Targol Mesbah, Associate Professor in the Anthropology and Social Change MA and PhD at CIIS Targol Mesbah

Associate Professor
Anthropology and Social Change
School of Consciousness and Transformation (SCT)

PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz

BA, University of California, Irvine

Targol Mesbah, PhD, received her BA in film studies from the University of California Irvine and her PhD in history of consciousness at University of California Santa Cruz. She is presently working on her book manuscript entitled Why Does the Other Suffer? War, Trauma, and the Everyday. She has taught courses in critical theory, postcolonial critique, media studies, and Iranian cinema. Her research interests include critiques of the normalizing effects of biopower; poststructuralist philosophy; psychoanalytic time; and the politics of difference.


Other Ways of Being Human: Alternative Sexualities, Family, and Kinship Systems (3 Units)

Being human under the conditions of late capitalism has become increasingly more precarious as neoliberal forms of governmentality produce less viable forms of life and sociality. Yet we can qualify this statement with two observations. First, a longer history of oppression has been creating an extreme state of uncertainty or “state of emergency.” As Walter Benjamin famously wrote in 1940, “The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule.” Second, alongside the violent legacies of oppression—including colonialism, capitalism, sexism, and others—there have always been forms of resistance, survival, and even flourishing of lives lived otherwise. While human social relations have always been anthropology’s object of study, in this course we will focus on how critical, feminist, queer, and postcolonial theories and experiences have challenged and transformed anthropological engagements with human social and cultural formations. We will consider how categories of difference and experience are not static but shifting and mutually constitutive and always in relation to power. Therefore, much of the scholarship we will be reading thinks through different forms of social belonging, some tethered to normative privileges and others that move toward nonnormative or other ways of being. Our approach will be thematic, organized around specific topics, including transpolitics, homonationalism, biopolitics, posthumanism, and multispecies approaches, among others. Prerequisite: Priority to ANTH students.

Image and Ethnographic Imagination (2 Units) 

The ethnographic image has been closely tied to observing, categorizing, and knowing the other, but also to imagination, inspiration, and creativity. An expanding field, visual and media anthropology considers different forms of non-logocentric media to broaden and refine its conception of how we know the changing world. In this seminar, we will begin with the observational impulse in ethnographic and documentary images of the other, consider different approaches to the ethnographer’s representational strategies, and engage the scholarly debates surrounding them. We will examine examples from cinema verité, the militant image, experimental ethnography, essay films, sensory ethnography, and visual activism to consider different ways of addressing contemporary social issues with a particular focus on the conditions of globalization and war. Our approach in this seminar will be experimental as we think through together challenges and possibilities that an expanded sense of the ethnographic can offer.

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