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Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology

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  • Course description
    Known as the “holistic science of humankind,’’ anthropology attempts to understand socio/cultural systems in the broadest of comparative perspectives. Anthropology seeks to examine the differences between the vast varieties of existing human societies and to explain their development from simplest beginnings to modern complexity. Archaeology and physical anthropology add a unique time depth to the discipline among the social sciences.

    Anthropology courses coded at the 200 level are ethnographic survey courses (i.e., courses about some particular culture area). Courses coded at the 300 level are theoretical-topical (i.e., aimed at particular theoretical issues). These courses are open to students of all levels.

    A student who enters Whitman without prior college-level preparation in anthropology will have to complete 36 credits to fulfill the requirements for the anthropology major. Courses completed in the anthropology major apply to the social science and alternative voices (selected courses) distribution areas.

    The Anthropology major
    : A total of 36 credits in anthropology to include Anthropology 101, 102, 318, 490 and 492 (or 498 “Honors Thesis”); plus 20 additional credits including at least three courses from the 200 level. Students may also fulfill the 200 level by taking a special topics course (247). Only one 247-course will be allowed to meet the 200-level course requirement. In the final year students majoring in anthropology must pass a senior assessment consisting of a written thesis and an oral defense.

    The Anthropology minor: Anthropology 101, 102, 318; plus eight additional credits in anthropology.

    101 Paleoanthropology: An Introduction to Archaeological and Physical Anthropology

    A basic introduction to the goals, concepts, and methods of archaeological and physical anthropology. Human origins, evolution, and modern variation are the focus of physical anthropology. Archaeology will be examined as a means of reconstructing extinct cultures. The broad evolution of culture from the Plio-Pleistocene to the origins of civilizations will be surveyed in archaeological perspective. Three periods per week. Open to first-year students and sophomores; juniors and seniors by consent only.

    102 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

    An introduction to the cross-cultural study of social and cultural systems employing a combination of ethnographic and anthropological theoretical materials. Three periods per week. Open to first-year students and sophomores; juniors and seniors by consent only.

    219 Chinese Religion

    An introduction to the religions of the Han Chinese people. The emphasis is on the range of everyday religious beliefs and practices, rather than on institutionalized Buddhism and Taoism. Topics include: myth, cosmology, state religion, and the cults of ancestors, gods and ghosts, folk Buddhism and Taoism, and religious syncretism.

    231 Archaeology of South America

    A survey of the archaeological evidence in South America from the earliest occupations until European conquest in the 16th century AD. The course traces developments from the earliest hunter-gatherer societies to the emergence of states and empires. Readings will concentrate on increasing sociopolitical and socioeconomic complexity revealed in settlement patterns, economic diversity, art, architecture, and ritual practices, and how these developments varied across the diverse environmental regions of the continent.

    233 Archaeology of East Asia

    An investigation of the rich tapestry of cultural development in eastern Asia from the earliest evidence of Stone Age occupations through the civilizations of the eighth century AD. Attention is focused on adaptations to environmental and socio-economic factors that led to stable agricultural production; the emergence of civilization, states and empires; and the interaction of local and regional politics as expressed in cultural expressions of art, science, and conquest.

    238 The Archaeology of Mesoamerica

    A survey of the archaeological evidence in Mexico and Central America from the earliest occupations until European conquest in the 16th century AD. The course traces developments from the earliest hunter-gatherer societies to the emergence of states and empires. Readings will concentrate on increasing sociopolitical and socioeconomic complexity revealed in settlement patterns, economic diversity, art, architecture, and ritual practices.

    239 Prehistoric Archaeology of Europe

    Prehistoric Europe is a course designed to survey the general patterns of human physical, cultural and social development in the continent from the earliest appearance of human activity until the ages of metallurgy. The changes in those general patterns over an immense period of time are placed against a backdrop of major alterations of local and regional climate as well as movements of people (including Greeks and Romans) and ideas along convenient routes of communication.

    241 Culture, Health, and Indigenous Development in the Andes

    This course is a critical introduction to the complexities of contemporary indigenous livelihoods in the Andes region with a specific geographic emphasis upon the country of Ecuador and a thematic emphasis on issues of health and development. Working on the assumption that to understand issues of health and development requires contextualized knowledge of the interactions between cultural traditions and practices, environmental constraints, social movements, ever-changing political landscapes, and the effects of global economic restructuring, this course explores its themes historically (reaching back to the Inca period and the challenges of Spanish colonization) and through a number of disciplinary and analytical lenses, including anthropology, epidemiology, demography, gender studies, and cultural politics. Topics will include: a critical investigation of “traditional” healing and medicine, the impact of indigenous movement activity on health and development regimes, food security and insecurity, nutritional and subsistence challenges, the burden of infectious disease, family planning and reproductive health, and the impact of changing foodways. Prerequisites: Acceptance into the Whitman College Ethnographic Field School in Highland Ecuador.

