CONTEMPORARY THEORY IN ANTHROPOLOGY

ANTHROPOLOGY 321
Spring 2013

Tuesday and Thursday: 10:00 – 11:15

Sturges 14

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Faculty:  Rose-Marie Chierici                                                            Phone: 245-5818

Office Hours: Tu: 11:30-1:00; W:              10:00-11:00                      Office: Sturges 13

Email Address: chierici@geneseo.edu

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.

-Wade Davis

 

Public anthropology emphasizes the anthropologist’s role as an engaged intellectual, as someone who actively addresses central issues of our time. It continues anthropology’s commitment to being an ethnographic witness, to describing, in human terms, how life is lived beyond the borders of many readers’ experiences. But it also affirms a commitment to reframing the terms of public debate - transforming received, accepted understandings of social issues with new insights, new framings. Public anthropology involves an active citizenship that, in striving for social justice, empowers others and transforms political structures.

-Rob Borofsky, Hawaii Pacific

 

COURSE OBJECTIVES

 

This course is an intensive investigation of the development of methods and theory in contemporary Anthropology.  It is designed to enable students to read and critique contemporary (post-1950) readings in anthropological theory, to engage in in-depth discussion of these ideas, and to summarize central concepts that are current in the field of Anthropology

 

LEARNING OUTCOMES

Upon successful completion of this course, a student will become: 

 

(1) Familiar with the corpus of anthropological theory.

You will become familiar with major theoretical orientations of contemporary anthropology and the strengths and weaknesses of each theoretical argument.  These skills will be demonstrated and evaluated through the preparation of written comments on the writings of contemporary anthropologists and the discussion of the works in seminar. A series of questions are designed to allow you to become familiar with the ideas of anthropology’s contemporary thinkers in the context of their original writings.

 

(2) Skilled in the analysis of anthropological ideas.

You will demonstrate critical and comparative analysis of theoretical perspectives in anthropology.  These skills will be developed and tested each class through intensive directed sessions in which you will practice formal critique of theory by dialogue and discussion, utilizing the Socratic Method.

 

(3) Skilled in the interpretation of anthropological ideas.

You will identify and critique theoretical ideas (arguments) in anthropology from a variety of perspectives. This will encourage you to evaluate and deconstruct the approaches and arguments that you encounter as a student of anthropology.  This skill will be evaluated through writing a midterm and comprehensive final essay exam.

 

REQUIRED READINGS (available at Sundance)

            McGee, R. Jon and Richard L. Warms. Anthropological Theory. McGraw Hill, Boston, MA: 1996.

            Wiesel, Elie. Night. Bantam Books.

Additional readings are on Reserve on myCourses.

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

 

1)  There will be two exams : an in-class midterm and a final.  Exams explore your understanding of the course content and your ability to synthesize and express clearly your understanding in writing. I expect students to write with college level competence - the “Critical Reading and Writing Rubric” will be used to grade your answers (on myCourses).

 

2)   5 Response Papers, 300-500 words long, to be collected at random during the semester. You are expected to come to every class with a concise, typed and edited Response Paper. A Response Paper is an evaluation and critique of the day’s reading and reflects your understanding of the text and the issues it raises.  All Response Papers address the following points: 1) What are the major concepts expressed in the readings (define and analyze three)? 2) What is the most important contribution of “this” particular theory or text to the discipline? 3) How does this reading tie in with others and where/how does it fit with other readings and in the history of anthropological theory? On FIVE randomly chosen days during the semester, I will collect papers and grade them according to the “Critical Reading and Writing Rubric” (see myCourses).  No late papers will be accepted unless you have a valid reason. Emphasize quality over quantity and take to heart that there is no right or wrong answer when discussing theory (push the envelope). However, you need to make your case in a clear and logical manner and support your position. “I don’t like the way X writes” or “I don’t agree with him/her” are not valid answers.

What you write should be complete enough to demonstrate that you read the assigned reading carefully and worked at developing an understanding of it. These papers help me assess what you know and they help you sort out what you know and think about this material.

 

3)   Class participation grades show the extent to which you come to class having done the readings and prepared your assignments and participate thoughtfully in all class discussions. I also expect that you will come to class on time and settle down before class starts. Please do not make a habit of coming in late and disrupting the class.

