Anthropology 216D: Cultural Anthropology
Instructor: Dr. William Smith
Office: HSS 214
Phone: (503) 838-8372
Office hours: M, W, F 9:00-9:50; Th 1:00-4:15; or by appointment
Through the systematic study of human diversity and universality, sociocultural anthropologists study central aspects of the human condition and their various expressions across time and space. In this course, we will approach human variation through a combination of studies focused on specific societies and an overview of the key concepts, theories, and analytic approaches of the discipline past and present. Students will learn about the significance of family structures and kinship in the organization of societies; religious and symbolic systems; human adaptations to the environment; ethnic and national identities; and power dynamics in economic and political systems. The course concludes with a focus on anthropology’s contributions to finding solutions to pressing social problems. We will also examine the research methods anthropologists use to generate anthropological knowledge.
1. Wolf, Margery. The House of Lim. Prentice Hall, 1968.
2. Allen, Catherine J. The Hold Life Has. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988.
Kim. Reckoning with
to the above books available in the university bookstore, students will read two
chapters from: Monaghan, John and
Peter Just. Social and Cultural
Anthropology: A Very Short
I give you fair warning: there is a considerable amount of reading for this course. You will be asked to read some introductory material; three ethnographies; and a set of articles. In your reading, it is more important to focus on the author’s main points and how s/he constructs the text’s major arguments. Knowledge and understanding of major concepts is far more important than mastering all details of a book or article. Read for the essential content and analysis, and read critically. Periodically I will distribute reading questions to help you identify what is important. Note: please be sure to deal with all the reading questions, even if we do not address them in class. We will not be able to cover every significant detail of the readings, and it will be a part of your job as an independent learner to attend to things left unsaid in class.
Lectures will normally correlate with reading assignments, and you will draw more from lecture and discussion if you maintain the reading pace prescribed in the schedule. Also, periodic quizzes will mandate that you stay abreast of the reading. I strongly encourage you to produce reading notes (or a reading journal). Reading notes should mainly be your responses to the reading. Note passages that seem particularly important, ask questions of the text and evaluate it. Reading notes serve three main purposes: 1) they will enhance your engagement with the reading; 2) they will grease the wheels of discussion (i.e. if you have good notes, you’re better prepared to discuss a text); 3) they will help you prepare for exams (i.e. if you’ve been engaging the text and responding to it, you will be in a stronger position on the exam).
Many class periods over the term will be divided between lecture and discussion. For the latter, we may break up into manageable discussion groups to talk about readings and lectures. Also, in keeping with my belief that students learn better when they assume part of the teaching responsibility, you, in a group with several other students, will lead a discussion at least once during the term. Teams of discussion leaders will be designated in advance. They will prepare topics and questions and guide the discussion for that particular class period.
The better part of your grade will rest on three, non-cumulative take-home essay exams. Each exam will help you think through the ethnographies we will read. At least one week prior to an exam’s due date, I will issue a set of exam questions. You will choose one or two from among the set and answer the question(s) in about three, typed, double-spaced pages (12-point font).
Grading (1000 points possible)
Quizzes 240 points (24%)
Exam 1 200 points (20%)
Exam 2 200 points (20%)
Exam 3 250 points (25%)
Participation 110 points (11%)
Part 1: Introduction to the Field: Culture and Ethnography
Jan 3 Introduction to the Course: Cultural Anthropology and What It’s Good For
Jan 5 Ethnography (or what distinguishes cultural anthropology among the social sciences)
Film: “Franz Boas: The Shackles of Tradition”
Jan 7 Culture: What Is It?
Classroom Activity: The Holistic Perspective in Anthropology
Part 2: Gender and Family in Rural
Jan 10 The
Lecture: Patrilineal and Matrilineal Kinship
Family and Social Structure in Traditional
Lecture: Polygyny, Polyandry, and Economics
Jan 14 Women in the Traditional Chinese Family
Lecture: Kinship and the Politics of Gender
Jan 17 MLK Day: no class
Jan 19 Women in
Film: Small Happiness
Lecture: The Nayar: a Society without Marriage?
Slide lecture: Indian Catholicism in Totonacapan
Film: Q’eros: The Shape of Survival
Jan 28 The Andean Community
Jan 31 Coca and Andean Ritual
Lecture: “Tiyatliway” in Totonac Cosmology
Feb 4 Coca and Cultural Identity
Feb 7 Social
Change in the
Lecture: Shining Path and the War on Drugs
Feb 9 Indigenous Peoples, Development, and
National Identity in
Lecture: Development and Cultural Identity in Totonacapan
Part 4: Applied Anthropology
and Poverty in the
Feb 11 Anthropologists and Homelessness
Lecture: Intro to Applied Anthropology, with particular reference to homelessness
14 History of Homelessness in
Film: Riding the Rails
Second Exam Due
Feb 16 Ethnography of Homelessness
Feb 18 Ethnography Contd.
Lecture: Homeless Social Movements:
Feb 21 Ethnography Conc.
Feb 23 Homelessness and Sense of Place (or Non-Place)
Lecture: “Quality of Life Laws” and Deculturation
Feb 25 Quantifying the Homeless Problem
Feb 28 Race and Homelessness
Film: What’s Wrong with This Picture
Mar 4 Anthropology and Engagement
Mar 9 Anthropology and the Contemporary World
Mar 11 Course Wrap-up
Third Exam Due