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"Third World Problems?" Environmental Anthropology and the Intersectionality of Justice (ANTHRO 123C)

CSRE
123C

As the Flint, Michigan water situation began to attract attention and condemnation, Michigan State Representative, Sheldon Neeley, describing the troops on the ground and the Red Cross distributing water bottles, said that the Governor had "turned an American city into a Third World country [...] it's terrible what he's done [...] no fresh water. Then, at a Congressional hearing, the Chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee said, "This is the United States of America - this isn't supposed to happen here. We are not some Third World country."nWhat is a "third world problem?" This introductory environmental anthropology course examines how such imaginaries materialize in development programmes and literature, and bespeak charged geopolitical and racial histories; and invites reflection on what futures for working in common they enable/constrain. We will examine how crises are imagined and constructed, and the governance regimes they give rise to. How does water - as natural resource, public good, human right, need, or commodity - determine the contours of such regimes? We will also study chronic, quieter environmental problems and the responses they (do not) generate. Working through a variety of writing genres - ethnographies, policy literature, and legal and corporate publicity material - will enable students to appreciate what anthropology can contribute to the conversation on environmental justice, and state and corporate bureaucracies and their mandates. The course draws on examples from a wide range of settings. The course is offered as an introduction to environmental anthropology and takes students through key themes - infrastructure, race, class, privatization, justice, violence - by focusing on water. It requires no background in anthropology.

Grading: 
Letter (ABCD/NP)