Key Issues in Social and Cultural Anthropology

Course Description: 

The course examines key theoretical concepts and approaches in the history of anthropology, following two parallel paths. The first path focuses on the history of the discipline itself exploring the development of historical particularism, structural functionalism and structuralism.  This path follows the early writings of Boas, Malinowski and Lévi-Strauss up to contemporary poststructuralist theories, including recent debates about culture, fieldwork and modernity. The second, parallel path is thematic and examines key themes and debates in anthropology, namely, nature and culture, myth and ritual, structure and function, culture and history, meaning and power. The course is designed to provide students with knowledge of the inventive traditions as well as a critical perspective on the creative process of theory building in socio-cultural anthropology.

Learning Outcomes: 

As this is an introductory course there are no previous requirements. Students are expected to critically engage the intellectual history of the discipline, address the strength and weakness of different theories and employ the conceptual paradigms in their own research projects.

[1] Careful preparation of assigned readings by the date on which they are to be discussed in class.  Class discussion will require informed participation on the part of all.

[2] Submission via e-learning on the day before class of a substantive discussion question on the then-current reading material for potential use in class discussion on Monday.

NOTE:  A discussion question, to stimulate discussion, not to close it off, is concise; it is not just a declaration of a [= your] position, though in its formulation you probably reveal a positioned perspective on issues.  A discussion question properly emerges, in reading, from your perceiving that there is an issue needing exploration or clarification, perhaps to resolve or at least confront problematic concepts or analyses in one or another of the current week’s readings.  It can involve as well the concurrent or contrastive positions on an issue you may see in two of the readings, the nature of that concurrence or contrast being perhaps in question in some way.  A (very!) short quotation or citation (with page reference) is generally useful to orient discussion of the point, since it gives a textual location to the issue.  The text of the question as formulated should make clear what is being sought in the way of responses; avoid such formats as: “ ‘[Quote].’ Discussion”. 

Class Format:

The course consists of lectures and seminar discussions. We will begin each class with an introductory lecture that treats the themes and readings for that week. The second part should function to promote class discussion and student-led conversation about the various reading assignments and other materials.

Assessment: 

Each student will have to prepare at least 3 discussion questions throughout the term, in response to texts discussed in class.

MID-TERM TAKE HOME EXAM: You will have a choice of three questions which you should answer via a short essay (1000 words) which is meant to help you practice your ability to apply theory to empirical case studies. T  You will normally have 48 hours to do this, if you require longer because of any issues to do with using or accessing  computer, please let me know.

FINAL TAKE HOME EXAM: You will have a choice of three questions which will encourage you to critically examine the strengths and weaknesses of the theories you have studied.  The paper should be 1500- 2000 words.  You will normally have 48 hours to do this, if you require longer because of any issues to do with using or accessing  computer, please let me know.

Reading and Participation: 15%
Discussion questions 15%
Midterm Exam: 35%
Final Take Home Exam: 35%

Prerequisites: 

n/a