Anthropology 100 (Section 02): Cultural Anthropology
Department of Anthropology, SUNY Geneseo
Instructor: Dr. Melanie Medeiros
Class Meeting: Tues & Thurs 11:30-12:45, Bailey 102
Office hours: Mondays: 2:30-3:45pm
You may also email me to make an appointment 3 days in advance.
Cultural anthropology is the study of humans, particularly the many ways people around the world today
and throughout human history have organized themselves to live together. Due to increases in global flows
of people, products and ideas we are increasingly encountering the world's diversity in our own
communities. The study of cultural anthropology helps us develop the skills we need for engaging and
navigating the multicultural, global and continually changing world in which we live. In this class we will
learn about the theories and tools that anthropologists use to study human behavior and diversity. We will
examine the cultural, social, economic and political structures that shape human behavior and identity,
including social constructions of race, ethnicity, gender and class. We will also address the issues and
opportunities that come with globalization and modernization, including social inequality and global health
disparities. Finally, we will learn the ways anthropologists use their tools to address local and global
Course Themes: By the end of the semester you should be able to:
• describe what an ethnography is and how and why anthropologists use ethnography;
• define key concepts and arguments in cultural anthropology such as, essentialism versus
constructionism, cultural relativism, ethnocentrism, objective vs. reflexive ethnography ;
• explain how notions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class are constructed and related to
structures of power
• describe how cultural diversity is challenged, as well as maintained by global economic, social
and cultural transformations.
Course Skills: By the end of the semester you should be able to:
• write a logical, coherent and clear argument;
• verbally express ideas and opinions, and respond to others, in a manner which respects diversity
and conveys tolerance;
• connect anthropological concepts to local and global ethnographic examples.
A Participatory Learning Environment
This course deals with extremely sensitive topics and material. Please be respectful of your classmates
-- listen with interest and be open to ideas and opinions that may differ from your own. Treat your
classmates just as you would like to be treated in classroom discussions and outside the classroom as
well. This class should be a comfortable and open environment for you to learn, so please contribute
to that environment.
Although this course already has objectives and a structure, I encourage your input on its direction.
Please email me if you have any particular topic you are interested in learning more about, an
assignment or project not listed in the syllabus that you would be interested in doing (to replace one
already listed), etc. I will do my best to accommodate student requests, but cannot guarantee that I
will be able to fulfill all of them.
Required Textbook (available at the bookstore):
- Kenneth J. Guest. Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for a Global Age. WW. Norton & Company, Inc.
- Ruth Landes. City of Women. University of New Mexico Press. 1994.
- Additional readings will be available on-line through the course website.
Detailed descriptions of all these assignments are available on the class myCourses page.
Reading & Film Assignments [Complete the assignment before coming to class]
The reading and video/film assignments are mandatory. Students should be prepared to discuss
these assignments in class and in their written assignments. The completion of all the reading and
video/film assignments is essential to your grade in this class.
Participant Observation Assignment [Due 9/9], 10 points
This assignment will be explained in further detail in class. The written portion must be at least 500
words, typed, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font, with 1-inch margins. [See the
"Participant Observation" handout available on the the class myCourses page for more details].
Exam 1 [on 9/18], 15 points
Exams will consist of multiple choice questions, short answers and an essay question and will cover
material from the reading and film assignments, as well as class discussions and activities. To
schedule a make-up exam, you must contact me before the day of the exam with an approved
reason for your absence.
Exam 2 [on 10/30], 20 points
See the description for Exam 1.
Self-Ethnography Paper/Project: [Due 11/25], 20 points
For your Self-Ethnography, you will submit a 200-word proposal (Due 11/6) stating 1) the type of
paper/project you will complete, 2) preliminary points you plan to make and examples you plan to
use , and 3) some of the course materials you will be using and citing in your paper. The
description and details of this assignment are available in the file "Paper/Project Assignment
Description" at myCourses/Course Materials/Self-Ethnography Paper or Project/].
Option 1: 1500-word Paper. Must be typed, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman
font, with 1-inch margins. [See "Paper/Project Outline Guide" at myCourses/Course
Materials/Self-Ethnography Paper or Project/Writing Tools/].
Option 2: Poster Presentation. Posters should contain at least 1,000 words of
text and images, and be presented in a visually appealing way [See an example of a
Research Poster at myCourses/Course Materials/Self-Ethnography Paper or Project/Sample
Poster and Film].
