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Sociocultural Dynamics of Globalization

Temple’s faculty share a commitment to the study of globalization and transnationalism as key phenomena shaping the contemporary world, and to critically analyzing and theorizing these phenomena through ethnographic investigation of contemporary social, cultural, political, economic, and communicative processes.  This shared commitment serves as a strongly integrative yet flexible programmatic framework for the theoretically and methodologically varied approaches that we take in our individual programs of research, and in our teaching and mentoring. 

Our common goal is to better understand the unprecedented fluidity and dynamism that characterize contemporary sociocultural and communicative processes; the historical contingency of the cultural categories: the means by which these categories are shaped and represented by institutions of power; and the ways in which people engage with, manipulate, contest, and reshape these categories in the course of their everyday lives.

Theoretical and methodological developments of recent decades have transformed anthropology by situating local ethnographic projects within larger systems of power, and by focusing attention on the complex relationships between local communities and larger-scale structures within which these communities are embedded.  Meanwhile anthropological fieldwork has become increasingly multi-sited and engages a variety of new methods, media, and technologies.  In keeping with these developments, we stress the value of theoretically informed ethnographic research that integrates local, regional, national, and international levels of analysis.

We are constructing a new curriculum that takes into account the ways in which emerging power relations are restructuring political and cultural borders and social fields of action and communication. We offer a unique configuration of three strongly complementary areas pertaining to the sociocultural dynamics of globalization.

The Politics of Cultural Identity and Difference  

The politics of cultural identity and difference focus on the ways in which new identities are constructed through processes of inclusion and exclusion that are produced by population movements, new community formations, and changing flows of communication. We investigate these processes as they develop within emerging hierarchies of political and market power.

The Political Economy of Representation and Communicative Practice

The political economy of representation and communicative practice is broadly conceived to include the full range of human expressive behavior and the institutions and technologies that mediate and regulate it.  Our ethnographic approach emphasizes that these practices and institutions must be understood as situated within historically shaped systems of power and value, from local to global levels of analysis; and that communicative practices are themselves a crucial means through which power is constituted, exercised, resisted, and contested. 

Social Movements and Critical Policy Analysis

We recognize the privileged role that state policies (and their associated discourses and practices) play in shaping everyday lived experience.  We look ethnographically at the disjuncture between politics and policies as they are implemented from the top down, and the indigenous knowledge and cultural constructions of the various peoples who are subject to them.  At the same time, we examine the agency of locally situated actors as they respond to state and market power, and to social exclusion and discrimination.
Our plans for the future are based on strong integration of these areas.  Constructing our research and training agendas around the theories, ethnographic literatures, and methodologies of these three areas positions us as a distinctive program. 

Specialized Research Training

Training in research related to the Sociocultural Dynamics of Globalization involves three modalities, ethnographic (see below), visual, and linguistic.  The Department has facilities for training students to do data collection and analysis in all three.  Students are encouraged to engage in projects that work across subdisciplines and methodologies.


Ethnographic training at Temple emphasizes the study of the politics of cultural identity, transnational community formations, social movements, and critical policy analysis. These topical areas are studied within a framework that emphasizes the formative and constraining influences of local, national, and global processes and institutions.  The faculty encourages students to undertake multi-level, multi-sited research problems explored through fieldwork that takes advantage of a local setting, but frames problems in terms of global issues. 

Urban Research Archive and Laboratory

The Urban Research Archive and Laboratory serves as a location for archival materials and maps produced by the faculty and graduate students.  It houses the archives of past and ongoing projects, including publications, dissertations, and data files. For example, the archives include the trajectories of neighborhood policies in Philadelphia and contain information about over fifty community-based organizations and city programs as a source for further research. A web page is under construction to highlight these findings. The lab also serves as a repository for research instruments which have been used in various projects. It is used for team research meetings and for interviewing research subjects. It is a place for students of urban places to communicate and convene.  Graduate study at Temple also offers access to the Laboratory of Anthropology (a full-scale museum), the Archaeology Laboratories, the Anthropology of Visual Communication Laboratory, and the Linguistic Anthropology Teaching Laboratory.


Department of Anthropology | Gladfelter Hall, second floor | 1115 West Berks Street | Philadelphia, PA 19122
Voice mail: 215-204-7577 Fax: 215-204-1410