AN163 Understanding Culture and Society 1 (Compulsory)
This module will introduce you to anthropology as the subject that studies human behaviour and cultural diversity. You will learn about the massive cultural differences that divide the world. But you will also learn about our evolution as a species, and the behaviours that all humans display in common. We will discuss, interactively, group identity, language and power, and the societal structures that bind some and free others. The first half of the module includes close reading of the book When I Wear My Alligator Boots, a fascinating study of drugs, violence and family on the US-Mexico border, which we will use to explore themes raised during the first few weeks. In the latter part of this class we will continue exploring the concept of culture through which anthropologists study human societies. In the process of reading and watching captivating accounts of other peoples’ ways of life, we will develop our anthropological imagination – the capacity to see and describe the world around us in cross-cultural terms. In addition to readings and audio-visual materials, we will engage in hands-on practical exercises to learn ethnographic skills, nurturing our powers of observing, listening and writing.
This introductory course in anthropology is compatible with every subject in university and it will change the way you see human life forever.
AN164 Ireland in the World (Optional)
In this module, Ireland’s unique place within anthropology becomes the occasion for considering Ireland’s place in the contemporary world. Students will gain a broad understanding of anthropological research conducted on the island of Ireland both in the past and today. The anthropology of Ireland speaks to multiple topics of critical contemporary significance, including race, sexuality, (post)colonialism, religion, violence, feminism, migration, neoliberalism, and transnationalism. How has a small country on the margins of Europe become a fixture of the global imagination? What dynamics have rendered Ireland the beneficiary – and victim – of the powerful forces of social transformation reshaping social life the world over? Ireland’s distinctive position within both “Europe” and “Empire” affords a productive vantage point for considering and critiquing conventions of anthropological inquiry.
AN165 Understanding Culture and Society 2 (Compulsory)
Continuing the comprehensive first-semester introduction to anthropology, this module covers a range of topics in which the problem of cultural difference comes into especially sharp focus.
These include: moral and epistemological relativism, religion and cosmology, ideas about nature, gender and kinship, affliction and healing, and the culturally-adorned body. To deepen student understanding of the challenge of cultural difference, the module focuses on two topics as case studies in cross-cultural interpretation: the veil and witchcraft.
In the first half the module, we will consider cloth and clothing, fashion and faith through the medium of the hijab. As an object of material and visual culture, the headscarf is frequently co-opted as a vehicle for multiple social and cultural agendas. It is both personally intimate and outwardly expressive. Often, the hijab - this single piece of cloth - acts as a lightning rod for emotive stereotypes regarding race, religion, gender and geopolitical forces. As such it carries a transformational quality as much as a representative one.
In the second half of the module, we look at diverse contemporary and historical cases of witchcraft phenomena, including a famous Irish case, in order to explore themes of social inequality, scapegoating, human rights, and violence. By engaging putatively ‘exotic’ beliefs, anthropology provokes us to question our own ‘taken for granted’ assumptions about the world.
AN166 Talk, Ritual and Performance (Optional)
This module will introduce students to the ethnographic study of communication, moving from ordinary talk, through performance, to ritual action. We will explore the ways in which these communicative forms are structured, and how they relate to and transform their social settings. Along the way, we will introduce ourselves to fundamental theoretical concepts and case studies in Linguistic and Semiotic Anthropology, performance studies, and the anthropology of religion.
AN238 Reading Ethnography
This module looks at contemporary ethnographic writing in anthropology. The aim of the course is to learn about what anthropologists do through a close reading of a range of anthropological works. Through these ethnographies we will learn about the questions anthropologists ask; the types of theoretical influences they employ; the practices they engage in and data they marshal in forming an argument. Student participation and peer discussion will be expected in all sessions.
AN212 Language, Culture and Mediation: Linguistic Anthropology
This module investigates the ways that human thought, social action, and culture are mediated by language and related semiotic systems. We will investigate a few of the ways that social organisation, social relationships, and identity are mediated through talk, then explore the ways that social relationships and talk itself are transformed via mass media and large-scale publics.
AN213 Affliction and Healing: Medical Anthropology
This course offers an introduction to medical anthropology. If sickness and suffering are universal aspects of the human condition, it is also true that disease and illness are always experienced within historically specific sociocultural frameworks. Putting sickness into social context, in this course we tarry with the proposition that disease is never just about biology. Rather, we view health and illness as produced by and within hybrid and dynamic 'biosocial' milieux, melding the somatic and the semiotic, culture and corporeality, body and mind. In exploring sickness across societies with an eclectic aetiology of this sort, medical anthropology takes seriously diverse ways of knowing and treating disorder, sometimes questioning (and sometimes supporting) the magisterial social position of Western biomedicine.
