ANTH 145:

Introduction to Anthropology

Dr. LeeRay M. Costa                                                                      Fall 2003
324 Pleasants Hall                                                                      Tu/Thu 8:50-10:20
Office Hours: Tu/Th 1:00-2:00,and by appointment                                   Pleasants 306              
Contact Info: x6254,


Course Description

What is cultural anthropology?  How have anthropologists defined “culture” at various historical moments?  What are the different meanings imparted to culture and cultural practices by diverse peoples?  And what approaches have anthropologists utilized to understand cultural differences? These are just a few of the questions addressed in this introductory course on cultural anthropology. 

The course will present some of the important concepts, methodologies and theories in the field, while assisting students in exploring them in more depth.  We will look at a wide variety of cultures in various geographic and historical contexts.  Topics will include gender, health, religion, family and marriage, subsistence, economics, and representation among others. 

A central goal of the course is to assist students in seeing the world from an anthropological perspective.  This means not only making the “strange” familiar, but also the familiar “strange.”  In particular we will be concerned with challenging the “naturalness” of our own cultural constructs and discovering how human beings in their diversity are all engaged in a project of making meaning in the world.

Course Objectives

  1. To develop an understanding of the anthropological concept of ‘culture’ in diverse historical and social contexts across the planet.
  2. To understand the commonalities and differences of being human.
  3. To compare and contrast cultural and social categories (i.e. kinship, religion, gender, political organization) in different contexts.
  4. To understand the various roles that culture plays in the development of personal and community identity.

NOTE: This course fulfills the ESP requirement for Social and Cultural Diversities.

Required Reading

Ø       Spradley, James and David W. McCurdy (2002) Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. Tenth Edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. (Abbreviated as “C&C” in the syllabus.)

Ø       Gottlieb, Alma and Philip Graham (1993) Parallel Worlds: An Anthropologist and a Writer Encounter Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ø       Fadiman, Anne (1997) The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

Ø       Additional articles (listed at end of syllabus)

Course readings are available on Reserve at Wyndham Robertson Library.

Course Requirements

For this course to be successful and mutually beneficial to all, it requires the full participation of all members of the class.  It is essential that students come to class prepared, having completed ALL the required readings and any written assignments due.  Students should arrive ready to thoughtfully discuss, analyze and share their insights into/confusions about the material.

·         Class participation is required and is part of your final grade.

·         Class attendance is required.  More than three unexcused absences will result in a grade reduction.  Students are expected to arrive on-time

·         Reading assignments are required.  Readings should be read BEFORE the class period in which they will be discussed.  Make sure to read the endnotes/footnotes as well.  Please come prepared with questions.

·         Exams and Assignments:

1.       Mini-Ethnography Project: This project has four (4) parts. Each part will be graded separately. The goal of the project is to give you an opportunity to try out the ethnographic method on a topic of your interest.  Hence, your research topic should be one that helps you to understand better a cultural practice, ritual or belief that you know little or nothing about. Your topic must be approved by the professor before you proceed to exercise 2.  Although it is not required, I encourage you to work in pairs.  By focusing on the same research question and cultural practice, you will be able to compare your findings.  You may be surprised at the results.

Exercise 1:  Topic Proposal: Briefly summarize the topic you wish to explore and why. What is your main research question? What do you hope to learn about the topic from this project? Why did you choose this topic as opposed to another?  In what community or locale will you pursue this research and why? 1-2 pages. 5 points.

Exercise 2:  Observation Paper:  In this portion of the assignment you will observe the aspect of culture that you are investigating and report to me (the professor) as though you are an anthropologist. What did you observe? What happened and how? Be as detailed as possible.  This paper should be based on AT LEAST TWO (2) occasions of observation (one is not sufficient). 2-3 pages. 5 points.

Exercise 3:  Interview OR Participation Paper:  This exercise should build on exercise 2.  Use your observations to develop a list of interview questions and then interview someone engaged in the cultural practice/belief you are investigating.  OR, participate in the cultural phenomenon that you are studying.  If necessary, get permission from the “locals” first.  Write about gaining access to the individual/group you are studying. Write about what you learned from the interview or participation. Be as detailed as possible.  2-3 pages. 10 points.

