Department of Anthropology

Maria Sidorkina


Assistant ProfessorPh.D. Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology, Yale University

Courses


T C 358 • Language And Elections

42825 • Fall 2021
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM PAR 305

Description

This course is for students who follow elections coverage, and are interested in developing a rigorous understanding of the role of language in politics. We will cut through the news cycle by focusing on several issues key to an anthropological approach topolitical communication: How can speech both describe and shape social life? How do questions of “how to speak” disguise questions of “who can speak”? What kinds of public communication do we consider good for democracy, and why? Finally, what are some old problems and what are new problems posed by social media, and its role in news production and circulation?

Focusing our readings on stories from mainstream and social media that circulate in election seasons, we will analyze how issues of language, power and identity shape how we talk about candidates and their “message.” Throughout the semester, students will also learn about research methods, including digital ethnography, participant observation/fieldnotes, semi-structured interviews, transcription, and discourse analysis. We will read theoretical texts as needed, but develop insights drawn from these texts in group data analysis exercises and independent research projects. As a class, we will work to uncover just what it is about the most recent elections that is, and is not, “politics as usual.”

Required Texts

•Teresa Bejan (2017) Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration
•Jürgen Habermas (1962) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society
•Benedict Anderson (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
•Jay Fliegelman (1993) Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language and the Culture of Performance.
•Michael Lempert and Michael Silverstein (2012) Creatures of Politics: Media, Message, and the American Presidency
•H. Samy Alim, and Geneva Smitherman (2012) Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.

Course Requirements

The bulk of the work over the course of the semester will include reading, collecting and sharing research data with the class, and working towards mid-term and final papers. Students are required to:
1.Prepare the readings,and fully participate in class discussion(10%).
2.Keep a research journal (10%). This ongoing journal of online and offline research into contemporary talk about the presidential election will be made using Evernote, a collaborative note-taking platform. Snapshots, briefs, transcripts, fieldnotes and other data will be collectedby students in a course folder.
3.Submit ten 500-word papers in response to the readings, dueon the first day of class each week (20%).
4.Midterm essay (20%). Careful summary, synthesis, extension, or critique of 2-3 readings from the first half of the semester, 8-10 pages long.
5.Conduct a conference-style presentation of the mid-term paper, and provide written feedback to 3-5 students on their papers (10%).
6.Submit afinal essay of 15 pages (30%). This paper is a culmination of written work throughout the semester, and as such should draw on the response papers and the mid-term to develop an argument based on data you have collected and analyzed throughout the term. 

Instructor Bio

Maria Sidorkina is a cultural and linguistic anthropologist studying the intersection of politics, digital mediation and new forms of collective life. She is currently writing a book about Russian political activist in the late Putin era, where she deals with such wide-ranging topics as activist trolls, dictation festivals, Monstration carnivals, flamewars and incivility. She teaches courses on digital ethnography, comparative illiberalism, power and resistance in Russia, postsocialism, and the anthropology of political communication.

ANT 324L • Power And Resistance In Rus-Wb

32075 • Spring 2021
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM
Internet; Synchronous
GC (also listed as REE 345)

How do political activists in Russia speak to the state? In turn, how does the state encourage, respond to, and censor activist speech? This class will shed light on Russian state power as it is analyzed “from below” by ordinary citizens who seek to shape its politics and policy. We will take protests seriously as events to reveal their place in national and international histories of contention, as well as consider interactions between protest participants and the social and physical spaces in which protests take place. We will also situate Russian protest events with respect to ordinary moments of cultural, social and political life. Finally, we will explore the—often surprising—experiments with collective action that Russian activists have taken up after decades of dealing with illiberal and opaque mechanisms of local and national governance.

As part of thinking about state-citizen interaction beyond the margins of the liberal project, we will get an overview of the history of political speech from Soviet late socialism to the present. We will then take stock of the 2011-2012 Fair Elections protest movement—a pivotal moment in the Putin era—and apply our insights to analyses of state and protest activity since that time. As part of theorizing postsocialist (and in many ways post-liberal) protest, we will unpack some of methodological debates central to Russian protest studies, such as whether we should call properly “political” those actors that who aim to change the political system or those for whom the efficacy of protest is measured by solving problems in particular cases (e.g. wage arrears, environmental destruction, homophobia, etc.)

