As we look out upon the world our view is always partial – both incomplete and particular. What we take in, how we make sense of it, and how we understand ourselves in relation to it is molded by institutions, habits, and ways of thinking that anthropologists refer to as culture. In this course, we learn about the customary practices, social institutions, and shared sets of beliefs of people living different lives than our own, with an emphasis on cultures and cultural practices in places that we visit during our voyage. Through case studies, films, and samples of material and expressive arts and media from these cultures, we explore a range of topics, including gender and other markers of ‘difference’; family, marriage, personhood, and identity; belief systems; economic and political systems; globalization and its impacts. Students will conduct their own anthropological research projects, and will leave the course and the voyage with a greater appreciation for the variety of ways that culture shapes people’s lives and understandings of the world and the impacts of globalization upon those lives, as well as with the means to reflect critically upon their own culture and the lenses through which they view the world.
*Note: This class is delivered when lunch is served.
Field WorkCountry: Poland
Date: September 16, 2019
Symbols are key factors in peoples’ unique sense of themselves as members of a cultural group, of their history, and of their sense of place. This field class provides students the opportunity to explore the power of symbols, through a food tour and a scavenger hunt in Gdansk’s Old Town. In a 4-5 hour food tour, students will sample foods representative of Poland’s different cultural traditions; the tour will also introduce students to Polish history, through visits to key historical sites. The food tour will be followed by a symbol scavenger hunt along Ul Dluga (Dluga Street), the main pedestrian street in Old Town. Working in small groups, students will make ethnographic observations of symbols such as buildings, souvenirs, displays, brochures, that may inform people’s sense of identity, history, and cultural affiliation. Detailed descriptions and recordings of observations made throughout the day, together with course readings and discussion, will be the basis for an ethnographic analysis of the role of symbols (including the symbolic associations between food and identity) in contemporary Poland.
1. Learn about the varied cultural histories that make up the modern Polish State
2. Gain an appreciation for the role of ethnic identity markers such as food in establishing a sense of belonging to communities within the larger national community
3. Practice the methodology of reading symbols of identity and doing symbolic analysis
4. Begin to understand the multi-layered aspects of cultural citizenship