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Anthr 101 Course Description

What is anthropology? What does it mean to 'think anthropologically?'

Anthropology is the study of human beings in all times and in all places. Anthropologists study all aspects of human being in the broadest possible sense. The goal of this course is to help you develop a demonstrated capacity to 'think anthropologically.' When you understand what this means, you will be half way there. To wit, thinking anthropologically entails developing a capacity to see culture at work in a way that helps you develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be human and how humans experience the world. Culture is at work everywhere. Culture runs deep. Culture involves things that are so fundamental to your way of seeing the world that you don't even notice it is there--you just experience it as reality. Thinking anthropologically entails learning to see culture at work in order to understand human 'being' at a deeper level.


American anthropology has included the comparative study of human variation across contemporary societies and historical eras, as well as biological variation between humans and non-human primates in order to understand evolutionary origins of humanity. Through the course of the 20th century, American anthropology has taken the form of a 'four field approach' to the study of mankind. These fields include archaeology, biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and cultural anthropology (in the British system it is termed "social anthropology"). While the distinctions between these fields are certainly blurred, this framework has provided at least a partial division of labor for the discipline in the United States. This course will largely focus on social/cultural anthropology, while also situating it in relation to the other subfields.

We will cover some of the central debates in the field with regards to the concept of culture, competing theoretical perspectives (e.g. functionalism, structuralism, and post-structuralism, etc.), and methodological perspectives on which anthropologists base their assertions. Subsequently, we will discuss some of the important phenomena with which anthropologists have engaged in cross-cultural research. We will read and discuss cross-cultural (ethnographic) data on these phenomena and seek to understand competing theoretical frameworks through which anthropologists have sought to explain human cultural systems. We will round out the course with some readings and discussions in a few subfields of sociocultural anthropology, and consider why anthropological perspectives are valuable to your own field or major, outside of an anthropological specialization itself. This will include an understanding of how anthropology is being increasingly applied to a variety of fields, including business, international and community development, education, etc. I hope that you come away from this course with a genuine understanding of how 'thinking anthropologically' can benefit your own course of study, no matter what that may be.


In this course we will take a topical approach to the study of sociocultural anthropology. As opposed to using a textbook that would offer explanations of various concepts in the field, we will be engaging with anthropologists' first-hand accounts, writings, and arguments with respect to various topics. The goal of this approach is to gain a greater depth of understanding to various topics of interest to anthropologists. Lectures will seek to more broadly cover essential concepts and historical developments in the field, but daily readings will be more focused. Class periods will consist of both lecture elements as well as discussions of the focused readings. Thus, it is essential for students to read each article or passages from the required texts thoroughly before coming to class.


This course is certified to fulfill two General Education (GE) requirements: 1. Global and Cultural Awareness; and 2. Social Science. Information on the Learning Outcomes for these GE categories can be found on Learning Suite.

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