ANT 391 • Ethnography Of Digtl Media-Wb

32225 • Spring 2021
Meets W 10:00AM-1:00PM
Internet; Synchronous
(also listed as REE 388)

 

Course Description: 

Have you ever broken up with someone using a text message? Felt your senses extended by a new gadget? Or wondered why trolls troll? In this course, we will investigate new digital technologies and their impact on social worlds across “liberal” and “illiberal” political divides, and the legacies of “first,” “second,” and “third world” area studies models. While the course will begin with a brief overview of old media paradigms (the novel, the newspaper), we will spend most of our time exploring new social kinds (the troll, the hashtag, the GIF archive, the emoticon, the TikTok challenge). Readings will focus on “practical” contributions to conversations about media, but we will bring in classical theoretical texts as needed. The goal is to develop a rigorous understanding of new media forms and to design ethnographic data collection methods for projects that can answer a variety of questions about digitally mediated interaction. 

 

A substantial part of the course will consist of an ethnographic research project on some aspect of digital life that students will design in collaboration with others. Students working independently and in small groups, at home and in class, will contribute to different components of this project. To do this, students will conduct research exercises using “Evernote,” a note-taking application that can be used to create snapshots of public interactions, pool data, and present findings. Group presentations early in the semester will serve as the testing ground for the proposed research project. A conference-style midterm paper on a research topic will serve as the rough draft for a final paper. Additionally, weekly blog responses to assigned readings will be required. 

 

Grade Breakdown: 

 

  1.     Do the assigned readings and exercises and be active in discussing them each class (10% of grade).

 

  1.     Ethnographic research journal (10%). You will keep an ongoing journal of your participant observation online using Evernote. Resulting snapshots, transcripts and field notes can be used for your own research and shared with others.

 

  1.     Reading response papers (10%). Due each week (except first day of semester).

These are not graded for writing style. But they must constitute clear evidence that you carefully did the reading, and so are ready to actively participate in the discussion. 

 

  1.     Presentation of preliminary research results (10%).

 

  1.     Summary, synthesis, extension, and critique of 1-2 readings in first half of class in relation to research topic, 5-7 pages long. (30%)

 

  1.     Final paper (40%): development of the midterm essay based on instructor and peer comments, and in light of readings covered in second half of class, 10 pages long.

 

Selected Readings: 

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities 

 

Oates, Sarah. Revolution Stalled: The Political Limits of the Internet in the Post-Soviet Sphere 

 

MetzgerMegan MacDuffee and Joshua A. Tucker, “Social Media and EuroMaidan: A Review Essay 

 

Peters, Benjamin. How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet  

 

Tucker, Joshua A. et al. “From Liberation to turmoil: Social media and democracy,” Journal of Democracy 

 

Yang, Guobin. The Power of The Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online 

 

deLisle, Jacques, andGuobin Yang, eds. The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China 

 

VarisPiiaDigital Ethnography, from The Routledge Handbook of Language and Digital Communication 

 

Habermas, Jurgen. “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article” 

 

Bonilla, Yarimar and Rosa, Jonathan. #Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States 

 

Juris, Jeffrey. Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social Media, Public Space, and Emerging Logics of Aggregation 

 

ManningPaul and Ilana Gershon, “Animating Interaction” 

 

Gibson, James. “The Theory of Affordances” 

 

BoelstorfTom“For Whom the Ontology Turns: Theorizing the Digital Real” 

 

boyddanah. It’s complicated: the social lives of networked teens 

 

Coleman, Gabriella. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous 

 

Coleman, Gabriella. “Ethnographic Approaches to Digital Media 

 

Gershon, Ilana. The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media 

 

Phillips, Whitney. This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture 

 

Agha, Asif. “Large and Small Scale Forms of Personhood 

 

Briggs, Charles. Anthropology, Interviewing, and Communicability in Contemporary Society 

ANT 324L • Politics And Performance-Wb

31094 • Fall 2020
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM
Internet; Synchronous
GCII (also listed as REE 345)

Description: During presidential elections, we often talk as much about how politicians speak as about what they say. This heightened attention to language provides a superb opportunity to dig deeper into our own culture of political communication from “Abe” to “W”: from Obama’s “precisiongrip gesture” to Palin’s “Whitmanesque” forms of address; from Hilary’s register-shifting to Trump’s gestural caricatures. The last election cycle has also given observers cause to examine rhetorical technologies that seem not our own—such as “Kremlin propaganda techniques,” the weaponization of “fake news” and populist demagoguery. Over the course of the semester, students will think through the power struggles of political process by closely attending to language, rhetoric and performance. Combining fieldwork, theoretical speculation and engaged research we will contribute to community knowledge about public speech and civic life, and, in the end, help shape our local public culture.