Exercise 4:  Mini-Ethnography Summary Report:  In this final exercise you will bring what you learned in exercises 2 and 3 together with course concepts and theories.  What did you learn about your topic? What was it like to study it as a cultural anthropologist might? What are the benefits and drawbacks of an anthropological approach?  If your classmate also examined the same topic, how did your observations and conclusions compare? How did they differ? What do you make of those differences? 4-5 pages. 25 points.

An additional handout on this project will be provided in class.

2.       Midterm

3.       Final  (independent exam schedule)

Style Guide for Written Assignments:

  1. All papers should be typed, using 12 pt font only (12 pt Times is the preferable font), double-spaced, with one-inch (1”) margins on all sides.
  2. Please DO NOT USE COVER SHEETS. I consider this a waste of precious resources. Type your name, course number, paper title and any other identifying information at the top of the first page. If you can print your paper front to back (using both sides of the paper) the trees and I would appreciate it. 
  3. Remember to always KEEP A COPY of your paper in case of an emergency!
  4. Please NUMBER ALL PAGES and using the footer, place your name at the bottom of each page.
  5. USE THE SPELL CHECKER ON YOUR COMPUTER.  Excessive and needless misspelling will result in a reduction of your paper grade.
  6. For citing material in your papers, please use the Chicago style. Style guidelines can be found on the web through the Hollins Writing Center at:
  7. If you have any questions re: this style, please ask!
  8. Please follow anthropological convention in your papers by italicizing all foreign words and by using pseudonyms for the people that you interview and describe in your ethnography paper.

If you fail to follow the appropriate writing guidelines, your grade will be marked down.


            Attendance & Participation                  10%

            Mini-Ethnography Project                    45%

            Midterm                                               25%

            Final                                                    20%

Policies & Expectations

By enrolling in this course, you agree to adhere to the following policies and expectations in addition to those cited above and those outlined in the Hollins Honor Code.

1.       Assignments must be turned in on-time. No late assignments will be accepted.

2.       Issues and personal experiences discussed in the course may often be personal.  Therefore, I expect you to respect your classmates’ privacy and to keep discussions confidential.

3.       Issues discussed in class may also be controversial and may challenge your personal beliefs.  I expect you to respect everyone’s opinions and to allow them the space to express themselves.  Although you may not always agree, there is much to learn by listening to and considering viewpoints different from your own.

4.       There is no such thing as a “stupid” or “silly” question.  All questions and ideas will be addressed thoughtfully and respectfully.

5.       The syllabus is subject to change.  Thus, if you choose to be absent from class it is your responsibility to find out if any changes have been made.

6.       Cheating and plagiarism--including the use of work submitted to another course at Hollins without the consent of both instructors, the use of work by another person, or the use of someone else's words, ideas, or arrangement of ideas without giving proper reference to the author--is a severe violation of the Honor Code. This applies to all electronic sources found on the Internet (including term papers for purchase), to all on-line databases, and to all other published materials. Cheating or plagiarism will result in automatic failure of the course. Thus, please be very careful about your research and citation practices.  If you are ever in doubt, please ask!

7.       If you have any special learning needs, please notify the professor immediately. It is your responsibility to discuss special learning needs with the instructor.  Every attempt will be made to address your needs accordingly.  Please do not wait until after the midterm to discuss your needs with the professor.

8.       If you are having any problems in the course, please come and discuss them with the professor during office hours or by making an appointment. Problems should be addressed right away, and not put off until after exams or until the end of the semester.

9.       I value your suggestions and interests.  Therefore, if you have any ideas for readings or specific authors you would like to see included in the class, please discuss them with me during office hours and I will consider assigning them to the class.



Schedule of Classes, Topics and Readings:


Day 1: Thu, Sept 4                               Introduction and course overview

Day 2: Tue, Sept 9                               What is Anthropology?

