As a neuroscience and music double major, I get a nice variety of classes that satisfy my seemingly conflicting interests. My first semester here at Hopkins has yet to disappoint; I’m taking music classes that range from Ear Training to Music Theory, and neuroscience classes which range from a neuropsychology course to general biology. With registration for Intersession and Spring semester finished, I’m set to take an even more fascinating set of classes in the near future.

There’ll be another day when I introduce what those classes are and how I think they’ll shape up to my hopes and expectations, but I’d like to focus on a particularly unusual course I took this semester: An Invitation to Anthropology.

While yes, there is no practical reason to take the class (as it doesn’t count towards fulfilling any of my major requirements), the course has influenced the way I think. It’s easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty of factual science and the infinite freedom of music; an Invitation to Anthropology has given me distance, a chance to analyze situations from the role as an outsider.

It’s how our graduate TA described it:

Imagine you’re in a room without a light switch. Anthropology gives us a torch and urges us to boldly uncover different aspects of the room. We illuminate one corner and move onto the next, but each new area we see complicates and relates to what we’ve previously seen. That’s anthropology: complicating the snapshot of what humankind is by uncovering the unseen.

The Department of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins prides itself on being “one of the few in the country that focuses exclusively on socio-cultural anthropology”. The literature we’ve read and discussed in class has been both puzzling and distinctive:

41iRLtF2RpL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Gay Fathers, Their Children, and the Making of Kinship, by Aaron Goodfellow

The very first book we read which discussed the struggles and successes of queer kinship in America. Written by a member of JHU’s anthropology department, the book shows the complex relationship between gay families, social interactions, and state-wide institutions.

 

5017598Ghosts of War in Vietnam, by Heonik Kwon

Set in the post-war era of Vietnam, this book introduces the idea of ghosts as essential social actors in the Vietnamese community. Kwon uncovers the complex relationship between the living and the undead, and shows how the unfamiliar can become familiar after all.

 

 

9780990505044The Anti-Witch, by Jeanne Favret-Saada

Favret-Saada’s ethnography traces the complex relationships and interactions between witches and farmers in rural French farms. She compromises these relationships by including herself in the mix, speaking towards how her own perspective as an ethnographer complicates her analytical work.

 

 

150709_SBR_Coates-COVER.jpg.CROP.original-original

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written by a current author who is known for discussing the current-day social and political scenes in America, this book is a sort of integrated biography which discusses the author’s experiences growing up as a black individual. The book is actually a letter to the author’s son, and provides a unique ethnographical stance.

 

Along with these major works, we’ve explored shorter ethnographies and snippets of other anthropologically-related literature. The course has been a whirlwind of discussing perplexing ideas and questioning thought-to-be concrete conclusions, and it’s instilled in me a unique perspective I’m only beginning to see. It’s urged me to piece together the seemingly unrelated, and it’s invited me to uncover the dark, hidden room of what anthropology means to me.