 

4)  Individual Work and short presentations: You will be individually assigned specific tasks at different times during the semester. These tasks may include a) starting the discussion of a particular reading or b) researching and summarizing information about an author and presenting this information to the class. On the day you are assigned to lead a discussion, come with a concise yet provocative question that you will address to the class and be ready to explain and elaborate on. If you researched an author or topic, you should come with a written summary (talking points) that you will use to speak from, not read to the class. When you are asked to research an author, you will give an overview of this person’s research and writing and highlight their contribution to anthropology and social science in general. We will want to know whether this person’s understanding of anthropology and social processes changed over time and why. Since these readings will come from a variety of perspectives, this assignment is a way for you to make a link between theory and practice; and between data/description, analysis, and theoretical perspectives. In this sense, you will use theory as tools for examining issues.

 

Note:  If you have to miss a class for an important reason, you will need to email me your Reaction Paper as an attachment by 9:00 am on the day you will be absent. No late responses will be accepted for any reason.

 

COURSE GRADING

 

Midterm Exam                                                                        20%

Final Exam                                                                              20%

Reaction Papers [5 submissions 10% each]                            50%

Individual work and participation in discussions                    10%

 

 

 

 

COURSE OUTLINE

 

Date                        Topics and Reading Assignments           

 

Jan 22                        Introduction

 

Jan 24            Discussion of Robert Borofsky’s “Envisioning a More Public Anthropology: An Interview with Fredrik Barth”

http://www.nku.edu/~humed1/darkness_in_el_dorado/documents/0466.htm

__________

Jan 29                        Structuralism                                                           

M&W: Structuralism; and Claude Lévi-Strauss,

M&W: Claude Lévi-Strauss, Four Winnebago Myths

 

Jan 31                        Ethnoscience and Cognitive Anthropology

M&W: Ethnoscience and Cognitive Anthropology; and Conklin, Hanunoo and Color Categories

__________

 

Feb 5                        M&W: Tyler, Introduction to Cognitive Anthropology                                   

                       

Feb 7                        Application:

James C. Scott, “Behind the Official Story” (Reserve)                                   

___________

 

Feb 12                        Sociobiology

M&W: Sociobiology. Wilson, The Morality of the Gene

Bird, Smith and Bird, The Hunting Handicap

                       

Feb 14                        Application:

Rifkin, “A Eugenic Civilization” (Reserve)           

__________

 

Feb 19                          Anthropology and Gender

            M&W:  The Feminist Critique; and Slocum, Woman the Gatherer: Male Bias in

Anthropology

Feb 21                          M&W: Ortner, Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture? and Ortner, “So, is Female to

 Male as Nature is to Culture?” (Reserve)

__________

                       

Feb 26            Application:

Seierstad, “Billowing, Fluttering, Winding”; and articles from Walking on Fire (Reserve)

 

Feb 28                        Approaches to Culture: Poststructuralist—Foucault and Bourdieu (Reserve)           

_________

 

Mar 5                        Pause and recap

 

Mar 7                        MIDTERM

___________

                       

Mar 12                        Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology

M&W: Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology; and Douglas, External Boundaries

 

Mar 14                        Lambek, “Pinching the Crocodile’s Tongue” (Reserve)

 

_____________

Mar 19-21                                                Spring Break           

_____________

                                                           

Mar 26                         Application

Lewellen, “The Anthropology of Globalization” and Sachs, “A global Family Portrait” (eRes)  

 

Mar 28                        Rosaldo, Grief and a headhunter’s Rage

______________           

 

Apr 2            M&W: Turner, “Ndembu Rituals”; and Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight” (Reserve)

 

Mar 4                        Bourgois, From Jibaro to Crack Dealer

_______________

 

Apr 9                          Chierici, “Falling into Fieldwork” (eRes)

 

           

Apr 11                        Read Night while watching Hotel Rwanda

____________

 

Apr 16            GREAT Day No class but you have to attend some sessions.

Finish Night and Hotel Rwanda

 

Apr 18                        Discussion of Hotel Rwanda and Night

I will be collecting reaction papers to the book and the film that day so come prepared to discuss both.

 

__________

Apr. 23                         Critical Issues in Contemporary Anthropology

Farmer:  “An Anthropology of Structural Violence” (eRes)

                                   

Apr 25                        Reading TBA                       

____________

 

Apr 30            Holmes, “Oaxacans Like to Work Bent Over”: The Naturalization of Social Suffering among Berry Farm Workers (eRes)

 

May 2                       

___________                                                           

 

May 7                        Final Comments

                        Bring a summary of readings since the mid-term for general discussion and review.

 

 

 

Final Exam

 Monday May 14, 12:00- 3:00 pm