In our readings, we will trace the rhetorical norms of Euro-American politics from their prehistory to today; and contrast them with technologies of speech prevalent in public spheres that have not been shaped by liberalism—including 4chan forums (the native habitat of the “troll”) and illiberal regimes such as those of the former Soviet Union, where, observers claim, politicians act as if “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible.” Students will read liberal critiques of propaganda and public “manipulation,” as exemplified in works such as George Orwell’s 1984; and get a taste of anti-liberal technologies of communication in Victor Pelevin’s Generation "П". Ultimately, however, we will historicize and deconstruct the binary of “liberal” and “illiberal” cultures of public speech by closely attending to practices of language, rhetoric and performance that circulate across first, second and third-world divides. On the local level, students will conduct group ethnographic exercises focused on how local sites of debate and discussion could be transformed to expand community conversations around issues of local concern.

 

Grading: The bulk of the work over the course of the semester will include reading, conducting research projects, and working towards a final paper. Further specifications for each assignment and the due dates will be posted to the course website. Students are required to:

 Prepare the readings and fully participate in discussing them (10% of grade).

 Weekly paragraph-long responses to the readings, due on the first day of class each week (10%).

 Write occasional in-class, open book, assignments addressing key course concepts (10%).

 Keep an ethnographic journal (10%). 

 Complete research assignments (30%). 

 Submit a final essay of 10-12 pages (30%) which uses the class readings to analyze an example of discussion or debate practice.

ANT 324L • Power And Resistance In Rus

31649 • Spring 2020
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM PAR 103
GC (also listed as REE 345)

How do political activists in Russia speak to the state? In turn, how does the state encourage, respond to, and censor activist speech? This class will shed light on Russian state power as it is analyzed “from below” by ordinary citizens who seek to shape its politics and policy. We will take protests seriously as events to reveal their place in national and international histories of contention, as well as consider interactions between protest participants and the social and physical spaces in which protests take place. We will also situate Russian protest events with respect to ordinary moments of cultural, social and political life. Finally, we will explore the—often surprising—experiments with collective action that Russian activists have taken up after decades of dealing with illiberal and opaque mechanisms of local and national governance. 

 

As part of thinking about state-citizen interaction beyond the margins of the liberal project, we will get an overview of the history of political speech from Soviet late socialism to the present. We will then take stock of the 2011-2012 Fair Elections protest movement—a pivotal moment in the Putin era—and apply our insights to analyses of state and protest activity since that time. As part of theorizing postsocialist (and in many ways post-liberal) protest, we will unpack some of methodological debates central to Russian protest studies, such as whether we should call properly “political” those actors that who aim to change the political system or those for whom the efficacy of protest is measured by solving problems in particular cases (e.g. wage arrears, environmental destruction, homophobia, etc.) 

 

Discussion (10% of grade); Weekly paragraph-long responses (10%); Two case study papers (30%); midterm exam (20%); final essay of 10-12 pages (30%)

ANT 391 • Ethnography Of Digtl Media

31804 • Spring 2020
Meets W 2:00PM-5:00PM BUR 231
(also listed as REE 388)

Have you ever broken up with someone using a text message? Felt your senses extended by a new gadget? Or wondered why trolls troll? In this course, we will investigate new digital technologies and their impact on social worlds. While the course will begin with a brief overview of old media paradigms (the novel, the newspaper), we will spend most of our time exploring new social kinds (the troll, the hashtag, the GIF archive, the emoticon, the TikTok challenge). Readings will focus on “practical” contributions to conversations about media, but we will bring in classical theoretical texts as needed. The goal is to develop a rigorous understanding of new media forms, and to design ethnographic data collection methods for projects that can answer a variety of questions about digitally mediated interaction.

