This course explores the reasons and mechanics of human cultural change, as well as cultural persistence or resistance to that change. This topic is of critical importance to understanding why our society behaves the way that it does, the social diversity we see around the world today, and the factors playing a role in the evolution of these societies. An important component of this class is not only understanding why societies evolve into different and novel forms, but how we can use empirical data to discern between the different potential explanations for this change. To this end, students will be exposed to some of the leading theories that explain the process of cultural evolution, and we will place special focus on how to use data from the populations we visit during our voyage—as well as from ethnographic, historical, and pre-historical records—to systematically assess why cultures evolved in particular ways. The first part of the course reconstructs basic social structure and how it results form specific human biological, economic, social, or political needs. The second part investigates different alternatives for how and why societies are influenced and re-worked by changes in historical and social-economic contexts, and how these prompt culture and behavior to evolve in particular ways.
Field ClassCountry: Ecuador
Day: 1 - Thursday, 1 December
The aim of this field class is to view first-hand some of the processes of rural-urban migration, urban growth, community consolidation, and identity formation that we learn in class, as well as how to record information about community structure and social organization for anthropological analysis. To this aim, we will tour several of Guayaquil’s neighborhoods, including the historic district around the Cerro Santa Ana, which will give students the opportunity to learn about the history of the city and the reasons for its growth and continued prominence. We will also visit the Guasmo of Guayaquil (originally and informal township or favela) and have the opportunity to talk with locals about how that neighborhood formed and about the process of incorporation into the city. This will give students the opportunity to learn about the struggles faced by the inhabitants of informal townships such as these, as well as how locals organize to resolve those issues. During this part of the field class, students will learn how to record systematic information about the composition of the neighborhood with the help of several students from one of Guayaquil’s Universities. Back on the ship, this information will serve as the basis of class discussion on the effects of globalization and migration on cultural change. Learning objectives:
- To view first-hand examples of some of the processes of rural-urban migration, urban growth, community consolidation, and identity formation learned in class.
- To learn and practice how to record information about community structure and social organization for anthropological analysis.
- To learn about the struggles faced by the inhabitants of informal townships and the cities where these are formed, as well as how people organize to resolve those issues.