Using the novel as ethnography, this course examines world cultures through literary works of authors from various parts of the world. We explore the construction of community in precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial times; independence movements; issues of individual and social identity; and the themes of change, adaptation and conflict. Student work includes an analytical essay, contribution to an extensively researched, group class presentation on contextual material, a research based essay, and a final piece of fiction writing.
Why are cultures and societies so different, and simultaneously, so similar? This introductory course examines some of the theoretical and methodological approaches of anthropology in exploring human culture and society. We explore various ethnographic examples to develop an anthropological perspective on economy and politics, social organization, kinship and family life, ideology and ritual, ecology and adaptation, as well as a focus on the sources and dynamics of inequality. Further, we focus on the dynamics of change in contemporary life-globalization, migration, political collapse, environmental calamity and social reorganization-and how these processes challenge social scientists to construct appropriate paradigms to describe and understand the production of cultural meanings in the increasingly globalized world, and to identify cultural differences and human universals.
In New England, parcels of land were traditionally described in reference to specific existing landscape features—a system called “metes and bounds.” This course, grounded in the ecology, history and culture of the Bennington region over its 250-plus year history, explores human interactions with the biophysical environment to produce livelihoods as well as economic commodities from woolen underwear to carpenter squares and other manufactures for New England and beyond. How have these interactions shaped the area and how does their interplay constrain and enable its future? What features of social life and the natural environment have been, or should be, sustained? Fieldwork and practical exercises will provide an entry into the tools, skills and approaches to studying Bennington, a place of many horizons and boundaries. For students who wish to continue exploring questions developed in this course, FWT internships and a projects course will follow.
Why is there so much famine? Why so many civil wars? Why so much misunderstanding? To place current events in Africa in a meaningful framework, this course explores indigenous African cultures, drawing on ethnographic examples from selected ethnic groups representing major subsistence strategies, geographical and ecological zones, and patterns of culture. We will explore how cultural practices and ecology influence each other and affect the lives of Africa’s farmers, herders, and workers. We will also examine new social and cultural practices that influence the survival of societies. Consequently, we will locate indigenous coping strategies within their historical context, in order to understand their role in contemporary society, and to answer another question: What are the social strengths of African societies?