David Suggs, professor of anthropology, joined the faculty at Kenyon in 1987. He holds a bachelor's degree in comparative religions and a master's degree in sociology from Texas Christian University and a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Florida.
Trained in medical anthropology with an area focus on southern Africa, Suggs has conducted extensive research in Botswana on gender, life course and alcohol consumption. He has also published on theory and the anthropology of sexuality. Most recently, his research has focused on the meaning of alcohol consumption among college students, specifically those at Kenyon.
Professor Suggs has had the honor of twice being asked to deliver the Baccalaureate address (to the classes of 1990 and 2007). He was awarded the Senior Cup by the class of 2006, and in 2008, he received the College's Trustee's Award for Teaching Excellence.
1986 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of Florida
1981 — Master of Arts from Texas Christian University
1980 — Bachelor of Arts from Texas Christian University, Phi Beta Kappa
Courses Recently Taught
This course introduces students to the discipline that studies and compares cultures. Students will learn about the main concepts used in anthropology and how anthropologists conduct research, while also discovering how people live in other times and places. Students will learn about theories that provide frameworks for understanding and comparing cultures. Ethnographic descriptions of life in particular places give students factual materials with which to apply and critique such theories. Through this introduction to the study of culture in general, and an exposure to specific cultures, students inevitably come to re-examine some of the premises of their own culture. This foundation course is required for upper-level work in cultural anthropology courses. Offered every semester.
Our television "science" and "history" channels, as well as our bookstore shelves, are riddled with works claiming the discovery of lost Atlantis, attributing monuments to the lost tribe of Israel, explaining cultural developments as the result of contact with aliens, and loosely documenting routine sightings of Yetis, Bigfoots, Skinwalkers and Swamp Apes. Indeed, these have now become common entertainment themes in popular culture. But when entertainment themes pose as scientific knowledge, they can be dangerous because they provide false and misleading explanations of the world around us. We live in a country where some 40 percent of the population does not accept the theory of human evolution. Concurrently, the state of Ohio has seen a rise in Bigfoot sightings that makes us the fifth "squatchiest" state in the nation. This course will examine how we know about the world around us and what passes for knowledge of a particular type. In the process, we will explore scientific literacy, pseudoscientific belief, anthropology's response to such pseudoscience, and its effects on our culture. This course can be paired with another anthropology course to fulfill a social science distribution requirement. This course does not count toward the anthropology major but will count toward minor. Prerequisite: open to first-year and sophomore students only. Offered every other year.
Our culture tells us that sexuality is about the “birds and the bees,” calling forth notions of “natural” and reproductive behavior. Yet, anthropology teaches us that the natural is inevitably the cultural (since it is our nature to be cultured). The past 25 years of anthropological research into sexuality calls into question whether our sexuality is truly “reproductive” at core, suggesting that while humans possess a sex drive, how we deploy that drive is fully a cultural matter. In the words of Clifford Geertz, “Sex is a cultural activity sustaining a biological process.” This course surveys primate and human evolution and sexuality, life course and sexuality, sexual orientation and identity, sex and power, sexually transmitted disease as medical and social problems, as well as the relation between gender and sexuality. This counts toward the upper-level cultural anthropology requirement for the major. Permission of instructor required. No prerequisite. Offered every year.
Medical anthropology is an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the influences of both biology and culture on the human experience of disease. This course introduces students to the anthropological study of disease ecology and medical systems in other cultures. We will explore the role of disease in humans from an evolutionary perspective, noting the influence that culture, ecology, economy, history and politics have had in the past as well as the present. In addition, we will look at the efficacy and nature of both non-Western and Western ethnomedical systems and the cultural and psychodynamic features of illness. Throughout this course we will examine the application of a medical anthropological perspective in developing sensitivity for cultural and biological variation within the United States and abroad. This counts toward the upper-level biological or cultural anthropology requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ANTH 111 or 113 or permission of instructor. Offered occasionally.
So few Americans (and so few academics) have actually read the works of Marx. Generally speaking, if you say Marx, you elicit the response communism. To the general population, communism means totalitarian government and the specter of the loss of personal freedoms. To many academics, it means the denial of free will and of ideological freedoms. As a result, the work of Marx is equated with evil intention, is ignored, or is tossed off as a brand of defunct functionalism. It is as if anti-Marxism has become a part of our habitus. There are two bodies of work by the 19th-century social thinker Karl Marx. Many of us have come to unreflectively equate all of his work with the most broadly known one — that part which follows in the tradition of unilineal thinkers of his time and the notion of a series of unfolding social forms along a regular and predictable pathway. Like other unilineal evolutionary imaginaries, that work (most evident in Marx and Engels' "The Communist Manifesto" has been largely uninteresting to 20th and 21st century anthropologists. And, in our fear of the varieties of communism that we have witnessed, we assume that they are all true to Marx's vision of history, a questionable notion to be sure. His other body of work (and the subject of this seminar) is that of a social historian who suggested that we can understand human history as a product of social relations made real in modes of production and exchange. This course examines the renewed significance and continuing relevance of that theoretical work for anthropology in the 21st century. We will, of course, read Marx, but then follow with works by Eric Wolf, William Roseberry, Sidney Mintz, David Harvey and Michael Taussig as we explore how Marxian anthropology looks at the relationship between history and sociocultural continuity and change. This counts toward the upper-level cultural anthropology requirement for the major. Permission of instructor required. Offered occasionally.
Commensality (cooperative, collective consumption of food) is one of the hallmarks of human culture. Of course, what constitutes food, who gets together to share it, and the systematic connections between commensality and economic, social and political organization are all widely variable across cultures. This class examines alcohol consumption not as a social "problem" or "addictive behavior," but as a commensal behavior that is culturally meaningful. Taking a cross-cultural perspective, we will look at how the symbolic values and social structure of alcohol and its consumption reflect (and sometimes create) the larger sociocultural milieu of which it is a part. How is drinking related to the construction of gender? How is it used to subordinate some people and elevate others in the political systems? What is its relationship to spiritual life? What role does alcohol consumption play in culture change? In short, what do people "get" from drinking besides "drunk"? The literature will cover anthropological research in Africa, Polynesia, Micronesia, the Americas and Europe. This counts toward the upper-level cultural anthropology requirement for the major. Prerequisite: ANTH 113 and permission of instructor. Offered every other year.
The Anthropology Department reserves individual study for those students who are unusually motivated in an area of the field and who we believe are responsible enough to handle the challenge of working independently. Such courses might be research-oriented (e.g., students returning from off-campus study programs with data) but are more commonly reading-oriented courses allowing students to explore in greater depth topics that interest them or that overlap with their major course of study. To arrange for individual study, a student should consult with a faculty member during the semester prior to when the independent work is to be undertaken. The individual-study course may be designed exclusively by the faculty member or it may be designed in consultation with the student. For reading courses, a bibliography is created, and the student reads those works, meeting periodically (weekly or bi-weekly) with the faculty member to discuss them. Faculty directing the individual study will set the terms of course evaluation, which typically involve either a research paper or an extensive annotated bibliography with a short explanatory essay tying the entries together and situating the debates which they represent. Another option is for the student to write one- to two-page assessments of each book or reading at intervals throughout the semester. The faculty member comments on these assessments and may request periodic reassessments. The course culminates with a synthetic paper that pulls together all the readings. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek the departmental approval before the established deadline. This course can count toward the major or minor.