Small Things: Intimate Inquiries into Everyday Life
Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 quarters
This two-quarter introductory program considers how small things—personal affections and distastes, allegiances and exclusions, possessions and wastes—make up our daily worlds and contribute to broader, systemic patterns of order in societies. Grounding our studies in anthropology, social psychology and sociology, we will consider the implications of personal choices and actions on society at large, in the U.S. and in a range of cultural and historical settings. What is the relationship between our identities and the small things we do, think, feel, say, desire, choose, wear or own? How do routine actions contribute to social hierarchies, differences and inequalities? What can looking closely at the micro-social world teach us about power?
We will examine a range of minutia: words uttered in routine conversations, facial expressions, bodily adornments, grooming habits, tweets posted and things collected and consumed. Focusing on the key domains of everyday life—work, school and home—we will engage in micro investigations: slowing down, paying close attention, observing systematically and deriving meaning from the details. Program activities, including lectures, workshops, field trips, films and book seminars, will build skills in empirical observation, documentation, asking questions, analysis, interpretation and writing. Students will read anthropological and sociological ethnographies and social psychological studies that inquire into small things and help us develop methodological approaches for studying closely. We will also engage in close readings of challenging theoretical texts that critically explore modes of power. Through these practices, students will learn the foundations of the interpretive social sciences.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day