AN2400, Fall 2003


Principles of Culture


This course is an introduction to the basic concepts, theoretical approaches, and methodological strategies employed in the study of traditional and contemporary sociocultural systems throughout the world. Attention will be given to research techniques and the insights derived from detailed case studies and cross-cultural comparisons. We will read some of the liveliest anthropological scholarship spanning the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. Our discussions of these works will be complemented by films, activities, and a few demonstrations.


Required Course Readings


Hurston, Zora Neal. 1935. Mules and Men. New York, NY: Harper Perrenial.


Powdermaker, Hortense. 1966. Stranger and Friend. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.


Turner, Edith. 1992. Experiencing Ritual: A New Interpretation of African Healing. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.


Nanda, Serena. 1999. Neither Man Nor Woman: The Hijras of India. Second Edition. New York, NY: Wadsworth Publishing Company.


Holtzman, Jon. 2000. Nuer Journeys, Nuer Lives: Sudanese Refugees in Minnesota. Boston, MASS: Allyn and Bacon.



Also, On Reserve: Anthropology and Humanism Volume 27, Number 1 (June 2002). Special Issue: Conflict at the Center of Ethnography. Pp. 3-59.



Grading (See Grading Key for complete instructions)


            Attendance                  20%                 Essay Two                              20%

            Reading Proofs            20%                 Essay Two                              20%

            Exercises                     20%


Attendance (20% of grade)

Your presence and participation are essential to the quality of the experience for others as well as yourself. Your attendance grade will be based on the number of days you are absent, calculated as points missed on a one-hundred percent scale. For example, if you attended 23 of 26 classes you would have 88 ½% for your attendance grade, which would be about 18 out of 20 possible points for this portion of your grade. You are allowed one excused absence only, with fully documented, appropriate excuse. Additional excused absences will be fully at my discretion (conference attendances are encouraged but only one can be used for an excused absence; additional conferences, family trips, alternative speakers or venues are your choice and will be tolerated but not excused).


Reading Proofs (20% of grade)

There will be no formal examinations in this class. However, I do expect you to come prepared to each class, having carefully read the assigned readings. You will be asked at each class to spend five minutes (and no more) writing an answer to a question (or two) I will pose. Your ability to answer these questions will of course depend on your having done the reading. You will get a 0 for the day if it is clear that you haven’t read. You will get a 1 for the day if you have, and a high pass (1.2) if your answer reflects a great deal of thoughtfulness. Your reading proofs grade will be calculated like your attendance grade, but in this case your high passes will allow you to get more than 20% of the spread to boost your overall grade.


Exercises (20% of grade)

There will be periodic small assignments relating to the topics we are covering. Many of these will be accomplished in class, although some will require work outside of class time. Combined, they will account for 20% of your overall grade.


Essay One (20% of grade)

Using the books we have read so far, write an essay on the topic of your choice. Suggestions will be given on a handout.


Essay Two (20% of grade)

Using the books and articles from the second half of the course, write an essay on the topic of your choice. Suggestions will be given on a handout.


Citation method for essays: Include a bibliography for anything you cite. When you cite, quote, or paraphrase in text, put an in-text citation in parentheses (author’s last name, date, page number if a direct quote).  It looks like this: (Straight 1997) for citation or paraphrase, (Straight 1997: 37) for direct quote. You should always cite when you are drawing upon someone’s research or ideas. If you conduct any of your own interviews, you should create pseudonyms for your respondents and cite quotations from those interviews like this (Miller interview, 2002).


Academic Integrity: You are responsible for making yourself aware of and understanding the

policies and procedures in the Undergraduate Catalog (pp. 268-269)/Graduate Catalog (pp. 26-27) that pertain to academic integrity. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification

and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If you believe

you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing. You should consult with me if you are uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or test.

Bilinda Straight’s

Grading Key


All letter grades are converted into a quantitative grade and quantitative grades into a qualitative grade for the semester (see key below). All quantitative semester grades are multiplied by the percentage of the spread they represent. Thus, if attendance is worth 20% of the grade, it would be calculated as follows: If you were absent 3 times out of 30 total class days, you would be counted as absent 3 times. Three out of 30 is 10 percent absence, or 90% presence. So you have a 90 on attendance, multiplied by 20% of the spread, gives you 18. All grades thus calculated are added together to equal the total percentage out of one hundred.  Your semester grade is then calculated as per the key below. Using this key and instructions, you can keep track of your own grade as the semester progresses, but always feel free to ask me for assistance in calculating it.


