CONTEMPORARY THEORY IN ANTHROPOLOGY
Tuesday and Thursday: 10:00 – 11:15
Faculty: Rose-Marie Chierici Phone: 245-5818
Office Hours: Tu: 11:30-1:00; W: 10:00-11:00 Office: Sturges 13
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
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.
Midterm Exam 20%
Final Exam 20%
Reaction Papers [5 submissions 10% each] 50%
Individual work and participation in discussions 10%
Jan 22 Introduction
Jan 24 Discussion of Robert Borofsky’s “Envisioning a More Public Anthropology: An Interview with Fredrik Barth”
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
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
May 7 Final Comments
Bring a summary of readings since the mid-term for general discussion and review.
Monday May 14, 12:00- 3:00 pm