ANTH 232: Middletown Lives

In this city, there’s a restauranteur who was a paratrooper, a florist who is a playwright, a minister who is a barber, a farmer who is an optician, an unmarked house that was part of the Underground Railroad, and a landfill with stories to tell. Working with different community partners and integrating a wide range of methods from the humanities to the social sciences, this course seeks to identify, interpret, and document various (un)known stories and histories of people, places, and spaces in contemporary Middletown. Our primary theoretical aim is to consider what is interdisciplinary. How can it be put into practice? And what is its potential for the making of public engagement and scholarship? To this end, we take a contemplative approach to learning to raise fundamental epistemological and pedagogical questions concerning research as praxis. In the process of this engagement, we will create a public anthropology project intended to benefit our broader community and environment. This is a service/learning course.

Assistant Professor of Anthropology Gina Ulysse designed a module with printer/ bookmaker Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. for this course. Early in the planning of the Feet to the Fire project, Ulysse voiced a necessity to include a social study of the people who live in the immediate vicinity to the landfill.  A team of students in her course created an ethnography of those who live on and around the landfill. They took a contemplative approach to interviewing as influenced by Ann Carlson’s techniques, which emphasized awareness.



Read more in the Wesleyan Connection about a student inspired by this course to research the General Mansfield House:

“Cottier ’12 Explores Tales from a Middletown Historic House” (5/24/11)