Introduction to Anthropology

Anthropology 101                                                                                               Washington and Lee University
Dr. Alison Bell                                                                                                                               Winter 2004


Instructor Contact Information

Office:  Newcomb 6
Office Phone:    x8638
Office Hours:    Tuesdays 3:30-5:00, Wednesdays 10:00-noon, Thursdays 3:30-5:00, and by appointment

Course Description

This class introduces students to major issues in the four traditional subfields of anthropology – physical anthropology, archaeology, socio-cultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology – in addition to folklore. Physical anthropology covers the mechanics of evolution, physical and behavioral characteristics of various Australopithecines and Homo species, debates about the human family tree, the sapiens diaspora, and sociobiology. Archaeology considers trends in prehistory as well as the historic period, examining the global development of socio-political “complexity” over the last 10,000 years and cultural changes in North America. Socio-cultural anthropology explores such topics as culture, cultural relativism, cultural evolution, religion, magic, exchange, kinship, social organization, and the interaction of global world systems with indigenous communities. The linguistic anthropology component concentrates on sociolinguistics and the relations between language and “reality.” Finally, the folklore section of the course deals mainly with oral folklore, especially urban legends, and more briefly with material and customary forms of folklore such as games and superstitions. Discussions in all subfields emphasize that anthropologists are students of human behavior and culture who use diverse methods to understand human activity around the world over millions of years.     


Course Texts (in order of assignment)

Herbert Thomas (1995) Human Origins: The Search for Our Beginnings. Harry N.
            Abrams, Inc., New York .  [“HO” in course outline]

David Hurst Thomas (1999) Exploring Ancient Native America: An Archaeological
            Guide. Routledge , New York .  [“EANA” in course outline]

Holly Peters-Golden (2002) Culture Sketches: Case Studies in Anthropology, Third
            Edition. McGraw Hill, Boston .  [“CS” in course outline]

Deborah Tannen (1990) You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation,
p. 13-73. Ballantine Books, New York .  [“YJDU” in course outline]

Jan Harold Brunvand (1981) The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and
            Their Meanings. W.W. Norton and Company, New York .  [“VH” in course outline]

Course Expectations

Three Assessments

Assessments are open-book, open-note, take-home essays designed to allow the instructor to assess each student’s understanding of material in assigned readings and class discussion. Each assessment has 2-3 questions which together should require approximately 5 pages (word-processed, double-spaced) to answer.

            Assessment 1:   covers HO & EANA (pp. xvii-181) + class material Jan. 5- Jan. 28
·         distributed Jan. 26; due Feb. 6

            Assessment 2:   covers EANA (pp. 183-244) & CS + class material Feb. 3 – Mar. 5
·         distributed Mar. 1; due Mar. 12

            Assessment 3:   covers YJDU & VH + class material Mar. 8 – Apr. 2
·         distributed Mar. 29; due Apr. 9

One Project

Due Friday, April 2 (submissions welcome at any earlier point in term)

This assignment promotes students’ understanding of anthropological principles and methods through engagement in a “hands-on” (“real world”) research project of their choice. The topic each student selects should relate to a set of ideas encountered in some part of this course and should focus on a body of primary sources to which the student has direct access. Recommended paper length 6-8 pages (word processed, double spaced). Examples of appropriate topics include:

1. A Material Culture Project: the analysis of a material assemblage. For instance, a student may analyze a section of Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery by recording the information, decorative motifs, and general dimensions of each headstone, and then looking for patterns. Do epitaphs change over time? If so, what might this change suggest about the transformation of religious beliefs in the local area? Other ideas include examining senior pictures in the Calyx: how have these changed through time in the number of individuals per picture, settings and clothing, or objects/animals with which people posed. What do these changes (or lack of them) suggest about social dynamics (the average size of primary social groups) or values (including pets in photos)?

2. A Language, Culture and Society Project: analysis of a corpus of language – written or spoken – for information about perceptions, cultural values or social dynamics. Students may wish, for example, to explore the relationship between perception and various media presentations of a news event, choosing a single event and seeing how different presses within the U.S. and abroad report on it. How do these diverse glosses on the news send different messages to the public (i.e., how do different news organs help create different understandings of current events)? Another language project could focus on gender roles. A student could choose several movies, a TV series, or popular fiction and analyze males’ and females’ speech within it. Are males and females portrayed as talking in similar ways and amounts? Could depictions of gender roles in these venues provide models that some viewers implement in their own lives?

