Ethnography Edges of Capitalism

Schools of Public Engagement: Global Studies

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Degree Students
Ethn. Edges of Capitalism
Spring 2023
Taught By: Jonathan Bach
Section: A

CRN: 13525

Credits: 3

Capitalism, by its very design, always pushes the edge: of markets, of beliefs, of people, of nature. In doing so, it produces forms of excess that no system seems able to fully control. This class examines ethnographically what happens to the excesses that capitalism produces at the edges of the global economy, where life is often lived in ruins, and what it means to write about them. It explores how people remake their symbolic and material worlds in ways that are often unexpected and unpredictable when they are faced with totalizing logics that turn their worlds upside down. The class consists of reading, slowly and patiently, ethnographies from the edges of the global economy. Tentative readings include cases of indigenous communities invoking the devil as they become workers in South American tin mines and plantations, Southeast Asians foraging in Oregon’s forests today for high-value mushrooms on the periphery of capitalist production, teenagers in Jamaica whose scams of North Americans become inseparable from questions of Black repair after colonialism and structural adjustment, and the ephemeral space of the air itself as it shifts under pollution, climate change, and technologies of manipulation. Each of them, in very different ways, shows how people appropriate the upheavals that come with systemic economic change. Arguing against reductionist analyses, the class probes the interstices of a global economy that thrives on living on the edge. Students will write short essays based on close readings and a longer paper/project on an edge of the economy of their choice. Readings may include works by Anna Tsing, Michael Taussig, Jovan Scott Lewis, and Jerry Zee.

College: Schools of Public Engagement (NS)

Department: Global Studies (UGLB)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 4

Add/Drop Deadline: February 5, 2023 (Sunday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 16, 2023 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 3:44pm EDT 9/30/2023

Meeting Info:
Days: Tuesday
Times: 1:55pm - 3:45pm
Building: Johnson/Kaplan 66 West 12th
Room: 002
Date Range: 1/24/2023 - 5/9/2023