Recent Question/Assignment

Power, Ideology, and Inequality: Final Essay
Due: 12 June 2019, 5 pm
2,500 words
For the final essay, you have the option of (a) responding to one of the four questions below or (b) developing your own topic in consultation with the teaching staff. The paper should be 2,500 words in length (approximately 12 pages) and should draw rigorously and creatively on both the sources for the subject and a range of supplementary and outside sources. We will be expecting approximately 10-12 references. Citations should be Harvard style.
Please note that you are not required to respond to all the sub-questions listed below. Think of these as invitations to both return to the texts in greater detail and to push out from them into the supplementary literature. Please put your essay question, as you conceive it, at the very start of your essay. This won't count toward your word limit.
1) Colonialism is arguably not a historical period that came to an end with the decolonization movements of the 1960s and 70s, but an ongoing relation that continues to shape the contemporary world in important ways. Drawing on 3 or more of our authors (Stoler, Taussig, Vine, Lutz, Farmer, Wacquant, Hage, Todd), explore their arguments about the ways in which the colonial encounter (for example, between the British and the Chagossians in Diego Garcia, the French bourgeoisie and the rural poor in Haiti, etc.) continues to play out in remote rural communities, in responses to the “refugee” crisis, or as part of contemporary epidemics (to provide just a few examples). How is colonialism re-enacted as part of contemporary power relationships throughout the world? In what ways do colonialist constructions of the ‘other’ continue to legitimize projects of violence or expropriation? And how are communities and activists challenging this ongoing violence?
2) Writing from Mussolini’s prison in the 1920s, Antonio Gramsci sought to deepen and reorient Marxist critique by calling attention to those ostensibly neutral civil society institutions through which consent was fashioned for the projects of the bourgeoisie. In many ways, this subject has been an extended reflection on, and response to, that call. Drawing on 3 or more of the ethnographers studied during the term (Vine, Farmer, Wacquant, Bourgois, Benson and Kirsch, Hage), critically analyse the ways in which they describe these processes of consent-fashioning (in relation to U.S. military extension, HIV/AIDS, inner-city poverty, and/or corporate harm). How, according to our authors, do people come to understand these realities in ways that mitigate against resistance? How do they come to form part of a largely unchallenged “common sense”? What are the precise tactics used, and by whom? And what do they propose we do to destabilize this “common sense”?
3) Throughout the term, we have seen the ways in which anthropologists have differently emphasized structure and agency in their explanations of various forms of social suffering. Drawing on 3 or more of the ethnographers studied this term, explore how they attempt to balance explanations that emphasize structure with those that emphasize agency. What do we see, for example, when we focus on “structural violence” that we do not see when we focus on the “culture of poverty” (and vice versa)? What do we see when we look at “hidden transcripts” that we do not when we look only at “public transcripts”? What do we notice when we focus on particular harm industries rather than on institutionalized racism? Pay explicit attention to how these ethnographers define and defend their approaches to understanding the causes of and responses to inequality. What, from your perspective, are the strengths and weaknesses of these various interpretive foci?

4) Choose one of the topics covered in the second or third sections of the subject (state violence, militarization, HIV/AIDS, inner-city poverty, the prison-complex, the refugee crisis, resurgent populism, or anti-globalization protest) and, drawing on two or more theoretical frameworks from the first part of the subject (Marx, Foucault, Scott), explore it in greater detail than was possible during the subject. Be sure that you explicitly demonstrate what these differing theoretical perspectives both illuminate and occlude about the phenomenon you are exploring.

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