Modern Times

Anthropology 21A-334

Joseph Dumit (Office: 20D-101; email:

Mon/Wed 2:30-4, Rm 13-3101 [3-0-6]

Modern Times

Artifact Project

Interview Project

Anthropology of Truths

Part I - Common Knowledge

Part II - Sources

Part III - Cultures of Truths

  • Weight-loss Drugs
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Gulf War Syndrome
      • This purpose of this class is to develop anthropological perspectives and critical reflection on the interplay of social, scientific, and global realities in modern times. We will study ways of learning about and mapping the travel of facts, things, concepts and people into and out of our lives.


        There are two parts to this class. The first is reading and class participation. You are expected to read all of the required material, to come prepared with answers to short questions, and occasionally to lead class discussions. For most classes, at least half of the time will be devoted to discussion.

        There will be no tests. Instead there will be three projects: the first is a short study of an artifact (4-5 pages). The second involves interviewing three people situated differently at the same site. You will be examining the differences their positions make. For the final assignment you will produce a small web site expanding your artifact project or working in a small group around a collective artifact and tying it in with concepts from the class.



        • Traweek, Beamtimes and Lifetimes
        • Ginsburg & Rapp, Conceiving the New World Order (CNWO)
        • Tsing, In the Realm of the Diamond Queen
        • Juma, The Gene Hunters
        • Recommended:

        • Barnet & Cavanagh, Global Dreams
        • Proctor, Cancer Wars


        Science Cultures in Modern Times

        Traweek S (1988) Beamtimes and Lifetimes: The World of High Energy Physicists.

        Traweek, S "Kokusaika, Gaiatsu, and Bachigai: Japanese Physicists’ Strategies for Moving into the International Political Economy of Science" In Reader.

        Cultural Biographies of Things

        Kopytoff I "The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process." In Reader.

        Barroso C and S Correa "Public Servants, Professionals, and Feminists: The Politics of Contraceptive Research in Brazil"

        Joralemon D, "Organ Wars: The Battle for Body Parts" In Reader.

        Das, V. "Organ Transplant in India." In Reader.

        Cultural Biographies of Facts: Living among Them

        Bunkle P "Calling the Shots: The International Politics of Depo-Provera." In Reader.

        Shohat E "Lasers-For-Ladies - Endo Discourse And The Inscriptions Of Science (The Realization Of Endometriosis As A Real Disease)." In Reader

        Miner H "Body ritual among the Nacirema." In Reader.

        Dumit J "A digital image of the category of the person: PET scanning and objective self-fashioning." In Reader.

        Rapp R "Real Time Fetus: the role of the sonogram in the age of monitored reproduction." In Reader.

        The Facts of Life

        Jordanova L, "Interrogating the Concept of Reproduction in the Eighteenth Century" Ch. 20 in CNWO.

        Zihlman, A, "Misreading Darwin on Reproduction: Reductionism in Evolutionary Theory." Ch 23 in CNWO.

        Petchesky RP, "The Body as Property: A Feminist Re-Vision." Ch. 21 in CNWO.

        Weiner A, "Reassessing Reproduction in Social Theory." Ch. 22 in CNWO.

        Brower C and N A Press, "The Normalization of Prenatal Diagnostic Screening" Ch. 17 in CNWO.

        Fraser G, "Modern Bodies, Modern Minds: Midwifery and Reproductive Change in an African American Community." Ch. 3 in CNWO.

        Cyborgs & Statistics

        Koenig, "Genetic Tests" In Reader.

        Fortune "Prostate Cancer" In Reader.

        Haraway D "The Actors are Cyborg, Nature is Coyote, and the Geography is elsewhere: Postscript to 'Cyborgs at Large" In Reader.

        Hamilton J "Women and Psychotropic Drug Research" In Reader.

        Dumit J "When Explanations Rest: Good-enough Brain Science and the New Biomental Disorders." In Reader.

        What is Postmodernism? World Systems

        Barnet et al., Global Debt & Gatt articles. In Reader.

        Harvey, Condition of Postmodernity (selections). In Reader.

        Appadurai, "Ethnoscapes." In Reader.

        Ethnography in the Modern World

        Tsing AL In the realm of the diamond queen : marginality in an out-of-the-way place.

        Maps. In Reader.

        Morsy S "Deadly Reproduction among Egyptian Women: Maternal Mortality and the Medicalization of Population Control." Ch. 9 in CNWO.

        Disasters & Justice, Facts & Risk

        Laughlin K "Bhopal: After the Fact." In Reader.

        Stephens S, "Physical and Cultural Reproduction in a Post-Chernobyl Norwegian Sami Community." Ch. 15 in CNWO.

        "Toxins at the Pump" In Reader.

        Douglas M, & Wildavsky A Risk and Culture: an Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers (selections). In Reader.

        Growing and Eating Globally

        Juma, C. The Gene Hunters

        Anagnost A, "A Surfeit of Bodies: Population and the Rationality of the State in Post-Mao China." Ch. 2 in CNWO.