Exploring Contemplative Practices (Saint Mary’s College of California)
There are many religious and philosophical traditions that have engaged contemplation as a key component of their religious or philosophical practices. In class, we will explore what contemplation means and how it is practiced in a number of cultural and religious contexts. As we encounter each tradition, students will have the opportunity to practice each of the contemplative practices we study. We will dive deep into the histories and practices around contemplation in five religious communities: First, we will examine contemplation as it is practiced in Buddhism, looking both at Theravada practices and a Metta or loving-kindness meditation. We will then turn to the history and practices of contemplation in Judaism and Catholicism. Finally, we will explore new age spirituality in the U.S. to see how contemplative practices from India have been integrated into New Age American communities. The class will draw both on the examination and discussion of texts as well as engaging our lived experience as students practice each of the methods of contemplation through guided meditation and chanting. In class, we will have guests who will lead us in contemplative practice. In the final week of class, students will present their own research on a contemplative practice of their choice and will introduce the class both the to the history of the practice and will lead us in an experience of the contemplative practice. By providing both academic learning through the exploration of texts, as well as experiential learning, through the practice of contemplative meditation, the class offers a holistic examination of the contemplative practice.
Linguistic Anthropology (Saint Mary’s College of California)
Linguistic anthropologists seek to understand the relationship between language and culture. The course begins with an introduction to the basic underpinnings of language and embodied communication such as gesture. We then examine how these basic parts of language are imbued with cultural meaning and how cultural meaning can be differently expressed through linguistic modalities. The course covers key themes in linguistic anthropology including language, gender, and sexuality, language and race, language diversity, and language and power. As part of this process, we examine the theory behind ethnographic data collection, analysis, and transcription. Throughout the course, students have the opportunity to collect and analyze their own data.
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (Saint Mary’s College of California)
This course introduces the principal ideas and methods of cultural anthropology, the comparative study of human societies in all their remarkable complexity and diversity. The course is designed to examine the ways in which people in a range of societies make sense of the world and their own lives. Together, we explore the different experiences, practices, histories, and values of people and communities from all parts of the world through an anthropological lens.
Reading the Body (Stanford, Thinking Matters)
This course offers a new understanding of the way we perceive our bodies and those of others. The body is at the heart of our view of self. And yet, given that we all possess one, how well do we actually know the body? How do we think of it? Anatomical knowledge, which has taken centuries to evolve (and which continues to evolve at the molecular level) is just the beginning. As viewed through the lens of medicine, the body is a text that offers clues to health and illness—in other words, we can actually ‘read’ the body. But even the way we ‘read’ the body clinically is never entirely objective; it is shaped through the lens of culture at particular moments in history. Culture therefore informs and distorts how we discern, accept, reject and analyze our bodies. It affects the ways we experience illness, gendered and racial identities, perceptions of beauty and our rights (or lack of rights) to control our own bodies. Furthermore, discussions about the body cannot be divorced from the mind, but if the mind can affect the body and vice versa, how exactly does it happen and what control do we have over the process? Finally, how do we live with the gradual decay of the body—the knowledge of life as a terminal condition? End-of-life care, death, and the disposal of the body are deeply divisive subjects that illustrate how culture and medicine are inseparable. This journey through medicine, anthropology, history, art and literature will leave us with new understandings of our bodies in the context of the world in which we live.
Belief (Stanford, Thinking Matters)
Why do people believe in God? What does it mean for people to experience the supernatural? How do we understand belief in God? How do people convey experiences that are by definition extra-ordinary to others? In this course we ask these big (and unanswerable) questions about belief. Some scholars argue that belief results from direct experience, such as visions or moments of transcendence, that testify to God’s existence. Others suggest that belief in the supernatural is better explained by the way the human mind has evolved or by people’s experience of the social world. In this class, we will pair medieval literature on Christianity and magic with readings from modern psychology and anthropology. We will look at the dominant answers provided by each discipline. Our aim is to show how different disciplines can work together to cast light on a basic question of human existence.
