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Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Professor: Dr. Ali Colleen Neff
Professor Email:
Professor Neffs Office Hours: TR 1-3pm, Washington 116
Teaching Assistant: Jenna Carlson
TA Email:
Class Day/Time: TR 8:00am-9:20am
Class Location: Washington Hall 201
Course Description
Anthropology did not pre-exist itself like other scientific disciplines; rather, it emerged
in contrast to and in argument with prior ideas about how humans live and understand
one another. From colonization to the eugenics movement, the human race has always
been preoccupied with differences that separate but bind groups and individuals across
the world. Anthropology was the first social science to presuppose that all humans
shared a basic framework or capacity. For that alone, the field is radically progressive
not only for refuting the prior belief that differences in humans resulted from different
mental capacities but also for desiring to study the reason of the Other.
This course introduces you to cultural anthropology and encourages you to critically
think about the role of culture in the world. Why do individuals act they way they do?
What holds communities together in the face of change and crisis? What are the effects
of differences in power and larger forces of globalization and development?
By asking such questions, you will dive into the anthropological discipline by exploring
how anthropologists think about the world (social theories), conduct research
(fieldwork), and produce scholarship (ethnography). Culture is broad in its scope, and
likewise is this courses range. By covering topics such as political economy, religion,
development, human rights, gender, traditions, film, and media, you will get an
overview of anthropologys range and discuss fresh perspectives that richly inform
your other courses, possible career choices, and the communities and networks, in
which you are members. You will also learn to conduct ethnographic research and
question your assumptions about cultural difference and power dynamics that govern
commonly held ideas about the world today. This course is designed for students who
have no prior coursework in Anthropology and serves as a required course for Majors
in the Department.
Course Goals and Themes:
1. You will study and develop skills to engage and analyze aspects of culture including
value systems, beliefs, and practices. You will learn to critically analyze how culture is
created, represented, and received. You will also recognize the role of power in
determining individuals and collective differences and in moments of crisis and change.
2. The ethnographies that we read and films that we view all hinge on the fact that
culture is dynamic and fluid. By taking this as a social fact, our goal is to be conscious of
larger movements such as globalization and cultural and technological circulation.

3. By the end of this course, you will be able to critically think about culture through
ethnographic writings and film. The methods that you will study and employ are not
only anthropological but extend to other disciplines such as journalism, theater,
development, and international affairs. By studying such mediums, you will sharpen
your analytical skills and get a broad perspective on the diverse art of storytelling and
its potential impact as a method.
Required Readings:
Except for the required texts below, all other readings will available on Blackboard. If
you miss a class, you can find any in-class handouts outside my office door.
The films that we view in class are part of your assignments. If you do not attend a class
during which a film is screened, you are responsible for viewing it on your own in the
Audio/Visual Department in the library.
Course Requirements:

There is an IN-CLASS MIDTERM on October 17

and is worth 15% of your
final grade.

There is a scheduled final exam on Wednesday, December 10

from 2-5pm
that is worth 25% of your grade. As I do not have control over this schedule, I
cannot administer the final at any other time and you must take it as per the
Registrars Schedule.

There will be four small-group assignments to be completed in-class; assignment

sheets will be given to you, and you will be graded on your participation and
your presence in class when these assignments are given.

There will be four multiple-choice quizzes, worth ten points apiece,

administered randomly throughout the semester. These will be based on any
course lectures given since the previous quiz and will both gauge your
knowledge of the material and your attendance. Only one make-up quiz will be
administered, directly after the final, and will deal with all of the course

Computers are allowed in class but only for note taking and e-reader use. Cell
phones must be turned off and put away for the entirety of class. Kindles/e-
readers will be permitted but with prior notification. If you are caught using of
non-permitted electronics or electronics in a non-permissible way during class,
you will be warned and your participation grade will be negatively affected.

By taking this class and matriculating at William & Mary, you agree to uphold
the Honor Code. Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated and handled
accordingly under within the Honor System at William & Mary.
Being a Critical Actor at William and Mary:
Learning comes from listening, collaborating, and engaging not only your
professor but also your peers. The Research Teams are designed to give you the
opportunity to talk to one another about your fieldwork, larger interests, and
what you take from the readings and class discussions. I will set aside time in
some classes (see below and as needed) for you to meet with your Research
Teams, and I wholly encourage you to meet with your peers outside of class to
discuss the course materials.
I expect you not to just do the readings, but to think about them before coming
to class. No question is too basic or trivial, so come with questions and ideas
about how you relate to the readings. Please also feel free to bring in media
items, news about films, and any other events about activism and advocacy that
you are involved with, including your own fieldwork/research interests.
Graded Item Number of points (of 100 total)
Assignment Sheets will be available for each assignment as it is presented in class
Graded Item Number of points (of 100 total)
Assignment Sheets will be available for each assignment as it is presented in class
Four small-groupwork worksheets, ve points apiece, randomly assigned 20
Four multiple-choice quizzes, ten points apiece 40
Mid-Term Exam, short answer 15
Final Exam, Essay: Wednesday, December 10th, 2-5 p.m. 25
Week 1
August 28
Introduction and Overview of the course
Week 2
Defining the Other/Displaying the Other and the Founders of Anthropology
September 2

