From diamonds and bananas to coca and coal, natural wealth as commodities have shaped the way we think of global connections from early colonial encounters to the present. They are signs of the legacies of colonial exploitation as well as the seemingly infinite reach of global capital. Yet, anthropology of the politics around these commodities—that is, a critical understanding of the places of their production, extraction and exchange, along with the people whose lives are intimately tied to these processes—has also brought to the fore the provocative and often unpredictable ways in which the politics of natural resources has generated new forms of resistances, cultural practices and social worlds. They are pivots around which nations are being imagined, states are being legitimated, and nature itself is being re-defined. This course will examine anthropological literature on the politics and practices around natural wealth. Drawing on examples from varied cultural contexts, such as the petroleum boom in Nigeria, the occult practices of tin miners in Colombia, coffee-drinking in American households, or the coal mining communities in South Africa, among others, this course aims to understand the social and political lives of natural resources and how they help us to conceptually approach colonialism, capitalism and globalization.
Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Chowdhury.
If Overenrolled: Priority given to seniors and majors.