Challenges of the 21st Century

2018-2019

Course Objective

This is the third course of the cluster that started with 'Core themes
in Anthropology' in the first semester. In ‘Core themes’ the conceptual
basis of the discipline was explained. The second course 'History and
Theory of Anthropology' was about the history of the discipline and
addressed the question how theoretical strands emerged in the context of
pressing societal issues of the time. The third course is called
‘Challenges of the 21st Century’ and deals with the question how
contemporary societal challenges inform anthropological thinking and
knowledge production. Throughout the three courses six central
theme-hubs or recurring issues are addressed. These themes are: (1)
questions about the nature of “culture(s)”; (2) questions about
individual and society; (3) questions about “ties that bind” (on the
manifold manifestations of belonging); (4) questions about structure and
agency; (5) questions about the body; and (6) questions about language,
convictions and emic/etic categorizations.
These themes can be considered as six recurring basic conceptual
questions, or discussions that have time and again been addressed by
anthropologists in different ways and under different circumstances.
They constitute the basis for theoretical disputes, methodological
reflections, but also for assessing contemporary societal issues. They
should however in no way be treated as disciplinary straightjackets. Far
from that; they only help us to draw some lines in the enormous
complexity of human activity. In order to enhance the coherence of the
cluster, the six recurring issues will in different ways be addressed in
each of the three courses.
The six central issues are again the interconnecting parameters in
'Challenges of the 21st Century', but they will now constitute the basis
for an assessment of contemporary societal issues, problems and
discussions. Anthropology is by definition an ‘applying science’ in that
invites to look at the world from an angle that aspires to make a
difference, or question common-sense and taken-for-granted assumptions
about how we tend to see the world, ‘ourselves’ and ‘others’.

Learning outcomes:

Knowledge and understanding - The student has acquired knowledge and
understanding of:
(1) how anthropological concepts can be applied in order to address,
assess, and analyse contemporary societal issues (see course content).
The six perennial themes in anthropology (see remarks) will be the
guiding line.

Application - The student has acquired the competences to:
(2) apply these insights and how anthropologists can contribute to the
explanation and possible solution of pressing societal issues.

Making judgements - The student is able to:
(3) to observe their own life-worlds from an anthropological
perspective and learn to realize the contingencies of their own cultural
routines.

Course Content

Be it the result of long-term developments, technological changes, or
sudden and unprecedented events, each era is faced with societal
challenges that keep politicians and the public busy. Our 21st century
is no exception. Globalization, mobility and migration, the rapid
extension of
human habitats, or the destruction of habitats due to large-scale
economic activity, the use of natural resources, and not least the
pressing political developments in some parts the world are complex
issues that pose a challenge for local, national and international
governmental bodies. But also for ordinary people there are challenges.
Behind these technical administrative challenges
there is the much more fundamental question who the real victims are and
who benefits from crises. The anthropological perspective on these
fundamental questions learns us that there simply is no common
definition of what a challenge is and that governance is a deeply
political practice and thus a matter of interests. It all depends on the
perspective we take in assessing urgent issues. Anthropology may be not
unique in recognizing a multitude of perspectives, but it is the most
outspoken discipline in this respect. Anthropology always addresses the
basic question how (new) research insights can be applied.

Teaching Methods

Lectures, guest lectures, viewing and analyzing documentaries and other
audio-visual illustrations, text analysis, class debates.

Method of Assessment

Written assignments (blog) and final exam.

Literature

To be announced in the course manual (see CANVAS).

Target Audience

First-year bachelor students in Cultural Anthropology and Development
Sociology. Also open as an elective course for Exchange Students.

Additional Information

This course is part of the cluster "Anthropological Base", consisting of
three courses (see also ‘Core Themes’ and ‘History and Theory’).

Introduction to the course cluster:
“Anthropology is the science of culture and anthropologists gaze at
other peoples’ cultural peculiarities, map them and make sense of them.”
This is the common sense assumption of many people outside the
profession and it may in part be the case. But anthropology is much more
than that. From the time anthropology emerged in the 19th century as a
scholarly discipline in its own right, anthropologists have addressed a
whole range of fundamental questions dealing with human activity, in
social, cultural, political, religious, economic and other domains.
There is a considerable overlap with what sociologists do, for example
in addressing societal structures and institutional settings. But
anthropology has a broader, yet more specific focus: to understand how
human beings create cultural life worlds, how they live in those worlds,
and how they make sense of these worlds. The main aim of anthropology is
to study human activity in relation to the social and cultural
environment of people, groups and societies.

The thematic cluster “Anthropological Base” consists of three courses in
which the focus of anthropology will be introduced, explained and
discussed. The aim of the courses is to make student familiar with the
discipline, the big issues, the various approaches, the theoretical
discussions and contemporary efforts to understand a world in turmoil.
Basic concepts will be explained: how they developed throughout the
history of the discipline and how they are applied in understanding and
explaining contemporary societal issues. There are six central
theme-hubs or recurring issues that will be revisited in all three
courses within the cluster. These themes are: 1) questions about the
nature of “culture(s)”; 2) questions about individual and society; 3)
questions about “ties that bind” (on the manifold manifestations of
belonging); 4) questions about structure and agency; 5) questions about
the body; and 6) questions revolving around language, convictions and
emic/etic categorizations.

These themes can be considered as six recurring basic conceptual
questions, or discussions that have time and again been addressed by
anthropologists in different ways and under different circumstances.
They constitute the basis for theoretical disputes, methodological
reflections, but also for assessing contemporary societal issues. They
should however in no way be treated as disciplinary straightjackets. Far
from that; they only help us to draw some lines in the enormous
complexity of human activity. In order to enhance the coherence of the
cluster, the six recurring issues will in different ways be addressed in
each of the three courses.

The first course of the cluster is called ‘Core Themes of Cultural
Anthropology’. Students obtain knowledge and insights in the core themes
of anthropology, including basic concepts, methodological approaches and
first acquaintances with theoretical perspectives. Additionally,
students learn to observe their own life-worlds from an anthropological
perspective and learn to realize the contingencies of their own cultural
routines.

The second course is called ‘History and Theory of Anthropology’.
Instead of following the chronological evolution of the various schools
of anthropological thought like usually happens with the anthropological
theory courses, it follows the history of the discipline using the six
perennial issues as vehicles or pegs. Students get to see how
anthropology approached such subjects and through that contributed to
our understanding of the world. They learn that although the issues at
stake may be very diverse, the six basic concerns are always present, in
different and changing disguises.

The third course is called ‘Challenges of the 21st Century’. The six
central issues are again the interconnecting parameters throughout the
course, but they will now constitute the basis for an assessment of
contemporary societal issues, problems and discussions. Anthropology is
by definition an ‘applying science’ in that invites to look at the world
from an angle that aspires to make a difference, or question
common-sense and taken-for-granted assumptions about how we tend to see
the world, ‘ourselves’ and ‘others’.

Recommended background knowledge

Active participation in "Core Themes in Anthropology" and "History and
Theory of Anthropology".

General Information

Course Code S_C21C
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 200
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator dr. E. van Roekel
Examiner dr. E. van Roekel
Teaching Staff dr. E. van Roekel
prof. D. Dalakoglou

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Lecture
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