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79-201 Introduction to Anthropology
Cultural anthropologists "make the strange familiar and the familiar strange," attempting to understand the internal logic of cultures which might, at first glance, seem bizarre to us, while at the same time probing those aspects of our own society which might appear equally bizarre to outsiders. In doing so, anthropology makes us more aware of our own culturally-ingrained assumptions, while broadening our understanding of the possibilities and alternatives in human experience. This course will use ethnographic writings (descriptive accounts of particular cultures), as well as ethnographic films, to investigate the ways in which diverse societies structure family life, resolve conflict, construct gender relations, organize subsistence, etc. We will assess the advantages and pitfalls of comparing cross-cultural data, analyze the workings of power within and between societies, and consider the politics of cultural representations. We will also discuss what the anthropologist's relationship is to the people s/he studies, and the responsibilities inherent in that relationship. Throughout the course, students will learn the importance of an historical perspective on culture, looking at how and why societies change, and considering how we, as anthropologists, should assess these changes.
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