course syllabi

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
This course introduces the student to the methods and theories of cultural anthropology, one of four sub-disciplines in American Anthropology (the other three being archaeology, biological/physical anthropology, and linguistics). Key issues we will examine in this class from an anthropological perspective include culture, identity, family, race, gender, violence, language, nationality, globalization, and power. Our ultimate goal is to better appreciate the influence of cultural processes in the making of our lived realities.

Theories of Culture
This course is a detailed investigation into the theoretical underpinnings of cultural anthropology. We will look at culture from a wide spectrum of theoretical lenses. This course goes beyond an introductory course, exploring at a deeper level the development of anthropological thinking and the writing of ethnography over the past 100 years.

Ethnographic Field Methods
Ethnography is the product of the fieldwork conducted by cultural anthropologists, however it is increasingly being adopted by other social sciences, public health, and man for-profit and non-profit organizations. The top employers of anthropologists in the U.S. are the federal government and Microsoft. The reason that many people are now looking to anthropology is its ability to provide the insight that quantitative data alone will never be able to identify: the nature of the human experience and cultural variation. This graduate-level course is a practice-oriented seminar in ethnographic field methods. The course examines several traditional methods for qualitative data collection (participant observation, interviewing, and personal narratives), while also exploring the potential of selected mixed methods approaches (visual methodologies, surveys, and cognitive mapping).

Ecological Anthropology
Ecological anthropology investigates the relationships of people both to their physical and sociocultural environments, including the effects of these relationships on economic activities, social organizations, and beliefs and behaviors emphasizing the evolutionary development of survival strategies. This field of inquiry has a long history in anthropology. We will discuss the changing approaches to the field along with the ways in which humans have changed their approaches to the world around them. The lectures, discussions, and materials will largely surround the central triad of relations between biology, culture, and nature, as we attempt to understand where humans fit into this ever-changing feedback loop.

Intercultural Relations
Examines anthropological perspectives on the contact of individuals and societies that have different cultural histories. Examples are drawn widely from varied contemporary contexts: family life, international business, health and health care, the movement of populations, education in formal and informal contexts, and cultural strategies for survival in the global village.

World Cultures
Comparative case studies of the cultures of existing societies of varying types, including non-literate peoples, Third World nations, and modern industrialized countries. This course is intended to introduce students to the cultural diversity that exists in our world. We will learn about cultures from a variety of geographical locations and with a variety of systems of social structure. We will examine the culture concept through the in depth study of several book length ethnographies, in order to better understand the integration of culture and the holistic approach to understanding human societies.

Visual Anthropology
Anthropology has always been a discipline that was based on images and perspective. The process of writing detailed ethnographic narratives based on in-depth field work is, in its raw form, a way of verbalizing what the ethnographer saw in order to communicate this to other people. Culture is communicated in through images as much as through words, so we too must use both words and visual documentation to study culture. Well before the recent rise of visual anthropology, ethnographers like Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson were incorporating film and still photography into their research. Even earlier, Franz Boas documented much of his research in the Pacific Northwest with still photos. This course presents the history of the incorporation of visual documentation in ethnographic research. Through readings and films, students will learn about the ways that visual media has been both produced and consumed by anthropologists. Through the creation of their own visual ethnography, students will come to understand the many factors that are at play in visual documentation, including the ethics of representation.

Heritage and Ethno-ecology
Heritage and Ethno-ecology in the Maya World is a 4-week, 6 unit course held in Yucatan, Mexico. The course is centered in the Maya village of Ek’Balam, and includes excursions around the state. Students gain a holistic understanding of life in a modern Maya community through exposure to some of the most pressing issues currently faced by Mayas in the region; how to participate (or not) in tourism development through the presentation of heritage and biodiversity conservation.

Applied Anthropology
This course will serve as an overview of applied anthropology and a history of its development in the U.S., as well as a presentation of the unique language used by applied or practicing anthropologists (e.g. needs assessment, impact analysis, evaluation, and development). Gaining proficiency in this terminology and its use will allow students to conceive of the role of social science in the “real world,” both in and out of anthropology and the academy. The numerous ethical dilemmas specific to applied work will also be reviewed and discussed.

Economic Anthropology
This course will focus on the relationship between culture and economy in the context of international aid and development, which are perhaps the most prevalent forces driving the globalization process. Amartya Sen famously defined development as “a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy” (1995:3), while Arturo Escobar calls it (among other things) “a growing will to transform drastically two-thirds of the world in pursuit of the goal of material prosperity and economic progress” (1995:4). Through discussions of readings from both critical and complimentary views of development, we will learn about the history of international aid and anthropology’s complicated engagement with it. The questions that will underpin our discussions of the history, politics, and critiques of development are: What cultural factors influence this interaction and dictate its success or failure, and how do existing economic strategies correspond with the ultimate goal of development?