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Course Information

Instructor Info:Leyla Keough
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
12:30 PM - 01:50 PM Cole Science Center 121
12:30 PM - 01:50 PM Cole Science Center 121

In this class, you will be introduced to the main concepts and central problems of cultural anthropology. This course will provide you with theories and methods anthropologists have used to understand the similarities and differences of humans. While we are sure to delve into the “exotic” ideas and practices of far-away peoples, we will also investigate “strange” ideas and practices of our own. What makes a cultural anthropologist is not just who or where or even what we choose to study, but how we study it and our perspective on humankind. Anthropology helps us understand common global issues --- issues of power and social change -- through the investigation of the particular, local, cultural meanings in people’s daily lives. In this course, we explore these issues through close reading of ethnographies on a range of topics (including class, race, gender, and global migration). Students will be expected to participate actively in discussions, write short weekly commentaries, compose longer critical analytic essays, and conduct a presentation. In the end, I hope you will acquire an appreciation of the value of the anthropological perspective for understanding the global diversity of peoples and practices, as well as the complexity of processes of social change.


We enter the topic of culture and power through discussion of anthropology’s core concepts -- cultural relativism, holism, context, cross-cultural comparison, and participant observation. In this first part of the course, we will also explore the history of anthropology and different notions of culture and power. Here, we investigate anthropology’s theoretical frameworks -- evolutionism, functionalism, structuralism, interpetivism, and postmodernism. These foundational concepts and theories, covered in the take-home first essay assignment, will provide a launching pad for us to analyze contemporary ethnographies. The issues of ideology and resistance in terms of race and class in the US will be taken up in Bourgois’ In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. This book takes up – and refutes – the idea of “a culture of poverty.” Reflecting on this, you will be asked to critique current representations of poverty in a short paper assignment. From here, we move on to the topic of ‘culture,’ transnationalism, and gender identities in What’s Love Got To Do With It? Transnational Desire and Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic. Your next project will be to research and analyze an ethnography of your own choosing, on a topic of interest to you, present this analysis to the class, and write it up in a short paper. Your final take-home essay will cover the ethnographies we have read in the second part of the course, but is also comprehensive.