AN214 From Seed to Plate: Anthropology and Food
Whereas Dublin Bay prawns would be considered a tasteful addition to any menu in Ireland, communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, have traditionally regarded shrimp as too repulsive to eat. In contrast, Oaxacans delight in preparing toasted grasshoppers with garlic and lime as an appealing treat – but insects are antithetical to Irish ideas about what is appropriate for people to eat. What explains this difference? Although conventional wisdom claims that ‘there is no accounting for taste,’ anthropology as a discipline holds that just the opposite is true. Food preferences (‘tastes’) reveal the deep and profound way in which culture shapes people and the social worlds we inhabit. Thus, although food is a universal human necessity, it is also always a cultural phenomenon. This module explores the anthropology of food, a remarkably rich and complex area of inquiry, and one that is evermore urgent as we come to understand the linkages between eating habits, the political economy of food production, and climate crisis.
AN231A Area Studies: Africa
This module aims to familiarise the student with definitive works that have led to the current representation of Africa in anthropology and social science circles. The module debates a wide array of classic and contemporary articles and books on the continent. In order to enable students to form their own perspectives, the module will be critical but not conclusive. The module will also be useful for those who are interested in early theoretical developments of anthropology.
AN210 Ethnographic Research
This course of lectures and tutorials explores how anthropological field research is designed and carried out in settings ranging from remote villages to urban or digital environments, from organic communities of people to complex formal organizations or processes, distributed across many sites and cultures. The course addresses how such research gets written up as ethnographies and the class will have the opportunity to interact with professional ethnographic practitioners working in government, NGO and business environments. Students will learn practical ethnographic field techniques by carrying out a field exercise in participant-observation, and will explore how to design an anthropological research project, including planning, literature and ethics review, fieldwork, analysis and write-up phases. Moreover, students will learn the epistemological foundations of anthropological research, how to prepare an annotated bibliography, and develop an ethnographic research proposal.
AN240 Self, Person, Identity; Psychological Anthropology
This course is designed to introduce the student to how the relationships between personal minds and socio-cultural phenomena have been approached by anthropologists over the past one hundred years or so. The lectures focus on how specific thinkers have understood the problem of the individual mind within various social-cultural contexts in pursuit of models of social analysis and understandings of individuals that might have some actual relationship to how humans variably fashion their lives in different times and places.
AN234 Anthropological Approaches to Poverty and Development
This module tries to familiarise students with critical anthropological perspectives on global poverty and inequality, and the efforts to address it, using a core ethnography and shorter theoretical texts. It begins by considering the long historical process of the making of the contemporary Global South, and goes on to probe the exacerbation of global inequality in the era of globalisation. Excerpts from key texts by Worsley, Appadurai and Scheper-Hughes are among the readings assigned for the first segment of this module. The second segment is based on a close textual reading of the classic ethnography on the subject of development, James Ferguson's 'The Anti-Politics Machine'. This module is a standalone module offered in the Anthropology Department; it is also the second half of the elective stream 'Perspectives on Poverty and Development', which is a teaching collaboration between the International Development and the Anthropology departments.
AN211 Objects and Actions: Material Culture
This module looks at anthropological approaches to material culture, from spectacular monuments of the built environment to the commodities that furnish domestic life. Through diverse ethnographies, we will focus on the active role of the material world to mediate, constitute and intervene in human relationships. Student participation and peer discussion will be expected in all sessions.
AN237A Changing Legal Landscapes: Anthropology and the Law
This module will explore the field of legal anthropology from its historical origins to contemporary debates on legal pluralism and human rights. A core objective of the course is to foreground law as a social process influenced by developments outside of the law. The course will examine the contested arenas of law and custom, crime and punishment and the disputing process.
AN344 Knowledge, Power, Institutions (Compulsory)
Few ideas have so firmly entrenched themselves in social scientific discourse over the last forty years or so more than the notion that knowledge and power are inextricably bound up with one another, and, further, that a critical aspect of relations of domination are connected to groups of people getting to know one another “scientifically”. Crucial to this way of thinking is an implicit or explicit notion of “institution” defined as relatively structured parts of social life, generally with some connection to the state, generally committed to visualising and solving a social “problem”. Weaving these levels together, are specific types of subjects and subjectivities -- the sick, the bad, the mad, the dangerous to know – and, on the reforming side – doctors, nurses, wardens, activists, and missionaries (among others) – interested in somehow making certain classes of humanity “discernable” and “better”.
The purpose of this module is three-fold. The first is to introduce the student to some of the ideas in the writings of Michel Foucault, who is practically impossible to ignore in any discussion of power and knowledge. The second is to introduce several ideas concerning institutions that echo one another to an extent, but that also diverge in crucial ways. The third is to look at some work in Anthropology clearly influenced by these sources.
AN307 Thesis Draft
This course involves the preparation and writing up of data collected for a B.A. thesis.
AN342 User Experience and Service Innovation
This module explores service innovation through the context of human experience. It will equip undergraduate students with the transferable skillset required to bridge academic learning with the applied contexts of UX research practitioners. Students will explore user experience in terms of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Using methods such as design ethnography, experience-centred design and co-design, students will develop a toolkit for capturing experience across a range of societal and organisational issues. This module will illustrate how students can create innovative ways of responding to these issues, bringing about positive change through evidence-based practices. Major international organisations are seeking individuals who can bring creative but also critical responses to problem-solving. This module will expose students to the potential of innovation to initiate or manage change in the design of private and public sector products and services, while also reflecting on public good and societal responsibility.
