SOC 262
Paper Trails Spring 2022
Division II
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Class Details

Long before the invention of the passport, states or state-like entities sought to document and manage populations and discipline bodies. This course invites students to critically reflect on documentation practices and systemic violence, particularly against racial, ethnic, sexual, and political minorities. Students will explore identity-making through documentary practices such as the three-generation life history, a biographical form that Soviet-allied countries used to reward loyalty and punish disloyalty. Labels, such as a criminal record or pre-existing health conditions, also trail or precede individuals their whole lives. Students will grapple with what happens when the paper trail goes cold–when identification documents are invalidated, birth certificates withheld, household registries purged, and archives destroyed. Students will explore the rise of surveillance and biometric data alongside the actors, technologies, and industries that try to circumvent them in places such as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and along the US-Mexico border. In this project-based course, students will exhume their own paper trails and imagine alternative ways to create, alter, and subvert them.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 3381
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: thoughtful and consistent class participation, in-class presentations, field notes, and drafts of an opinion essay
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Anthropology and sociology majors
Distributions: Division II

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