannot be discerned about human health through the analyses of skeletal and dental remains from archaeological contexts. Major techniques for reconstructing disease and diet from archaeological human remains are covered. The skeletal and dental markers of disease, injury, and diet are a source of evidence about the broader context in which people lived, for example providing information about changing environments, changing exposure to pathogens, population size and density, conflict between groups, the varied effects of the domestication of plants and animals, and activity patterns such the gendered division of labour. Cutting-edge research in biological anthropology is utilizing the interaction of health and nutrition to address broad hypotheses about human adaptation and evolution.

  • Cross-listed with Anthropology 4498B
Andrea Waters-Rist Tuesday, 1:30-4:30pm
SSC 2257
Course Outline

9224B – Advanced Refugee & Migrant Studies: Risky Passages and Restrictive Borders - Refugees and the Contemporary Challenges

Airports, harbours and militarized borders furnished with cameras and detectors are symbols of an era of increasing fear, discrimination, and dehumanization of migrants and refugees. Some scholars use the term “global apartheid” to describe borders as barriers. ‘Fortress Europe’ being a clear example for restricting and controlling the entry of most people from the global South. In this global landscape, place of origin, class, national/ethnic identity, or religion are markers for inclusion or exclusion, of acceptance or rejection, but of mobility and immobility. In contrast, borders-as-bridges facilitate the movement of people deemed ‘civilized’ and ‘risk-free’, along with capital and commodities.  National security and the threat of terrorism are slogans invoked to mobilize support for this skewed cartography, and used as pretexts to deny entry, deport or detain individuals, who are often victims of wars and weapons unleashed by the very states restricting or preventing entry. Refugee status and citizenship have become much more difficult to obtain for people fleeing wars, violence, persecution, or natural disasters. Moreover, those seeking refuge, are increasingly recast as potential criminals, undesirable, security threats, or queue-jumpers deviously manipulating western humanitarianism, democracy, and ‘tolerance’. However, the increasing militarization of borders is not hindering many of the poor or those exposed to violence and wars from attempting to seek safety, and a better life. Many take perilous journeys, risking death by drowning as they sail high seas in flimsy boats, or crossing harsh deserts to avoid guards and sophisticated border technologies that aim to catch and trap them, as one does insects or animals in a net. Others remain trapped on borders in detention centers, miserable refugee camps, or within dangerous zones, unable to seek any form of protection or safety from any state.

Using readings, lectures, presentations, class discussions and documentary films, the course engages students to critically examine changing and complex borders and what they tell us about the global order, and the effects of these on migrants and their journeys.  In the first part our focus is historical and global, dealing with the emergence of the international refugee regime, followed by the contemporary erosion of refugee rights and international protection. We will draw on case studies and ethnographies such as the US-Mexico border, Fortress Europe, and other examples from around the world, including the recent massive displacement of people from the Middle East and North Africa. We will discuss how refugees strategize to adapt to changing border regimes. We will read/hear through stories and documentaries, the voices of refugees as we follow their precarious journeys to desired harbours of refuge, which do not necessarily turn out to be the ‘promised land’ they imagined, and do not always have happy endings.

  • Cross-listed with Anthropology 3389G
  • May be taken for credit towards the MER Collaborative program.
Randa Farah Tuesday, 9:30am-12:30pm
SSC 3102
Course Outline (tentative)

9216B – Advanced Research in Language and Society: Language and Power

The purpose of this course is to examine linkages between linguistic practices and relations of power, drawing primarily on techniques of linguistic anthropology and discourse analysis.  Following Philips (1999) we will assume that the power of language lies in its capacity for creating the world and that this capacity can be explored in three different but integrated ways: in the structure of language, in face-to-face interaction and in its connection to macro socio-historical processes.

  • Cross-listed with Anthropology 4412G
Tania Granadillo Wednesday, 10:30am-1:30pm
SSC 3227
Course Outline

9300A/B (MA) or 9800A/B (PhD) - Directed Reading Courses

If you plan to take a Directed Reading Course, you should first consult with your supervisor and with the faculty member who will be supervising the reading course, and then obtain the Graduate Chair's approval. Please complete the Directed Reading Course form and return it to the Graduate Assistant in SSC 3324.