Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
This course is an introduction to the methods, theories, and history of cultural anthropology, the comparative study of human societies in all their remarkable complexity and diversity. A special mandate of the field is to discover new and less harmful ways of perceiving and understanding the different experiences, practices, histories, and values of people and communities from all parts of the world. This course is designed to examine the ways people within a range of societies—including African, New Guinean, and U.S. American—make sense of and order their lives. It emphasizes that other possibilities, beyond the ones we are most familiar with, exist for solving problems and for achieving meaningful lives. The course serves to introduce the beginning student to several primary domains of social-cultural anthropology, including the concepts of culture and fieldwork; kinship and social organization; economic systems; gender and sexuality; language; sickness and healing; and cultural contact and change. The course will also consider the often pernicious effects of class, caste, ethnic, racial and gender hierarchies in human societies, and will explore the theme of globalization, from the period of European colonial expansion, when anthropology first came into being, to the current “global era,” when many societies have become increasingly part of a world-embracing political, economic and cultural community.
Good Food: Culture, Consumption and Production
Anthropologists have wide-ranging interests in food: it is central to human life and therefore basic to fulfilling human needs, but also deeply cultural. People give meaning to the consumption of food, the meaning of bodies, the distribution and production of food in ways that define the social world in appropriate social relationships. This courses explores how societies build connections between what we eat and who we are and between definitions of good food as linked to definitions of a good society and the good life. We will discuss how people define themselves and their cultures via food production, distribution, preparation, and consumption. This class will also critically examine food systems at local and global levels.
Genders, Sexualities, and Culture
Gender has to do with the ways people define and experience what it is to be male and/or female. In all societies, people organize social relationships and identities, ideologies and symbolic systems, in terms of gender, but they do so in different ways. In this course, we will examine the ways individuals and societies imagine, experience, impose and challenge gender and sexuality systems in a diversity of social-cultural settings. One of the aims throughout the course will be to explore other societies as a means of better understanding and critiquing our own. The course provides students a foundational approach to critically examining gender in social science and in their everyday lives. This course also provides a historical overview of feminism in social science.
One of the aims of anthropology is to "to grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world" (Malinowski, 25). Anthropologists employ many strategies, methods, and approaches to understand this point of view and related cultural context. This class is designed to give students hands-on experience with qualitative methods as well as build awareness around the benefits and limitations of such methods. The course begins with an introduction to ethnography as a way of collecting empirical data and as a way of thinking. We then explore specific methods, while students develop their own research proposals. Then we will read ethnography, more about methods, and then ethnography again. Finally, we finish the semester by considering the social and political contexts of anthropological research by questioning the culture concept.
Medicine, Body, Culture
This course is an introduction to critical areas of inquiry in medical anthropology. By examining the socio-cultural dimensions of sickness and healing cross-culturally, we will explore how anthropologists have approached historical and contemporary problems in the global field of medicine. While our course trajectory will lead us to treat Western biomedicine as only one among many systems of meaning and authority, we will also spend some time deconstructing the often unspoken assumptions that govern this field, thereby complicating the notion that the latter is somehow insulated from the reach of culture. We will also focus on issues of power, inequality, and gender and health.
Food, Fat, and Fitness
This course explores the medicalization of food, fat, and fitness. This course depends heavily on interdisciplinary perspectives to explore the connections between body size and culture, examining fatness not just as a public health issue but as a socially, culturally, historically, morally and political constructed category related to gender, race, sexuality, and class. While we will explore biocultural approaches to obesity; this course is not a biomedical study of the “obesity epidemic” but instead will examine the discourses and vocabulary used to describe this current “crisis" paying particular attention to food and fitness.