What are the relationships among people, their history, the environment, and the
technologies they develop and adopt? How does technological change affect family
relationships and gender hierarchies in society?
This class introduces students to the theories and practices that define
anthropology as a field of study and that shape its distinctive perspective on culture
and society. Several societies will provide the focus for an in-depth exploration of
technology and cultural change. We will consider examples of industrializing societies,
as well as societies with economies based on agriculture, pastoralism, trade, and tourism.
Where possible, we will consider the impact of both historical and contemporary
technologies. How has the introduction of new technology in transportation, farming,
fishing, textile production, and communication influenced the organization of work
and the workplace? How have new technologies affected the status of men and women
in family and society? In this class we will also give special attention to the kinds of
work performed by different social groups in society, as well as their different access to
Our several cultural cases will highlight primarily societies that are destinations
on our trip. Field labs will provide students with an opportunity to observe local craft
workshops and industry sites, and to visit other technology-rich social spaces.
Field WorkCountry: Ghana
Day: 1 - Tema (Accra) - 10 April
In the field lab “Cloth and Clothing: Textile Production and Culture in Ghana,” students will observe contemporary batik cloth making, learn its history in Ghana – and hear from experts how cloth production (and clothing styles) have changed over time. A particular focus is the division of labor in batik, cloth, and garment production, specifically who is hired or engaged to perform what tasks? What specialized skills are required for each kind of work? Is there a division of labor by gender, age, ethnicity, or class? And importantly for anthropology students who are studying culture and technology change: how has the workforce and place of work changed over time along with technology itself? As part of this lab experience, will examine not only the process of batik and cloth making, but also the product itself. Students will view examples of locally produced textiles and garments (both contemporary and ‘traditional’) and learn how they were made and worn. Academic Objectives:
- To learn in what ways the introduction of new technologies in the field of textile production and garment making have re-shaped the composition of the workforce, the skills required of workers, – and in general analyze the effects on culture and community of removing production from homes and workshops to factories
- To consider and compare the effects of changing technology on family and community life at different cross-cultural sites
- To assess in what ways technologies drive culture change – and/or cultures drive technology change