• Founded 1972
  • Seminar Number 531

The Culture, Power, Boundaries Seminar is a forum for work and work-in-progress that strives for a critical analysis of contemporary power relations at local and global scales and how such power relations affect the analysis, reproduction, and transformation of inequality and its cultural expressions. The seminar began forty years ago with a focus on immigration and developed into a broad forum for critical social science. While the majority of seminar members are anthropologists, and presentations tend to focus on case studies, the seminar continues to welcome, as both guests and speakers, other social scientists interested in investigating the power dimension of cultural formations and the cultural aspects of inequality.

Professor Maria-Luisa Achino-Loeb

Professor Patricia Antoniello

Rebecca Stout

All seminars will meet over Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

10/05/2020 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
Going to Hell? A Polemic on Anthropological Futures
Steve Reyna, Max-Planck-Institut für ethnologische Forschung (Germany)


This talk is a polemic in three parts connecting present, past, and future. Specifically, it links the present global conjuncture, the recent anthropological past, and a possible anthropological future. First, the present is shown to be going to hell for every living thing. Second, the recent anthropological past is argued to be not adept at truth telling about this situation. Finally, an anthropological future is imagined that can help discover these truths to help prevent going to hell from becoming –been there, done it.

11/02/2020 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
Free Agents and Fated Futures: History, Personhood, and Cosmic Consciousness in Western Astrology
Omri Elisha, Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY


Western astrology has soared in popularity in recent years, especially among spiritually engaged, media-savvy, and (generally) left-leaning “millennials.” The cultural resonances of astrology in the U.S. are longstanding and pervasive. Yet they are almost completely ignored by anthropologists, due in large part to astrology’s reputation as a frivolous, anachronistic pseudoscience and its associations with tabloid horoscopes and curbside fortune-tellers. Despite this image, contemporary astrology is a field of highly systematized and increasingly professionalized consulting practices that draw on an eclectic mix of religious, occult, philosophical, and scientific influences. Building on fieldwork with professional astrologers, and recent trends in the study of religion, ethics, and cosmology, this paper explores what might be gained by taking astrology more seriously as a cultural phenomenon. I argue that by deprioritizing moral condemnations and questions of empirical validity, we can better grasp how astrological principles and categories are embedded in popular conceptions of personhood, politics, history, spirituality, and the cosmos.

02/08/2021 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
Fear of an Indigenous Planet: The Role of Anthropology in Muwekma Futurisms
Les Field, University of New Mexico


Audre Lorde’s axiom “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” sends a stern warning to anthropologists, working in a discipline made possible by colonialism, about the limitations they will encounter seeking to use anthropology for anti-colonial purposes. Nevertheless, as a tribal ethnohistorian and ethnographer for the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area, I have been both employed by the tribe and collaborated in the production of a series of published works over the past three decades specifically to refute the extinction sentence passed upon this indigenous people by a disciplinary figure no less luminous than Alfred Kroeber, and in the service of their petition for federal acknowledgment. In our work, we have confronted, in the 1990s, the perils of anthropology’s theoretical debates about essentialism and constructivism in the world of federal Indian policy, and then in the early 2000s, participated in anthropology’s engagement with concepts of space, place and territoriality in a state (California) where indigenous presence was systematically erased. In the current moment, as social movements in the United States demand a reckoning with the monuments to racism and colonialism that form part of the lived landscape, the University of California Berkeley has initiated a discussion about re-naming Kroeber Hall, the main anthropology department building. In this paper, I discuss this effort in the context of indigenous futurisms, a political and artistic movement among indigenous writers, artists and intellectuals that seeks to emplace indigenous people in a place they were never supposed to be: the future. This paper has been critically reviewed by the Muwekma Ohlone tribal leadership, and comes out of discussions with indigenous students with whom I have worked, particularly Blaire Topash Caldwell (Pokagon Potawatomi).

03/08/2021 Online Meeting
6:00 PM

Ken Guest, Baruch College, CUNY

04/12/2021 Online Meeting
6:00 PM

Jeff Maskovsky, Graduate Center, CUNY