Anthro X: An anti-seminar in culture and cognition

As mentioned in my previous post, this term I’m running a special course on the topic of culture and cognition, for six of the students in my Culture, Language and Cognition course from last term, all of whom were highly successful and, because I’m advising them in one way or another, are highly motivated to do some more work in this field.    I’m running this as a joint directed study – it looks like a seminar, and acts like a seminar, but keeping it ‘directed’ allows me to schedule it and manage enrollment more effectively.   I’m calling it ‘Anthro X’ as a conscious homage to the late physicist Richard Feynman, and his ‘Physics X’ informal seminars at Caltech. 

Last term’s course was skewed a little towards ‘cognitive anthropology’ construed narrowly, within the American tradition outlined by Roy D’Andrade in his The development of cognitive anthropology (1995).  This sort of work is obviously important, but hardly scratches the surface of the broader subject of ‘culture and cognition’ (across anthropological subfields and related disciplines).  It’s that broader field where I position my own work on number and numeracy, and thus, where I decided to go in this new course.  I chose recent book-length works, all from the past ten years, and a heavy skew towards the past two years. Partly that’s because these particular students already have a broad reading background in the older material, so are more than ready for contemporary stuff.  Partly it’s because they’ll be writing book reviews, which they’ll be posting here in the weeks to come.  Partly it’s because I haven’t read half this stuff myself, and assigning it to students provides me a good incentive to do so. 

Anyway, here’s the planned reading list – comments and questions are welcome!

Bloch, Maurice. 2012. Anthropology and the cognitive challenge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cerulo, Karen A. 2006. Never saw it coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst. University of Chicago Press.

Cohen, Emma. 2007. The mind possessed: the cognition of spirit possession in an Afro-Brazilian religious tradition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ingold, Tim. 2007. Lines: a brief history. New York: Routledge.

Kockelman, Paul. 2010. Language, culture, and mind: natural constructions and social kinds. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lende, Daniel H., and Downey, Greg, eds. 2012. The encultured brain: an introduction to neuroanthropology. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Lloyd, G. E. R. 2007. Cognitive variations: reflections on the unity and diversity of the human mind. Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press.

Malafouris, Lambros. 2013. How things shape the mind: a theory of material engagement. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Saxe, Geoffrey. 2012. Cultural development of mathematical ideas. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Suchman, Lucille Alice. 2007. Human-machine reconfigurations: plans and situated actions (2nd edition). Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tomasello, Michael. 2014. A natural history of human thinking. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wengrow, David. 2013. The Origins of Monsters: Image and Cognition in the First Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Wierzbicka, Anna. 2013. Imprisoned in English: The Hazards of English as a Default Language. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wynn, Thomas, and Frederick Coolidge. 2012. How to think like a Neandertal. New York: Oxford University Press.

Author: schrisomalis

Anthropologist, Wayne State University. Professional numbers guy. Rare Words: Blog:

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