The sociocultural program offers the opportunity for the pursuit of a diverse array of theoretical, methodological, and topical approaches, with faculty engaged in groundbreaking and timely research and teaching in subjects ranging from the politics of performance to state formation, multispecies investigations to the U.S-Mexico borderland, affect studies to feminist anthropology. Working at the intersections of theory and method, the program has unique strengths in the following areas:
Environmental Anthropology is a broad umbrella that brings together a range of issues in human, non-human, and environmental relations. Faculty in the department offer expertise on political ecology, with focuses on questions of conservation, the politics of environmental protection, sustainability, and rewilding. Faculty also offer courses and training in cutting edge work, drawing on experimental ethnographic techniques. These include multispecies ethnography, examinations of the interfaces between atmosphere and infrastructure, biosociality, and post- and more-than-human theory. Through courses, writing groups, and guest speakers, faculty engage environmental anthropology to interrogate questions around food systems, social justice, sustainability, resource extraction, toxicity, climate change, as just some of many pressing issues shaping the world today.
Experimental Ethnography encompasses diverse modes of engaging and presenting the ethnographic. Faculty offer expertise in the study of the senses, with research on images, sound, and taste that engages concerns of the tactile and haptic, along with temporality, materiality, performance, and empire. Multimodal approaches to ethnography include writing, audio recording, and image making. A commitment to experimental ethnographic writing is cultivated in courses organized as writing workshops. Other courses offer training in critical media practice and sonic ethnography, and cameras and audio recording equipment is available for student use. Guest speakers and campus-wide activities are organized through a Sound Studies working group, and workshops and events are hosted by the Bureau for Experimental Ethnography.
Gender and Sexuality is the focus of a number of faculty members in the department conducting research in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. With a strong commitment to Feminist and LGBTQ+ studies, our collective aim is to critically evaluate concepts and theories that have been subject to debates within the broad field of gender and sexuality studies by paying close attention to local contexts across the globe. Classes that are regularly taught run the gamut from the Introduction to Graduate Feminist Anthropology to seminars on Gender in Latin America, Sexuality in Global Perspective, Masculinities, Queer Ethnographies, and Sexuality and Culture. The teaching and research on gender and sexuality by the faculty in Sociocultural Anthropology are complemented by the work of colleagues in other subdisciplines and by strong interdisciplinary programs across the University, namely the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and the LGBTQ Studies Program.
Historical studies have traditionally been a significant aspect of social anthropology. Courses explore the political dimensions of the long-term effects of colonialism and the processes of resistance which have led to political movements to contest post-colonial inequalities and the effects of global markets upon developing nations. Faculty have extensive research experience in a range of archives related to cultural history, photography, and sound.
Native American and Indigenous Studies is a central focus of numerous faculty who are directly and indirectly engaged with thinking about the cultures, languages, knowledge-systems, histories, and contemporary political struggles of Indigenous peoples around the globe, with particular strengths in the Americas and Oceania. Faculty are concerned with politically engaged, activist and community-based scholarship that contributes to the economic, social, and political advancement of Indigenous peoples. Themes within Indigenous studies that are a central focus of research and course offerings in the department include sovereignty, settler colonialism, citizenship, Indigenous representation, gender and sexuality, Indigenous feminisms, food studies, ethnopoetics, and decolonization. The department has a close working relationship with the Program in Native American and Indigenous Studies and the Lorenzo Long Institute for Latin American Studies and offers numerous opportunities for working with these affiliates.
Race and Ethnicity
Courses on race and ethnicity critically examine how social class differences, including access to opportunity and privilege, have been shaped by structural processes that have historically empowered elites. Sociocultural anthropology has historic strengths in African and African Diaspora Studies, borderlands and Latin American anthropology, activist anthropology and U.S. racial and ethnic theory. The strong lineage of work in these areas is sustained by faculty research on racial justice, the politics of performance, and struggles for political and economic justice. Activist work is situated within and outside of academia, through projects such as “Cite Black Women,” institution building in Latin America and South Asia, and various commitments to our communities. The department sustains relationships with African and African Diaspora Studies, MALS, LILLAS, and NAIS.
The urban is a central concern for a number of faculty, with work that explores diverse urban cultures, dynamics of globalization that include migration and refugees, sensory dimensions of cities, gendered and linguistic experiences, and infrastructural forms. Of central concern are urban issues in the global south, with active research programs in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa, along with Europe and the Americas. Our faculty have developed the area of urban anthropology in novel directions, exploring not only instantiations of neoliberalism writ large, but textures of the urban that emerge in and through forms of belonging, queer intimacies, atmospheric attunements, and urban edge spaces. Courses in urban anthropology include Narratives of Space, Cities and Citizenship, Sounds of the City, and Anthropology of Infrastructure, many of which combine theoretical investigation with practical engagement.