Anthropology in and of the City

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

Over half of the world’s population now lives in an urban area, making the anthropological study of urban life exceedingly important. This course thus examines human dwelling and lived experience from the margins to the center of the urban sphere. We focus on the work and inquiries that anthropologists take up in the city, but we also explore the anthropology of the city – seeing how the city itself is conceptualized and problematized, and how these complex social, political, and ecological systems develop, decline, or are sustained. Guided by key theoretical frameworks, classic texts, and contemporary ethnography from around the world, we trace also the history, present scope, and possible futures of the discipline and consider its relevance as urbanization proceeds. Students can expect a lively and diverse approach to teaching and learning, with a mix of lectures, discussion, readings, and the use of films and other media. Students in the course will also be trained in the methods of urban ethnography, gaining hands-on experience through field exercises and related assignments, with the city of Providence serving as a primary field site.

Topics, concepts, and problems covered in the course include the following:
- Definitions of the city and urban life
- The history of urban studies and urban anthropology as a discipline
- Key concepts for understanding urban life (space/place, urban history, infrastructure, the contested city, race/gender/class and other categories of difference, urban social and environmental precarity and transformation, urban sustainability
- Methods of urban anthropological research

Course materials are diverse and include readings, films, and other media. Students engage with material in class through lectures, large and small group discussion, and other in-class exercises. Outside of class, students will have the opportunity to visit sites close to campus to explore some of the above themes in relation to the City of Providence (Roger Williams Memorial, John Brown House Museum, etc.). Students will also have assigned reading as well as fieldwork assignments to complete outside of class.

Assessment measures includes: Attendance and participation (10%), in-class and take-home quizzes, field assignments to practice methods and gain hands-on experience, short writing assignments to assess their knowledge and ability to think across course materials and assignments, and presentations in which students are asked to showcase their learning.

The course provides a good introduction to the fields of urban studies as well as anthropology, setting students up for continued study at the college level.

Students will gain an important understanding of urbanization and the now urban world from this course -- knowledge that will extend their learning in a number of related fields and directions. While the course serves as a introduction to urban studies and urban anthropology, especially given its focus on research methods and the hands-on research experience it provides, it also advances study in the social sciences and humanities more broadly, preparing students for historical, ethnographic, and other empirical work and contribution.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEAN0937
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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