Cultural Anthro 2024

Cultural Anthropology Toolkit

For Cultural Anthropology 2024, this course uses the fourth edition of Essentials of Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for a Global Age by Kenneth Guest. There is a course outline sketch below, and then some reflections on cultural anthropology textbooks from 2016-2024.
I taught a version of this course in 2023, with this course outline and this YouTube Lecture Playlist:

Part 1: Culture Tools

Coffee

  • Fieldwork: Making a Cup of Coffee Unfamiliar

Anthropology

  • Chapter 1, “Anthropology in a Global Age”

Culture

  • Chapter 2, “Culture”

College

  • Fieldwork: College Students & Consumer Culture

Fieldwork

  • Chapter 3, “Fieldwork and Ethnography”

Mapping

  • Fieldwork: Mapping a Block

Language

  • Chapter 4, “Language”

Language & Gender

  • Fieldwork: Language & Gender in the Classroom

Part 2: Power Tools

Kinship

  • Chapter 9, “Kinship, Family, and Marriage”
  • Fieldwork: Mapping Kinship Relationships: Tracing Your Family Tree

Race

  • Chapter 5, “Race and Racism”
  • Fieldwork: Initiating a Classroom Conversation about Race

Ethnicity & Nationalism

  • Chapter 6, “Ethnicity and Nationalism”
  • Fieldwork: Seeing the Business of Ethnicity

Gender

  • Chapter 7, “Gender”

Sexuality

  • Chapter 8, “Sexuality”

Part 3: Global Toolkit

Global Economy

  • Chapter 10, “The Global Economy”

Environment

  • Chapter 11, “The Environment and Sustainability”

Immigrant Interview

  • Fieldwork: An Immigrant Interview

Politics

  • Chapter 12, “Politics and Power”

The State

  • Fieldwork: Making the State Real

Religion

  • Chapter 13, “Religion”

Religious

  • Fieldwork: Visit to a Religious Community

Health

  • Chapter 14, “Health, Illness, and the Body”

Art & Media

  • Chapter 15, “Art and Media”

Cultural Anthropology 2016-2024

For many years teaching Cultural Anthropology, my text was Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s book Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World, culminating in this 2016 course. However, apart from advanced graduate courses–and despite the extraordinary efforts of Trouillot Remixed–his work seems currently inaccessible for most undergraduates and lay readers (see Teaching Trouillot on this blog, and my own attempt to teach a version of “Anthropology and the Savage Slot” for the History of Anthropological Thought.

In 2018, I began trying to turn to textbooks and more practically-oriented coursework. We of course want to remember global history and the history of anthropology, but I felt we needed to foreground the future, especially in a basic undergraduate class. I first tried using Guest’s books in 2018-2019 for this Sketch-Outline of Cultural Anthro, but by 2020 the reader had become dated and the 3rd edition needed updates as well, but it did adapt well during a coronavirus-laden semester. For Cultural Anthropology 2021 and Cultural Anthro 2022 experimented with other approaches, but with a refreshing set of updates I circled back to Guest in 2023 for Cultural Anthropology 2023.

Strangely, Guest’s books always seem to be just behind the major news curve. I of course don’t expect anthropology to be able to constantly comment on breaking news–Trouillot warned us against getting caught up in the glib ever-newness of globalization–but in this case he seems to always publish just before events that shake society and the founding issues of US anthropology. When Guest emerged with the first edition of the textbook in 2013, the time seemed ripe for anthropology as a global toolkit. Obama had won his second term as US president, and I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post titled Anthropology is taking over the world. Times seemed reminiscent of that Bill-Clinton-esque-easy-going globalization from before when 9/11 got exploited to launch multiple wars on terror.

There were certainly storm clouds on the horizon. Anthropology was being challenged, dismissed, and attacked, which was a primary reason for launching this blog. As Discuss White Privilege reminded anthropologist on a blog formerly known as Savage Minds, we were by no means in a post-racial era. In fact, the assertion that there was now “Anti-White Bias” should have spurred greater anthropological introspection.

The second edition of Guest’s textbook seemed to anticipate more of the same under a Clinton administration. When that didn’t happen, the third edition courageously incorporated updates for the 2016-2020 period, but was published right before a a global pandemic.

Anthropology & Dehumanization

Guest’s 2023 textbook also contains material on Ukraine. This was another major event which shakes anthropology’s alliance with international order, alliances, and rights to self-determination. But Guest’s textbook obviously could not anticipate the situation in Gaza and Israel. Here we have seen some of the most tragic and terrible events unfold, in real time, on social media, but we have also seen an enormous dehumanization campaign. Anthropology’s assertion that all human life is valuable has been enormously jeopardized and compromised. It is unclear exactly what the cultural anthropology toolkit should be for the “global age” in which we are interconnected but apparently moving in such different directions, and where simply calling attention to human suffering becomes grounds for mockery or worse, as I outlined in a 2024 lecture for the History of Anthropological Thought:


Living Anthropologically means documenting history, interconnection, and power during a time of global transformation. We need to care for others as we attempt to build a world together. This blog is a personal project of Jason Antrosio, author of Fast, Easy, and In Cash: Artisan Hardship and Hope in the Global Economy. For updates, subscribe to the YouTube channel or follow on Twitter.

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