“Life Course Ethnography”
Students get hands on experience using qualitative methods and theories for a comparative and field-based study of the life course. The semester starts by throwing common sense definitions of age out the window and then putting them together again in the first module’s interview project: How Old Are You?. Students explore how school has changed their lives and consider school policy as a cultural construction of age. After learning about participant observation, they will choose unfamiliar places to do their own mini-fieldwork. Students code their data and transform it into ethnographic “flights” as we work together towards developing an edited collection course ebook. Every week, students will work on a new step of their methods projects, read ethnographic materials with guides, watch short Professor Talks videos, and discuss questions that they develop with their small groups on Blackboard. As students learn how to conduct interviews, policy analysis, participant observation, and ethical research they will translate their real life experiences through critical analysis and creative presentation skills.
“Bodies, Genders, Sexualities”
This course takes an anthropological approach to examining the relationship between the body, gender, and sexuality. We will map out the many different ways of understanding topics as apparently universal as genitals, pregnancy, womanhood, masculinity, desire, and love. We will delve into questions exploring the boundaries and significance of embodied experience, the pluralization of genders and sexualities, and the connections between age, race, class, gender and sexuality. The course incorporates theoretical insights and empirical work from diverse sources, including medical and biocultural anthropology, postcolonial and transnational feminisms, and transgender scholarship, among others. Analyses of gender, sexuality and materiality are grounded with concrete examples from course readings and films to help students reason through and then apply social theory to the world around them. This is a reading-intensive course.
“People of Latin America”
From North American emigration, to Central American gangs, to Caribbean tourism, to South American indigenous groups, this beginning anthropology class will survey some of the major topics of Latin American anthropology. Class time will be dedicated to hands-on activities based on the ethnographic, theoretical, and applied articles read at home. Students will apply anthropological data collection methods in a semester long creative project based on participant observation in online expat communities living in South America. Creative alternatives to a final exam include an art project, an Op-Ed, an interpretative dance, or a children’s book.
“Many Ways of Being Human”
One of my favorite anthropologists once said, “It may be in the cultural particularities of people – in their oddities – that some of the most instructive revelations of what it is to be generically human are to be found” (Geertz 1977:43). In this class, we will be looking for particularities in how things like age, gender, and ethnicity are shaped and experienced in social interactions and practices. Ethnography, the main method of cultural anthropology, helps readers to understand how experiences are embedded in different cultural contexts. By reading and discussing several ethnographies during the course of the semester, we will begin to see how individual experiences are organized differently in different social groups, both elsewhere and here at home. Together we will aim to make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.