ANTHR2: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Syllabus - Spring Semester 2011
Sections 69755 (TTh 8:00AM - 9:20AM) and 69756 (MW 9:30AM - 10:50AM)
Last Updated 28 January 2011

This syllabus is a work in progress and will not assume its final form until the 1st day of classes, Fall 2010. It is - very important / muy importante / très important / sehr wichtig / molto importante - that you read this syllabus. In addition, the Tentative Class Schedule section of the syllabus is just that, Tentative; thus, it is vitally important that you check the class website at least once a week for possible changes to the Schedule.

This class REQUIRES access to, and use of, a computer and printer. It is absolutely imperative that you make arrangements BEFORE THE START OF THE SEMESTER to have such access, as you will be using a series of ONLINE TUTORIALS as your BASIC TEXT. If you do not have access to a computer and printer, the Cabrillo library and the Student Computing Center have numerous computers available for your use. If this requirement presents a hardship for you, contact me IMMEDIATELY so that we may work out a viable, albeit less satisfactory, way for you to access the required materials.

If you remain in the course after receiving and reviewing this syllabus,
I will assume you have read it carefully, and understand the mechanics & objectives of the course.

Instructor Information

Instructor: Chuck Smith.
Office: 430A.
Office Phone:831.477.5211.
Office Hours: MW: 8:15-9:25am; TTh 9:45-10:45 am; or by appointment
Email: I get a lot of junk email. If I don't recognize the sender's name, I delete the message without opening it. Therefore, if you send me an email be sure to put in the subject box your FULL name, class name AND section number. And keep in mind that I check my email ONLY between 8 am and 11 am Monday through Thursday (and never on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays or holidays).

What This Class Is About

Before taking the course, many students wonder: What is anthropology, anyway?
To see if anthropology is what you think it is, read What Is Anthropology? in the Core Concepts document.

Few students in this course will go on to be anthropologists. Why then take an Anthropology course (or any of the many other courses outside your major in college)? The main concepts in this course can be useful in a range of careers, and together with the other courses we take they help us develop a wider and more integrated perspective for understanding the forces in life issues and for resolving these issues positively. Just as important, however, is that all these courses help us develop a wider range of learning skills. If we can develop the skills for understanding and applying the perspectives in Anthropology, then we can better understand and apply other perspectives in life... and in the long run we will be better able to meet life challenges for ourselves and our society. The main goals in the course are therefore:

• To understand concepts in Anthropology and to apply these perspectives to resolve life issues.
• To use the course to develop our general learning skills to understand and apply other concepts and principles in life.

Several years ago a non-anthropological colleague said to me, “Anthropology is really just the pursuit of the exotic by the eccentric.” In this class we will evaluate just what that means and whether it represents an accurate picture of the anthropological endeavor. For example, are we looking for the “exotic”? Who do we consider exotic and what do we think of as “normal”? What do anthropologists do anyway and how do they think about what they are doing?

All of us take for granted certain aspects of everyday life and culture and the point of this class is to explore just what those assumptions might be and what they look like. We want to consider cultural norms that are seemingly different from our own – which can mean, among other things, female husbands, third and fourth genders, witchcraft as a source of infertility and HIV, epilepsy as a result of slammed doors and spirit catchers, the use of fetishes by American baseball players, and so much more. When we learn about these aspects of life elsewhere we begin to understand and reflect on our own assumptions about our everyday lives. The pioneering anthropologist Ralph Linton once quipped that “the last thing a fish would notice would be the water.” Well, as anthropologists, we want to be the fish that notice the water!

ANTHR2: Cultural Anthropology is a general survey course on the ethnic meanings and adaptive functions of human behavior in its cultural context. In this course you will be introduced to the basic concepts and findings of cultural anthropology, the systematic and comparative study of human cultural diversity across space and time. Cultural anthropology is the branch of anthropology that primarily deals with living human societies and their culture, as opposed to archaeology, which attempts to reconstruct "extinct" societies, or biological anthropology, which studies the biological side, both past and present, of the human animal. We will touch on these other fields as well, but our main focus in this course will be human cultural systems. We will cover a wide variety of topics in this course that will not only teach us about other peoples and cultures different from our own, but will also help us to improve our understanding of our own society and its customs, values and beliefs; each can shed light upon the other. Topics to be explored include economics and cultural ecology, family and kinship systems, religion and magic, culture change and adaptation, language and communication, and legal and political systems.

