Cultural Anthropology 2019

In my Cultural Anthropology courses for 2018-2019, I adopted a package of books by Kenneth J. Guest:

This approach is a significant departure from my 2016 course in Cultural Anthropology. That course concentrated on reading full-length anthropology books as we traced the trajectory of the concept of culture within and outside of anthropology. While there was much that was useful about that course, finding our way in what Guest calls “a Global Age” means concentrating on the contemporary anthropological toolkit. We of course want to remember global history and the history of anthropology, but I feel we need to foreground the future, especially in a basic undergraduate class.

In the 2018 What is troubling anthropology?, Matthias Teeuwen puts this bluntly: “I think that there is an overarching sense that anthropology has failed to live up to its promise to ‘make the world safe for human difference’–as Ruth Benedict famously set the task for anthropology.” Detailing that failed promise was exactly the premise of my Cultural Anthropology 2016 course. In Cultural Anthropology 2018-2019, I attempt to turn more to what anthropology might possibly do to re-address that promise.

A. The Culture Toolkit

1. Humanity / Nationality

2. Peripheries

  • Edith Turner, “There are No Peripheries to Humanity”
  • Lucas Bessire, from Behold the Black Caiman

3. Global Age?

  • Chapter 1, “Anthropology in a Global Age”
  • Fieldwork: “Anthropology in a Global Age: Making a Can of Coke Unfamiliar”

4. Brazil

  • Nancy Scheper-Hughes, “Mind(ing) the Body: On the Trail of Organ-Stealing Rumors”
  • Keisha-Khan Perry, “‘If We Didn’t Have Water’: Black Women’s Struggle for Urban Land Rights in Brazil”

5. Culture

  • Chapter 2, “Culture”
  • Karen Hansen, “Helping or Hindering? Controversies around the International Second-Hand Clothing Trade”
  • Fieldwork: “Creating Culture: College Students and the Culture of Consumerism”

6. Cultural Relativism

7. Fieldwork

  • Chapter 3, “Fieldwork and Ethnography”
  • Barbara Myerhoff, from Number Our Days
  • Fieldwork: “Mapping a Block”


  • Laura Bohannan, “Shakespeare in the Bush”
  • Bobby Benedicto, from Under Bright Lights: Gay Manila and the Global Scene


  • Chapter 4, “Language”
  • Laura Ahearn, “Literacy, Power, and Agency: Love Letters and Development in Nepal”
  • Fieldwork: “Language and Gender in the Classroom”

B. Considering History & Power

13. Race

  • Chapter 5, “Race and Racism”
  • Karen Brodkin, “How Did Jews Become White Folks?”
  • Fieldwork: “Initiating a Classroom Conversation about Race”


  • Fieldwork: “Exploring Human Origins in the Museum”


  • Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa, “#Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States”


  • Chapter 6, “Ethnicity and Nationalism”


  • Paul Farmer, “‘Landmine Boy’ and Stupid Deaths”


  • Audra Simpson, from Mohawk Interruptus
  • Fieldwork: “Seeing the Business of Ethnicity”


  • Chapter 7, “Gender”
  • Evelyn Blackwood, “Tombois in West Sumatra”
  • Emily Martin, “The Egg and the Sperm”


  • Chapter 8, “Sexuality”
  • Fieldwork: “Cartoon Commercials and the Construction of Gender”


  • Deborah Gould, “Life During Wartime: Emotions and the Development of ACT UP”
  • Fieldwork: “Creating a Code of Sexual Conduct”


  • Chapter 9, “Kinship, Family, and Marriage”
  • Melvyn Goldstein, “When Brothers Share a Wife”
  • Dana-Ain Davis, “The Troubling Case of Nadya Suleman”


  • Donna Haraway, from Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene
  • Fieldwork: “Mapping Kinship Relationships: Tracing Your Family Tree”


  • Chapter 10, “Class and Inequality”
  • Philippe Bourgois, “From Jíbaro to Crack Dealer: Confronting the Restructuring of Capitalism in El Barrio”
  • Fieldwork: “Ten Chairs of Inequality”

C. Making Sense of Change


  • Chapter 11, “The Global Economy”
  • Elizabeth Dunn, from Privatizing Poland: Baby Food, Big Business, and the Remaking of Labor


  • Julie Y. Chu, “The Attraction of Numbers: Accounting for Ritual Expenditures in Fuzhou, China”
  • Fieldwork: “The Global Economy: Tracking the Travels of a Chocolate Bar”


  • Gillian Tett, from Fools Gold: The Inside Story of J.P. Morgan
  • Fieldwork: “An Immigrant Interview”


  • Chapter 12, “Politics and Power”
  • Margaret Mead, “Warfare is Only an Invention–Not a Biological Necessity”


  • Carolyn Nordstrom, from Shadows of War


  • Melissa Checker, from Polluted Promises
  • Fieldwork: “Exploring the Balance of Power in Human Relationships”


  • Chapter 13, “Religion”
  • George Gmelch, “Baseball Magic”


  • Daromir Rudnyckyj, From Wall Street to Halal Street


  • Kenneth J. Guest, “Liminal Youth among Fuzhounese Chinese Undocumented Workers”
  • Fieldwork: “Visit to a Religious Community”


  • Chapter 14, “Health, Illness, and the Body”
  • Didier Fassin, Frédéric Le Marcis, and Todd Lethata, “Life and Times of Magda A”
  • Michele Friedner, from Valuing Deaf Worlds in Urban India
  • Fieldwork: “What Do You Do When You Get Sick?”


  • Chapter 15, “Art and Media”
  • Brent Luvaas, “Designer Vandalism: Indonesian Indie Fashion and the Cultural Practice of Cut ‘n’ Paste”


  • Aimee Cox, “The BlackLight Project”
  • Fieldwork: “Conducting an Ethnography of Art”

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