Cultural Change [CRN 29369]

Discipline: Anthropology
Instructor: Ferry
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1100
End: 1220
Field Work: Day 5 | April 3, 2018 | Ghana
Prerequisites: One (1) introductory anthropology course Download Syllabus

This course introduces the anthropological approaches to our understanding of human cultural change. It rethinks the fundamental anthropological questions in an ever faster changing world, questions such as how culture can be defined and approached in anthropology, and how change and persistence are related in contemporary global circumstances.   This course is intended as an invitation to learn about, and to join in, the lively debates among scholars engaged in developing anthropological perspectives on these subjects.   Readings will focus on such questions as the validity of different approaches to the global and the local (such as modernization theory, world systems theory, and globalization theory), and to the ways that the persistence of culture and the inevitability of change have been described by anthropologists such as Marshall Sahlins and Pierre Bourdieu and will include ethnographic instances focused on sites visited in the Semester at Sea spring 2018 voyage (such as Ellen Hertz’s ethnography of the Shanghai stock exchange and Lucy Norris’ ethnography of cotton homespun in the state of Kerala, India). The course will include an in-country field class, in which students will observe and collect information on situated responses to changing circumstances.

Field Work

Country: Ghana
Day: 5
Date: April 3, 2018

The question of how to effect change – to alleviate poverty, reduce waste, or fund socially valuable projects, for example – is a complicated one, as it is often hard to grasp a sufficiently complex understanding of the situation that needs to change, and interventions aimed at change often have unintended direct or indirect consequences. At the same time, most would agree that not attempting change at all is not a viable or ethical option. This field class will visit several projects aimed at bringing about specific changes and learn about the ways these organizations identify and frame the situations they seek to change and how their framings influence the strategies they use to bring about that change.

Learning Objectives:
1. Students will observe several projects aimed at effecting change through strategies of investment, production, and marketing.
2. Students will work together to develop a set of questions for evaluating the motivations and strategies of particular projects aimed at change, and will use these to structure their observations and reflect on them after the class.