One Ethnography Paper

Due Friday, February 27

Each student should read an ethnography from a list of suggested titles the instructor will distribute. The paper (recommended length 5 pages, word processed, double spaced) is a review which should summarize and especially comment on the ethnography.

Attendance at Three Lectures Outside of Class

Attendance at one evening lecture on cross-cultural experiences (TBA) and at least two other extracurricular lectures during the course of the term. Within a week after attending a lecture, each student should email the instructor a short (1-2 paragraph) summary of and reaction to the lecture.

The first four Mondays in March the Reeves Center is sponsoring a series of guest lectures on Chinese culture, society and trade. These lectures are appropriate to fulfill this requirement; students who are considering other lectures should check in advance with the instructor to be certain they are appropriate for credit in this anthropology course.

Final Grades

The breakdown of final grades for the course is as follows:

            Assessment One:          18%    
            Assessment Two:          18%
            Assessment Three:        18%
            Project:                        18%
            Ethnography Paper:      18%
            Guest Lectures: 10%


Course Outline

Mon. Jan. 5 - Fri. Jan. 9           Introduction to Anthropology, the Subdiscipline of Physical

                                                Anthropology, and Early Hominids

                                                Read:   HO Ch. 1-3 (pp. 15-65) and pp. 130-135

Mon. Jan. 12 - Fri. Jan. 16       Homo erectus, Neanderthals and Fully Modern Humans

                                                Read:   HO Ch. 4-6 (pp. 66-127) and pp. 136-147

Mon. Jan. 19 - Fri. Jan. 23       Introduction to Archaeology and North American


                                                Read:   EANA Foreword and Ch. 1-3 (pp. xvii – 87)

Mon. Jan. 26 - Wed. Jan. 28    Material Culture and Culture Change

                                                Read:   EANA Ch. 4-6 (pp. 89-181)

Fri. Jan. 30                               No Class (Mock Convention)                                      


Mon. Feb. 2 -  Fri. Feb. 6        Anthropological Perspectives on Culture Contact and

                                                Modern Americans                  

                                                Read:   EANA Ch. 7 and Epilogue (pp. 183-244)

                                                Due:     Assessment One on Feb. 6

Mon. Feb. 9 -  Fri. Feb. 13      Introduction to Socio-Cultural Anthropology

                                                Read:  CS pp. 37-54 (Basseri), 96-112 (Ju/’hoansi), and

                                                            164-179 (Nuer)

Mon. Feb. 16 -            Fri. Feb. 20     No Classes ( Washington Holiday


Mon. Feb. 23 -            Fri. Feb. 27      Belief Systems and Kinship

                                                Read:   CS pp. 1-15 (Azande), 76-94 (Hmong), and 214-

                                                            229 (Tiwi)

                                                Due:     Ethnography Paper on Feb. 27

Mon. Mar. 1 -  Fri. Mar. 5       Exchange and the Ethics of Ethnographic Research

                                                Read:   CS pp. 131-146 (Kapauku), 230-245 (Trobriand

                                                            Islanders), and 246-264 (Yanomamo)


Mon. Mar. 8 -  Fri. Mar. 12     Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology

                                                Read:   YJDU  Preface and Ch. 1-3 (pp. 13-95)

                                                Due:     Assessment Two on Mar. 12

Mon. Mar. 15 - Fri. Mar. 19    Sociolinguisitics

                                                Read:   YJDU  Ch 7-8 (pp. 188-244) and Ch. 10 (pp. 280-


Mon. Mar. 22 - Fri. Mar. 26    Introduction to Folklore

                                                Read:   VH Preface (pp. xi-xiii) and Ch. 1-3 (pp. 1-69)

Mon. Mar. 29 - Fri. Apr. 2       Anthropology of Modern Americans

                                                Read:   VH Ch. 4 (pp. 75-98), Ch. 7-8 (pp. 153-184), and

                                                            Afterword (pp. 187-191)

                                                Due:     Project on Apr. 2


Fri. Apr. 9                                Due:    Assessment Three