Special Topics & Advanced Seminars

Special Topics Courses for *2021-22* Register Now!

ANTD40H3F: Topics in Emerging Scholarship in Evolutionary Anthropology

"Archaeological and Evolutionary Perspectives on the Environment" (Instructor:  Aleska Alaica)

The environment influenced and continues to impact our evolution. This course explores environmental studies through archaeology and evolutionary theory. We will discuss the foundational literature on paleoecology to investigate the environmental pressures that shaped the evolution of our species. Each week we will explore unique themes in environmental studies, from the adaptations of non-human primates to ecological worldviews and collapse. The course will weave together discussions on the principal methodologies used to examine environmental changes, including palaeobotanical analysis, zooarchaeology, isotopes, and radiocarbon dating. Students will write critical reviews and a final paper on a topic of their choice related to the environment. In the end, this course will reveal that our relationship to our environment is not a simple one, but through an in-depth exploration we can determine ways to move forward in our ever-changing world.  


ANTD41H3F: Topics in Emerging Scholarship in Sociocultural Anthropology

"Media Representations and Social Imaginations of Mental Illness" (Instructor:  Walter Callaghan)

TV shows, movies, the news, and social media play a significant role in the cultural transmission of ideas and formulation of a popular collective imagination, yet we do not often think critically about how these media shape our evaluations of self, our relations with others, and our ethical and political commitments. This course examines how media representations of mental health issues affect our understanding of and interaction with individuals who experience psychological distress, both positively and negatively. Ranging from mainstream movies to informative documentaries, this course will encourage students to critically reflect on the messaging provided by popular culture and provide them with tools to engage with societal stigma that impacts the lives of many in our shared society.


ANTD15H3F Frontiers of Socio-Cultural Anthropology

“Colonial Affect” (Instructor: Chris Krupa)

We can think of affect as what it actually feels like to experience something. Affect centers the body as a feeling body, a responsive and vibrant body, full of sentiment and reflex, in it with others, and moody as all hell. It dissolves the interior/ exterior, body/ mind, subject/ object binaries and troubles the dogma of cultural/ linguistic/ ideological determinism without ever losing sight of the webs of power in which our worldly engagements occur. With that, the guiding question for this course is simply this: what does colonialism feel like? We take up this question from two angles. On the one hand, we will peer into the intimate, sentimental, and carnal spaces of colonial formations, using a focus on affect to try to better understand the somatic and textural experience of life under colonization. On the other hand, we will track the ways affect may become a site of colonial endurance, a realm in which coloniality reveals itself to be an ongoing force in the present, very much there and vital, lodged in the ways we get on with others and ourselves and things, even in societies that would like to declare themselves done with all that.


ANTC88F: Special Topics

"Education, Power, and Potential: Anthropological Perspectives and Ethnographic Insights" (Instructor: M. Cummings)

What does it mean to get an education?  What are the consequences of getting (or not getting) a “good education”? What counts as a good education, anyway? For whom? Who decides? Why does it matter? How are different kinds of education oriented toward different visions of the future? What might we learn about a particular cultural context if we explore education and learning as social processes and cultural products linked to specific cultural values, beliefs, and power dynamics?  These are just some of the questions we will explore in this course.  Overall, students will gain a familiarity with the anthropology of education through an exploration of ethnographic cases studies from a variety of historical and cultural contexts.  

This will be an online, asynchronous course.  For each week of the course, there will be a list of required tasks to be completed: including watching a lecture and/or other relevant media, completing readings, and participating in a discussion forum. There will also be an OPTIONAL weekly “live” meeting (not a lecture; just to “touch base” and ask questions) as well (day and time to be determined). Students will submit all assessments, including exams, online. 


