This is a written, take-home exam. Students will respond to at least one of the following questions; choose and answer at least one of questions one through six. Overall, this exam should be about 6-8 pages (12-pt. font, double-spaced) in length. Students must write at least five pages.
Exam Instructions: Students must compare at least three of the course texts (readings, films, podcasts, and/or photographic essays). Read each question carefully and answer all parts of each essay question (as required). Support your answers by providing examples from the textbook and course readings (or films/podcasts) with appropriate citations (include page numbers where appropriate).
Exam Policies: I appreciate and encourage creative, passionate, and opinionated responses. You will not be judged on your opinion, only on the quality of your argumentation, writing, and evidence that you provide. The key to success is to demonstrate knowledge of the readings that you choose, to provide examples from the text (with citations), and to explain your argument in plain English. Please remember to cite all examples and evidence, points will be lost if you do not provide a bibliography/works cited and in-text citations/footnotes (including page numbers). Be sure to edit your writing before submission, points will be lost for unreadable prose and improperly formatted submissions. Please visit the Writing Center (down the hall from the Anthropology department) to get help with editing your writing. Everyone must take the test individually: if I notice any similarities between submissions ALL STUDENTS FOUND PLAGIARIZING WILL FAIL THE COURSE. “Turnitin” will be used to evaluate the originality of all submissions. Do not re-submit homeworks as answers to these questions; do not plagiarize yourself or others.
Prompt One: Imagining Community
Benedict Anderson argues that nations are best understood as “imagined communities.” First, explain his definition of the “nation”: in what way is the nation “imagined”?; how is it a “community”?; in what ways is it “limited”?; What does it mean to say that it is “sovereign”?; What is the role of media in national imaginations, for example, how was the modern technology of the printing press important in the creation of national identities in modern nation states? Second, compare Anderson’s theory of the nation as an “imagined community” to at least two of the other case studies that we learned about. [For Example: 1. How are cultural memories, like those of ancestry or dispossession, important for the construction or contestation of national imaginaries? (Kosek) 2. How does “Smokey Bear” represent the American nation; who is included or excluded in this imagined community? (Kosek); 3. How does the “floating signifier” of race related to the limits of national imaginings?; In the Film, “I am Not Your Negro” what does James Baldwin mean when he argues that when he was a kid, it was “a great shock to discover the country, which is your birthplace, and to which you owe your life and your identity, has not, in its whole system of reality, evolved any place for you” (Peck, 2016: 15:33-17:30); How are origin stories, like Thanksgiving, significant to the imagination of a nation, or the re-telling of these origin stories, like Columbus Day/Indigenous peoples day, significant for more inclusive imaginations of the nation; [Extra Credit Recommended Reading] How did 9-11 affect imaginations of a “Transnational America”? (Grewal). Provide evidence from, and compare, at least three of the course texts.
Prompt Two: Past, Present, Future
Many of the course texts explore the cultural significance of the past, present, and future. Why do you suppose cultural memories (and other practices of remembering (and forgetting) the past) and/or prophecies of the future are important for contemporary cultural struggles in the present. Choose at least three of the course readings that engage these themes, explain the authors’ arguments, and compare them. [For Example: what is significance of remembering the past to the present (or future)?; 1. How do cultures memorialize (or forget) the past? How is “cultural memory” related to cultural identity? (Kosek); 2 How is history written and/or silenced (for example what is the importance of remembering the history of the Haitian Revolution and/or how was the history of the Haitian revolution “silenced”) (Dubois, Trouillot)?; What is the significance of prophecy to contemporary (and/or historical) indigenous movements (Estes)? In the Film, “I am Not Your Negro” what does James Baldwin mean when he argues that, “History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise, we literally are criminals” (Peck, 2016. 01:26:12)?]. Provide evidence from, and compare, at least three of the course texts.
Prompt Three: The Cultural Construction of Race and Gender
Anthropologists argue that concepts like “Race” and “Gender” are “socially constructed” meaning that they are “developed by society [and] maintained over time through social interactions that make the idea seem ‘real’” (Brown, et. al. 227). These are “social realities” are culturally relative and historically contextual. Provide examples from at least three of the course texts that illustrate this idea. [For Example: How was race constructed similarly/differently in colonial era vs. contemporary New Mexico? (Kosek); Jake Kosek argues that “while racism is a lived material fact, racial difference itself does not adhere solely to ‘biology’ of the body but can be and often is written beyond the body itself as a ‘floating signifier’” (Kosek, 216). What does this passage mean?; What does Stuart Hall it mean when he argues that race is a “floating signifier”: “What do I mean by a floating signifier? Well, to put it crudely, race is one of those major concepts which organize the great classificatory systems of difference which operate in human societies. And to say that race is a discursive category recognizes that all attempts to ground this concept scientifically, to locate differences between the races on what one might call scientific, biological, or genetic grounds, have been largely shown to be untenable. We must therefore, it is said, substitute a socio-historical or cultural definition of race, for the biological one. (Hall, 1997: 19:16-19:58 ); What does Baldwin mean when he argues, “The world is not white. It never was white, cannot be white. White is a metaphor for power.” (Peck, 2016: 01:26:12 ); In what ways is gender mobilized in the “cheapening” of care and/or work (Patel & Moore); Why was the clothing of Muslim women relevant to the justification of the War on Terror? (Abu-Lughod); How are normative notions of race and masculinity produced in relation to Smokey Bear propaganda? (Kosek)]. Provide evidence from, and compare, at least three of the course texts.
