How do we understand the world that exists beyond our senses? How may we communicate this existence to others? How do we learn to operate machines and tools and how do the products of machines and tools act on us? In which way do visual experiences (films, TV, digital media, dreams) frame our view of ourselves and others? In all these questions the centrality of language as a mode of communication and exchange will be foregrounded. The central premise of the course is that language is what makes us social and cultural beings. Through a granular reading of specific ethnographies and texts, we will explore this premise. We will move across a range of social forms – from language to the body to technologies, and a range of social practices – commodity cultures, the interpretation of collective violence and the imagination of disaster.
The course is divided into two sections – the first will introduce the concept of language as a mode of communication and exchange with specific attention paid to reference and imagination. The second section will be an exploration of ethnographies.