Assignments

1) READING RESPONSES

You must write a critique of at least two articles from the readings assigned for four classes (a schedule will be drawn up in class). Feel free to include more articles in your commentary. Commentaries should be no more than 2 pages in length and:

a) Provide a brief (one paragraph) summary. Where appropriate, identify the objectives and primary claim? How is it supported? What narrative strategies are used to communicate the primary point? Where appropriate, identify the research question or problem being addressed? What methods of analysis are employed? Are you convinced by the author’s argument? Why (not)? Etc.

b) Provide a critical analysis of the readings. What does the author do well? What flaws are apparent in the analysis (e.g., poorly developed research problem, limited consideration of perspectives, inarticulate presentation of discussion, poor logical argumentation, etc.)? What provocative or valuable insights are generated by the readings? What methodological, theoretical or empirical concerns do you have with the readings? Bring the readings into dialogue with each other – how do they relate?

c) Provide two (2) well conceived, clearly articulated. and non-rhetorical questions pertaining to the reading. These should be sincere questions that you would like to have responses to from your colleagues in the class. Discussion leaders for class that week should feel free to call on any of you and ask you to explain and address your questions.

You should also feel free to draw on daily experiences, the media, popular culture and other texts in your commentary, but always do this in ways that illustrate, challenge, or emphasize some aspect of the weekly reading. Your weekly commentaries should be posted to the course blog – http://thediasporiclivesofobjects.blogspot.com/. I will add each of you as authors so that you are able to post. You should also use the blog to post
material that you think is relevant to the course.

 

2) THE DIASPORIC LIFE OF AN OBJECT

A) Preparation – Research project development

Rather than a specific proposal I want you to prepare for your project by addressing the following questions. Not all of these prompts will apply to your particular object or object community, but modify the questions to address their objective – an understanding of its materiality, its history and its sociality. Each response should be 250-500 words.

A. Object Description, due Jan 26

Describe your object’s materiality (e.g., size, weight, design, style, and decoration) and mode of production in the most precise language possible. What is your object made of? How was it made? List and describe relevant production methods. When was it made? Where was it made? How much did your object cost when it was made? How much did it cost to make your object?

B. Object Historical Context, due Feb 2

Who owned your object and/or similar objects? How has its ownership changed over time? What have its owners used this object for?  What has been its historical route of travel? How does interacting with the object shape your impression of it? How does its current use(s) relate to its uses in the past? Provide a list of information sources relevant to your object (people, academic work, archive materials, websites, etc)

C. Object Social/Cultural Context, due Feb. 9

How has your object or objects like it figured in cultural processes? How is it used? When is it used? How does its use vary with different audiences? What different meanings does it convey in different contexts, in different spaces, and/or for different audiences?

D. Research Question, due Feb. 16
Based on this preliminary work, describe what it is you want to understand through your research to drive the remainder of your data collection and analysis (hint – read the chapter from Booth).

B) Final Report – Due by April 4, meaning you can upload it earlier if you want to avoid the crunch.

Context:

One of the objectives of the course is to explore how objects connect people, across time and space, with their own historical selves and places and to examine the historical agency of particular objects and collections in mediating diasporic and transnational experience. To help us reach this objective, the primary assignment for this class is an ‘object study’. The goal of the assignment is to analyze how “things-in-motion” – objects – “illuminate their human and social context” (see Appadurai 1986 from the syllabus), particularly their diasporic context. While each of you will select your own objects and develop research questions around these objects, the overarching question driving your inquiry should be what is the nature of the relation between objects and diasporic formations and practices?

Approach

An ‘object study’ uses objects as a route into understanding the meaning of social interactions and relations. Accordingly, your primary focus for this project should be upon an individual object (e.g., a saintly relic), a class of objects (e.g., relics), or a discrete community of objects (e.g., a museum collection of religious relics). But the focus on the object does not mean that you ignore the human. Rather, you should use the core focus on the object, to comment on the diasporic qualities (e.g., identity, memory, meaning, social structure, representational practice) of the human agents with whom they engage. This project requires you to engage in an analytical process that examines an object’s history to address how social interactions involving people and objects create meaning, and to understand how these meanings change during the life of an object or are renegotiated in new contexts of interaction (e.g., in and out of a ‘homeland’). Data to compile an object study include information about an object’s genealogy, its manufacture, use, possession, exchange, alteration, movement and destruction or preservation, obtained from a wide variety of sources. Considering an object’s life in a dynamic, active relationship with human lives raises questions about how people and things articulate in culturally and historically specific ways. This means, of course, that you need to observe, engage with and talk to people who are ‘entangled’ with the object you choose to study.

Preparatory Work:

1) To prepare for this assignment you might want to refer to the readings for week 2 and look ahead to some of the readings from the latter half of the course to develop a sense of how researchers have used a focus on an object to gain insight into the production of diasporas.

2) Select an object, class of objects or community of objects to serve as the focus for your study. Remember, however, that the object must serve as a means of understanding diasporic or transnational formations or processes. This must be a core consideration in your selection of an object. If you are not clear on this, please get in touch with me immediately.

Final Report
Your final report should be 5000-6000 words excluding images and bibliography. Feel free to make it as ‘multi-media’ as you like (e.g., include images, video clips, sound clips, etc.) but make sure that you embed images, clip, etc. rather than simply linking to them so that they remain on the blog in case the site goes down and the link ‘dies’.

This seminar is the final capstone course in the DTS program. You should take this opportunity to write a paper that not only engages with the subject matter of the seminar but also reflects the integration of your learning in the program over the previous four years. Regardless of the topic, your paper should:

• be analytical rather than merely descriptive
• offer a clear and focused thesis statement with close attention to defining the terms that are key to the argument
• pay close attention to the development of the argument and to linking sections of the essay
• be carefully proof read for editorial and other mistakes
• integrate and synthesize material that you have researched for the paper. Your essay should be grounded in field work but this does not
excuse you from situating the results of your own fieldwork in relation to existing academic research.

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