Thursday, February 17, 2011

Anthropology without Culture

StraightMan and I have become a dual-academic career, dual-blog couple.

His post from today - "Doubling Down on Culture" - is especially worth reading for those of us who teach anthropology to undergraduates.

I could not agree more with StraightMan about his point that the challenge of teaching cultural anthropology is not that students have no knowledge about "culture," but that they already have a lot of it, not all of it actually in agreement (or frankly, relevant to) what I see as the aims of ANTH 100.

This is the point at which I think teaching anthropology ought to start.

In fact, a particular problem that I encounter is that too many students seem to regard my course as confirming what they think they already know.

This, despite explicitly telling students at the start of the semester that the point of the course will be to unlearn what they have been taught already, assigning them articles and books and ethnographic films that can go a bit overboard in contradicting conventionally held ideas (like the happy portrayal of polygyny in the classic film, "Masai Women"...), and continually harping on the point in discussions and lectures.

Is it possible to write a textbook called "Culture Is Overrated"? Just asking.

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