                                    Grade Scale for Final Grades


97-100                 A+


94-96                   A


87-93                   BA


84-86                   B


77-83                   CB


74-76                   C


67-73                   DC


60-66                   D


below 60              E


Course schedule


Remember, as John Lennon said, life is what happens while you're making other plans.


As Buddha said, change is inherent in the universe.


Like everything, this schedule is subject to change. Indeed, the only contract for readings I will make here is that you will indeed read what follows. I reserve the right to add readings as we go (though it’s not likely).


Week One: 8/28


Topics: Overview of course (10 minutes). Introduction to Sub-Fields of Anthropology (10 minutes).


Activities: Film: Papua New Guinea: Anthropology on Trial.


Week Two: 9/2 and 9/4


Topics: Overview of fieldwork methods, “culture” concept and cultural relativism, early evolutionist perspectives, preliminary discussion of Hurston’s book.


Activity: Reading Dr. Seuss’s “The Sneetches.”


Reading: Zora Neal Hurston—Read the Preface, Foreword, Introduction, and Chapters One through Four this week (through p. 75).


Week Three: 9/9 and 9/11


Topics: Franz Boas, anthropology, gender, and race in the US during Hurston’s era; language, fieldwork, and ethnographic writing in context of Hurston’s book.


Tuesday Activity: Card game (race concept).


Thursday Activity: Transcribing a spoken story excerpt with dialogue


Reading: Zora Neal Hurston, Chapters Five through Ten (through p. 179, end of Part I).


Week Four: 9/16 and 9/18


Topics:  Colonialism; Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, and British anthropology (functionalism, structural-functionalism); discussion of Powdermaker’s book


Reading: Hortense Powdermaker, Preface through Chapter Eight (pp. 9-99).


Week Five: 9/23 and 9/25


Topics: Anthropology of exchange; discussion of Powdermaker’s book


Tuesday Activity: Marriage Game (with moieties, cross-cousin marriage)—20 minutes


Thursday Activity: Cost/benefit, “rational choice” prestige game (with Hershey Kisses)—20 minutes


Reading: Hortense Powdermaker, Chapters Nine through Eighteen (pp. 100-198)


Week Six: 9/30 and 10/2


Topics: Comparison between Hurston and Powdermaker on doing fieldwork in the “negro” south, colonialism, gender, and race issues re-visited, responses to Powdermaker


Reading: Hortense Powdermaker, Chapters Nineteen through Epilogue (pp. 199-306).


Week Seven: 10/7 and 10/9


Topics: Approaches to conflict, conflict in fieldwork experience, critical approaches to reading and writing anthropology (Tues); Confict cont.; Intro to symbolic approaches, aesthetics (Thurs)


Reading: Anthropology and Humanism, pp. 3-59 (on reserve).


Week Eight: 10/14 and 10/16


Topics: Victor Turner and symbolic approaches to anthropology, art and aesthetics


Activities: Material Culture Demonstrations (Thursday)


Reading: Edith Turner, Preface through Chapter Two (pp. xi-53).




Week Nine: 10/21 and 10/23


Topics: Rationality arguments, problem of belief, discussion of film (Thurs)


Activities: Film: Inventing Reality (Tues).


Reading: Edith Turner, Chapters Three and Four (pp. 54-102).


Week Ten: 10/28 and 10/30


Topics: Phenomenological and experiential approaches, religion, belief


Activities: Ritual (with write-up assignment)


Reading: Edith Turner, Chapters Five through Coda (pp. 103-180).


For Next Tuesday: Gendering in Television Ads Assignment (virtual handout)


Week Eleven: 11/4 and 11/6


Topics: Gender: critical approaches


Tuesday Activity: Gendering in television ads assignment discussion


Thursday Activity: Film Shorts: “XXXY” and “No Dumb Questions”


Reading: Serena Nanda, Chapters One through Six (pp. 1-82).


Week Twelve: 11/11 and 11/13


Topics: Gender and transgender


Tuesday Activity: Film, “Paradise Bent”


Reading: Serena Nanda, Chapters Seven through Epilogue (pp. 83-158).


Week Thirteen: 11/18 NO CLASS 11/20 (Anthro Mtgs)


Topics: Globalization and inequality, issues in economic development


Activities: Refugee Exercise


Reading: Jon Holtzman, Chapters One and Two (pp. 1-27).


Week Fourteen: 11/25 NO CLASS 11/27 (Thanksgiving)


Topics: Refugee issues, anthropology of peace and war


Tuesday Activity: Debate


Reading: Chapters Three and Four (pp. 29-70).


Week Fifteen: 12/2 and 12/4


Topics: Applied anthropology on Tuesday; Review of Course and concluding discussions on Thursday


Reading: Chapters Five through Seven (pp. 71-135).