Contemporary international migrations and communications are bringing us into direct contact with peoples of many regions with different values and ways of life. We are, accordingly, faced with the challenge of tolerating and appreciating other cultural perspectives in order to avoid the dismal alternatives of increased ethnic nationalism, hostility, and violence. Over the next few months, we'll explore the manifold and often highly contrastive ways in which humans in different societies have dealt with, and made sense of, diverse life situations. Along the way, you will learn to understand and (hopefully) appreciate these differences while simultaneously gaining new insights into the patterns and dynamics of your own traditions. Moreover, we will ultimately turn the lens back on ourselves, deconstructing assumptions about 'normalcy' in order to better understand and appreciate cultural differences and human commonalities not only outside but also within our own society.

One of the key concepts we will be using in the course to understand better the human experience is ethnocentrism.
To get ready for our in-class discussion of this concept, read the article Ethnocentrism in the Core Concepts document.

My Expectations

I expect this course will be a fun challenge. It will be a challenge in the sense that it will suggest to you alternative ways of being and knowing, all of which make sense within the context of a particular society’s history. I will try and offer you the opportunity to explore what we and other people think is normal (as well as abnormal). Engaging with the ideas of others present challenges that at times will be intriguing, unsettling and eye opening. That process should be enjoyable (even though I know it won't always be!) even if what you are learning sounds completely bizarre. I expect you to learn to be critical. That does not mean critical in the negative sense, but rather, I expect that by the end of the semester you are able to look for and uncover the assumptions in any argument and can evaluate data from other contexts in culturally relative terms. All knowledge is equally truthful – an often difficult perspective. (Bear in mind that truth, like incest, is relative. Or as the 19th century explorer Richard Burton put it: All faith is false; all faith is true. Truth is the shattered mirror strewn in myriad bits; while each believes his little bit the whole to own.)

You can expect that I am personally committed to teaching that philosophy and will provide opportunities, materials and my own theoretical and practical data to that end. Basically, I like to talk about how we tend to naturalize things in the US and how truths really vary worldwide. I welcome your own perspectives in various formats. Other things I expect and you are required to do:

I urge you to do two things this semester: take advantage of the Writing Center - learning to craft a well written essay and communicate ideas in a persuasive manner are cornerstones of anthropology, your education at Cabrillo College and life itself - they are here to help, use the Center. Secondly, make certain that you understand the Academic Integrity Policy here at Cabrillo. If you are at all uncertain about what counts as plagiarism, please ask - what we learn is grounded in the work of others but learning to interpret and communicate new ideas based upon that knowledge and in our own manner is essential.

If you have any concerns about your class performance or comprehension, come by my office during office hours or schedule an appointment. I am always willing to help students and I care about whether students are grasping the material and enjoying the class.

Learning Objectives

Everyone needs to be aware that this course expects you as adult students to be responsible for your own learning, and to commit a sufficient amount of your time and energy to learning in this course. The course requires in-depth thinking about the issues and in developing your learning abilities. This effort will be rewarding for those who commit themselves to the higher levels of learning about other peoples. This course is designed to be a challenging learning experience, which you will hopefully also find interesting and enjoyable. My analysis of previous classes over the years shows that to succeed in this course, both in terms of developing your learning abilities that will help you in your life and career goals and of earning higher grade is mainly a matter of doing the work on time. According to the College, students enrolled in lecture classes are expected to spend at least twice the amount of hours outside of class as they spend in-class. Thus, for this class you are expected to spend 3 hours per week in-class and 6 hours per week doing homework. Those who either cannot or do not want to devote the necessary effort should give serious consideration to not enrolling or to dropping the course.

Basic Course Comprehension Objectives

Learning Abilities

Personal and Social Abilities

Technical Skills

In pursuing the goals and objectives of the course, we will first examine key concepts in understanding human behavior: human adaptation, culture, and ethnocentrism. Then we will review the content of culture, such as the economics, kinship, status, social control, and religious beliefs and practices involved in the behavior of different groups around the world. We will also examine cultural change, a major process in the lives of all people today. We will finish with a summary of ideas in cultural anthropology that can help us understand events in our society and in today's world.

