Department of Anthropology

James Slotta


Assistant ProfessorPh.D., University of Chicago

James Slotta

Contact

  • Phone: (512) 471-8522
  • Office: SAC 5.134
  • Campus Mail Code: C3200

Interests


Communication, language, politics, knowledge, epistemology; Melanesia, Papua New Guinea

Courses


ANT 302 • Cultural Anthropology

31190-31215 • Fall 2017
Meets MW 12:00PM-1:00PM CLA 0.126

This course focuses on "classic" themes in anthropology such as ethnicity, language, adaptation, marriage, kinship, gender, religion, and social stratification.  We will consider anthropological theory from its 19th-century origins to the present.  The course also explores the nature of ethnographic field work, especially the relationship between the anthropologist and the field community.  
The lectures, readings, and films for this course have been selected with the objective of exploring the social meanings with which diverse groups invest their life.  By comparing and analyzing the similarities and differences between "us" and "others," both within the borders of the U.S. and abroad, the anthropological perspective can expose some of our own cultural assumptions and enable us to better understand diverse cultures.

ANT 320L • Polit/Polity/Power Of Words

31415 • Fall 2017
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM SAC 4.118

Politicians are often decried as being “all talk and no action,” a criticism that draws on a familiar view of language that contrasts “real” actions—the proper concern of politics—with “mere” words. And yet, “real” political actions, from the founding of nation-states (“We the People…”) to the transformation of polities (“I have a dream…”), rest on the power of “mere” words. In this course, we look at the place of language in a variety of different political settings—from oblique oratory in small-scale egalitarian communities to ritual “poetry” in cosmic polities to procedural prose in mass bureaucratic states—to come to a better understanding of the power of words. Working with a broad understanding of politics, we look at the varied ways language sustains and transforms power relations in different political contexts, and thereby takes on a power of its own. In the process, we explore a variety of political situations, different modes of political communication, as well as different theories of the “performative” power of words.

ANT 302 • Cultural Anthropology-Honors

31115 • Spring 2017
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM SAC 4.118

This course focuses on "classic" themes in anthropology such as ethnicity, language, adaptation, marriage, kinship, gender, religion, and social stratification.  We will consider anthropological theory from its 19th-century origins to the present.  The course also explores the nature of ethnographic field work, especially the relationship between the anthropologist and the field community.  
The lectures, readings, and films for this course have been selected with the objective of exploring the social meanings with which diverse groups invest their life.  By comparing and analyzing the similarities and differences between "us" and "others," both within the borders of the U.S. and abroad, the anthropological perspective can expose some of our own cultural assumptions and enable us to better understand diverse cultures.

ANT 320L • Lang Endangerment/Rights

31225 • Spring 2017
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM SAC 4.174
(also listed as LIN 373)

The 21st century, linguists say, will see the “death or doom” of 90 percent of the world’s languages. In response, non-governmental organizations, academics, and activists have responded with campaigns to preserve and revitalize “dying” languages. At the same time, lawyers, legislators, and political theorists have built the groundwork for the
recognition of “language rights” as a tool for defending small-scale and minority language communities against the spread of national and global languages. In this course, we examine such efforts in order to ask: why does the idea of language death inspire all of this work and attention? What is “a language” – what properties are seen to inhere in language – that drives these activities? Here we will explore views of language that underpin the anxieties and efforts of the language rights and revitalization movements: from the place of language in the 19th and 20th century politics of national autonomy to the role of language as a repository of worldviews and an emblem of our shared humanity. In the process, we see how “language” and distinct “languages” are situated at the center of Western imaginations of community and moral anxieties over autonomy, with all of the political and ethical implications that result for people who are recognized as having their own language as well as those who recognize the “languagedness” of others.

ANT 302 • Cultural Anthropology

30990-31025 • Fall 2016
Meets MW 2:00PM-3:00PM ART 1.102

This course focuses on "classic" themes in anthropology such as ethnicity, language, adaptation, marriage, kinship, gender, religion, and social stratification.  We will consider anthropological theory from its 19th-century origins to the present.  The course also explores the nature of ethnographic field work, especially the relationship between the anthropologist and the field community.  
The lectures, readings, and films for this course have been selected with the objective of exploring the social meanings with which diverse groups invest their life.  By comparing and analyzing the similarities and differences between "us" and "others," both within the borders of the U.S. and abroad, the anthropological perspective can expose some of our own cultural assumptions and enable us to better understand diverse cultures.

ANT 307 • Culture And Communication

31120 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 3:30PM-5:00PM CLA 0.112

The ability to learn and use language is a quintessentially human characteristic—one that distinguishes homo sapiens from other animal species. Language is simultaneously generated through and generative of social life; the former is a primary resource that we humans use in both the structuring and accomplishment of the latter. These dynamics form the subject of study of linguistic anthropology.

This course is an introduction to linguistic anthropology. It is impossible in a single semester to provide a complete overview of all topics that linguistic anthropologists address, so this course covers selected topics, the selection of which is aimed to illustrate how linguistic anthropologists go about doing their work: the range of topics they examine, the kinds of questions they ask, the types of approaches and methods they utilize, and the sorts of conclusions they reach.

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