So, in these days of changing course structures and degree demands (especially in Europe a la Bolognese), we all who are involved with teaching are challenged to adapt.
The form of adaptation I am interested here (there are many more) is the laboratory situation where anthropology (social, cultural) is not a main degree course, but just something students might take one or two classes in on their way to a different degree, say, sociology. That is, if one wants to adapt to a reduction of available classroom time by focusing on what is particular and peculiar to anthropology. So, they will of course gain some insight from an overview of disciplinary history, and reading some classical monographs, sure, but my question really is: What can we as anthropologists teach our students, what can they learn from us which they will likely not learn elsewhere?
Comparison? Relativism? Bongo-bongo-sim? Deconstruction of all reifications? Processualism? Appreciation of emergence? The cognitive side of language, categories and culture?
The comments on the other discussion thread (i.e., cross-cultural variation) are well taken, but I hope that we can come up with some more ideas and debate them with some enthusiasm.

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Right - so that was unclear, sorry for that. To clarify:
I ask you to put yourself in a situation where you (as an anthropologist) had one course you were teaching for students who (due to their specific curricula) will likely take one or two courses labeled as "anthropology", tops. You are under no great constraints what specifically you have to teach theses students.
What would you consider especially worthwhile to include in your course design? This, as you suggested, does not need to be a "what", but could also be a "how".

I am not going into the "what is anthropology/identity" direction, rather, very practically, think of how generic students could maximally benefit from our generalized expertise.
My classes in anthropology are always the introductions, since I am still a grad student. In a class of anywhere from 70 to 90 students we may have a handful who plan on becoming anthropology majors (or who already are, and taking the courses late in their academic career). This course fits into their general educational requirements, is always offered at a convenient time, and the class is full of everyone from BioMed and Engineering majors to Linguistics and Art students.

I tussled with this question myself the first time I taught Intro to Cultural, and decided on a few important things I could teach them that they might not get elsewhere. We take a long look at what culture is and isn't, talk about subcultures and ethnicities, and have discussions on race as a cultural construct. We delve into concepts, looking at something holistically and understanding that cultural relativism does not mean moral relativism. I teach and then give them multiple assignments that involve participant observation, something that will heighten their skills no matter which major they pursue and something that we as anthropologists do particularly well. I try to teach them to step outside their Western mindsets and look at situations from another person's point of view.

We read a variety of articles and short excerpts from monographs. The ones last year that got them thinking the most included Scheper-Hughes' "Death Without Weeping" and material on the HTS. The debates went on for several class periods, and it was great to see the understanding grow in their responses on our discussion boards. We offer them a glimpse into the commonality of the human experience that they don't get in other disciplines.
Frank Broszeit said:
To come back to the How, you really cant teach something. You're just able to show your interest and involvement in some topics and thats a keypoint too.

Exactly. I can point them in the right direction, I can show them my enthusiasm for the topics, and hopefully it will be contagious.
Thank you for the thoughtful questions. It seems to me, that in this kind of class, there are things that anthropology has worked in a way other disciplines have not.

The first, of course, is the concept of culture. I do not mean by this an extended theoretical discussion of the concept, but the basic fundamental awareness of culture and its impact. My students seem to feel that their thoughts and behaviors come entirely (this is an exaggeration) from their own individual choices and personality. Through the process of comparison with other cultures they gradually discover how they too are caught in the web. This, of course, raises issues of agency. The encounter with cultures different than their own is also important. Many students today are willing to accept the differences between cultures, but they do it with an attitude of "that's their culture, so its cool and it really doesn't have anything to do with me." Anthropology courses can force the students to really see differences and then to begin, hopefully, to understand them, to see that a way of life that is very different from our own also has meaning, even logic to it. Sometimes, the way others do things may even seem superior or beautiful. Again, of course, this then reflects back on one's own culture which begins to be seen as a choice out of many alternatives rather than the only reasonable way to do things. I think these are all important lessons, and they are ones that come out of our courses more strongly than elsewhere. For me, the specific material of the course is secondary to these general concerns.