As we work to understand new concepts and those forces that influence(d) human bio-cultural evolution, adaptation, variation, and behavior, we will develop our learning abilities. We will expand our abilities to examine our lives with new perspectives and a broader comprehension than at the beginning of the course, and to apply these abilities in our daily lives and in understanding our shared evolutionary history as well as current social and international events. It is this knowing better HOW to learn that will be the real measure of success for the course as we continue through our lives. You should also think about your own goals for the course. What do YOU want to learn and develop in this course (and in your other courses and in college)?

General Course Information

First Class
The first class is one of the most important of the semester. We start the process of working together to learn. This is when I clarify my orientations to the course, my perspectives and emphases, and what I am asking you to do ... and why. This also is where you start setting your own goals and processes.

Texts, Readings and Other Required Material
Unlike some college courses, this one relies heavily on access to the Internet as your chief source of information. I have chosen this method of presentation of relevant materials as a way both to broaden your exposure to biological anthropology as well as lessen the cost of the class to you (most textbooks cost over $120). (NOTE: Instead of buying your textbooks, there are some great book resources available on campus.Take a look at this document for some ideas about alternative textbook sources

My lectures do not recapitulate the assigned readings, but build on and elaborate them. The assigned readings serve as references / expansions / additions to material presented in class and where you can check for more explanations and examples of course concepts and how these ideas can be applied to understand and resolve contemporary issues. I selected this eclectic method of presentation of relevant materials as a way both to broaden your exposure to cultural anthropology as well as to lessen the cost of the class to you (most textbooks cost over $100).

General Course Policies
Students are responsible for their own learning. You are expected to know what the assignments are and when they are to be done (refer to the Tentative Class Schedule), to study the course materials before coming class, to be actively involved in class activities, to review class materials after class, to be actively involved in learning , and to follow instructions regarding assignments.

Students are asked to respect and support an active and positive learning atmosphere for all members of the class, which includes:

All assignments must be completed on time in order to receive a course grade. No credit will be given for assignments turned in past their due date, except under the most unusual circumstances (e.g., you were on the way to class and gave birth to triplets; you were awarded the Nobel Prize and had to fly to Sweden to accept it) and no exam make-ups will be given.

Grades are based on the total points received for required work over the whole course. Attendance, active contributions to class learning, and development will be taken into consideration in final grade decisions.

In consideration of Cabrillo’s Code of Student Ethics, confirmed cases of cheating, plagiarism, or other academic misconduct will result in a failing grade for the course. If you don't know what plagiarism is, ASK ME!

Evaluation of Student Competency
There are five categories of graded requirements: exams, in-class activities, an ethnographic interview, and a short paper. By having such a variety of evaluation categories, it allows for a broader range of learning and assessment styles for students. Some students excel in exams while others struggle just to pass them, but do outstanding writing on the at-home essays.

Exams (300 points).The exams are scheduled for March 16 or 17 (depending on your section), April 27 or 28 (depending on your section), and June 1 or 2 (depending on yur section). Exams are constructed to test your understanding of course concepts (given through lectures, readings, classroom discussions and videos). Exam questions are drawn from lectures, videos, readings, exercises and discussions. Each exam contains a variety of testing venues: multiple-choice questions, true-false statements (which require you to say why a statement is false if you believe it to be FALSE), fill-ins, and short essays designed to assess your analytical and explanatory skills. It's important that you attend class to be successful on the exams. The final exam will be cumulative, but will emphasize material covered since the second exam. Do NOT COME LATE to the exams, or miss an exam. In the case of the former, you will be allowed to take the exam but your score will be reduced one full grade; in the case of the latter, I do NOT allow make-ups (EXCEPTION: verifiable medical and/or legal reasons). No testing aids of any kind are permitted for the exams, unless you have a verifiable disability that requires accommodations. Each exam is worth 100 points

Study guides for the exams will be made available via the class webpage one week prior to each exam. Hard copies are NOT distributed in class. In general, each exam is based on the material contained in the study guide. However, since the online study guides are a compilation from prior semesters, and there's always something new discussed every semester, there are always questions on each exam that are not on the study guide. For example, there will be questions on your exam about GIFT and RESPECT - books I haven't used in a while and thus there are no questions on the study quide specific to either book. USE THE STUDY GUIDES and PRACTICE EXAMS - they will make a difference in your exam performance. I strongly suggest that you take a practice exam and then bring the exam to my office so we can go over it together. I also recommend taking the quizzes contained in the Online Tutorials. Forewarned is forearmed.

In-class Activities: Interviewing With An Artifact (30 points). This exercise emphasizes the everyday skills of listening, questioning, and researching people. Researching people means "stepping in" to the worldviews of others and "stepping out" of your own. To investigate, from another person's point of view, the story behind an object, I will partner you with another classmate (but not someone you already know) and each of you will act as both interviewer and consultant. Each of you will bring to class an interesting artifact, one that is meaningful to you. It may be something that is worn or carried (such as a key chain, a piece of jewelry, an item of clothing, a special purse or bag, etc). As you share your own artifact and learn to interview others about theirs, you learn the value of honoring difference as well as the skills to write and read about it. When you can confront "difference" as it appears in one another’s' possessions, you enter others' perspectives by "stepping out" of you own. Insider and outsider stances support one another. In short, we can ask the ethnographic question, "What's it like for that person in this place?" This assignment is worth 30 points. NO LATE SUBMISSIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

In addition to the above categories of graded assignments, AS PART OF YOUR FINAL EXAM, you will be expected to write a cogent, informed essay on social structure and individual agency based on Gift of a Bride. In Gift of a Bride, the lives of individuals were shaped by the social structure (kinship, economic, and political system) but each person acted as an individual. They may have resisted the dominant structure, participated in it, or simply tried to do the best they could within structural limitations. Your essay must do at least the following three things:

I’m giving you this essay problem at the beginning of the semester so that you can, while reading the text, extract the relevant information. Thus, I expect EVERYONE to write a BRILLIANT answer since you’ll have the entire semester in which to prepare.


Grading Policy
Your semester grade is determined by the total number of points earned (exams, homework, in-class activities, etc.). Grades are based on the following scale: 330-297 points = A; 296-264 points = B; 263-231 points = C; 230-198 = D; less than 198 = F

All grades count – I do not throw away the lowest score or make other exceptions. You will be competing only with yourself in this course, not fighting over a scarce resource (i.e. a limited supply of A's and B's) with other students. It is theoretically possible for every person in the class to earn an A. Please note that the key word here is EARN.

Grading / Assessment Criteria. I grade all written assignments as follows:

On exams, an A answer contains relevant examples from both formal learning materials (lectures, videos, readings, etc.) and one's own experience. A B answer contains a relevant example from the textbooks, readings, or personal experience. A C answer is generally correct, showing that the student has an idea of the answer. A D response is barely relevant to the question. An F is irrelevant/unreadable

Other Class Policies
Students with Disabilities. Accommodations for this class are made to comply with the American Disabilities Act. So that appropriate arrangements may be made, I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability, including 'invisible' disabilities such as chronic diseases, learning disorders, and psychological disabilities, which may require some modification of seating, testing, or other class requirements. Please see me during office hours, or after class, or contact me by email and explain your needs and appropriate accommodations. Please bring a verification of your disability from the Disabled Student Services offices and a counselor or specialist's recommendations for accommodating your needs.

Contacting the Instructor. Email is the most reliable way to contact me. If you would like to speak with me in person you should see me during office hours (see above). If you need to talk to me outside of office hours call my voice mail (477-5211), speak slowly and clearly, tell me your name and give a phone number where I can reach you, and succinctly state why you need to speak with me. I check my voice mail each day Monday through Thursday before 11 a.m. So if you call on Thursday afternoon, Friday, Saturday or Sunday you will get my response on Monday after 11 am. Plan your calls accordingly. I will return your call once. If you are not present or there is no voice mail you will have to call me again.

Cautionary Note Regarding Cell Phones / Beepers. If you carry a cell phone or beeper, PLEASE keep the ringer/buzzer "off" while you are in class. If your beeper or cell phone is heard while lecture is going on, 50 points per occurrence will be deducted from your final class score!

Attendance. Making this class interesting depends on your constructive participation and respect for one another. This includes arriving on time, not getting ready to go until the class is over, and listening to each other. It means joining into discussions, responding to each other rather than only to me. If you participate thoughtfully everyone can gain from this class. Regular attendance and punctuality are important for both your success and that of the class as a whole. As much of the course material will be presented in lecture, attendance is critical. I take attendance (students are responsible for documenting their presence by signing the attendance sheet) to encourage your exposure to the material available only in class and to encourage your participation and support in class discussions. Whether or not you attend class, you are responsible for material presented in class, what assignments were made, etc., and you will take responsibility for making up missed work. NOTE: I will not reteach class during office hours. If you will not be in class you should arrange with someone in the class to share his/her notes with you. It is not my job to take notes for you.

Note: A number of religious holidays (Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim) fall during the semester. If it's your customary practice to refrain from any activities, other than those associated with your religious upbringing, on one or more of these days and thus will miss class, please see me for an excused absence. But more importantly, ask a classmate to take notes for you.

Late Work. Timeliness of work is a fundamental aspect of the workplace and is equally important in this class. The reason that it is important in class is that knowledge is gained best when you work at it steadily, even when it seems frustrating. Further, knowledge is cumulative, so that understanding what is going on in the 8th week depends upon your understanding of what was discussed in week 3. All assignments are due on the date stated. Any assignments received late papers will not be accepted! No exceptions!

Language Policy. While in the classroom, we will think, discuss and debate as anthropologists. This means that both the instructor and the students will use language that is scholarly and professional, reflecting the fact that we are trying to achieve a greater understanding of the human condition. Learn to express yourself clearly and accurately, and in an intellectual rather than personal fashion. Develop awareness of your own ethnocentrism and make conscious efforts to ameliorate it. (NOTE: Read the handout on ethnocentrism AGAIN!) Also, be conscious of the language you use to talk about race, ethnicity and gender. For example, no anthropologist publishes articles that refer to "girls" and "guys;" they are "women" and "men."

Videos. Much of the material presented in class is enhanced by the use of videos (some shown in class, others assigned to be viewed via the Internet), and you are responsible for the information contained in these. Many videos belong to the instructor or other faculty members and are NOT available for viewing in the library if you miss them the first time around. I do not loan out ANY videos. The various films and videos included as part of this course are a vital component of the material under study. They are not included as time fillers or for the purpose of entertainment. You are encouraged to take notes during or after each film, and there will be questions about them on the exams.

Incompletes. It is the responsibility of the student to request, if needed, the assignment of an incomplete grade. I allow incomplete grades only for students who have passed the first two exams, completed all crossword puzzles, conpleted and submitted their ethnographic interview, passed all four in-class assignments, received a passing grade on the Kinship and Domestic Violence paper, who have a legitimate reason for not completing the semester's work (such as, you’ve died, you’re in the hospital giving birth, you’re incarcerated and being held incommunicado) and who speak with me two weeks before the final class. My decision to authorize or not authorize an incomplete grade is final. Arrangement for the completion of the course must be made with me prior to the assignment of the "I" grade. This agreement must be written on an Incomplete Course Form. I may allow up to one semester for a student to complete the missing requirement. "I" grades not changed by the end of the following semester automatically become failing grades ("F").

Withdrawals / Drops. Should you find it necessary to withdraw from or drop the class, it is your responsibility to fill out the necessary paperwork and submit it to Admissions and Records. DO NOT ASSUME THAT I WILL DROP / WITHDRAW YOU SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU STOP ATTENDING CLASS! See class schedule for withdraw and drop dates. I do NOT give incompletes except for the most extreme, and verifiable, reasons.

Student Feedback. Feel free to make suggestions or to offer constructive criticisms during the class. I'm always open to possibilities so long as core learning goals are being met. Any student complaints or concerns about this course should first be brought to my attention. I will make every effort to resolve the matter to our mutual satisfaction. Should that not happen, the matter may be taken to Nancy Brown, Dean, Human Arts and Sciences Division.

If you remain in the course after receiving and reviewing this syllabus,
I will assume you have read it carefully,
and understand the mechanics and objectives of the course.Welcome to Cultural Anthropology!



" Aunt Rebeca asks, 'Rutie, pero dime, what is anthropology?' While I hesitate, she confidently exclaims, 'The study of people? And their customs, right?' Right. People and their customs. Exactly. Así de fácil. Can't refute that. Somehow, out of that legacy, born of the European colonial impulse to know others in order to lambast them, better manage them, or exalt them, anthropologists have made a vast intellectual cornucopia. At the anthropological table, to which another leaf is always being added, there is room for studies of Greek death laments, the fate of socialist ideals in Hungary and Nicaragua, Haitian voodoo in Brooklyn, the market for Balinese art, the abortion debate among women in West Fargo, North Dakota, the reading groups of Mayan intellectuals, the proverbs of a Hindi guru, the Bedouin sense of honor, the jokes Native Americans tell about the white man, the plight of Chicana cannery workers, the utopia of Walt Disney, and even, I hope, the story of my family's car accident on the Belt Parkway shortly after our arrival in the United States from Cuba... Anthropology, to give my Aunt Rebeca a grandiose reply, is the most fascinating, bizarre, disturbing, and necessary form of witnessing left to us at the end of the twentieth century..." (Behar 1996: 4-5)


CAVEAT LECTOR: The works of humans are imperfect and mutable – changes in this schedule are subject to the instructor's discretion and will be announced ON THE CLASS WEBPAGE. It is your responsibility to check the class webpage every Sunday. If class interest is keen on a particular topic, we will spend more time on it than on others. This is why I label this a Tentative Class Schedule. Frequently I find the class spending more time on some subjects and less time on others. It is, therefore, important for you to come to class regularly in order to stay atop of changes in the schedule. It is ABSOULTELY IMPERATIVE that ALL assignments be completed by the beginning of the week in which they are assigned. That way, all of us can engage in more informed discussions of relevant topics.

When reading the articles and/or watching videos, try and extract the relevant information - I don't expect you to memorize everything. For example, in the article on chimpanzees "naming" certain food items, you only need to remember that chimps can "name" and how that relates to other "symbolic' behaviors, such as leaf-clipping. WARNING: These are NOT just fillers-of-your-time. They contain information necessary to your understanding of the class's subject matter. In addition, your exams will draw on material from these readings and websites.

Some assignments are available as electronic resources through the Cabrillo library’s EBSCoHost program. For accessing EBSCoHost you will need a Cabrillo library card (which is free for the asking at the Reference Desk). Then do this:
1. Go to the Library’s homepage (
2. Click on Fulltext Articles on the left side of the page.
3. Click on Academic Search Premier (EBSCOhost)
4. When EBSCOHost opens, this is where you begin your search. If you don’t know how to do a search using the databases, seek help from one of the reference librarians.

Week 1 (Feb 7) – Is Anthropology the Pursuit of the Exotic by the Eccentric?

Week 2 (Feb 14) – Culture: What A Concept

Week 3 (Feb 21) – Nosey People: Fieldwork As A Way To Learn About Culture

Week 4 (Feb 28) – Burqas, Rap Songs and Flashing Eyebrows: What are we trying to say?

Week 5 (Mar 7) – The Gravy Train: We All Have To Eat

Week 6 (Mar 14) – What is all this stuff? Allocating, Converting or Transforming Resources

FIRST EXAM: March 16 (MW class); March 17 (TTh class). Bring a Blue ScanTron (form A200) to the exam.

Week 7 (Mar 21) – Of Lust, Love and Marriage

Week 8 (Mar 28) – A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Sexuality Across Cultures

Week 9 (April 4) – SPRING BREAK

Week 10 (April 11) – Family Matters, But Who Are These People Anyway: Kinship and Descent

Week 11 (April 18) – Too Many Chiefs and Not Enough Indians: The Dimensions of Social Organization

Week 12 (April 25) – Explaining the Unexplainable: Magic, Science and Religion

SECOND EXAM: April 27 (MW class); April 28(TTh class). Bring a Blue ScanTron (form A200) to the exam.

Week 13 (May 2) – Doctor, What’s Wrong With My Daughter: Ethnomedicine

Week 14 (May 9) – The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling! How Cultures Change

Week 15 (May 16) – Catch-up week.

Week 16 (May 23) – Catch-up week.

Week 17 (May 31) - FINAL EXAM WEEK. Final exams are scheduled for, depending on your section, Wednesday June 1 at 7am (Yikes!) or Thursday June 2 at 10am (Yes!). Bring a Blue ScanTron (form A200) to the exam.