*** Prompt Four: “Human Agency” *** The Oxford English dictionary defines “agency” as The “ability or capacity to act or exert power.” Many of the texts that we have read are concerned with the power of humans to transform the world, the ability of humans to change their circumstances, and historical moments in which the capacities of certain humans (categorized as “inferior” through modes of racial and gendered discrimination) was denied. Why is it important for anthropologists to consider and theorize the agency, power, and capabilities of humans? Drawing on at least three of the course readings, explain why it is important to consider the agency of human beings, and/or not discount the agency of the enslaved, women, or other marginalized communities? Explain why properly theorizing human agency is critical to solve at least one urgent/important environmental, social, political, or cultural problem. [For Example: 1. How are the concepts used to theorize human impacts on the global environment, such as the “Anthropocene” and the “Capitalocene”, premised upon different understandings of human agency? In other words, what do theories like the Anthropocene/Capitalocene tell us about the consequences of human agency on global ecosystems and/or the capacity of people to change their ways? 2. What do the lessons of historical events like the Haitian Revolution tell us about the power of humans to change their circumstances and transform the world? Why is it that French slave owners were unable to conceptualize the political agency of the enslaved even as they espoused the Rights of Man (Trouillot); How do categories like “Nature” and “Society” hinder or facilitate conceptualizations of human agency?; How was the capacity of people to control (and sabotage) the production of hydrocarbon energy important to the formation of Modern Democracy? (Mitchell); *Extra Credit Recommended Reading* Why is it important for anthropologists not conflate the “veiling” of Muslim women must not be conflated with or made to symbolize a lack of agency? (Abu-Lughod)]. Provide evidence from, and compare, at least three of the course texts.
*** Prompt Five: “The “Unthinkable” *** Michel-Rolph Trouillot draws upon Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the “unthinkable” as “that for which one has no adequate instruments to conceptualize.” The “unthinkable of an epoch” is something that “one cannot think for want of ethical or political inclinations that predispose to take it in account or in consideration, but also that which one cannot think for want of instruments of thought such as problematics, concepts, methods, techniques.” The “unthinkable is that which one cannot conceive within the range of possible alternatives, that which perverts all answers because it defies the terms under which the questions were phrased” (Trouillot, 82). First, explain what Trouillot and Bourdieu mean by the “unthinkable.” Second, explain and compare three problems/cases in the course that provide examples of something that was (or still is) “unthinkable” in its time. [For examples: Slavery/Abolitionism/Human Rights, Fossil Fuel Power, the “Anthropocene,” Climate Change, Nuclear Natures]. Provide evidence from, and compare, at least three of the course texts.
*** Prompt Six: “Who are ‘We’”?***: Anthropologist Jake Kosek writes, “Pieced together with the viscous glue of the past, the pronouns we, us, and ours are formed, reshaped, and sometimes broken.” Many of the texts that we have read in the course engage with the difficulties that cultural groups, like nations, have with defining who they are, coming to terms with a diversity of identities and perspectives and reconciling painful and often contradictory histories and contemporary realities. In these case studies, the “shifters” (words which mean different things in different contexts like “we,” “they,” “us,” and “ours” ) help to constitute cultural identities but, at the same time, they can include some while excluding others. For example in the ethnography Understories, an informant tells Jake Kosek: “Do you want to know why things are so screwed up here?… I’ll tell you… We’ve got both the blood of the colonizer and the blood of the colonized in our veins…. We’re the conquerers and the conquered, the victors and victims” (Kosek, 50). Similarly, James Baldwin argues that “we, the American people” need “to accept the fact, that I have to accept, for example, that my ancestors are both white and black. That on that continent we are trying to forge a new identity for which we need each other, and that I am not a ward of America. I am not an object of missionary charity, I am one of the people who built the country.” What do you make of these claims? What are they trying to say? Do you agree? How are these claims similar or different? Who is included in the use of “we” in these passages and how do shifters like “we” help constitute a shared sense of national (or other) identity? Why is it difficult to reconcile these contradictory realities? How do mestizo and mixed race histories and contemporary realities challenge the “purity” of racial, ethnic, or national identities? If things are “screwed up” how might we be able to learn from the complex histories of cultural diversity to strengthen the unity of human communities? Provide evidence from, and compare, at least three of the course texts.
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