Introduction to Anthropology

Autumn 2008 Jennifer Sime
Library 102 Office: 12 Dalrymple
TuTh 10:00 – 11:20 am Office Hours: TBA

Course Description:
What does it mean to be human? Socio-cultural anthropology attempts to answer that question by analyzing and comparing cultures throughout the world. This course offers an introduction to this cross-cultural approach to studying human diversity and cultural difference using ethnographic examples, theories, and methods. The perspective employed in this course is designed to develop students’ abilities to reflect critically upon questions concerning cultural difference in contemporary situations. We’ll begin by examining two key elements in the field of anthropology: the idea of “culture”--the defining feature that sets humans apart from all other animals--and the method of data collection called “fieldwork.” From there, we take up a range of topics (e.g., language, the relationships between culture and individuals, play and ritual, economic exchange, power and control, worldviews associated with witchcraft, religion, and secularism, and forms of relatedness, such as kinship) and consider the issues and approaches important to anthropologists. Class readings will be primarily ethnographic; geographic areas will range from West Africa to Argentina, Spanish Harlem to Bali.

Requirements: Regular class attendance, the thoughtful completion of reading and writing assignments, and active participation in discussions will help you get the most out of this class. Grades will be based on the following:
20% mid-term exam
20% final exam
40% 4 short papers (2 to 3 pages each)
10% presentation of an article or book for class discussion
10% class participation

Attendance: Come to class. Too many unexcused absences (e.g., more than two) will most likely adversely affect the part of your grade based on class participation.

Late policy: Papers are due on the date assigned. Papers will be marked down a grade for each class that they are late (e.g., A to A-). Any requests for extensions need to be cleared with me before the day a paper is due.

Credits: This is a four-credit course and one not easily taken for less. Therefore, no reduction of credits is possible either at the beginning or the end of the semester.

Thursday, 9/2: Introduction to the course
•Assignment #1 (due Tuesday 9/9): What brings you to anthropology? What do you think it means to center a discussion of what it means to be human on the concept of culture? Write approximately two pages in response to these questions.

Tuesday, 9/9: The Anthropological Perspective: Anthropology and its Subdisciplines
• Chapter 1 in Cultural Anthropology (CA henceforward)
• Assignment #1 due

Thursday, 9/11: The Concept of Culture I
• Chapter 2 in CA
• Laura Bohannan, “Shakespeare in the Bush.” In Conformity and Conflict. Boston: Pearson Education, 2006. pp. 23-32.

Tuesday, 9/16: The Concept of Culture II
• Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture.” In The Interpretation of Cultures. NY: Basic Books, 2000. pp. 3-32.

Thursday, 9/18: Fieldwork I
• Chapter 3 in CA
• Bronislaw Malinowski, “Introduction: The Subject, Method and Scope of This Enquiry.” In Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Illinois: Waveland Press, 1984.
• George Marcus, “Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography.” In Annual Review of Anthropology Vol. 24, (1995) pp. 95-117. (JSTOR)

Tuesday, 9/23: Fieldwork II
• Begin Return to Laughter

Thursday, 9/25: Return to Laughter I
• Finish Return to Laughter

Tuesday, 9/30: Return to Laughter: Discussion

Thursday, 10/2: Anthropology in History I
• Chapter 4 in CA
• Talal Asad, Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter (excerpts)

Tuesday, 10/7: Anthropology in History II
• George Marcus, Anthropology as Cultural Critique (excerpts)
• Paper #2 due

Thursday, 10/9: Language I
• Chapter 5 in CA
• Deborah Tannen, “New York Jewish Conversational Style”
• John Baugh, Black Street Speech (excerpts)

Tuesday, 10/14: Language II
• George Lakoff, Metaphors We Live By (excerpts)
• Keith Basso, “Speaking with Names,” in Wisdom Sits in Places

Thursday, 10/16: Midterm Exam

Tuesday, 10/21: Hendricks Days

Thursday, 10/23:

• Keith Basso, "Speaking with Names" (continued)

Tuesday, 10/28:  Culture and Individuals
• Chapter 6 in CA
• Arthur Kleinman, Veena Das, and Margaret Lock. “Introduction.” In Social Suffering.
• Veena Das. “Language and Body: Transactions in the Construction of Pain,” in Social Suffering

Thursday, 10/30: Play, Art, Myth, and Ritual
• Chapter 7 in CA
• Begin Paper Tangos

Tuesday, 11/4: Paper Tangos: Discussion
• Finish Paper Tangos

Thursday, 11/6: Worldviews: Witchcraft
• Chapter 8 in CA
• Evans-Pritchard, “Witchcraft.” (JSTOR)
• Jeanne Favret-Saada, Deadly Words (excerpts)

Tuesday, 11/11: Worldviews: Religion
• Chapter 9 in CA
• Roxanne Varzi, Warring Souls (excerpts)

Thursday, 11/13: Worldviews: Secularism
• Caitlin Killian, “The Other Side of the Veil: North African Women in France respond to the Headscarf Affair” in Gender and Society. Vol. 17, Num. 4 (Aug. 2003) pp. 567-590.

Tuesday, 11/18: Making a Living I
• Chapter 10 in CA
• Philippe Bourgois, “Crack in Spanish Harlem: Culture and Economy in the Inner City.” In Anthropology Today, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Aug. 1989) pp. 6-11. (JSTOR)

Thursday, 11/20: Class cancelled (Jennifer at AAA meeting)

Tuesday, 11/25: Making a Living II
• Michael Taussig, “The Genesis of Capitalism Amongst a South American Peasantry: Devil’s Labor and the Baptism of Money.” In Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 19, No. 2 (April 1977) pp. 130-155. (JSTOR)

Thursday, 11/27: Thanksgiving

Tuesday, 12/2: Imagined Communities: Kinship
• Chapter 11 in CA
• David Schneider, American Kinship (excerpts)
• Paper #4 due

Thursday, 12/4: Other Forms of Relatedness: Technologies of Reproduction & Transplantation
• Lesley Sharp, “Organ Transplantation as Transformative Experience: Anthropological Insights into the Restructuring of Self.” In Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Sep., 1995) pp. 357-389. (JSTOR)
• Cris Shore, “Virgin Births and Sterile Debates: Anthropology and the New Reproductive Technologies.” In Current Anthropology, Vol. 33, No. 3 (June 1992) pp. 295 –314. (JSTOR)

Tuesday, 12/9: Dimensions of Inequality in the Contemporary World: Gender

• Chapter 13 in CA
• Sherry Ortner. “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?” In Woman, Culture, and Society, edited by M. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1974. pp. 67-87.
• Emily Martin. “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.” In Signs Vol. 16, No. 3 (Spring 1991) pp. 485-501. (JSTOR)


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