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 learn about the main concepts used in anthropology and how anthropologists conduct research, while also discovering how people live in other times and places. They also 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. No prerequisite. Offered every semester.

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, and the relation between gender and sexuality. This counts toward the upper-level cultural anthropology requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Permission of instructor required. Offered every year.

So few Americans (and so few academics) have actually read the works of Marx. Generally speaking, if you say Marx, you elicit the response of "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, 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.

The 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 must consult with a faculty member during the semester before 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 that 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 are expected to 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 counts toward the major or minor.