Credits: 4 AHS

Hours: 4-0-8

Usually offered: Spring

For information contact: Caitrin Lynch

Course description: Anthropological theories and methods help us understand human behavior and values. Broadly speaking, anthropologists ask, “Why do people do what they do and believe what they believe?” Today, anthropologists study a wide range of contemporary social issues, such as international development, garment manufacturing, the production of scientific knowledge, female “circumcision,” and intellectual property. In this course, we will read about, debate, and discuss these and other issues in order to probe into the meanings of culture, knowledge, and creativity.

  • What do anthropologists mean by culture?
  • What does it mean to take cultural difference seriously?
  • Does culture have an influence on what is considered legitimate “knowledge”?
  • If knowledge is “situated,” what happens when one form of knowledge comes in contact with another (for instance in discussions of global human rights)?
  • What is the relationship between cultural difference, situated knowledge, and human creativity?
  • Does globalization threaten to destroy creativity, stifle innovation, and erase difference?

After we learn how anthropologists deal with these questions at a range of research sites, we will end the course with our own anthropological studies that utilize what we have learned earlier in the course. Students will conduct short research projects that examine social issues pertaining to the use of the Internet in the United States. By ending with a study of ourselves, students will see how creative we really are; that we, too, have culture; and that what we consider legitimate knowledge is culturally situated. The professor will assume no prior knowledge of anthropology. Skills to be developed include critical reading, critical thinking, writing and analysis, presenting arguments in oral and visual form, and working on projects in small groups. The following texts will be used, among others: Jean Davison, Voices from Mutira: Change in the Lives of Gikuyu Women, Daniel Miller and Don Slater, The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach, Jeremy MacClancy, Exotic No More: Anthropology on the Front Lines.