Classes I teach

Afro- Atlantic Religions

Throughout the Americas, from Brazil to New Orleans, African descendants have practiced religions that incorporate the beliefs of their ancestors and the imperatives of their everyday realities. These creole religions take many forms and have unique names in every country: Santería in Cuba and then Candomblé in

Brazil are just a few examples. In this course we will explore different forms of religious expression in the African Diaspora that draw on African traditional religions. Specifically, we will focus on the transnational networks of religions that worship the West African pantheon of Orisha or Vodou/Loas. Readings for the course will focus on three ethnographies and include works from cultural anthropology, religious studies and African Diaspora Studies. These texts will be supplemented by both music and video.

Caribbean Cultures

In the American cultural imagination the Caribbean is commonly seen as a space for cruise ships or the source of Reggae. The rich histories, diverse cultures and complex societies of the Caribbean have produced new religions, instruments and languages. Looking both at and beyond commonly held stereotypes as islands of surf and sun, this course will examine the role of culture (in the form of festivals, religion, and music) in linking every day practices of people with larger social forces of politics, citizenship and the nation. How do these post-colonial states mobilize culture in building nations, constructing identities and staking positions in the global economy?

How do cultural performances negotiate the social and economic relations of everyday lives? In answering these questions we will engage popular and public cultural forms, including Trinidadian Calypso, Carnival and Chutney Soca, Haitian Rara and Jamaican Rastafarianism and Reggae through written, oral, visual and embodied texts.

Throughout this course students critically engage theories of globalization and modernity in Caribbean case studies. Students will develop skills in the analysis and application of culture and difference, and in critical thinking by fleshing out concepts, theories and issues of identity (cultural, racial and national), diaspora and globalization, popular culture and postcolonial studies.

Global Africana Popular Culture

Global Africana Popular Culture is designed to introduce you to a variety of critical approaches used in the study of globalization and Africana popular culture. The primary objective of the course is to provide students with the tools to critically analyze these various forms of global popular culture in the African Diaspora and understand them within a broader social context. Although this course will draw on your familiarity with popular culture, we will approach the subject from a scholarly perspective. We will learn how popular culture, in all its various forms, not only reflects the world around us but also how it influences the way we perceive the world.

Every day we are exposed to thousands of images, sounds and experiences that we understand as natural – as just the way the world is. But this everyday life we take for granted is anything but natural. It is both the product and the creator of a shared worldview. We will examine a wide range of subjects (such as film, festivals, music) using a wide range of theories (such as critical theory, gender studies, postcolonial and cultural studies) in a variety of international locations (Ghana, Cuba, Brazil, and Trinidad) so that we can better understand the circulation, production and consumption of popular culture around the globe. Our class is organized around three major themes (race, gender and class), which will each take up approximately three to four weeks of study.

In class we develop answers to each of the following questions:

  • What is popular culture, how is it different from “folk culture” and “high culture,” and just how “popular” is popular culture anyway
  • What does it mean to say that we live in a “globalized” society, and to what extent can the shift to a global society be attributed to the influence of media and popular culture?
  • How do audiences make sense of and use the popular culture they consume?
  • How does popular culture contribute to the social construction of gender?
  • How does popular culture contribute to the social construction of race and ethnicity?
  • How has popular culture, especially American popular culture, become a major global export?

Additional classes

  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • Introduction to Africana Studies
  • Africana Social Theory

Dream classes

  • Anthropology of Race
  • Women and Power in African diaspora religions
  • Come Leh We Break Away: Gender and Sexuality in Trinidad Carnival