THIS COURSE TAKES PLACE IN PARIS: Taking the city, and specifically the city of Paris, as its focus, this course explores what anthropology can bring to an understanding of cities and urban life. Complex spaces that at once create, sustain, and transgress various forms of social and cultural distinction, cities pose particular challenges for the ethnographer in pursuit of fine-grained analysis that takes into account the multiple and transecting strands of the urban metropolis. In this course, we study various forms of ethnographic analysis in order to gain insight into the particularities of Paris and the broader historic, social, economic, and political phenomena that the city and its spatial organization reveal. Working out from an understanding of urban space as a socially and politically meaningful site of claims-making and contestation, we consider the importance of consumption and display in shaping urban identities, and of the shifting dynamics of groups and boundaries within the urban context. Alongside their investigation of the city, students also have an opportunity to develop their skills in ethnographic research methods. Exercises in participant-observation and and in the transformation of first-hand experience into a finished piece of ethnographic work allow students a chance to gain appreciation for the complexities of “the field” while developing insight into a corner of Parisian life. Through critical reading of texts in urban anthropology and related fields, site visits in and around Paris, and methodology workshops wherein students explore the “doing” of field research, the course allows students an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of Paris and of the complexity more broadly of city life.
Global Programs (IDSEM-UG)