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Introduction to Anthropology

Anthropology 103: Introduction to Anthropology
Fall 2010
TTh 10:00 – 11:30, 11:30 – 1
Chase 104
Course Description
Anthropology is the study of human beings, within and across specific social and cultural
environments.  In this course we look at some ideas about what it means to be human, and some
institutions, processes, and forces implicated in the formation and transformation of group and
individual identities.  Our approach is ethnographic and comparative: we study particular peoples
and places in depth, and we compare particular places and peoples with one another and with
theoretical models, in order to gain a better understanding of what is general and what is
particular about being human.  We begin with basic concepts in anthropology, such as culture,
society, the practice of ethnography and cultural relativism, and then turn to some disciplinary
history.  Next is a series of topics that anthropologists find important in understanding human
beings, including kinship and gender; everyday practice and identity formation; ideology and
politics; and modernization, capitalism, and globalization.  We end the course by thinking about
the relationships between ethnographers and their informants, what anthropology is about, and
what or whom it is for.
Course Requirements
This course is intended as an introduction to sociocultural anthropology, for those who have
never taken anthropology before.  No background or knowledge of anthropology is needed or
assumed.  Students must attend all classes, complete all readings, participate in classroom
discussion, and take three essay examinations.   
Available in bookstore:
Armbrecht, Ann.  2009.  Thin Places: A Pilgrimage Home.  New York: Columbia University
Available on Blackboard:  
All course articles.
Schedule (subject to change)
Tuesday, 31 Aug: Introduction to the course and instructor.  What is sociocultural
anthropology?  Key concepts: culture, society, enculturation/socialization, holism,
comparative method, cultural relativism, ethnography.   
Unit One: Basic Concepts, Tools, and Some History
Thursday 2 Sept: Core concepts in anthropology continued, and some history.  Readings:
Williams, “Society” and “Culture,” Durkheim, “What is a social fact,” Thin Places
(hereafter TP) preface, chapters 1-5.
Tuesday 7 Sept:  Some history continued: the myth of “human nature,” how geology rocked
the world, social evolutionism, and Franz Boas.  Readings: Hobbes, “Of the natural
conditions of mankind,” Locke, “Of the state of nature,” Smith, “Of the principle which
gives occasion to the division of labor,” Pierpont, “The measure of America (Boas),”
Boas, excerpts from The Mind of Primitive Man.
Thursday 9 Sept:  Franz Boas and historical particularism. Bronislaw Malinowski and the
invention of ethnography.  Functionalism.  Ethnography almost a century later.  
Anthropological activism.  Readings: Malinowski, “Introduction,” TP chapters 6-9.   
Tuesday 14 Sept:  Film: Margaret Mead, An Observer Observed (85 min).
Unit Two: Family, Kinship, Gender
Thursday 16 Sept:  L.H. Morgan and the founding of kinship studies.  Kinship as a system.  
Patrilineal and matrilineal descent, descent and group formation.  Readings:  Fox
“Introduction” to Kinship and Marriage, Malinowski, “The natives of the Trobriand
Islands,” Samburu charts.   
Tuesday 21 Sept (possibly scheduled for Saturday 18 Sept):  The concept of social structure.  
Structural functionalism.  Social organization and rights.  Readings: TP chapters 11-14,
chapter 20.  
Thursday 23 Sept:  Kipat, land tenure, social organization continued.  Exam preparation.  
Exam 1 (take-home) handed out.
Tuesday 28 Sept:  Exam 1 due. Gender and kinship.  Marriage as a social system.  
Readings:  Stone, “Gender, reproduction, and kinship,” Saul, “Corporate authority,
exchange, and personal opposition in Bobo marriages.”
Thursday 30 Sept:  Gender in everyday experience.  Readings:  Watson, “The named and the
nameless,” Kaya, “Dating in a sexually segregated society.”  Film:  Small Happiness (58
Unit Three: Everyday Practice
Tuesday 5 Oct:  Food, provisioning, table manners, class.  Readings:  Cooper, “Chinese
table manners,” Mennell, “On the civilizing of appetite,” Fitchen, “Hunger, Malnutrition,
and Poverty in the Contemporary United States.”  
Thursday 7 Oct:  Dress, consumption, identity, class.  Readings: Turner, “The social skin,”
Gillette, “Fashion among Chinese Muslims,” Roseman, “Strong women, pretty girls.”   
Fall Break
Tuesday 19 Oct:  Learning emotions and the possibilities and limits of cross-cultural
understanding.  Readings:  Briggs, “Mazes of Meaning,” Archer, “Unspoken diversity,”
Bohannon, “Shakespeare in the Bush.   
Thursday 21 Oct:  Race as a social fact.  Readings: Williams, “The alchemy of race and
rights,” Mukhopadhyay and Moses, “Reestablishing Race in Anthropological Discourse,”
“Race, wealth and intergenerational poverty.”
Unit Four:  Ideology and Politics
Tuesday 26 Oct:  History and the past in the present.  Readings: Trouillot, excerpt from
Silencing the Past, Skultans, excerpt from The testimony of lives.
Thursday 28 Oct:  Making sense of the world through religion.  Readings: Evans-Pritchard,
excerpts from Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande, Buyandelgerin,
“Dealing with uncertainty.”  Film:  Witchcraft among the Azande (52 min).
Thursday 2 Nov: Making sense of the world through religion 2.  Readings:  Abu-Lughod,
“Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving,” Wikan, “My son—a terrorist?”
Tuesday 4 Nov: States and the politics of ethnicity.  Exam preparation.  Readings: Gladney,
“The ethnogenesis of the Uighur,” Hart, “Culture, Civilization, and Demarcation at the
Northwest Borders of Greece.  Exam 2 (take home) handed out.
Tuesday 9 Nov:  States and the politics of ethnicity continued.  Exam 2 due.  Film: “We are
all neighbours” (52 minutes).
Unit Five: Modernization, Capitalism, and Globalization
Thursday 11 Nov:  World systems, then and now.  Capitalism.  Core and periphery.  
Readings:  Marx, excerpt; Hopkins and Wallerstein, “Patterns of development of the
modern world system.”
Tuesday 16 Nov:  Capitalism, an intimate view.  Readings:  Willis, excerpt from Learning to
Labor, Thompson, “Time, work discipline, and industrial capitalism.”
Thursday 18 Nov:  Market rationality.  Readings:  Ho, “Situating global capitalisms,” Ong,
“The production of possession.”
Tuesday 23 Nov:  Globalization, the commodification of culture, commodity as culture.”  
Readings:  Notar, “Authenticity anxiety and counterfeit confidence,” Bright, “Heart like a
Car.”  Film: Global Villages (59 minutes).
Unit Six: The Purpose of Anthropology
Thursday 30 Nov:  Wrap-up of globalization-commodification.  Roles for anthropologists:
observers vs. advocate?  Readings:  Scheper-Hughes, “The primacy of the ethical,”
D’Andrade, “Moral models in Anthropology.”
Tuesday 2 Dec:  Collaborative anthropology and new models for research.  Readings:  Cook,
“You can’t put a price on it,”  Gaskew, “Are you with the FBI?”  Gillette, “Making
Neighbors and Nature in Harmony.”   
Thursday 7 Dec:  Catchup and Exam Review.  Course evaluations.
Thursday 9 Dec:  Final Exam. 


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