Much of life in modern society is spent engaged in, pursuing, preparing
for, or trying to get away from work. Employment itself is a central feature of our economic and social worlds and structures personal identity. Using analytical frameworks and case material from the fields of anthropology, sociology, and journalism, we interrogate what work means and explore perspectives on and approaches to this critical cultural sphere of contemporary life. The course will help students consider the significance of work in the social sciences and how work and approaches to its study have shifted over time. Using theoretical and ethnographic material, we will examine from various vantage points how work is culturally structured and socially meaningful. The course will cover critical themes related to socialization, identity, class, gender, and place that make work a fertile site for intellectual engagement. Readings, excursions, and documentary screenings, and guest lectures will help students consider how issues such as mechanization, globalization, and changing social norms affect perceptions of labor and relationships in and beyond the workplace itself.