    247 Special Topics in Peoples and Cultures

    248 Native Cultures of North America

    This survey course examines a cross-section of peoples and cultures from native North America, focusing on culture areas, languages, religions, traditional practices as well as contemporary life and current issues facing native communities today. Attention will be paid to how social, political, cultural and historical events have come to shape and inform present-day relations and identity formations. Ethnographic and historical information constitute the bulk of the course, which also includes native North American influences, origins, and precontact history. Particular attention will be paid to the peoples of the Columbia River Plateau, which includes the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers and surrounding region.

    249 Prehistoric Background to Western Civilization

    The course examines the general patterns of human physical and cultural evolution from 1.5 million years ago until the beginnings of “civilization” in western Asia. Students are exposed to the results of archaeological surveys and excavations, gaining experience in the methods of analysis and interpretation of environmental and social parameters that influenced and witnessed increasingly complex cultural development. The emergence of religious ceremony, craft specialization, refinement of economic strategies, and the intensification of social and political complexity are considered from Anatolia in the north, Iraq in the East, and Israel, Jordan and Sinai to the south.

    257 Chinese Society and Culture

    An introduction to modern Chinese society and culture, rural and urban, with an emphasis on enduring cultural practices and modern transformation. Using ethnographies and films, this course looks at changing ideas about cosmos, the individual, family, gender, social relations, ethnicity, politics, and the state from late imperial times to the present.

    258 Peoples of the Tibeto-Burman Highlands

    An introduction to the society and culture of the Tibetan, Yi, Naxi, Jingpo, and other peoples living in the region of southwest China, northern Mianmar (Burma) and Tibet. Studies in history, religion, politics, and social structure point out the differences as well as the similarities among these Tibeto-Burman peoples.

    259 Culture, Power, and Identity in the Andes

    An anthropological introduction to the history and culture of the highland Andes region of South America. The first portion of this course assesses the importance and legacy of pre-Columbian societies (Inca, in particular) toward an understanding of the Andes region today, as well as the challenges of Spanish conquest and the culture of colonialism. We also will consider the role of mountain geography for shaping cultural patterns. The remainder of the course will be devoted to exploring contemporary ethnography of the region (in modern countries of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru). Topics may include: violence and terror, indigenous movements and indigeneity, health and development, gender, migration, social movements and civil engagement, environmental degradation, and globalization.

    305 Archaeology Method and Theory

    The course investigates the history and current status of the theories and methods used to obtain, analyze, and interpret information in the archaeological record for the purpose of reconstructing human cultural development. The course material includes projects using artifactual materials curated at the Maxey Museum, and at least one field trip to an archaeological site in the Northwest is planned each semester.

    312 Ethnographic Film

    An introduction to the history, theory and practice of ethnographic film and video. The course is divided into two parts. Students view, read about, discuss, and review a series of classic and contemporary ethnographic films, while simultaneously producing their own in small groups using resources from the college’s Media Development Lab. Prerequisite: Anthropology 102 or consent of instructor.

    317 Language and Culture

    Language is examined as a cultural system. The first half focuses on language structure and includes a discussion of signs, reference, meaning, and categories. The second half examines language use in socially situated contexts (pragmatics), and deals with problems of participant relations, poetic and discourse structure, and the analysis of myth and ritual as linguistic genres.

    318 History and Theory in Anthropology

    The course will trace the development conceptually and historically of explanatory theory for socio-cultural phenomena. “Schools” of thought such as Racism, Environmental Determinism, Marxism, Cultural Evolutionalism, Structuralism, and Neo-Boasian Particularism are presented and contrasted with an emphasis on the contribution of each to an emergent synthetic theory of culture. It is strongly recommended that this course be taken in either the sophomore or junior year. Three periods per week. Prerequisite: eight hours of anthropology or consent of instructor.

    324 Myth and Religion in Traditional Societies

    A comparative examination of the role of mythology, ritual, and belief in socio-cultural systems. The primary emphasis is on belief and religious systems other than the major organized religions. Three periods per week.

    327 Anthropology and History

    A seminar exploring the relations between anthropology and history, in theory and practice. Readings will include short essays and about six to eight monographs by leading social historians and historical anthropologists, in roughly equal proportion. Past authors have included Bernard Cohn, Peter Burke, Marshall Sahlins, Fernand Braudel, Greg Dening, Jonathan Spence, Sherry Ortner and others. Open to all students, but intended especially for upper-level history and anthropology majors.

    328 Medical Anthropology

    Medical anthropology looks at the interface between culture and health in all its forms across the spectrum of societies and cultures. A starting point for this course will be distinguishing physical “disease” from cultural understandings of “illness.” We will then explore the ways worldviews, beliefs, and practices shape both the incidence of disease and the experience of illness. Topics may include: the relationship among biology, ecological processes and culture, ethnomedicine, trance and healing, political economic determinants of sickness, cultural assumptions of biomedicine, cross-cultural mental disorders, “culture bound illnesses,” gender and health, and cultural conceptions of the body. Throughout the course, special attention is paid to the possibilities of ethnographic fieldwork for the critical study of health.

