Redesigning Introduction to Anthropology

Michael (moffatt@GANDALF.RUTGERS.EDU)
Tue, 3 May 1994 13:39:19 EDT

A few days ago I posted an inquiry entitled "Burnt Out on Intro,"
requesting ideas on new ways of teaching said course (either Intro
Anthro, or Intro Cult Anthro). I've received half a dozen helpful replies
so far, but am hoping to solicit more.
I'm especially interested in ideas for more interactive teaching --
involving undergraduates more actively, both in small classes and
possibly in the very large classes that are increasingly the norm at
shrinking-budget Rutgers; in ideas of how to balance ethnographies/
article-collections/texts; and in ideas of how to at least tentatively
introduce novices to new currents of interdisciplinary, feminist, cultural
critical, reflexive and deconstructionist thinking in cultural anthropology
(without throwing out the baby, however -- the good old stuff).
To stimulate response, here's a summary of some of the better
advice I've received so far (with my own occasional comments in

-- from <U28550@uicvm.bitnet>
Okay, I'll stick my neck out. Biophysical: J. Z. Young's _Study of
Man_. It's older, but beautifully organized using systems theory all the
way through. Cultural text: Rob Lavenda's and Emily Schultz's Intro
text. Ethnographies-- I use eight of them per semester: _The Forest
People_ and Tonkinson's _Mardudjara_ (HG), Yanamamo and
Schieffelin's _Sorrow of the Lonely and the Burning of the Dancer's_
(Swidden). Ekvall's _Fields on the Hoof_ is still a wonderful book by
an amazing man (pastoralists). Steven Lansing's _Priests and
Programmers_ (Agriculturalists). Kottack's _Assault on Paradise_
(mixed fishing, farming, and change). Raymonde Carroll's _Cultural
Misunderstanding_for cultural difference and ethnocentrism. When I
can get away with it, I love Bohannan's _Return to Laughter_. Hope
this helps. Mike

-- [from an already burnt-out graduate student?],
Jennifer Grace <>
I am just a lousy grad student and what would I know, but one of my
profs wrote an interesting book that is kinda new and hot and kinda
good old ethnography. It's called "Night Work: Sexuality, Pleasure, and
Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club." "Sexuality" int he title
might grab them and actually, the book is quite enjoyable and
interesting and might teach them a bit about ethnography without all
that boring kinship garbage (though now i have to study that
boring kinship stuff!). [I find it interesting that someone at Duke is
apparently requiring as quaint as subject as kinship!].

-- from "H. Lefferts" <> I trashed my
section of cult. anthro. several years back -c an't stand texts, and we
splite bio from cultural. Now I use four or 5 ethnographies. Be pleased
to send you copy of syllabus. Please remember we have no TA's here
and all of the work students turn in (unless I am feeling grouchy) is
papers - 4 or 5 of them (as you'll see). Maybe a combincation of bio
with short text/excerpted papers for 1st third of course, then 2-3
ethnographies for last 2/3rds, focussing on cultural would be an idea.

-- From: wilkr <>
I have successfully used Brown & Podolofsky's
"Applying Anthropology" reader. Also had a great time with "In the
Shadow of the Sacred Grove" as an ethnography last year (it is in the
Vintage travel series - very accessible work on Ivory Coast), by Carol
Spindel. Before I chose the book I found out where she was and asked
if she could come and speak to the class. It was great - students tend to
forget that the people who write ethnographies are real people, and
they asked wonderful questions. I also have guest lectures by
handicapped ethnographers and non-north american ethnographers.
Some of my colleagues swear by "coming of age in new jersey" as an
intro text. Sanday's on gang rape is also provocative.
Rick Wilk

-- From: (John T. Omohundro)
It gives me great pleasure to offer a little advice, especially since I use
YOUR ethnography for my intro, and very successfully too. May I
recommend Mayfield's reader "Applying Cultural Anthropology" or their
"Applying Anthropology" which is even nicer because it is four-fields
[second recommendation for this/these texts].
I DON't think that current trends are easy to teach to beginners,
except, as you have noted yourself, offering a greater reflexivity, a
greater dialogic quality, and new standards for ethnography. I like
Richard Robbins' Cultural Anthropology (Peacock), because it is just
that, plus filled with great exercises he has tested in class. I am a strong
believer in active learning. Break out of the "coverage" syndrome!

-- from>
I have made fair use of the video series, Faces of Culture, as I teach all
four fields of anthropology. I used Havelin last year, but this Fall will
be using Ember and Ember's Anthropology (7th ed). I do a lot of
taping of TV programs and hence use a lot of my own stuff. I hav e
four projects that the students must complete over the semester. One is
to go to our museum and compare the skeletal structure of a chimp and
human and to look at the casts of fossil hominids to see what are the
evolutionary changes. The second project is language of social groups,
the third the student's family genealogy, and the fourth the presence of
magical usuages in our society. In class I have the students write a one
page essay on the film that they have seen. These are critiqued, but not
graded, however, a student looses 10 points if they are not turned in. I
have about 80 students in my section and try for some student
involvement and also to get them to pay some attention. All exams are
of the essay type with 10 questions on an exam. I still have a
fair amount of freshmen indifference and absenteeism, but there is not
much that can be done about that as it is their decision on how they
want to spendtheir time. The students find that where they can have
some input that the class seems more interesting. I should note that
even with heavy input such as a class practicum, a significant number
don't seem to get involved.
Robert Ackerman Department of Anthropology
Washington State University

-- from <>
For an interesting, challenging and enjoyable coverage of "Cultural"try
Schultz and Lavanda's CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY: A
Publishing Company [second recommendation for_this text]. My
traditionally oriented colleagues think that I'm insane for using it, but I
think its great. New Paltz students, whose intellectual level you're
vaguely familiar with, agree with me.
Hoping for more correspondence on this topic, either to the list as a
whole, or directly to me (I'm happy to go on summarizing and reporting
Michael Moffatt
Department of Anthropology
Rutgers, New Brunswick, New Jersey