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Introduction to cultural anthropology, using fieldwork-based concepts and methods to study diverse cultural views and practices, varied forms of social organization, and contemporary global issues.
Dates: July 16 - August 10, 2018
This is a course about the experience of being human and the diversity of human experience across the planet. For that reason, you are all already experts in the subject matter and raw material of this course; we all have intimate experience with it. At the same time, there are aspects of human life, because they are rooted in the contexts of very different cultures, societies, and ecologies, about which most of us know very little. In such areas, we need to work hard to make sure that our assumptions, based on our own experience and cultural modes of thought or cognition, do not color our understandings of those cultures. We need to carefully examine our own ethnocentric bias and to be aware of what we take for granted in our encounters with other cultures. This course is thus about the complex relationship between shared human universals and sociocultural diversity. It is also about the multilayered and very personal individuals, stories, and daily realities which make up what we might assume to be monolithic, exotic and inaccessible societies. In this course we will examine many areas and facets of human life; in most cases, the separation between these areas (i.e. language, or sexuality, or conflict) is artificial, and they overlap extensively. One focus of this course is the question of how these phenomena may be studied. Ethnography, anthropology’s signature technique, will be our lens for thinking about human social life, and will lead us to important discussions of how we talk about, interact with, and represent other cultures, and how we relate them to our own. In this course, your primary textbook is human life itself. Your workbook is the atlas. And your answer key is your own experience of being human.
By the end of the course, students will be able to look at their own culture and others through the lens of the following core concepts to be introduced in this course: They will be able to apply to their own observation of people’s behavior the idea of culture as a blueprint for people to understand the world They will be able to give examples in writing and in assessments of the process of ethnography, the observation of culture In looking at cultures worldwide, they will be able to recognize specific differences in human cultural constructions of reality, and explain patterns in how they vary They will be able to mobilize theories, in their written work, about many patterns and forms that human relationships take, including family, and to document those forms themselves. They will be able to write about and share with others theories of the ways that humans exercise power over each other, and the way that has led to drastic changes in world cultures, including through colonialism and capitalism They will be able to point out in textual and media materials evidence for ways that we might be at risk for MISrepresenting and MISunderstanding other cultures based on our own imaginings of those cultures. They will be able to demonstrate this knowledge in exercises and papers. By the end of the course, students will be able to provide examples of what kinds of research projects anthropologists do, and why, and to devise their own examples. By the end of the course, students will be able to discuss critically and explain to others flaws in the depiction of other cultures for public consumption. They will be able to see patterns in the messy complexity of human life, and to develop their own theories on what is behind it.
Assignments and Grading 35% : 5 reading quizzes, 7% each Each quiz will have five questions. Quizzes will be made available in the Weekly Module folders 15% : Participation There will be 8 short exercises/discussion board postings as well as responses to classmates' posts. You will be assessed on both your timely submission of your posts and responses, as well as the quality of the work. More information can be found in Discussion board guidelines 20% : Short paper 3-5 pages double-spaced, on "The Pieces of the Cultural You." 30% : Final paper 5-6 double-spaced pages (more is fine) in which you will compare representations of culture in Avatar, The New World, and Cannibal Tours.
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