Special Topics & Advanced Seminars

Winter Term 2024

ANTD98H3 - Advanced Topics in Socio-Cultural Anthropology

"Necrocapitalism: Death Economics" (Instructor: Chris Krupa)

This course offers students an opportunity to conduct a social forensics of capitalism, uncovering the central role death plays in the way capitalism works. We will examine economies explicitly trafficking in death, those which commodify death, murder, and dead things, but also dig deeper into the more subtle relations between profit and death in capitalist economies around the world. Resources will combine academic work in anthropology, philosophy, economics, and history with a wide array of sources from popular culture and the arts.

Fall Term 2023

ANTD40H3: Topics in Emerging Scholarship in Evolutionary Anthropology

"Primate Cognition: The Evolutionary Origins of the Primate Mind" (Instructor: Ludmila Kumpan)

Primate cognition is particularly unique relative to other taxa. A number of primates are capable of tool-use, complex social hierarchies, language, and even deception. What cognitive processes underlie these behaviours, and how did they develop in our evolutionary history? In this course, students will explore these questions in detail using theoretical perspectives from biological anthropology and primatology. Students will also investigate the cognitive skills that differentiate humans from other primates, and the evolutionary pathways through which these abilities arose. Evolutionary context will be emphasized consistently, as well as environmental context and variability in adaptations to ecological challenges across primate species.

ANTD41H3: Topics in Emerging Scholarship in Socio-Cultural Anthropology

"The Anthropology of Soccer: The World’s Most Popular Sport in a Globalized World" (Instructor: Nicholas Howe Bukowski)

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, beloved across all continents. Soccer is the site of dreams, hopes, ambitions, and joy and also a place of violence and conflict. From the neighbourhood team to the ownership of professional teams by nations states the sport crosses a wide range of human life and institutions offering both the possibility of joy and destruction in one. This class, the Anthropology of Soccer, engages with the sport in all of its many expressions. In the class, soccer’s global popularity will serve as the medium through which we will try to think more broadly about what shapes global and mass culture in the world today. In essence this class is trying to see what soccer, from playing the sport to fandom, can tell us about the world. The course will try to lay out the many ways that soccer figures and means in the everyday lives of people around the world. It will try to open new considerations of what soccer is and what soccer might be. It will be our medium to consider questions about modernity, globalization, gender, social relations, belonging, class, race, popularity, and mass culture.

ANTC88H3: Special Topics

"Geoarchaeological Perspectives of Human-Environment Dialogues" (Instructor: Don Butler)

This course investigates global diversity in human-environment dialogues from a geoarchaeological perspective. We will emphasize the place of geoarchaeology in evolutionary anthropology, specifically addressing topics such as the role of fire in human evolution, human-ecosystem coevolution, societal resilience and collapse, and the developing Anthropocene. Through “hands-on” authentic research, the class will engage with the collection and interpretation of chronological, geochemical, biomolecular, micromorphological, and micro-sedimentary data for site formation processes, paleoenvironments, human behaviors.

ANTD13H3 - Frontiers of Anthropology: A Biological Perspective

"Frontiers in Anthropology: Paleolithic Archaeology" (Instructor: Genevieve Dewar)

This seminar style course provides a foundation in the anthropology and archaeology of small-scale societies, particularly hunter-gatherers. The seminar’s temporal remit is broad, spanning ~2.5 million years of human evolution from the earliest tool-making hominins to living human societies. A selection of critical topics will therefore be covered. These include theoretical aspects of and evolutionary trends in forager subsistence strategies; technologies; mobility and use of space; sociopolitical organization; cognition; symbolism, ritual and religion; and transitions to food production. Topics will be illustrated using diverse case studies drawn from throughout the Paleolithic, with an emphasis on the Old World.

ANTC69H3 - Ideas That Matter: Key Themes and Thinkers in Anthropology

"Anthropology of Medicine, Science and Technology" (Instructor: Bianca Dahl)


Previous Academic Years:

ANTD40H3F – Topics in Emerging Scholarship in Evolutionary Anthropology

"Human Perspectives on Animal Intelligence" (Instructor: Eve Smeltzer)

This class will investigate animal cognition with an anthropological twist by approaching the literature from a combination of biological, psychological, and anthropological perspectives. We will discuss the impacts of historical (and continuing) anthropocentrism in animal cognition research with a particular emphasis on non-human primates. While scientists strive for objectivity, we are not impermeable to our social environment. In modern efforts to improve scientific objectivity, anthropomorphism has become taboo in the study of animal behaviour and cognition. However, the effort to remove the humanness from animals and the animalness from humans has, in many ways, resurrected the flawed scala naturae evolutionary ladder that places humans separate from, and above, animals. Assuming that traits are anthropomorphic to begin with (rather than mammalomorphic or primatomorphic) implies that the characteristics in question are uniquely human… but are they? To disentangle these concepts, we will focus on empirical studies of animal intelligence (e.g., tool use, communication, and social intelligence. To close the course, we will discuss how misconceptions of animal behaviour and cognition can influence our interpretations of hominin evolution. 