Ø       C&C p. 3-11; C&C p. 386-398 (McCurdy)

Ø       Miner, “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”

Day 3: Thu, Sept 11                              Doing Cultural Anthropology

·         C&C p. 13-17

·         Parallel Worlds pp. xvii-xix, 3-57.

Film: Babakiueria                                                          

Day 4: Tue, Sept 16                              Doing Cultural Anthropology

·         C&C p. 45-55 (Gmelch)

·         Parallel Worlds pp. 58-173.

Day 5: Thu, Sept 18                              Fieldwork & Ethnography: Parallel Worlds

·         Parallel Worlds pp. 174-248.

Film: In Her Own Time                                                        

Day 6: Tue, Sept 23                              Fieldwork & Ethnography: Parallel Worlds

·         Parallel Worlds pp. 249-312

Film clip: Chagnon

Ø       DUE: Mini-Ethnography Exercise 1                                 

Day 7: Thu, Sept 25                              “Culture”

·         C&C p. 19-26 (Spradley); C&C p. 35-44 (Bohannan)

·         Nanda & Warms, “A Brief Guide to Anthropological Theory”, CA Appendix p. 412-418,

Day 8: Tue, Sept 30                              Language & Symbolic Communication

·         C&C p. 57-60; C&C p. 61-69 (Argyle); C&C p. 79-91 (Thomson)

Day 9: Thu, Oct 2                                 Language & Symbolic Communication

·         Lum, “Local Genealogy: What School You Went?”

·         Javar, “Shame and the First Day of College”

                                                            Film: Pijin 101 with Bradajo

                                                            Guest Speaker: Marcy Trianowsky: Writing Papers 

Day 10: Tue, Oct 7                                Learning Culture

·         Ojeda “Growing Up American: Doing the Right Thing”

Film clips: Winter Sea Ice Camp; Bitter Melons; Meatfight

Thursday, October 9                            NO CLASS, Fall Break                                                                     

Day 11: Tue, Oct 14                              Survival Strategies: Ecology, Subsistence, Economics

·         C&C p. 98-102; C&C p. 103-117 (Lee); C&C p. 118-127   (Diamond)

                                                            Film clip: Ju/’hoansi

Ø       DUE: Mini-Ethnography Exercise 2

Day 12: Thu, Oct 16                              FLOATER DAY, for Tinker Day

Day 13: Tue, Oct 21                              Midterm Exam

Day 14: Thu, Oct 23                              Survival Strategies: Ecology, Subsistence, Economics

                                                            ·         C&C p. 153-155; C&C p. 164-171 (Fuentes & Ehrenrich)

·         Johnson, “In Search of the Affluent Society”

Film: Affluenza


SATURDAY, OCT. 25                            FIELD TRIP: Seven Springs Farm, Floyd

                                                            (details to follow) 7:00 am – 2:00 pm


Day 15: Tue, Oct 28                              Survival Strategies: Ecology, Subsistence, Economics

                                                            ·         C&C p. 157-163 (Cronk)

Day 16: Thu, Oct 30                              Kinship and Family

·         C&C p. 190-194; C&C p. 213-220 (Goldstein)

Film: Dadi and Her Family

Day 17: Tue, Nov 4                               Kinship and Family

·         C&C p. 221-227 (Wolf)

·         McFee & Hunter, “Marriage and the Family: For Love, Profit, or Politics”

Day 18: Thu, Nov 6                               Stratification & Hierarchy: Gender and Sexuality

·         C&C p. 228-231; C&C p. 233-240 (Fernea & Fernea); C&C p. 241-249 (Friedl)

Day 19: Tue, Nov 11                             Stratification & Hierarchy: Gender and Sexuality

Film: Woubi Cheri

Day 20: Thu, Nov 13                             Stratification & Hierarchy: Race and Ethnicity

·         C&C p. 250-260 (Fish); C&C p. 261-269 (Weatherford)

