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: Japan
Day: 6 - Kobe - 3 February
In this first lab for the anthropology course “Peoples, Cultures, and Technologies,” the focus is silk-making and the family traditions and cultural practices that support it in Japan. Students will visit sites where silk thread is reeled from cocoons (spun by silkworms) and learn about the many skilled steps between thread making and finished silk garments. Questions we will address include: Who makes silk and how? Who wore silk in the 19th centuries – and who wears it now in the 21st? What kinds of garments were worn then -- and now? Students will learn about the history of silk making in Japan and compare it with what they have learned about silk-making in China. In addition, we will focus on how silk-making technologies, skills, and the specialized labor force in Japan has changed across time. Academic Objectives:
- To learn about the technologies and skills in silk thread, textile, and garment manufacture – and their connection to greater cultural values and beliefs
- To discover how technology and culture in the silk industry have changed over time in Japan
- To compare and contrast silk textile technology and gender division of labor in Japan with textile industries in other places, including in Ghana (Accra Field Lab)