In this course we examine the concepts, methods, and theories that anthropologists use to study and interpret how notions of cultural, racial, ethnic, sexual, and national difference are generated, sustained, contested, and transformed. We use ethnographies and films to explore the shared meanings and varied ways of living that anthropologists refer to as “culture,” and to question commonsense and our own understandings of human nature. Students will use course materials and their experiences in the countries visited during the Semester at Sea voyage to practice ethnographic fieldwork methods, try out a variety of analytical approaches to understanding how people live in the world, and explore various styles of ethnographic writing and other forms of representation.
Field WorkCountry: Japan
Day: 2 - Monday, 25 January
Cultures vary widely in their body practices, notions of body comportment, and conceptions of the relation between the body, mind, and spirit. Students in this lab will explore various ways of being culturally embodied. Through guided meditation at Kencho-ji Temple in the city of Kamakura students will explore first-hand the ritualized body practices associated with Zen Buddhism. Prior to our visit to Kencho-ji Temple, students will visit Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, an important Shinto site, and so will also have the opportunity to compare the icononography and symbolism associated with these two different traditions. Travel on public transportation will also provide the opportunity to observe and experience the way people move through public space, and to reflect upon expectations related to public interactions in contemporary Japanese culture.
1. To observe and participate in meditation rituals.
2. To think about what the day’s various embodied experiences suggest about the relation between body practices (the way we walk, eat, interact with other bodies, experience the body in meditation) and cultural values and norms.
3. To consider the role of symbols and physical space in making “cultured” bodies.