21A.104 | Spring 2016 | Undergraduate
Memory, Culture, Forgetting


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Description

How do different societies remember their past? How do you, as an individual, happen to know something about the past that you have never experienced? This course explores diverse ways in which different cultures construct, maintain, use, forget and erase their memories. We will explore culturally distinct sites and practices of memory through narratives, texts, memorials, symbols, rituals, and recently, internet and social media. The course will draw on a range of materials including ethnography, history, cultural studies, social media studies, and documentary and full feature films. The course is about social memory and employs the approaches of socio-cultural anthropology. You will learn the background knowledge and necessary tools for understanding memory studies in anthropology. The course does not address issues of memory in other disciplines such as biology, neuroscience, and medicine.

Classes will combine interactive lectures, discussion, group projects, field trips, and film screenings. While lectures introduce major debates surrounding the readings, students are expected to engage in discussions of the subject based on close readings of the texts. Everyone must come to class prepared, as discussion will often take the form of a formal debate of the issues read for that class session. Generally readings will be limited to 100 pages per week, depending on the density of the material. All readings should be done prior to the class.

You must bring to class the required readings for each session—a book, or printed hard copies or electronic versions of the articles! You will need these to participate in class discussion, complete in-class exercises, and perform group activities.

I expect students to adhere to MIT’s guidelines on academic integrity. Plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, cheating, or facilitating academic dishonesty may cause us to contact the Office of Student Citizenship or Committee on Discipline. If you have questions about what qualifies as plagiarism and how to avoid it—and for tips on how to succeed—check out Academic Integrity at MIT: A Handbook for Students.

MIT’s Writing and Communication Center offers free consultation as well as on-line help (!) to MIT students at any stage of the writing process. Get help overcoming writer’s block and formulating an argument, and with questions on grammar and style. (Writing Center consultants do not proofread, but they do offer help with grammar and beyond).

Grading Policy


Discussion / Participation

Each student is expected to contribute to class discussions. Attendance at class is crucial given that this class meets only once a week.

Reader Responses (4) 20%


The midterm will be cumulative and based on lectures, readings, and films. It is a closed book and articles, but open-notes exam.

Final Paper 30%

For detailed information on the reader responses and the final paper, please see the Assignments section.

Required Book

Buy at MIT Press Rinehart, Richard, and Jon Ippolito. Re-Collection: Art, New Media and Social Memory. MIT Press, 2014. ISBN: 9780262027007. [Preview with Google Books]

For detailed information on the readings, see the table in the Readings section.

Course Info
As Taught In
Spring 2016
Learning Resource Types
assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples