All introductory anthropology courses survey a wide variety of cultures around the world. It is my belief that this form of ethnic snacking is hazardous to the goals of cultural understanding. After a semester of vicariously – and, in our case, literally – sailing on an ethnographic cruise ship, too many students remain ethnocentric and self-satisfied. Indeed, even serious students have trouble remembering all of the exotic names much less anything substantive about the culture of the given week. For this reason, we will focus our attention on only two cultural groups. In the first half of the course, we will be reading various and often conflicting ethnographies of the Yanomamo Indians of Amazonia who hold the dubious distinction of being one of the most studied cultural groups in the history of anthropology. Students will recognize that these contrasting depictions reveal far more about the creators of these images than the actual people that these images purport to portray. In the second half, we will turn the tables by examining a group closer to home: American college students. Once again, we will read a variety of essentializing portrayals. After experiencing first-hand what it feels like to be on the other side of the anthropological gaze, students will hopefully blur the line between “us” and “them.” Because it is in the doing of anthropology where the concepts come to life, the course will also include an in-country field class in which students will directly observe cultural practices and connect their ethnographic experience with course materials. All of the students will also collect data for an ethnographic research project on “The SASians,” the “tribe” of Semester at Sea® participants.
Field WorkCountry: Morocco
Date: March 1, 2022