Option 3: Short Film. Students have the option of creating a short film (10 minutes). A
film transcript of at least 500 words must be submitted with the film. [See an example of a
Short Film at myCourses/Course Materials/Self-Ethnography Paper or Project/Sample
Poster and Film].
Paper/Project Grading Rubric:
• 18-20 points (A) = Paper/project fulfills the requirements of the question and assignment,
demonstrates excellent understanding of the concepts, is well-written (carefully proofread,
no grammatical errors), and provides clear examples and strong insights into the assigned
• 16-17.9 points (B) = Paper/project fulfills the requirements of the question and assignment
and demonstrates adequate understanding of the concepts involved.
• 14-15.9 points (C) = Paper/project fulfills the requirements of the question & assignment.
• 13-13.9 points (D) = Paper/project fulfills some but not all of the requirements of the
question and assignment.
• .5-12.9 points (F) = Paper/project does not fulfill any requirements.
• 0= Paper/project was not submitted..
Final Exam [on 12/11 from 12-3pm], 25 points
The final exam will focus on the material from the third section of the course, HOWEVER it will
also have questions from material from the first two thirds of the course.
Attendance and Participation, 10 points
Your participation grade includes coming to class prepared to discuss the reading and film
assignments, as well as preparation for and performance in in-class activities such as debates, smallgroup
discussions, presentations, etc. In order to succeed in this course you must participate in
class discussion and class activities. The use of Facebook and other social networking sites,
playing games, viewing photos, watching videos etc. is not permitted in this class. They
are a distraction to both you and the students around you.
Extra Credit, 3 points
Attend the reading of KIMCHEE AND CHITLINS by Elizabeth Wong and write a 1-page paper (1-
inch margins, 12 point Times New Roman font) discussing the major themes of the performance
and how it relates to what you have learned in class so far. The assignment will be due by 9/11 at
1pm. About the performance: A free reading of a "serious comedy about getting along" based on the
conflict between Korean and African American communities that occurred in Flatbush, Brooklyn
during the 1990's. 4:00 pm, September 4, Black Box Theatre.
COURSE GRADING POLICY
Self Ethnography Papers/Project (including proposal): 20 points
Exam 1: 15 points
Exam 2: 20 points
Final Exam: 25 points
Participant Observation Activity: 10 points
Attendance and Participation: 10 points
Total: 100 points
Standard Grade Curve:
Earning 94-100 points = A
Earning 90-93.99 points = A -
Earning 87-89.99 points = B+
Earning 83-86.99 points = B
Earning 80-82.99 points = BEarning
77-79.99 points = C+
Earning 73-76.99 points = C
Earning 68-72.99 points = CEarning
58-67.99 points = D
Earning 0-57.9 points = E
Assignments must be completed by the start of class on the due date. Late assignments will be marked
down one letter grade for each day late.
Plagiarism constitutes a violation of academic honesty and will be dealt with very strictly. Plagiarism
is the representation of someone else’s words or ideas as one’s own, or the arrangement of someone
else’s material(s) as one’s own. Such misrepresentation may be sufficient grounds for a student’s
receiving a grade of E for the paper or presentation involved or may result in an E being assigned as the
final grade for the course.
Any one of the following constitutes evidence of plagiarism:
1. direct quotation without identifying punctuation and citation of source;
2. paraphrase of expression or thought without proper attribution;
3. unacknowledged dependence upon a source in plan, organization, or argument.
You can read the college's academic dishonesty and plagiarism policy on-line at:
It is your responsibility to complete course requirements to pass this course. Please contact me if you
are having problems with the course assignments as soon as possible. II have office hours on Mondays
from 2:30-3:45pm and Wednesdays from 2:30-4:15pm. If you are not able to meet on those days/times
please email me to schedule an appointment for another time.
Accommodations: SUNY Geneseo will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented
physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities. Accommodations will be made for medical conditions related
to pregnancy or parenting. Students should contact Dean Buggie-Hunt in the Office of Disability Services
(email@example.com or 585-245-5112) and their faculty to discuss needed accommodations as early as
possible in the semester.