The other matter, however, that we can offer is a type of method which they will not experience in many other courses (perhaps sociology). We can have our students directly gather primary cultural data from live human beings though interview, observation or other methods. We can then have them try to analyze the data they gathered. I have had students from my "Fieldwork" course report to me that their fieldwork project was one of the few things they really remembered from college years later. Based on this, I personally, am trying to think of ways to get students "doing" anthropology in as many of my classes as possible. Figuring this out is taking some real effort, and I think it will increase the grading load while reducing course content, but I am pretty sure it will be worthwhile.


PS -- apologies to those of you who are not assuming that this is a cultural anthro class. Its about all I teach.
I just replied to your post on the class assignment with international students touching this very thing!

Bill Guinee said:
Thank you for the thoughtful questions. It seems to me, that in this kind of class, there are things that anthropology has worked in a way other disciplines have not.

The first, of course, is the concept of culture. I do not mean by this an extended theoretical discussion of the concept, but the basic fundamental awareness of culture and its impact. My students seem to feel that their thoughts and behaviors come entirely (this is an exaggeration) from their own individual choices and personality. Through the process of comparison with other cultures they gradually discover how they too are caught in the web. This, of course, raises issues of agency. The encounter with cultures different than their own is also important. Many students today are willing to accept the differences between cultures, but they do it with an attitude of "that's their culture, so its cool and it really doesn't have anything to do with me." Anthropology courses can force the students to really see differences and then to begin, hopefully, to understand them, to see that a way of life that is very different from our own also has meaning, even logic to it. Sometimes, the way others do things may even seem superior or beautiful. Again, of course, this then reflects back on one's own culture which begins to be seen as a choice out of many alternatives rather than the only reasonable way to do things. I think these are all important lessons, and they are ones that come out of our courses more strongly than elsewhere. For me, the specific material of the course is secondary to these general concerns.

The other matter, however, that we can offer is a type of method which they will not experience in many other courses (perhaps sociology). We can have our students directly gather primary cultural data from live human beings though interview, observation or other methods. We can then have them try to analyze the data they gathered. I have had students from my "Fieldwork" course report to me that their fieldwork project was one of the few things they really remembered from college years later. Based on this, I personally, am trying to think of ways to get students "doing" anthropology in as many of my classes as possible. Figuring this out is taking some real effort, and I think it will increase the grading load while reducing course content, but I am pretty sure it will be worthwhile.


PS -- apologies to those of you who are not assuming that this is a cultural anthro class. Its about all I teach.
For the past two years I've been teaching ANT100 as an adjunct, and nothing more advanced, as I'm still a grad student (same as Denice). I pretty much agreed with everything said above, but let me add to this by showing what I don't want in an anthro course.

For the first time, over the summer, I taught an intro to sociology class. I found the experience very strange - almost the same topics can be covered but in very different ways. I'd never taught sociology before and so worked a good deal from the textbook and my anthro lectures. I've not had time to really reflect on it, so consider these reactions very visceral. The main difference that I felt (which I tried to correct) was:

(1) a real lack of critical lenses. Even though the material to be covered included your standard Marx, Weber, Durkheim - it felt very coldly positivist. Obviously more emphasis on quantitative measures: charts, maps, etc., but also assumptions about knowable Truth and Facts.
(2) a very real emphasis on breadth over depth. It really felt as if every aspect of every social phenomena imaginable was in that textbook - but because of that it might only be in one short paragraph. That meant that there was very little depth of analysis, understanding, criticism, comparison, etc.
(3) an emphasis on giving everything a name. I know we all use specialized terminology, but it really felt like the main goal was to identify something, give it a jargon-filled title, and then move on without discussion.

Of course I worked against this grain in my teaching. As I said, it was my first time teaching it, so maybe it is a bad textbook or I just haven't learned how to better teach it. I know we didn't want to get into the disciplinary identity thing, but in a very practical sense this does answer your question: what to teach and how (or its inverse).

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