AN340 Visual Ethnography
Visual Ethnography is a practice-led module that teaches students to critically evaluate visual media and provides instruction on how to create short ethnographic films and images. The course will be composed of a mix of lectures in Maynooth and fieldwork in local community organisations and locations. Students will receive a practical introduction to storyboarding, filmmaking, photography, lighting, sound and editing. Small group film projects comprise a substantial element of this module.
AN345 Ecology and Power: Anthropology and the Environment
The anthropologist Eric Wolf coined the term 'political ecology' in 1972. Since then, anthropologists have made significant contributions to the interdisciplinary field of political ecology, exploring the networks of power underlying human-environment relationships. This module will familiarise students with these contributions, theoretical as well as ethnographic.
AN351 Excavation (takes place in June 2021 off-campus with IAFS)
The summer school programme will be delivered through onsite experiential learning at the Ferrycarrig Ringwork, in the Irish National Heritage Park, Ferrycarrig, County Wexford. The program will give students a hands-on orientation in archaeology field techniques and field anthropology in a research driven environment. Students will participate in different research, excavation and post-excavation tasks, and be expected to critically evaluate the wider role of the excavation, particularly in terms of public outreach. Student instruction will be led by an international team of archaeologists and specialists from the Irish Archaeology Field School in the disciplines of archaeology, physical anthropology and history, through both onsite tuition and a series of onsite workshops and lectures. The module aims to maximise the teaching benefits of conducting a multi-facetted research programme in a 'live' research environment - excavating the first Anglo-Norman castle in the country.
AN353 Forensic Anthropology (takes place in June 2021 off-campus with IAFS)
The summer school programme will be delivered through onsite experiential learning at the Ferrycarrig Ringwork, in the Irish National Heritage Park, Ferrycarrig, County Wexford. This course will cover human and comparative osteology, determining sex, approximate age at death, living stature, identifying palaeopathological conditions and understanding how these techniques are used in archaeological and forensic contexts.
AN348 Shifting Worlds: Theories and Ethnographies of Global Change
In this final-semester compulsory module, we will explore how anthropology and anthropologists explore contemporary processes of accelerated change and uneven global interconnectedness. Unlike most disciplines that focus on the macrolevel of globalization, anthropology centres on globalization’s situated nature and the lived experiences of diverse peoples who find themselves at the intersections of global developments. Focusing on these articulations of the global and the local, the module opens with three class sessions dedicated to sketching out conceptual and theoretical approaches to contemporary global change within anthropology. These will help us explore concrete thematic areas of anthropological research, including: identity and citizenship in transnational fields; mobilities, borders and militarism; culture and media; global economics and trade; environment and global health; cultural and political transformations. The final class session will consider ethical challenges of globalizations.
This course involves the writing up and completion of a B.A. thesis.
AN355 Troubling Identities: Gender, Race and Sexuality
This seminar focuses a reflexive and critical anthropological lens on contemporary identity politics. The module samples historical genealogies of identities today, as well as philosophical, social scientific, and historical analyses of how ‘the self’ has come to be a key problem in contemporary society. We will review several of the dominant frameworks that shape contemporary identity politics, including multiculturalism and the politics of recognition, representation and cultural appropriation, inequality and intersectionality, and so on. Moving from the emergent norms and forms that make identity intelligible as a political problem, the seminar also focuses on activist strategies and tactics in this area. Substantial attention will be given to anti-racist activism in Ireland, the US, and elsewhere, as well as to the mutating global politics of gender and sexuality, including especially queer and trans* perspectives.
AN346 Crime, Death and Forensic Anthropology
The module is an overall introduction to forensic disciplines (aimed toward students of Anthropology and Criminology), divided into three broad strands (each containing four lectures):
- Introduction to Forensics: describing the history of the discipline internationally and in Ireland.
- Forensic Human Identification: an introduction to Forensic Human Identification within the Irish legal system. The disciplines directly involved in domestic and international casework will be explained. The strand will overview the importance of the ‘three primary identifiers’ and the role of the identification commission, as well as the use of various other disciplines in mass fatality incidents.
- Forensics and Physical Anthropology: a more in-depth look at a single sub-discipline in Forensics, namely the practical application of skeletal excavation and analysis in both archaeological and forensic contexts. It will detail the development of this specialism and will focus in particular on the methods used in analyses, and the information which may be ascertained. The module will examine the importance of skeletal analysis in both archaeological and forensic settings.
AN347 Anxiety: Culture, History and Differing Conceptions of Fear and Worry
Anxiety, worries and fears, are part of the normal human experience. Sometimes anxieties get so strong that they cross from normal emotions to signs of mental illness. Anthropology has long analyzed how the boundaries between normality and abnormality have changed through time and across cultures. In this course, we will examine studies of anxiety that focus on how culture shapes the experience of anxiety. We will particularly examine these issues through the lens of the Latino cultural syndrome of ataques de nervios, translated as attacks of nerves. The course will also be informed by critical work on the anxiety disorders in the development of cultural issues in the DSM-IV and DSM-5, the two most recent diagnostic manuals developed by the American Psychiatric Association.