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.
Open to Degree and CDE students
Through this course, students will be introduced to the history, scope, theory, and relevance of cultural anthropology in today’s world. Cultural anthropology has a long and controversial past, yet has produced fascinating knowledge about our own society and societies that are unfamiliar to us. As a social science, anthropology allows us to better understand cultural diversity through the use of ethnographic methods. Ethnography can be described as both the process and product of cultural anthropology, and is characterized by field research methods that are holistic, mostly qualitative, and longitudinal (meaning that in-depth ethnographic research often takes a long time!) The two ethnographies that we will read focus on our contemporary food system as a way of grounding the immense field of Cultural Anthropology in a concrete thematic investigation. In Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies, and the Destruction of Mexico, Alyshia Gálvez examines how changes in policy following NAFTA have fundamentally altered how Mexicans sustain themselves through food. We will pick up these themes as we follow Mexican workers north to Vermont’s dairy industry as we read my book Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont. Together, we will learn how an anthropological perspective is useful in every profession and course of study. We will cover a broad range of topics, including how people make a living, reproduce and develop, get sick and get well, form family bonds, organize themselves socially and politically, communicate, worship and pray, express their creativity, and move around the world. Through online lectures and discussions, reading ethnographic books, and viewing ethnographic films, students will be encouraged to question their assumptions of what it means to be human.
•Identify main anthropological concepts and definitions and understand their relevance in everyday life. •Understand how cultural anthropology has changed over time and what these changes mean in terms of methodology, scope, and application. •Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of ethnographic methods in diverse cultural contexts. •Analyze and compare, using examples and case studies, how human practices are both similar and dissimilar across cultural boundaries. •Consider how anthropology provides a “tool-kit” for illuminating and addressing social inequalities.
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