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Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human. Anthropologists take a global view of humanity. They start from the assumption that diversity is a defining characteristic of the human species. Hence, there are no superior, inferior, right, correct, natural, or normal ways to live. In this class we will introduce you to sociocultural anthropology, which examines people’s everyday life as members of one or another kind of community, each having its own unique way of life.
Anthropology has a critical edge that, we argue, other social sciences often lack. This has to do with our core assumption about people. If there is no one single right way to be, then why do we have to be this way, here and now? If people in Kudwe village in Togo or Utku Inuit of Nunavut, Canada have each created their own unique way of living, why do we have to get food from the store, or follow doctor’s orders when we want to have kids? Anthropologists are not merely interested in detached observation or collection of exotic trivia. Anthropologists talk back to their own societies based on what they have learned from stepping into the place of another person who lives another way.
In this class, we will introduce you to anthropology as a form of cultural critique. We will use anthropology’s way of thinking about everyday life to ask critical questions—Why this way? Couldn’t it be some other way?—about the societies in which we ourselves live.
2020 is a very interesting year in which to be learning how to critique our own cultures because it seems like everything people think is normal is being called into question. The very idea of progress has been canceled #thereisnosuchthingasmodernity. The lecturers and tutors in this class have decided to embrace this change, and put students in the driver’s seat. That’s why we have set up this class in this way.
Assignments: Qualitative analysis of a birth interview, Cultural contextualization of an observation about childhood, Assessing Mauss’s influence: An exercise in research skill, Constructive criticism of a colleague’s Mauss research, Critique of your own cultural assumptions, Lecture questions
Class info: Welcome to anthropology, What is anthropology, and why should we care?, What we will do in class, Attendance, timetables, lectures, tutorials, and the hybrid format of this class, Late work, special consideration, and no-disadvantage assessment, The keys to success in this class, How to Zoom to class, Types of scholarly writing, Writing an effective email, Formatting and software requirements for assignments