A substantial part of the course will consist of an ethnographic research project on some aspect of digital life that students will design in collaboration with others. Students working independently and in small groups, at home and in class, will contribute to different components of this project. To do this, students will conduct research exercises using “Evernote,” a note-taking application that can be used to create snapshots of public interactions, pool data, and present findings. Group presentations early in the semester will serve as the testing ground for the proposed research project. A conference-style midterm paper on a research topic will serve as the rough draft for a final paper. Additionally, weekly blog responses to assigned readings will be required.

Grade Breakdown:

  1. Do the assigned readings and exercises and be active in discussing them each class (10% of grade).
  2. Ethnographic research journal (10%). You will keep an ongoing journal of your participant observation online using Evernote. Resulting snapshots, transcripts and field notes can be used for your own research and shared with others.
  3. Reading responses, 1 paragraph long (10%). Due at the beginning of each class (except first day of semester). 
These are not graded for writing style. But they must constitute clear evidence that you carefully did the reading, and so are ready to actively participate in the discussion.

  4. Presentation on preliminary research results (10%).
  5. Summary, synthesis, extension, and critique of 1-2 readings in first half of class in relation to research topic, 5-7 pages long. (30%)
  6. Final paper (40%): development of the midterm essay based on instructor and student comments, and in light of readings covered in second half of class, 10 pages long.

ANT 324L • Politics And Performance

31119 • Fall 2019
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM BIO 301
(also listed as REE 345)

Description: During presidential elections, we often talk as much about how politicians speak as about what they say. This heightened attention to language provides a superb opportunity to dig deeper into our own culture of political communication from “Abe” to “W”: from Obama’s “precisiongrip gesture” to Palin’s “Whitmanesque” forms of address; from Hilary’s register-shifting to Trump’s gestural caricatures. The last election cycle has also given observers cause to examine rhetorical technologies that seem not our own—such as “Kremlin propaganda techniques,” the weaponization of “fake news” and populist demagoguery. Over the course of the semester, students will think through the power struggles of political process by closely attending to language, rhetoric and performance. Combining fieldwork, theoretical speculation and engaged research we will contribute to community knowledge about public speech and civic life, and, in the end, help shape our local public culture.

In our readings, we will trace the rhetorical norms of Euro-American politics from their prehistory to today; and contrast them with technologies of speech prevalent in public spheres that have not been shaped by liberalism—including 4chan forums (the native habitat of the “troll”) and illiberal regimes such as those of the former Soviet Union, where, observers claim, politicians act as if “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible.” Students will read liberal critiques of propaganda and public “manipulation,” as exemplified in works such as George Orwell’s 1984; and get a taste of anti-liberal technologies of communication in Victor Pelevin’s Generation "П". Ultimately, however, we will historicize and deconstruct the binary of “liberal” and “illiberal” cultures of public speech by closely attending to practices of language, rhetoric and performance that circulate across first, second and third-world divides. On the local level, students will conduct group ethnographic exercises focused on how local sites of debate and discussion could be transformed to expand community conversations around issues of local concern.

Readings: All readings will be available as PDFs on the class server. However, significant amounts of reading will be drawn from these books:

 Teresa Bejan (2017) Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press

 Susan D. Blum (2016) Making Sense of Language: Readings in Culture and Communication, Second Edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 Alaina Lemon (2017) Technologies for Intuition: Cold War Circles and Telepathic Rays, University of California Press

 Michael Lempert and Michael Silverstein (2012) Creatures of Politics: Media, Message, and the American Presidency. Indiana University Press. DocuSign Envelope ID: 207BBD8E-A764-495D-AE9F-B373B68E2CA8

 Natalia Roudakova (2017) Losing Pravda: Ethics and The Press in Post-Truth Russia. Cambridge University Press

 Alexei Yurchak (2005) Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation

Grading: The bulk of the work over the course of the semester will include reading, conducting research projects, and working towards a final paper. Further specifications for each assignment and the due dates will be posted to the course website. Students are required to:

 Prepare the readings and fully participate in discussing them (10% of grade).

 Weekly paragraph-long responses to the readings, due on the first day of class each week (10%).

 Write occasional in-class, open book, assignments addressing key course concepts (10%).

 Keep an ethnographic journal (10%). 

 Complete research assignments (30%). 

 Submit a final essay of 10-12 pages (30%) which uses the class readings to analyze an example of discussion or debate practice.

Curriculum Vitae


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