1. Franz Boas: Principles of Ethnological Classification and Aims of
Ethnology (Blackboard)
2. Ruth Benedicts Anthropology and the Abnormal (Blackboard)
September 4

1. Fusco, Coco. 1995. "The Other History of Intercultural Performance", p. 556-564 In The
Visual Culture Reader. (Blackboard)
2. NYTimes Article on Ota Benga in the Bronx Zoo (Online and Blackboard):
3. Visit/listen to NPR radio excerpt (Transcript available on Blackboard):
From the Belgian Congo to the Bronx Zoo:
In Class Films:
Couple in a Cage (DVD)
Week 3
Anthropological Pioneers and Anthropologists working for the State
September 9

Reading: Coming of Age in Samoa (Preface through Chapter 4)
September 11

Reading: Meads Coming of Age in Samoa (Chapter 5 through Chapter 10)
Week 4
Pioneers in Question: the Mead-Freeman Controversy
September 16

!% Lutkehaus, Nancy. Margaret Mead: Public Anthropologist. Anthropology Now.
September 15, pp. 29-35.
"% Read following articles about anthropologists/war and look over Iraq Culture Card:,8599,1947095,00.html
Iraq Culture Card (PDF image on Blackboard)
September 18

Reading: Coming of Age in Samoa: Chapters 10 through 14
In Class Film & Discussion:
Margaret Mead and Samoa Film and Discussion of the Mead-Freeman Debate
Week 5
The Dwelling Science: Fieldwork and the Anthropological Method
September 23rd
Reading: Bronislaw Malinowskis Argonauts of the Western Pacific: Introduction and The
Essentials of the Kula
Suggested Reading: Marcel Mauss The Gift (Selections on Blackboard)
September 25

Reading: Selections from Malinowskis Diary, Chagnon NYT Article and Excerpt from
Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes (Chagnon)
Week 6
Symbolic/Interpretative Anthropology
September 30
Reading: Geertz, Clifford, Introduction: Thick Description in The Interpretation of
Culture (1973) (Blackboard)
October 2nd
Reading: Geertz, Clifford. Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight. In Interpretation
of Cultures (1973) (Blackboard)
Week 7
Colonialism, Power, and History
October 7

Readings: Asad, Talal. Introduction,Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter (1973).
Pgs. 9-19.
October 9
Week 8
October 14
October 16
Readings: 2010 Preface to and Chapter 7 of Michael Taussigs The Devil and Commodity
Fetishism (Blackboard)
Week 9
Tourism, Cultural Spectatorship, and Structural Violence
October 21
Readings: Graburn, Nelson. 2002. "The Ethnographic Tourist." The Tourist as a
Metaphor of the Social World. Graham Dann ed. Wallingford: CAB International. pp.
19-39 (Blackboard)
Nader, Laura. Studying Up (Blackboard)
Hannerz, Ulf. Being there, and there . . . and there! Reflections on Multi-Sited
Ethnograhy (Blackboard)
Recommended Sites:
In Class Film: Anthony Bourdains No Reservations (Haiti)
Find images (your own or from outside media) of touristic images. Analyze them and discuss
what they mean or suggest of one who takes the photograph/video clip and of ones who are in/not
in the image. What do such representations suggest in terms of power dynamics between the
beholder/beheld, tourist/native, etc.?
October 23
Farmer, Paul. An Anthropology of Structural Violence (2001 Sidney Mintz Lecture)
Suggested Readings:
Warner, Michael. Publics and Counterpublics (Blackboard)
Excerpts from Linda Polmans The Crisis Caravan (Blackboard)
NPR piece on medical anthropologist and physician, Paul Farmer:
The Atlantic piece by Teju Cole on critique of Kony 2012:
Week 10
Alternative Anthropologies
October 28
Reading: Zora Neale Hurston, Of Mules and Men (Selections on Blackboard)
October 30
Reading: Garcia, Pastoral Clinic: (Selections on Blackboard)
Week 11
Global Creativity, Media, and the Arts in Anthropology
November 4
Reading: Ali Colleen Neff, Voicing the Domestic (On Blackboard)
November 6
Reading: Trinh Minh-Ha: Woman, Native, Other (Selections on Bboard)
In-Class film: Trinh Minh-Has Reassemblage
Week 12
Social Life of Things: Anthropology of Food, Labor, Consumption, Globalization
November 11
Reading: West, Paige. From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social World of
Coffee from Papua New Guinea (Selections on Bboard)
November 13
Small Groupwork exercise: Which Way Home (2009)
Reading: Sidney Mintzs Sweetness and Power (Selections on Blackboard)
Week 13
New Modes of Ethnographic Writing
November 18
Reading: Selections from Clifford and Marcus, Writing Culture (Selections on Bboard)
November 20
Reading: Kathleen Stewart, Ordinary Affects (Selections on Bboard)
Week 14
Reworking the Field: Globalization and Circulation (Continued)
November 25
Reading: Neff, The New Masters of Eloquence (Selections on Bboard)
November 27
Week 15
December 2nd:
Closing lecture, concept review
December 4

Final Exam Review with Jenna Carlson
****The Final Examination is scheduled during Exam Week on Wednesday,
December 10
from 2:00-5:00pm, in the current classroom.