Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology
E200 | 5222 | Stoeltje
The ways in which people order their lives and understand themselves
as individuals who belong to communities is at the heart of social and
cultural anthropology. Contemporary global conditions have brought all
societies closer together, creating situations that cry out for
greater understanding as diasporas have increased the mobility of
peoples who have migrated or been displaced from their homes,and
disparities among peoples have increased due to the effects of war and
This class focuses on the way that specific peoples in particular
locations confront and resolve similar challenges: how the group is
organized to maintain its identity as well as survival, how social
relationships are maintained, how females and males are defined, and
how societies respond to changing conditions. These include rituals
such as weddings, sports, and gift giving, for example.
Special attention will be devoted to the circumstances in which
historical conditions, such as imperialism and colonialism, combined
with contemporary globalization, create conflicts of interest or
upheavals. We will approach these conditions to explore the
challenges faced by specific communities and how they respond to them.
The peoples of Afghanistan are one example.
We will also examine the means by which social and cultural
anthropologists go about producing ethnographic research with the goal
of understanding the lives of specific people. The results of this
empirical field research are ethnographic texts that tell the stories
of people's lives and what is important to them. Such ethnographies
provide the reading for this course. In addition to the readings on a
topic, we will see a number of films and videos.
Examples will include one study of an African society (the Kabre of
Togo), and one study of a Native American society (Mescalero Apache)
along with others.
As we read about and work through the different topics, two kinds of
questions will guide our understanding: the first examines the
external and internal forces that shape cultures and individuals;
the second examines the processes by which anthropologists understand
the cultures in which they work.
We will conduct two mini-ethnographies - projects in which students
observe social life in their own environment and write about it.
Reading is to be done on the day it is assigned.
Midterm and Final