ANTHRCUL 458 - Topics in Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology
Section: 004 Possessing Culture: Spirit Mediums and Ethnography in Southeast Asia
Term: FA 2010
Subject: Anthropology, Cultural (ANTHRCUL)
Department: LSA Anthropology
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Junior and above.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

From factory floors in Malaysia, to Karoland, to Chiang Mai, from Central Java, to Bicol, to the Meratus Mountains, from Aceh, to Mount Banahaw, to Kuala Lumpur and beyond, Southeast Asia has provided an exceptionally good locus from which to get accustomed to the phenomena of spirit possession and mediumship. This seminar asks why this is so, whether mediumship and possession reveal a shared regional culture of negotiating power and difference, or, by contrast, if its prevalence in the literature and perceived importance is largely the product of a (mostly American) ethnographic imaginary. To this end we will begin by engaging several of the classic and contemporary debates about Southeast Asian cultures and history, alongside some of the non-region specific theories of possession and mediumship whose logics seem particularly relevant to this context. We will then examine the mediating role that ethnographies of Southeast Asia have played in presenting spirit possession and mediumship as especially productive sites for both illustrating and generating cultural analysis and critical theory.

This class will most benefit Anthropology or Southeast Asia/Asian Studies majors and minors nearing graduation or at the graduate student level.

Course Methods and Objectives: This course departs from the premise that ethnography — the in-depth study and depiction of a particular culture — is a unique method and genre of writing. This means that in addition to reading for “information” and “insight” into Southeast Asian practices of mediumship and possession, we will be reading and commenting on the ways in which anthropologists of Southeast Asia gather and interpret their “data,” describe their environs, structure their arguments, and make claims — in short, how they mediate our access to peoples and places half-way around the world through ethnography. Reading at multiple levels will certainly be more challenging than reading for content alone, but doing so will help us get to the bottom of why Southeast Asia has long been a place where anthropologists are able to generate an astounding number of ideas and theories about “culture” more generally. Careful and close readings of all required material will thus be expected and crucial to having discussions both engaging and fun.

This course is also an opportunity to develop your writing skills. Our attention to ethnography assumes a concern with form, reflection, argument, and description. It is hoped that through regular exercises you, too, will improve the clarity of your own voice in writing.

ANTHRCUL 458 - Topics in Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
Note: (Fulfills the linguistic anthropology requirement for Anthro concentrators)
003 (SEM)
Tu 10:00AM - 1:00PM
004 (SEM)
W 1:00PM - 4:00PM
Note: (Meets with Asian 480.001)
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 0226285103
The religion of Java, Author: Clifford Geertz., Publisher: University of Chicago Press Phoenix ed 1976
ISBN: 0801499631
On the subject of "Java"., Author: John Pemberton., Publisher: Cornell University Press 2. pr. 1994
ISBN: 0521646227
Power and intimacy in the Christian Philippines., Author: Fenella Cannell., Publisher: Cambridge University Press Reprint. 1999
ISBN: 047206956X
Cage of freedom : Tamil identity and the ethnic fetish in Malaysia, Author: Andrew C. Willford., Publisher: University of Michigan Press 2006
ISBN: 0691000514
In the realm of the diamond queen : marginality in an out-of-the-way place, Author: Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing., Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press 1993
ISBN: 0822325179
In the place of origins : modernity and its mediums in northern Thailand, Author: Rosalind C. Morris., Publisher: Duke University Press 2000
Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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