ANTH 440-401 P
Interactions between humans and the living landscape around us have played - and continue to play - a fundamental role in shaping our worldview. This course is designed to introduce students to the diverse ways in which humans interact with plants. We will focus on the integration of ethnographic information and archaeological case studies in order to understand the range of interactions between humans and plants, as well as how plants and people have profoundly changed one another. Topics will include the origins of agriculture; cooking and plant processing; human health and the world of ethnomedicine; and poisonous and psychoactive plants. We will examine ancient plant material firsthand at the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM) and will handle botanical ecofacts from the Penn Museum's collections. Students will also carry out a substantial research project focused on an archaeological culture and plant species of their own interest.
Natural disasters occupy a powerful place in our imagination. Stories of floods, plagues, earthquakes and storms excite and horrify us and communities mobilize their resources quickly in response to these events. In the ancient Mediterranean world, natural disasters could take on potent meaning, indicating the anger or disfavor of the gods, acting as warnings against certain courses of action, or confirmations of individuals' fears or suspicions about the world in which they lived. In this course, we explore the evidence for some disasters in the ancient Mediterranean world, the ways in which contemporaries reacted to those disasters and interpreted their causes. This project is, of necessity, multidisciplinary, involving textual, archaeological, geological, and comparative materials and drawing on methodologies from history, political and archaeological science, and the emerging field of disaster studies. In the process, we will gain an appreciation of the social structures of communities in the period, the thought-world in which they operated, and the challenges and opportunities that attend a project of this sort. No prior knowledge of Ancient History is required, although it would be useful to have taken an introductory survey course. Texts will be discussed in translation.
In this course, we will explore the molecular revolution in biological anthropology. In particular, we will examine how molecular data can be used to illuminate anthropological question concerning human origins, evolution and biological variation. Some of the specific topics to be covered in this course are the phylogenetic relationships among primates, kinship in apes and monkeys, the hominoid trichotomy, modern human origins and migrations, Neanderthal and Denisovan admixture with modern humans, biogenetics of skin color, and physiological, phenotypic and disease adaptations.
What are the limits of nature? When do natural systems become human or socio-natural systems? In this course, we examine the human construction of nature both conceptually, through ideas about environment, ecosystem, organism, and ecology; and materially, through trajectories of direct action in and on the landscape. Beginning with a consideration of foundational concepts in human ecology, we will discuss current problems and approaches, centering on political ecology. Readings and case studies are drawn from human-environmental contexts in Oceania, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Europe, and North America. We will also consider topics including a) the relationship between indigenous and technocratic knowledge and resource governance, b) environmental movements themselves as objects of ethnographic study; c) justice and sustainability as environmental goals; d) inequality, displacement and violence as environmental problems; and e) fair trade and food security or sovereignty.
This course is an introductory survey of the environmental humanities and social sciences. It draws on scholarship and methods in environmental history, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and literary studies to address the causes, contexts, and consequences of domestication, urbanization, industrialization, pollution, extinction, climate change, and other subjects--all of which are simultaneously the product of long, complex histories and areas of recent, dramatic, and sometimes even catastrophic change. Readings in historical sources are combined with present-day case studies, including some focused on the Philadelphia region.
The idea of solving problems by collecting as much data as possible about them is an old dream that has recently been revitalized with the help of new technologies and new ways of organizing knowledge production. This course examines the hunger for data from a historical and social perspective, seeking to understand when, why, and how the collection of vast amounts of data has come to seem valuable and desirable, sometimes in ways that exceed any reasonable expectation of utility or feasibility. Topics include state surveillance, online tracking, the quantified self, citizen science, civic hacking, human genomics, bioinformatics, and climate modeling.
ENGL 016.302 (Freshman seminar)
Whether you call it climatological science-fiction or #clifi, speculative fiction about anthropogenic climate change is becoming an important site for thinking, feeling, and warning about earth’s changing environments. In this class we’ll study a cluster of recent cli-fi novels that project a variety of climate scenarios—apocalyptic, utopian, and everything in between—into the future. We’ll also look at earlier fictions that explore humanity’s entanglement with non-human beings and environments, as well as at fictions that connect climate change in the present with scarce-resources, conflict, displacement, and environmental racism. Supplementary readings in the environmental humanities will introduce terms and concepts such as the Anthropocene, deep time, the great acceleration, the nonhuman turn, and climate justice.
PHIL-226 (Penn Global Seminar)
This course consists of a detailed examination of evolutionary theory and its philosophical foundations. The course begins with a consideration of Darwin's formulation of evolutionary theory and the main influences on Darwin. We will then consider two contemporary presentations of the theory: Richard Dawkins' and Richard Lewontin's. The remainder of the course will deal with a number of foundational issues including adaptation, the units of selections, the evolution of altruism, and the possibility of grounding ethics in evolutionary theory.
The role of water in the Middle East cannot be overstated. The Middle East is an arid region, but human and natural systems have interacted to determine relative water scarcity and abundance at different times and places. The location, accessibility, yield, and quality of natural and managed water resources significantly influenced the location and longevity of ancient and modern settlements. Control of water has always affected the economic, political, social life of the communities inhabiting these settlements. This course examines the distribution of water resources throughout the Middle East and the archaeology and anthropology of water exploitation and management over the last 9000 years. It will consider water in river valleys, deserts, highland zones, steppes, and coastal areas of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Levant, and Arabia from environmental, political, social, cultural, and technical perspectives. We will engage with a variety of media, including academic readings, popular journalism, films, satellite imagery, and digital maps. We will examine irrigation, water supply, sanitation, and water-driven power systems known from ethnographic studies and archaeological excavations. These data will allow us to engage with debates in Middle Eastern anthropology, including those concerning the relationship between water and political power, the environment in which the earliest cities arose, and present and potential future water crises and "water wars." In our final weeks, we will discuss archaeology and historical anthropology's contribution to conceptions of water "sustainability" and examine attempts to revive traditional and ancient technologies in an effort to better manage modern water resources.