Dr. Sherri Lawson Clark – Vienna, Austria – Anthropology of Space: Social Stratification in the Built Environment

In a little over four weeks, Dr. Sherri Lawson Clark and nine students put their cultural anthropology skill sets to work in examining seven of Vienna’s twenty-three districts.  Students were tasked with identifying a space or spaces within their chosen district that demonstrates social inequality; contextualize the spaces historically, economically, and culturally, write a paper, and take the class on a tour of their space(s).  What they came up with is truly phenomenal!

Using anthropological community mapping and participant observation techniques, students delved into spaces displaying –

  1. anti-police graffiti adorning one of the city’s largest public swimming pools;
  2. the contrasts seen between Haredi Orthodox Jews and their young bourgeois bohemian neighbors;
  3. the systems of exclusion found between luxury apartment complexes adjacent to social housing units;
  4. a cultural critique of tourism on display at the Schönbrunn;
  5. the intentionality of a gentrifying district banking on its appeal to a wide range of world cultures;
  6. symbols of advocacy shown through Pride flags, street art, and a WW2 bomb shelter turned Aquarium surrounded by a park used by joggers, children, Aquarium visitors, and the homeless; and,
  7. an off the beaten path market filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and the mixing of Middle Eastern and former-Yugoslavian immigrant communities.

Add to this, a 4-day excursion to Budapest where students met with an NGO advocating for the human rights of Budapest’s Roma population; students experienced the contradictions found in actually experiencing a place juxtaposed with the rhetoric of labeling a space “dangerous”.

All in all, it was a gratifying and anthropologically centered summer!!!  Can’t wait to do it again!



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