COURSE THEME 1: INTRODUCTION TO CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY
Class 1) Tuesday, 8/26 Course Introduction
Class 2) Thursday, 8/28 Cultural Anthropology & Globalization
Key concepts: anthropology, ethnocentrism, ethnographic fieldwork, four-field approach, holism,
physical anthropology, paleoanthropology, primatology, archaeology, prehistoric archeology,
historic archeology, linguistic anthropology, descriptive linguists, historic linguists, sociolinguists,
cultural anthropology, participant observation, ethnology, globalization, time-space compression,
flexible accumulation, increasing migration, uneven development, rapid change, climate change.
Key questions: What is anthropology? Through what lenses do anthropologists gain a
comprehensive view of human culture? What is globalization, and why is it important for
anthropology? How is globalization transforming anthropology?
- Read: Chapter 1 "Anthropology in a Global Age" in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 5-31
Class 3) Tuesday, 9/2 Defining "Culture"
Key concepts: culture, enculturation, norms, values, symbol, cultural relativism, unilineal cultural
evolution, historical particularism, structural functionalism, interpretivist approach, power,
stratification, hegemony, agency, cosmopolitanism, nature versus nurture, essentialism, social
Key questions: What is culture? How has the culture concept developed in anthropology? How are
culture and power related? How is culture created? How is globalization transforming culture?
How much of who you are is determined by biology and how much by culture?
- Read: Chapter 2 "Culture" in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 33-49.
Class 4) Thursday 9/4 .
- Read: Chapter 2 "Culture" in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 50-71
- Watch (at home): "Living Genomics” [Stream Here: http://ed.ted.com/on/dTjMkOnd ]
Class 5) Tuesday, 9/9 Fieldwork & Ethnography
Key concepts: ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, reflexivity, literature review,
anthropologists toolkit, quantitative data, qualitative data, rapport, key informant, interview, life
history, survey, kinship analysis, social network analysis, field notes, mapping, built environment,
mutual transformation, emic, etic, ethnology, polyvocality, informed consent, anonymity.
Key questions: What is unique about ethnographic fieldwork, and why do anthropologists conduct
this kind of research? How did the idea of fieldwork develop? How do anthropologists write
ethnography? What moral and ethical concerns guide anthropologists in their research and
writing? How are fieldwork strategies changing in response to globalization?
- Read: (1) Chapter 3 "Fieldwork and Ethnography" in Cultural Anthropology, pp.73-96.
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. vii- xxvii; xxvi-xxvii
Class 6) Thursday, 9/11
- Read: (1) Chapter 3 "Fieldwork and Ethnography" in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 97-110.
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 1 -15 (chapters 1 and 2)
Class 7) Tuesday, 9/16 Visual Ethnography
Key concepts: visual anthropology, photographic gaze, ethnographic film, holism, goal of truth
Key questions: What are the essential features of ethnographic film? What are the differences
between ethnographic film and film?
- Read: (1) Heider, Karl . Chapter 1: Introduction. In Ethnographic Film. University of Texas Press,
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 15-34 (chapters 3 and 4)
- Participant Observation assignment due [See the class's myCourses page for the "Participant
Observation" assignment description handout].
Class 8) Thursday, 9/18 Exam #1
COURSE THEME 2: DECONSTRUCTING STRUCTURES OF POWER
Class 9) Tuesday, 9/23 Race and Racism
Key concepts: race, racism, genotype, phenotype, colonialism, miscegenation, white supremacy,
whiteness, Jim Crow, hypo descent, nativism, eugenics, racialization, individual racism,
institutional racism, racial ideology
Key questions: Do biologically separate races exist? How is race constructed around the world?
How is race constructed in the United States? What is racism?
- Read: (1) Chapter 6 Race and Racism in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 195-222
(2) Selected Text from an "Interview with Nina Jablonski.”
(3) Smedley and Smedley. 2005. Race as Biology Is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem Is
Real: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives on the Social Construction of
Race. American Psychologist. 60(1): 16–24.
(4) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 34 - 40 (chapter 5)
-Watch (at home): "The Illusion of Skin Color” [Stream Here: http://ed.ted.com/on/sxEBy6Ut ].
Class 10) Thursday, 9/25
- Read: (1) Chapter 6 Race and Racism in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 222-235
(2) Gravlee, C.C. 2009. How race becomes biology: Embodiment of social inequality. `
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139: 47-57.