Empathy (Stanford, Thinking Matters)
This course introduces a range of ways of thinking about empathy and the related qualities of sympathy and compassion. It will take us on an intellectual investigation from Jesus’ teaching of parables in the first century CE to the work of the eighth-century Buddhist monk Śāntideva on compassion to Enlightenment philosophy to Silicon Valley’s adoption of empathy in the twenty-first century. The main focus will be on the modern period (from the 18th to 20th century) and students will be asked to approach different genres of text through the lens of empathy. For example, you will be asked to contrast the philosophical approach of reading Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) with the analytical tools needed to read the contemporary novel The Rosie Project. You will be asked to consider different approaches to the visual materials in an exhibition on Empathy, curated by Professor Shaw at the Cantor Museum on campus. You will read and assess scientific research in neuroscience and biology that explores whether empathy is learned or instinctual, universal or particular to certain contexts. Finally, you will work with the playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith (who will be a Visiting Artist in the Office for Religious Life at Stanford in October). You will read one of her plays, engage in workshop exercises on empathy and drama led by Professor Smith, and read Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail in preparation for seeing her live performance of the Letter in Stanford’s Memorial Church.
Culture and Society (ANT 9, UCLA)
This course introduces the principal ideas and methods of socio-cultural anthropology, the comparative study of human societies in all their remarkable complexity and diversity. This course is designed to examine the ways people within a range of societies make sense of the world and their own lives. Through the course, we explore the different experiences, practices, histories, and values of people and communities from all parts of the world through an anthropological lens. The course seeks to illuminate other possibilities, beyond the ones we are familiar with, which exist for solving problems and for achieving meaningful lives.
The course serves to introduce the beginning student to several primary domains of socio-cultural anthropology, including the concepts of culture and fieldwork; kinship and social organization; economic systems; gender and sexuality; symbols and language; religion and ritual; and cultural contact and change.
Language in Culture (ANT M140, UCLA)
Linguistic anthropologists seek to understand the relationship between language and culture. The course begins with an introduction to the basic underpinnings of language, including phonology, morphology, syntax, and embodied communication such as gesture. We then move on to examine how these basic parts of language are imbued with cultural meaning, and how cultural meaning can be differently expressed through linguistic modalities.
The course covers key themes in linguistic anthropology including speech act theory, language, gender, and sexuality, language and identity, language diversity, and language and power. Throughout the course, students have the opportunity to collect and analyze their own data. As part of this process, we examine the theory behind ethnographic data collection, analysis, and transcription.
Anthropology of Religion (ANT 156, UCLA)
Across the globe, nearly 90% of all people believe in God. In the United States alone, 95% of people report that they believe in God. Given that the divine cannot be seen, touched, or heard, and “gives none of the ordinary signs of existence” (Luhrmann 2012: xi), it is remarkable that so many people not only believe in, but have developed practices, communities, rituals, architectures, and language around a divine being. As a class, we seek to understand how notions of the sacred are articulated and realized across cultures. The course will address such questions as: How does anthropology help us frame understandings of religious experience? How are religious meanings communicated in everyday practices?
The course begins with an exploration of anthropologists’ early studies of religion; we examine the early theoretical frameworks used by these anthropologists to understand religion. Next, we turn to contemporary ethnographies on religion and religious experience. Through the treatment of various themes including ritual, religious experience, embodiment, and language and religion, we examine key shifts in theoretical approaches to the anthropology of religion over time.
Language in Culture (ANT 312, California State, Dominguez Hills)
The course introduced anthropology majors to the study of linguistic anthropology. The course covered key themes in the study of language and culture including speech act theory, language, gender, and sexuality, everyday narrative, language and religion, linguistic diversity, and language and power. Throughout the course, students had the opportunity to collect and analyze their own data as part of an independent ethnographic project. Through this process, we examined the theory behind ethnographic data collection, analysis, and transcription.