The goal of our open-access journal, Landscapes of Violence (LoV), is to provide a balanced approach to the causes of violence and offer a voice for the human experience behind it. This journal deals with the interrelationships between society and violence seen through the analytical eyes of trans-disciplinary researchers.
Violence in American Culture
This course will explore the complex social and cultural interactions that can lead to violence. We will begin by examining various theories of human violence from a number of disciplines: anthropology, psychology, and sociology. Students will then survey different cultural attitudes towards violence beginning with several prehistoric sites from the American Southwest and northern Mexico. Next, the course will consider the historical roots of American violence starting with the European invasion of North America. Specific instances of violence in American history will also be considered, including the attempted genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of African Americans, and the American Civil War. The second half of the course will focus on a number of contemporary issues of American violence including race violence, hate crimes, violence against women, family violence, gang violence, and the violence in contemporary art and film.
Bioarchaeology of Violence
Bioarchaeology is the collaborative study of biological human remains in context. Biological remains recovered from archaeological sites facilitate the interpretation of lifetime events. Age, sex, stature, disease, injury, violent death, physical activity, dental health and tooth use, diet and nutritional status, pregnancy and birth, and mortuary behavior are but a small sampling of the kinds of information that can be gleaned. The study of violence has often been conducted with little or no consideration for the specific and often unique cultural meanings associated with it. Warfare and violence are not merely reactions to a set of external variables but rather are encoded with intricate cultural meaning. This course emphasizes the importance of empirical data and theoretical models in classifying the specific types of violence as opposed to homogenizing all violence into a single category. Furthermore, the course is designed so that students will obtain a foundation in violence studies as it relates to skeletal analysis. Topics will include the history of bio archaeology in the United States, NAGPRA legislation and ethical considerations in skeletal research, techniques in forensic anthropology, and archaeological context (taphonomy, mortuary, and demography).
This course explores the causes and consequences of environmental problems on human groups from an anthropological, biocultural perspective. After reviewing basic evolutionary and ecological principles, we will review the major steps in human evolution in order to understand how we became this most powerful creature on earth, the ultimate "niche creator". We will survey the main subsistence systems (foragers, pastoralists, horticulturalists, agriculturalists) and the impact they have on humans and the environment. We will examine the social, political, and ethical values of our own culture and how these values affect the way we use environmental resources and how these, in turn, affect our health.
Disease, Famine and Warfare: Introduction to Human Adaptibility (Special Topic Course)
This course will review various theories regarding how the human body adapts to biological change (reproduction, growth and development and disease), environmental change (pollution, climate, altitude and malnutrition) and social change (cultural and political processes of exploitation, violence and domination). Students will examine the complexities and interconnections between biological adaptability and sociopolitical systems. Students will also explore the adaptive flexibility that allows humans to adjust to changing conditions in the course of their lifetimes. The emphasis of this class will be on the non-genetic processes of human adaptation upon which humans primarily rely, such as morphological and physiological acclimation, learned behavior, technological innovations and social coping strategies. This perspective on human adaptability will be critically evaluated to understand how people attempt to adjust to adverse environmental and social conditions.
Violence & Conflict in the PreHispanic Americas (Special Topic Course)
This course uses a multidisciplinary approach including archaeology, bioarchaeology, osteology and forensic science. Students will examine the effects of violence and trauma on prehistoric populations from the American Southwest, Northern Mexico and Mesoamerica. This course is designed to illustrate how key concepts and principles in forensic science and forensic anthropology, including blunt and sharp force injury and patterned injury recognition, can be used with bioarchaeology and archaeology to facilitate the interpretation of lives in the past. Bioarchaeological data based on human remains recovered from archaeological sites will be used in conjunction with available archaeological data and theories of warfare and raiding (including evidence from settlement patterns and site construction) to examine the complex social and cultural interactions that led to violence in the past.
Forensics: Myth and Reality (Special Topic Course)
Interest in forensics has exploded thanks to programs like CSI, as well as Fox's Bones, A&E's Cold Case Files, and Court TV's Forensic Files. But TV shows do not accurately portray the way forensic science is used to solve crimes. In Hollywood, portrayals of science present it most often as a gimmick - a technological toy that the hero uses to find evidence that the criminal surely hoped was undetectable. In this class, we will critique the methods used in various episodes of these shows and compare them to the actual science of forensics. This will be accomplished in part through the examination of the effects of violence and trauma on the human body. Students will explore key concepts and principles in forensic science, clinical forensic medicine, and medicolegal death investigation. This will include causes and manner of death, postmortem changes, forensic case studies, crime scene investigation, and forensic anthropology. An emphasis will be places on the analysis of human remains, which will provide students the opportunity to explore the many fascinating concepts inherent to the study of forensic science, biological anthropology, and archaeology while resolving the conflict between exciting fiction and complex reality. Grades will be based on a series of lab assignments, quizzes, and a final paper. This course has no prerequisites and is open to all majors. It is particularly useful for anthropology, pre-med, pre-law, and criminal science/justice students.
Anthropology of Violence
The Anthropology of Violence is a comprehensive graduate level seminar on the issues of interpersonal and institutional forms of violence as seen from an anthropological perspective. It is required coursework for all students affiliated with the VCL. The goal of the course is for students to explore the theoretical framework of violence studies in terms of structure, order, repetitive behavior, predictability, and institutionalization. Topics include the biological basis of aggression; identity politics of gender, race, class, and ethnicity; nationalism; torture; state violence; genocide; human rights; and truth and reconciliation efforts. The study of violence requires students to understand the transformative powers of its use in social relations and cultural practices. To accomplish this, students are tasked with writing a scholarly paper based on a current research project that explores violence through human experience. By the end of the course, students will have acquired a sense of violence’s richness, complexity, and stabilizing as well as destabilizing force.
Theory and Method in Bioarchaeology
This course is designed to provide students with a better understanding of how important bioarchaeologists are in both the recovery and preservation of humans remains from archaeological sites, as well as their role in understanding the environmental, biological, and cultural factors that affect the remains from the time of death until they are fully curated or reinterred. Skeletal data are as susceptible to interpretative error as the archaeological and historical sources of information researchers draw upon to contextualize them. It is for this reason that taphonomy is one of the principles to understand when working with human skeletal material recovered, from either an archaeological or forensic site. Students will be given a comprehensive overview of the variables that can alter the skeletal remains and the care necessary to accurately identify the taphonomic variables responsible for bone modification. To meet these goals students will carry out hands on independent research at my Taphonomy Research Lab as well as engaging the assigned readings in a seminar format.