(3) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 40 - 58 (chapter 6)
Class 11) Tuesday, 9/30 Ethnicity and Nationalism
Key concepts: ethnicity, origin myth, ethnic boundary marker, genocide, situational negotiation of
identity, ethnic cleansing, melting pot, assimilation, multiculturalism, state, nation-state, nation,
nationalism, imagined community
Key questions:What does "ethnicity" mean to anthropologists? How is ethnicity created and put in
motion? What is the relationship of ethnicity to the nation?
- Read: (1) Chapter 7 "Ethnicity and Nationalism" in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 237-267
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 58- 62 (chapter 7)
-Watch (at home): (1) "Ethnicity & Identity Part 1” [ Stream here: http://ed.ted.com/on/Nfu9k6JP ]
(2) Thandie Newton’s TED talk “Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself.”
[Stream Here: http://ed.ted.com/on/Kw03PgOi]
Class 12) Thursday, 10/2 Gender
Key concepts: gender studies, sex, gender, sexual dimorphism, cultural construction of gender,
gender performance, intersexual, transgender, gender stratification, gender stereotype, gender
ideology, gender violence, structural gender violence.
Key questions: Are men and women born or made? Are there more than two sexes? How do
anthropologists explore the relationship between gender and power? How is globalization
transforming women's lives.
- Read: (1) Chapter 8 "Gender" in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 269-286.
(2) Lucal, Betsy. 1999. What It Means To Be Gendered Me: Life on the Boundaries of a
Dichotomous Gender System Gender & Society 13(6): 781-796.
(3) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 62-71 (chapter 8)
- Watch (at home): “Tough Guise” [Stream here: http://ed.ted.com/on/mUHj6gE5 ]
Class 13) Tuesday, 10/7
- Read: (1) Chapter 8 "Gender" in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 287-307.
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 71-88 (chapter 9)
Class 14) Thursday, 10/9 Sexuality
Key concepts: sexuality, heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, sexual violence,
sex tourism, sex work.
Key questions: What is "natural" about human sexuality? What does a global perspective tell us
about human sexuality? How has sexuality been constructed in the United States? How is sexuality
an arena for working out relations of power? How does globalization influence local expressions of
- Read: (1) Chapter 9 "Sexuality" in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 309-347.
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 88-92 (chapter 10)
Class 15) Tuesday, 10/14 NO CLASS
Class 16) Thursday, 10/16 Identity
Key concepts: identity, authenticity, identity markers,
Key questions: what is identity? what are common identity labels? what is authenticity?
- Read: (1) K. Anthony Appiah, A. 1994. Identity, Authenticity, Survival: Multicultural Societies
and Social Reproduction. In Amy Gutmann, ed. Multiculturalism. Princeton. Pp.
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 92-112 (chapter 11)
- Watch (at home): (1) Julian Baggini's TED Talk “What Makes The Real You” [Stream here:
(2) "What About Me" (85 minutes) [Stream here:
Class 17) Tuesday, 10/21 Religion and Ritual
[Meet at the Black Box Theatre for a presentation on Zen Buddhism]
Key concepts: religion, martyr, saint, sacred, profane, ritual, rite of passage, liminality,
communitas, pilgrimage, cultural materialism, shaman, magic, imitative magic, contagious magic,
symbol, authorizing process
Key questions: What is religion? What tools do anthropologists use to understand how religion
works? In what ways is religion both a system of meaning and a system of power? How is
globalization changing religion?
- Read: Chapter 15 in Cultural Anthropology. pp. 573- 617.
Class 18) Thursday, 10/23 Kinship, Family and Marriage
Key concepts: kinship, nuclear family, descent group, lineage, clan, affinal relationship, marriage,
arranged marriage, companionate marriage, polygyny, polyandry, monogamy, incest taboo,
exogamy, endogamy, bride wealth, dowry, family of orientation, family of procreation
Key questions: How are we related to one another? Are biology and marriage the only basis for
kinship? Is a country like one big family? How is kinship changing in the United States? How is
kinship changing globally?
