Bilinda Straight

Moore Hall 1001; Tel: 387-0409                                


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ANTH 6090: Ethnohistory


The purpose of this graduate seminar in Ethnohistory is to examine the scope of ethnohistoric theory, method, and practice from an anthropological perspective. The seminar is a required course for the Ethnohistory Graduate Certificate Program. Although there remains some debate as to whether Ethnohistory constitutes a separate field of study, practitioners share the realization that benefits obtain through the use of multiple lines of evidence to study history and culture. Ethnohistorians recognize that documents, archaeological findings, oral histories, and ethnographies can be profitably compared, contrasted, and integrated to elucidate the histories and cultural contexts of groups that have been conventionally ignored in historical accounts. Thus, interdisciplinary study is incumbent in ethnohistory as a means of examining both non-Western societies as well as subaltern voices of those who have been written out of traditional histories. Moreover, by juxtaposing multiple lines of evidence, the ethnohistorian can at once examine the distant and the local, the general and the particular, to bring human experience into better focus.


Armed with theoretical perspectives that foreground the experiences of such populations, along with the methodological tools that can elucidate process and event, structure and action, ethnohistorians can turn their gaze on a near infinite range of issues anywhere in the world. Fertile areas of inquiry have included the cultures and histories of peoples on all continents, often but not exclusively in the post-Columbian era. The seminar will help us to examine the practical parameters and challenges of Ethnohistory so that we may begin to practice it ourselves.


Required Books


¯ James, Wendy (eds). The Qualities of Time.

¯ Comaroff, Jean. Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance.

¯ Cole, Jennifer. Forget Colonialism?

¯ Coursepack, available at Dollar Bill.


Grading (See Grading Key for complete instructions)


            Attendance/Participation        15%                 Reading Abstracts       25%

            Annotated Bibliography         20%

            Research Essay                       40%


Attendance/Participation (15% of grade)


In a class of this kind and size, 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. Participation will weigh in here but no one will be penalized for shyness.


Reading Abstracts (25% of grade)


Each week, you will write critical responses (approximately one page) to ALL readings for that week (25% of grade). These responses should help you frame your questions and participation in discussions. Although these are not formal essays, they must be typed, and are expected to be critical commentaries that reflect your understanding and response to the reading. You must write about all of the readings for the week in your weekly response. Grades will be 0 (not turned in on time); 1 (equal to 75 pts.—more effort was needed); 2 (equal to 85 pts.—good); 3 (equal to 95 pts—excellent); 4 (100 pts—outstanding). All written work in this class will be graded based on content, style, and mechanics.


Annotated Bibliography (20% of grade):


This will be an essay and annotated bibliography of sources you are using for your research project. Begin with an introduction that includes the thesis statement or argument you will be pursuing. Discuss the kinds of material and evidence you will use to pursue your argument. Next, provide a one-paragraph summary for each of 5 sources, and a sentence or two of how they should be useful to your project. Include full bibliographic information for each of these sources, and do not include course readings!  Course readings should be used for your project where appropriate but do not count towards this assignment. You must use at least one book. Web sources are not allowed (except for downloaded articles from scholarly journals available online). DUE OCTOBER 20th


Final Project (40% of grade): 


This will be a major research paper (15-20 pp) on a topic of your choosing that employs methods and practices developed in this course. Ideally, you will select a topic with which you are already familiar, particularly one that will assist you in completing your program requirements.


Citation Format: Include a bibliography for anything you cite. When you cite, quote, or paraphrase in text, put an in-text citation in parentheses (authorÕs 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 someoneÕs 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).


Bilinda StraightÕs

Grading Key


All letter grades are converted into a quantitative grade (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, 3 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.


                                    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


Reading Schedule


Week 1 (9/1) Course Introduction, Syllabus, etc.


Week 2 (9/8) Foundations

Shepard Krech III (CP)

Bernard S. Cohn (CP)

Introduction to Qualities of Time

Gold (CP)

Robert Ulin (CP)
Weeks 3 & 4 (9/15 & 9/22) Histories


Donham, plus Comaroff response, Week 3 (CP)

ComaroffÕs Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: Read half for Week 3, half for Week 4


Week 5 (9/29) Other Histories, Part I


Wolf (CP)

Megersa and Kassam in Qualities

Dilley in Qualities


Week 6 (10/6) Other Histories, Part II

Straight, in Qualities

Chalcraft, in Qualities

Lane, in Qualities

Week 7 (10/13) Otherizing History


Watts, in Qualities

Wingfield, in Qualities



Week 8 (10/20) Theorizing the Present

Fardon, in Qualities

Bolton, in Qualities

Rack, in Qualities



Week 9 (10/27) Embodying Histories

Marx (CP)

Taussig (CP)

Gordillo (CP)
Week 10 (11/3) Embodying Memories


Pierre Bourdieu (CP)

Foucault (2 book excerpts, CP)

Connerton (CP)


Week 11 (11/10) And Forgetting, Part I


Ricoeur (CP)

Cole, Forget Colonialism? Read first half.

Week 12 (11/17) And Forgetting, Part II


Cole, Forget Colonialism? Read second half

Wengrow, in Qualities

Straight (CP)



NO CLASS November 24th (Thanksgiving)

NO CLASS December 1st (AAA)


Research Projects due Finals Week.