Inequality, Hierarchy and Difference


In October 2021, anthropologist David Graeber and archaeologist David Wengrow published "The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity," arguably one of the most consequential pieces of anthropological scholarship of recent years. The book quickly shot to the top of best-seller lists and generated a wide-ranging discussion in newspapers, magazines, and journals that do not typically pay attention to recent publications in the field of anthropology. Graeber and Wengrow were able to attract such a broad audience due to the book's central argument, which uses anthropological, archaeological, and historical evidence to critique current popular views on the so-called "progress of western civilization" and the Hobbesian and Rousseauian theories of the origin of the social contract, as well as to propose a new genealogy for Enlightenment thinking on the origins of inequality. In this course, we will read The Dawn of Everything as our central text, alongside the sources it draws upon and the responses to the book. Collectively, we will work together to remedy one of the major lacunae in the public discourse around the book, i.e., a lack of an archaeological response. Indeed, the critical reception of the book has largely focused on only the first third of the book. The course therefore will involve a practical component, in which we as a class write an archaeological critique of the book and work to publish it in a suitable magazine, journal, or newspaper. Students can expect to gain from this class not only knowledge, but also key scholarly skills and hands-on experience.
Course Attributes: EN S; BU Eth; BU IS; AS LCD; AS SSC; AS SD I; FA SSC; AS SC; AR SSC

Section 01

Inequality, Hierarchy and Difference
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