ANTD07H3F: Advanced Regional Seminar

"The Mediterranean: Cultures, Histories, and Mobilities"  (Instructor: A. Sorge)

This course explores the cultures of the Mediterranean region from a comparative perspective. The history of Mediterranean colonialisms, forms of inequality, religion and conflict, gender and violence, origins of mafia, and practices of blood feud will provide a foundational understanding of the historical dynamics of power in the region. We proceed from an understanding of the Mediterranean Sea as a site of encounters and communication across cultural and religious difference. In so doing, we interrogate the easy classification of peoples into large-scale categories such as European, African, Christian, or Muslim, and question the assumptions of the modern nation-state system. As a hybrid space of commonalities and differences, the Mediterranean Sea is a metaphor for the 21st century, and it teaches us that everything is always moving, fluid, and in a state of flux. This fundamental reality is best exemplified by the ongoing refugee crisis in the region, which we will explore through a postcolonial vision that critiques the contemporary European border regime and embraces a Mediterranean vision for the future.


ANTC69H3S: Ideas That Matter: Key Themes and Thinkers in Anthropology

"Deception, Deceit, and Dishonesty: The Anthropology of Things that are Not as They Seem"  (Instructor: A. Sorge)

This course examines the oft-noted distinction in social life between appearance and reality, and between the way people ought to behave with the way they really do. Deception, deceit, lying, fraud, fakery, concealment, hypocrisy, and corruption: “Truth” has many inversions, all of them speaking to the complexity of human behaviour as we go about creating and sustaining the fictions of day-to-day life. Via a comparative exploration of ethnographic case studies, this course assesses the insights that Anthropology has offered into the dynamics of rule-bending, duplicity, and trickery – objects of frequent disapprobation that manifest in countless ways across space and time. The course begins with an overview of some foundational perspectives on human behaviour, onto which we shine the light of ethnographic evidence on the way to coming to terms with the methodological implications of our propensity to rule breaking, especially as it relates to the distinction between theory and practice in social life and thus to the paradoxes and contradictions of culture. We conclude with a reflection on the proliferation in our contemporary political landscape of various forms of deception that offend normative conceptions of “truth,” and seek to shed some light on recent debates about our “post-truth” culture that is marked by frequent talk of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”


Previous Academic Years:

ANTD40H3 Topics in Emerging Scholarship in Evolutionary Anthropology

"Human, Animal, Pathogen and Heritage: Anthropological Perspectives on Physical, Cultural and Social Distancing (Instructor: A. Alaica)"

This course will explore anthropological perspectives on the processes that impact social, cultural and physical distancing. With our recent circumstances of isolation, the class will provide opportunities for students to explore processes that push human populations together and those that pull them apart. Along with course readings and class discussion, the course will provide an intellectual and cathartic setting for students to deconstruct how human societies have transformed in the past and continue to develop in the present.


ANTD15H3 Frontiers of Socio-Cultural Anthropology

“Engaging the Archive” (Instructor: K. Kilroy-Marac)

What kinds of things – stories and narratives, art objects and installations, historical accounts, speculative future radical imaginaries – do scholars, writer, and artists create from archives (and their silences)? What methodologies do they follow, and what kinds of ethical commitments guide their work? In this course, we will center feminist, queer POC, Black, and indigenous archival and archive-making practices that challenge archival power in order to reimagine past, present and future. Alongside our readings, discussion and speaker presentations, students will themselves engage in processes of creative production, both by consulting and building their own archive.


ANTD41H3 Topics in Emerging Scholarship in Socio-Cultural Anthropology

“Madness and Badness: Anthropology of Insanity, Criminality, and Confinement” (Instructor: L. Beech)

Who determines what insanity looks like? How do societies deal with crime? How is the line between normal and abnormal imagines, articulated and (re)produced? Anthropological studies reveal that what constitutes “abnormality” is far from universal. Deviance is conceptualized, experience, and addressed differently in communities around the world. In this course, we will unsettle the often taken-for-granted categories of “madness” (insanity) and “badness” (criminality), critically assessing ideas of mental illness, irrationality, illegality and moral corruption.

Link to Calendar



Summer 2020

ANTC88H3 S - Topics in Popular Hinduism
Vincent Brillant-Giroux - vincent.brillant.giroux@utoronto.ca

Course Abstract

This course explores the diversity of religioius experiences and daily life practices of popular Hinduism, as they relate to ritual, ancestors, pilgrimage, possession, and new religious movements, and by taking into account issues of castes, politics and globalization.