Monday, January 23, 2012

Race and Consequence: "Reality" and Social Constructs

Thanks to many of the posts examining race over at Living Anthropologically , I got turned onto Lance Gravlee’s 2009 article, “Race Becomes Biology.” There are a lot of reasons to like the article, but in particular, he brings attention to a recurrent problem I have when talking about race to students. Students definitely do usually interpret the traditional anthropological critique of race as “oh, anthropologists say race doesn’t exist, so it’s not important.” And while that’s clearly not what I’m arguing in class, it’s painstakingly difficult to clearly articulate the nuance.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Individualism Rears Its Head Again: Student Views on the "Girls Gone Wild" Effect

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, teaching college students provides a great opportunity to examine their cultural worlds--a kind of class time as mini-ethnography. One of the most salient symbolic themes that comes across in the classes I’ve been in is the deep commitment to individualism--individuals act in the world entirely according to their own intent, unaffected by social context, and should be completely held accountable for their actions. That’s not surprising as individualism is a core value of American culture--just look at the rhetoric spewing out of the Republican primary contest. What’s become more surprising is the myriad ways that that individualism bubbles up.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Anthro 101 Readings: Early Marriage Among the Maasai

Despite teaching introductory anthropology classes, as much as I can, I like to incorporate readings beyond the textbook. I usually include ten to a dozen journal articles throughout the semester. This can be a spectacular failure, like when 75% of the class fails to read or are caught completely off guard by the level of the reading that I’m expecting, but I believe it’s important to expose even new students to the “real” world of anthropology in more professional, academic literature.