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The Human Body: A Cultural Creation

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Henna art. Bleached skin. Foot binding. Medical tattooing. Each of these bodily practices represents a socially-constructed understanding of how the human body is treated and experienced in a particular culture. Constituted by much more than genetics and biology, the human body has social, political, physical, symbolic and technological dimensions which vary through time and across cultures. This course explores the body from an anthropological and archaeological perspective. It introduces students to cultural and historical variations in how societies understand and experience the human body. These variations have important real-world implications for how contemporary interest groups - including community, government, and nongovernmental organizations - design and implement programs relating to social and bodily wellness around the globe.

Students will learn the fundamental ideas and methods which guide archaeological and anthropological research of the human body. Through cross-cultural case studies, they will consider how cultural beliefs are inscribed on the body and reflected in gender, sexuality, health, reproduction, illness, labor, beauty and aesthetics, violence and war, technology and the cyborg body, taboo and religious ritual. The course is designed around lectures, discussions, film screenings, and experiential learning. Students will visit a museum exhibit and analyze the intersections of the body and material culture. Engaging in hands-on archaeological research, students will examine a portion of an archaeological collection to interpret past cultural conceptions of beauty, adornment, and gender.

This course will expand students’ awareness of the human body as a culturally- and historically-situated object. Students will cultivate their critical reading and writing abilities, as well as gain unique perspectives in interpreting material evidence. In preparation for gaining the most from college curricula, this course encourages students to make connections between their classroom learning/research and contemporary social issues in their community and beyond.

By the end of this course, students will know or be able to do the following:
-understand the major anthropological approaches to the study of the human body
-critically respond to anthropological theories and research in both oral and written forms
-apply anthropological research techniques, including using material culture and archaeological remains to interpret cultural ideals about the human body
-reflect upon their own lived cultural experiences of the human body.