Royce Family Professor in Teaching Excellence and Professor of Anthropology:
Phone: +1 401 863 3251
Ph.D. U Minnesota 1975
Social anthropology, kinship, politics, study of ritual and the construction of gender, development and political studies, race and ethnic relations, Islamic societies and notions of identity, ethnographic film; feminist movement in Africa and Asia, study of ritual and kinship, construction of gender and identity, nationalism and post-colonial identity (India and Africa).
Within social anthropology, my specialty is in the relationship between kinship, marriage, and rituals and the meaning of the construction of gender in India. I have done extensive work on caste and the life cycle rites of Hindus; now I am addressing the recent structural changes to the institution of marriage and what constitutes the person. My research on nationalism and post colonial studies has taken me to a more comparative approach addressing the feminist movement, and the problems and politics of identity and citizenship within Islam and Hinduism. In addition to the primary research work in India, I also focus on East and North Africa communities.
My interest in visual anthropology took me beyond using films to teach. I co-directed four documentary films on varied themes and topics about the communities with which I work.
Seed and Earth. Directed by Fruzzetti, L., Ostor, A., Guzzetti, A., and Johnston, N.
Khalfan and Zanzibar. Directed by Fruzzetti, L., Ostor, A., and Guzzetti, A.
Fishers of Dar. Directed by Fruzzetti, L., Ostor, A., Lihamba, A., and Ross, S.
Singing Pictures. Directed by Fruzzetti, L., Ostor, A., and Sarkar, Aditinath
This project is about an Eritrean woman whose life spans four continents and three colonial regimes, over a period of seven decades. This study analyzes her life in Eritrea under Italian colonial rule and Ethiopian occupation, her life as a refugee in Sudan, and finally her return home to a liberated, independent Eritrea. The study centers on her life experiences, trials, and accomplishments, as well as her transnational family and how her experiences inform our interconnected, global world.
Anthro 66, Freshmen Seminar: Politics of Race and Culture, this course addresses the subjects of race, culture and ethnicity, focusing on minority groups in the U.S. Seeks to clarify the philosophical and theoretical issues in contemporary America using a cross-disciplinary approach.
Anthro 90, Culture and Politics of Colonial Cities, This undergraduate course attempts to understand the nature of colonialism in Africa and India. Comparative methodological approach to the study of colonial cities introduces the students to a multiple and interlocking idea and symbols used by colonial power to create in their images, cities which reflect their own image. The colonial power for the study of these two cities is the British Empire, whose policies in Asia (India) differed from that of Africa (Ghana).
Anthro 106, Culture, Race & Ethnic Politics is an undergraduate seminar solely for Freshmen and Sophomores. This is becoming a popular seminar for undergraduates Spring of 1996, 280 students signed for the course and it had to be taught as two separate courses in the same semester. For the seminar of 20-25 students, I develop the scientific and biological debates, philosophies and beliefs behind the concept of race , followed by analysis of ethnicity, culture and nationalism. We use anthropological and socio-historical literature on race as well as life histories of different communities in the USA. The class is divided into 5 groups - each student selecting one of the American minority groups they want to research on. Groups meet individually to discuss the chosen topics for research, presenting the bibliography for their project for evaluation and approval.
Anthro 117, People's and Cultures of India is an undergraduate course, which covers aspects of Hinduism and Islam in India. The course combines texts, novels and films to explore issues of caste, gender and kinship relationships, contemporary politics and religious difference amongst the different Indian communities.
Anthro 129, Film and Anthropology: Arab and Images of Societies, this course examines representation of Arab society in film and anthropological literature. We compare how gender, national identity, religious practices, and historical events are portrayed in films and anthropological literature. We will explore the relationship between visual and textual, showing how film reflect and make comprehensible anthropological concepts of Arab culture, and creates different images of the society.
Anthro 130, Themes in Anthropology is a required seminar for majors in anthropology. I choose to develop the anthropological notion and idea of "culture". The seminar covered major anthropological classics and related these theories and studies to contemporary ethnographies and treatment of anthropological analysis. I conduct the seminar by lecturing the first hour on a topic, followed by a number of students to lead the discussion and report on select articles from the recommended weekly readings. The class participates in raising questions and debating the weekly thematic issues. The discussions facilitate and assist in relating various theories to contemporary anthropological concerns and to the changing definitions of "culture". From the discussions and the weekly readings, along with the expected one page paper, I could assess how effective the course was conducted and what were the major failings.
Anthro 134, Comparative Sex Roles. Looks at the construction of gender within specific cultures. The comparative approach and case studies from Africa & Asia, attempts to portray women's roles, positions and status cross culturally. Goals and mission of the course is to present ethnographic representations of women and the underlying question is to understand differences within culturally contextualized structures.
Anthro 138, Seminar on Women in Socialist, and Developing Countries. This seminar, jointly sponsored by a sociologist and an anthropologist, explores the changing role of women in the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe and developing countries in Africa and Asia. The course will cover the position of women in the personal as well as in the broader social, economic, and political context. We will discuss prevalent ideologies and choices within these contexts.
Anthro 204, Ideology of Development, a graduate seminar covers different theoretical approaches to the study of development. For our class discussion we draw from the experience and case studies of many developing countries. Throughout the seminar we question the role of the funding agencies, we investigate the indigenous meaning and concept of progress and growth ideas these analysis is done within the cultural context and specifics of the communities under study. We concentrate on gender and development, urban and rural dichotomy, on the different issues and theories of modernization and Westernization. These are a few of the interrelated themes that we do cover and discuss in the seminar.
Anthro 205, Ethnography and Literature: Representations of "Woman, Native, Other", This interdisciplinary graduate seminar will address the cultural construction of subaltern groups under the signs of "woman", "native" and "other" in texts generically differentiated as ethnographic and fictional. As part of critical endeavor, the seminar will raise questions about "truth" genres, the interpretive anthropological project of "writing culture" and the production of a hegemonic discourses on "woman, native, other". By turning to the texts and counterdiscourses of the subalterns, we hope to discuss and problematize issues of empowerment and authority as they relate to self-representations by the dis-empowered, the production of cultural fictions-autoethnographies by such groups as political acts of self-empowerment, and to explore the possibilities for ethnographies of "fiction". Much of our material will focus on the cultures of North and West Africa, and the North American African Americans.
Anthro 223 Social Structure - is a graduate seminar on different aspects of social structure. Last spring the theme was on Kinship Theory and the Construction of the Person. Weekly, I introduce the topic in the first hour, have a break and the second half of the seminar is devoted to discussion of the ideas and related works. Students can choose one of the weekly topics that interests them and these students will be responsible to lead the discussions. The seminar attracts students from Anthropology, Sociology, Development Studies, English and MCM.
Anthro 237, Colonialism and Neo Colonialism is a graduate seminar, a course used to fulfill requirements for a number of concentration programs such as Development Studies and International Relations. The seminar draws students from diverse disciples. The underlying theme of the seminar is a comparative analytical approach to the study of colonialism in East and West Africa, deciphering the difference between English and French political rule, and the effects of colonialism on contemporary African Anglophone and Francophone countries.