Anthropology 101

Introduction to Anthropology

Fall Term 2003

Section 3TB3


Syllabus of 9/2/03



Meets: TTh , 3:00-4:15 In Powdermaker 117                                           John Collins

Office hours: Tuesday 9:00-10:00                                                       Phone: 997-5524   




INTRODUCTION:  This course is an introduction to the field of anthropology, a discipline concerned with what it is to be human. As a result, practically anything you can imagine may fall within our sphere of study!


Twentieth century North American Anthropology is typically conducted in relation to four subdisciplines or fields of study. These include human origins (paleoanthropology and primate studies); the prehistoric past, or those periods in human history that lack extensive written archives or require the analysis of material evidence (archaeology); the ways that people live, know, and organize themselves in the present or recent past (social or cultural anthropology, also called ethnology); and the ways that people communicate with one another or organize their worlds linguistically (linguistic anthropology).


Over the course of the semester we will concentrate on social and cultural anthropological approaches to human unity and diversity, with some attention to linguistic anthropology. Our readings are drawn from four ethnographies (an ethnography is a written compilation of experiences drawn from the community, institution, or group of people studied). The first is an examination of a group of foragers in southern Africa. The second focuses on transvestites and the politics of gender in one of the largest cities in Brazil. The third comes close to home by exploring the politics of street vending in New York’s Greenwich Village. And the fourth is a study of immigration, worldviews, and health and sickness in the interactions between Hmong families and medical professionals in a California public hospital.


As you can see from the range of ethnographies we will read this semester, ours is a very diverse discipline. I encourage you to think about differences and similarities in the authors’ approaches to their subjects and to the practice of anthropology/ethnography. In doing so you should become aware that anthropology is not simply the study of primitive or marginal peoples, but a way of seeing and being in a world that is constantly in transition even as it is united by certain shared human traits and experiences.  


READINGS: (Books Available at Queens College Bookstore)


Duneier, Mitchell. Sidewalk. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. ISBN: 0-374-52725-3

Fadiman, Anne. 1997. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. ISBN: 0-374-52564-1.

Kulick, Don. Travesti: Sex, Gender and Culture Among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0-226-46100-9.

Shostak, Marjorie. 2000. Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman. 2nd Edition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 0-674-00432-9.


You are expected to complete the required readings for each date before coming to class. In many cases the assigned reading will not be discussed in detail in class. And much of the material covered in class cannot be found in the texts we read.  Therefore, it is essential that you do the readings and attend class while thinking about how the two both overlap and differ. There is no assigned textbook in this class.


REQUIREMENTS:  Regular attendance; prompt completion of all assignments; two (2) midterms and a final exam. 


GRADING: Your grade will be computed as follows,

Midterm 1:                                15%

Midterm 2:                                25%

Final exam:                               35%

Class participation:                     25%


It will be difficult to receive a top grade in this class without attending regularly and completing the reading assignments. “Participation” in this class means engaging with the material and your classmates in a thoughtful and considerate manner.


EXAMS: Your first midterm will take place on 10/9, your second midterm on 11/18, and your final on 12/16 from 1:45-3:45PM. The second midterm and the final are both cumulative exams.


NON-EXAM ASSIGNMENTS:  There will be occasional quizzes, short homework assignments, and other activities developed during the term. These will include written assignments (short essays). Supplementary activities will not necessarily be announced in advance and they will count as an important part of your class participation grade. They cannot be made up if you miss class. 


MAKE-UP POLICIES: It is your responsibility to contact me and to arrange to make up any work missed. If you need to take a make-up you must speak to me within 10 working days of the exam date. If you do not do so there is no guarantee that you will be able to make it up. (The make-up exam will be substantially different from that given to the rest of the class.) You should be prepared to provide documentation, if requested, outlining the reasons for any absence.


If you miss the final exam you must contact me within 48 hours (either side) of the scheduled exam time and arrange for an incomplete, if necessary.


FILM AND VIDEO:  Film and video make up an essential part of the course material.  This will be reflected in section assignments and on the exams.  It is your responsibility to view any film that you have missed.  This may involve traveling to other libraries within the CUNY system!


NOTE: The professor reserves the right to alter any and all parts of this syllabus as the term progresses.


Important notice:  The Department of Anthropology prohibits unauthorized note-taking on behalf of any commercial organization.  Anyone who violates this policy will be asked to withdraw from the course.  Students should be aware that they make use of unauthorized notes at their own risk!






DAY                        DATE                     TOPIC                                                                           READING ASSIGNMENT

Tuesday                  9/2                           Introductions                                                                                          -------

Thursday                9/4                           Cultural Anthropology and Ethnography                      Malinowski, “Introduction”


Tuesday                  9/9                           Approaching Culture and Society                                  Nisa, Intro + Ch. 1

Thursday                9/11                         Foraging Societies                                                           Nisa, Chs. 2-3


Tuesday                  9/16                         Exchange: Reciprocity and Redistribution                      Nisa, 4-5

Thursday                9/18                         Marriage and Kinship                                                     Nisa, 6-7


Tuesday                  9/23                         Film: N’ai: Story of a !Kung Bush Woman                     Nisa, 8-10

Thursday                9/25                         Rites of Passage                                                              Nisa 11-13


Tuesday                  9/30                         Religion                                                                           Finish Nisa

Thursday                10/2                         Review


Tuesday                  10/7                         NO CLASS   Queens on a MONDAY SCHEDULE!         

Thursday                10/9                         First Midterm Exam!!


Tuesday                  10/14                       Capitalism and World Systems                                      Travesti, Intro + Ch. 1

Thursday                10/16                       Gender                                                                            Travesti, 3-4


Tuesday                  10/21                       Ethnography and History                                               Travesti, 5

Thursday                10/23                       Anthropology and the City                                            Sidewalk, pps. 3-80 


Tuesday                  10/28                       “Cultures of Poverty” + Ethnographic Method            Sidewalk, 81-111

Thursday                10/30                       States, Stratification, and Social Control                        Sidewalk, 115-187


Tuesday                  11/4                         Language and Culture                                                      Sidewalk, 188-228

Thursday                11/6                         Race and Ethnicity                                                          Sidewalk, 231-289


Tuesday                  11/11                       The Social Construction of Decency                              Sidewalk, 293-330

Thursday                11/13                       Review


Tuesday                  11/18                       Second Midterm Exam!                                        

Thursday                11/20                       Film, Threads of Survival                                               Spirit, 1-2


Tuesday                  11/25                       Health and Illness                                                           Spirit, 3-6

Thursday                11/27                       No Class – Thanksgiving                                              continue w/ Spirit


Tuesday                  12/2                         Magic, Power & Authority, Film Trobriand Cricket     Spirit, 6-12

Thursday                12/4                         Social Action + Film, scenes from The Last Supper       Spirit, 13-14


Tuesday                  12/9                         Art and Music – Brazilian Capoeira                               Spirit, 15-19

Thursday                12/11                       Closing Comments                                                         



Final Exam as Scheduled by Queens College, December 16th. Don’t miss it—no excuses!