- Read: (1) Chapter 10 "Kinship, Family, and Marriage" in Cultural Anthropology. pp. 349-371 and
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 112-129 (chapter 12)
Class 19) Tuesday, 10/28
- Read: (1) Chapter 10 "Kinship, Family, and Marriage" in Cultural Anthropology. pp. 377-391
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 129-148 (chapters 13 and 14)
Class 20) Thursday, 10/30 Exam #2
- Read: Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 148-169 (Chapter 15 and Chapter 16)
COURSE THEME 3: SOCIAL, ECONOMIC & CULTURAL CHANGE
Class 21) Tuesday, 11/4 The Global Economy
Key concepts: economy, food foragers, pastoralism, horticulture, slash and burn agriculture,
agriculture, industrial agriculture, carrying capacity, barter, reciprocity, redistribution, leveling
mechanism, colonialism, triangle trade, Industrial Revolution, modernization theories,
development, dependency theory, neocolonialism, underdevelopment, core countries, periphery
countries, semi-periphery countries, Fordism, flexible accumulation, global city, neoliberalism,
Key questions: What is an economy and what is its purpose? What are the roots of today's global
economy? What role has colonialism played in forming the modern world economic system? What
is the relationship between the nation-state and the corporation in the global economy? What are
the dominant organizing principles of the modern world economic system? How does today's
global economy links workers with consumers worldwide? Is today's global economic system
- Read: (1) Chapter 12 in Cultural Anthropology. Pp. 441-466
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 170-192 (chapter 17)
- Watch (at home): "What Is Globalization” [Stream here: http://ed.ted.com/on/tOlLjxhL]
Class 22) Thursday, 11/6
- Read: (1) Chapter 12 in Cultural Anthropology. Pp. 466-487
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 192- 199 (chapter 18)
- Self-Ethnography Proposal due
Class 23) Tuesday, 11/11 Migration
Key concepts: pushes and pulls, bridges and barriers, chain migration, hometown association,
remittance, cumulative causation, labor immigrant, guest worker program, professional migrant,
brain drain, social capital
Key questions: Why do people move from place to place? Who are today's migrants? Where do
people move to and from? How is immigration affecting the United States today?
- Read: (1) Chapter 13 in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 489- 519.
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 200 - 208 (chapter 19)
Class 24) Thursday, 11/13
- Read: (1) Chapter 13 in Cultural Anthropology, pp. 520-529.
(2) Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp.. 208 - 232 (chapters 20 to 22)
(3) Article to be assigned
Class 25) Tuesday, 11/18 Class and Inequality
Key concepts: class, egalitarian society, reciprocity, ranked society, redistribution, potlatch,
bourgeoisie, means of production, proletariat, prestige, life chances, social mobility, social
reproduction, habitus, cultural capital, intersectionality, income, wealth, caste, achieved status,
ascribed status, dalits
Key questions: Is inequality a natural part of human culture? How do anthropologists analyze class
and inequality. How are class and inequality constructed in the United States? What are the roots
of poverty in the United States? Why are class and inequality largely invisible in U.S. culture?
What is caste, and how are caste and class related? What are the effects of global inequality?
- Read: Read Chapter 11 "Class and Inequality" in Cultural Anthropology. pp. 393-437
Class 26) Thursday, 11/20 Health and Illness
Key concepts: health, disease, illness, ethnomedicine, ethnopharmacology,, biomedicine, human
microbiome, health transition, critical medical anthropology, medical migration, medical
pluralism, illness narratives
Key questions: How does culture shape our ideas of health and illness? How can anthropologists
help solve health care problems? Why does the distribution of health and illness mirror that of
wealth and power? How is globalization changing the experience of health and illness and the
practice of medicine?
- Read: Chapter 16 in Cultural Anthropology. pp. 619 - 655
Class 27) Tuesday, 11/25 "City of Women"
- Read: Landes, Ruth. City of Women. pp. 232- 248 (chapter 23 and chapter 24, Finish Book)
- Self-Ethnography Due
Class 28) Thursday, 11/27 NO CLASS: Happy Thanksgiving!
Class 29) Tuesday, 12/2 Applying Cultural Anthropology
Key concepts: applied anthropology, engaged anthropology, development, non-profit organization,
non-governmental organization, urban anthropology.
Key questions: How do cultural anthropologists use their knowledge? What roles do cultural
anthropologists play in our global society? What careers are available to cultural anthropologists?
- Read: Conrad Phillip Kottak. 2013. Applying Anthropology. In Mirror for Humanity: A Concise
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 9/e. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. pp. 259-280.
- Assignment: Prepare questions and answers for the Quiz Show.
Class 30) Thursday, 12/4 Final Exam Review: Quiz Show
The Final Exam is on Thursday, December 11th from 12-3pm.
NOTE: This syllabus is subject to change. Reading, film and written assignments may be removed or
added when the instructor believes it necessary for the course.