·         Jaquard, “’Race’: Myths Under the Microscope”

Ø       DUE: Mini-Ethnography Exercise 3

Day 21: Tue, Nov 18                             Religion, Ritual & Belief

·         C&C p. 310-314; C&C p. 322-331 (Gmelch);

·         The Spirit Catches You preface, note on orthography, sources (p. 293-294), p. 1 –77

Day 22: Thu, Nov 20                             No Class, AAA Meetings

November 24-29:                                  No Class, Thanksgiving Break

Day 23: Tue, Dec 2                               Religion, Ritual & Belief

·         The Spirit Catches You p. 78-224     

Film: The Meo  

Day 24: Thu, Dec 4                              Religion, Ritual & Belief

The Spirit Catches You p. 225-288 and acknowledgements

Day 25: Tue, Dec 9                               Share Mini-Ethnography Projects                                                  

Day 26: Thu, Dec 11                             Wrap Up: What’s Anthropology good for anyway?

Ø       DUE:  Mini-Ethnography Exercise 4



Additional Required Reading (on electronic and hard copy reserve)

Readings are listed in the order they are to be read.

Miner, Horace. 2002. Body Ritual Among the Nacirema. In Distant Mirrors: America as a Foreign Culture, 3rd edition. Philip R. DeVita and James D. Armstrong, eds. Pp. 27-31. Wadsworth. (Readable on-line at

Nanda, Serena and Richard L. Warms. 2002.  A Brief Guide to Anthropological Theory. In Cultural Anthropology. Seventh Edition. Pp. 412-418. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Lum, Darrell H.Y. 1998. Local Genealogy: What School You Went? In Growing Up Local: an anthology of poetry and prose from Hawai’i. Eric Chock, James R. Harstad, Darrell H.Y.Lum, and Bill Teter, eds. Pp. 11-15. Honolulu, HI: Bamboo Ridge Press.

Javar, Darlene M. 1998. Shame and the First Day of College. In Growing Up Local: an anthology of poetry and prose from Hawai’i. Eric Chock, James R. Harstad, Darrell H.Y.Lum, and Bill Teter, eds. Pp. 293-294. Honolulu, HI: Bamboo Ridge Press.

Ojeda, Amparo B. 2002. Growing Up American: Doing the Right Thing. In Distant Mirrors: America as a Foreign Culture, 3rd edition. Philip R. DeVita and James D. Armstrong, eds. Pp. 44-49.  Wadsworth.

Johnson, Allen. 2001. In Search of the Affluent Society. In Anthropology: Contemporary Perspectives. Eighth Edition. Philip Whitten, ed. Pp. 222-227. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

McFee, Malcolm & David E.K. Hunter. 2001. Marriage and the Family: For Love, Profit, or Politics. In Anthropology: Contemporary Perspectives. Eighth Edition. Philip Whitten, ed. Pp. 208-210. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Jaquard, Albert. 2001. ’Race’: Myths Under the Microscope. In Anthropology: Contemporary Perspectives. Eighth Edition. Philip Whitten, ed. Pp. 88-90. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.


Babakiueria (1995).

In Her Own Time (1985)

Pijin 101 with Bradajo (n.d.)

Affluenza (1997)

Dadi and Her Family (1981)

Woubi Cheri (1998)

The Meo (1991)



Throughout the course of the semester I may announce events which you can attend that will aid you in integrating your curricular and co-curricular experiences at Hollins. They will also provide a chance for you to earn extra credit points. Each extra credit assignment is worth 2 points to be added to your midterm grade. For each event attended, you should write a 1-2 page paper on your experience. The paper should address

a)       why the event is relevant to a course in anthropology,

b)       how the event has enriched your understanding of a particular issue raised either in the class readings, lectures, videos, or discussions, and

c)       your assessment of the event (i.e. your reaction with an explanation of WHY).

If you do not address ALL THREE points, you will receive NO CREDIT.

If you learn of an event that you think may be of relevance to the course and of interest to your peers, please let me know so I can announce it to the entire class.