ANTD15H3S – Frontiers of Socio-Cultural Anthropology

"Climate: Ecologies, Life, and Politics on a Damaged Planet" (Instructor: Waqas Butt)

Rising temperatures, warming oceans, unpredictable weather, toxic atmospheres, global pandemics—we are living through unparalleled shocks to Earth’s climate. Not only have human activities propelling capitalist growth exploited the planet’s diverse ecologies, damaging them irreparably at times, the possibility of life—for humans and non-humans alike—has been threatened and rendered uncertain. This exploitation is mirrored in enduring histories of colonial and imperial rule, in which the exploitation of non-European peoples and places on a global scale has been central. It should thus come as no surprise that the people and places most impacted by changes in our climate are those who have bore the brunt of colonial and imperial violence. Put simply, what is currently happening to Earth’s climate is inseparable from the climate of its politics.

This course explores climate as a dispersed entity bringing together multiple, intersecting relations that shape ecologies, life, and politics on the planet today. It will unpack questions like, how are processes—usually examined under the frame of colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism—radically altering the planet’s ecologies, what forms of life have emerged across species in these damaged ecologies, and what political imaginations are required for inhabiting and repairing such a planet? Topics covered in the course will include but are not limited to: the nature of humanity and the climate; energy, empire, and power; economics of (de-)growth; industrializing food; working on a warming planet; multi-species care; environmental racism and justice; health and illnesses; disturbed atmospheres; and a climate of war.

ANTC88H3S – Special Topics

"Anthropology Matters: Advocacy, Activism, and Social Movements" (Instructor: Antonio Sorge)

This is a course on modern forms of social advocacy, and the link between public interest advocacy, political activism, and contemporary social movements. The study of advocacy, activism, and social movements covers a range of topics, from the advocacy of anthropologists on behalf of Indigenous societies, to advocacy for human rights, the organization of activism in the public sphere, the interrelationship of activism with mass media and propaganda, and reflection on the role of activist agendas in global governance (e.g. in the fields of environment and human rights). Contemporary social movements contest dominant interests through transformation of cultural or cosmological values, underscoring the need to examine several areas of topical concern, including the global rise of populism and identitarian politics, alter-globalization activism, varieties of ideological extremism, as well as debates surrounding the role of anthropologists and other academics as advocates and/or activists.

ANTD07H3S – Advanced Regional Seminar

"Amazonia and the Amazonification of Anthropology" (Instructor: Vinicius Furuie)

This seminar explores anthropological approaches and historical/archeological debates around Amazonia, a hotspot of social and biodiversity currently under grave threat. We will begin by looking at how the region has been understood by outsiders since the arrival of Europeans and the idea that the forest is unable to support large human populations. This view, probably originated by European failures to practice agriculture in the region, has been recently challenged by evidence of Indigenous forms of agriculture dating as far back as 12,000 years that supported large Amazonian cities. From this renewed understanding of the history of the region, we will examine key ideas from the anthropology of Amazonia such as perspectivism, familiarization, and asymmetric relations of affinity. Lastly, we will look at current trends in the region, the cultural logic behind deforestation, and the cultural and intellectual production of indigenous, ribeirinho, and quilombola inhabitants of the region.

ANTC69H3S – Ideas that Matter: Key Themes and Thinkers in Anthropology

"The Anthropology of Science Fiction" (Instructor Vinicius Furuie)

This course is about how we imagine alterity and the otherwise—and what that teaches us about ourselves. Anthropology’s birth as a discipline reflected upon Euro-American encounters with other ways of living; ethnographic writing often divided social life into categories such as politics, religion, economy, and kinship. Science fiction imagines different forms of living and speculates upon what social life would be by inverting or varying some of these same categories. In this sense, it can be seen as a contemporary form of mythological thinking, a reflexive exercise that rethinks the human condition informed by categories from our analytical toolkit. We will read works by sci-fi authors such as Ursula Le Guin and Kim Stanley Robinson and explore themes that are central to both ethnography and science fiction—topics such as colonialism, gender, and the climate crisis—while reflecting on the power of writing and myth-making to produce meaning and the future.

ANTD40H3FTopics 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.  


ANTD41H3FTopics 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.


ANTC88FSpecial 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. 


ANTD07H3FAdvanced 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.


ANTC69H3SIdeas 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.”

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