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ANG 6930 Illicit Worlds

Dr. Kernaghan

This course asks how prohibition-infused social types and things (but also events, terrains and times) can be approached ethnographically. It asks how an ethnographer’s need for extended durations of proximity to what she or he studies can be made adequateto social worlds that depend upon secrecy and aggressively defend the perceived boundaries of their activities from unwelcome revelation. If such worlds are never localized in one place but circulate across different kinds of landscapes, how then can ethnographers do justice to the manners in which they unfold, expand, retract or express resilience? The class has three basic aims. We will learn to recognize and describe anthropological approaches to illicit phenomena. We will ascertain the relevance of classic social theories of negative reciprocity, debt, witchcraft and the uncanny for analyzing criminalized economies. We will also weigh the implications, potential and limits of ethnography—as research method and representational practice—for the ethical study of illicit worlds.Our ultimate goal, however, is to attune ourselves to the empirical and to the specific ways in which prohibitions and their trespass so frequently establish the tone of what might be said about it.