    337 Regional Ethnographic Fieldwork: Researching and Writing Culture

    This course, run as a workshop-seminar, introduces students to the ins and outs of ethnographic research, from research design to ethics and writing. Focused around a different research topic or problem in eastern Washington chosen each year the course is taught (e.g., housing, health care for the poor and uninsured, food security), students will devise an ethnographic research project amendable to the employment of a variety of ethnographic methods. Methods may include: mapping, linguistic/discourse analysis, focused observation, ethnographic interviewing, and focus groups. Technical readings on ethnographic methods, ethics, and writing will be supplemented with critical readings from anthropology and related fields germane to the particular year’s topic of study. Assignments will include short papers and a final ethnographic report. Prerequisites: Anthropology 102 or consent of instructor.

    339 Ethnographic Research and Writing

    This course is a hands-on workshop in how to conduct ethnographic research and present findings in the genre of ethnographic writing. We will look at how cultural anthropologists and other ethnographers propose research questions and designs and execute ethnographic projects. Readings will combine straightforward discussions of the technical aspects of specific methods with reflections on the ethnographic process drawn from ethnographic writings themselves, fieldwork reflections, and fictionalized accounts of the fieldwork experience. The primary assignment of this course is for students to devise and execute their own ethnographic research project on issues of health, migration, and culture in the highland community of Cañar, Ecuador. Each week of the course, students will critically study and employ a different method or set of methods (to include, for example, participant observation, direct systematic observations, surveys, qualitative interviews, life histories, kinship analysis, genealogies, and cultural mapping) in their research site. Class time will be divided between short lectures on specific methods, discussion of readings, and a workshop analyzing each student’s experiences of using different methods in the field. The final portion of the course will explore approaches and styles for writing ethnography and the debates surrounding them. As a final project, students will be expected to produce a 20- to 25-page ethnographic report of their research. All student projects must be pre-approved by the Whitman College Institutional Review Board. Prerequisites: Acceptance into the Whitman College Ethnographic Field School in Highland Ecuador.

    347 Special Topics in Anthropology

    347 ST: Spiritual Soundscapes: Recording the Religious Experience

    The strike of a bell at a Latin Mass, the muezzin’s call to prayer at an Islamic masjid, the noise of boiling water that welcomes guests to the Japanese way of tea, the biphonic chant of Tibetan Buddhist monks, the crack of a keisaku in the silence of a zendo, and shape note singing by a Protestant Christian congregation: all of these are sounds from the religious soundscapes of the Pacific Northwest. The goal of this course is to provide a thoughtful consideration of the multiple roles of aurality in the shaping of religious practice and meaning. This goal will be met by combining a traditional reading seminar with a hands-on workshop. Both within and outside the classroom, students will employ the techniques of “digital ethnography” (making audio recordings with digital equipment) to sample these religious soundscapes, while paying close attention to the relation between the sounds they record and their setting and significance. Among the topics to be explored will be the interplay between sound and ritual, sound and identity, and sound and memory, and the migration and cultural appropriation of other peoples’ soundscapes. Prerequisite: One course in anthropology or religion or consent of instructors. May be elected as Religion 387.

    349 Urban Life: Readings in the Anthropology of Cities

    An upper-level introduction to the subfield of urban anthropology using ethnographic examples that explore the form and quality of urban life in the United States, Europe, and selected nonwestern cultures. Case studies will be read to assess the varying theories and methods applied in anthropological analyses of cities, their significance in the broader field of urban studies, and the provocative themes that emerge such as social networks, violence, health and disease, and homelessness. The course examines contemporary U.S. “inner city” problems, rapidly urbanizing cities in the developing world, and trends in today’s emerging “global cities.”

    358 Sex and Gender in Anthropological Perspective

    An introductory survey of anthropological thinking about gender and sex beginning with an early disciplinary emphasis on “sex roles” among hunters and gatherers and ending with contemporary research on “gendered identities.” Topics will include: nature vs. nurture debates, sex and reproduction, cultural construction of motherhood, third genders, and gender and religion. Organization of the course will follow along the development of different approaches and debates within anthropology, including psychological, structuralist, symbolic, feminist, and Marxist perspectives.

    360 The Cultural Politics of Science

    An upper-level introduction to the widening field known as science and technology studies (STS). Interdisciplinary in scope, this course primarily draws on ethnographic attempts to understand how science and technology shape human lives and livelihoods and how society and culture, in turn, shape the development of science and technology. Throughout the course we will be particularly concerned with ways that scientific visions and projects, broad in scope, articulate, mirror, distort, and shape hierarchies based on such categories as gender, race, class, development, definitions of citizenship, understandings of nature, the production of knowledge, and global capitalism. Topics may include: race-based pharmaceuticals, climate debates and “natural” disasters, genomics, politicized archaeology, science in postcolonial contexts, DNA fingerprinting, clinical trials, cyborgs, nuclear weapons production, and human/nonhuman relationships.

    417 Independent Study in Anthropology

    For advanced students only. The student will undertake readings in depth in an area of theory or content of his own choice. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

    490 Applied Theory Seminar

    The goal of this course is to help students further explore the role of social theory and its relevance to the development of anthropological research. In a seminar setting, students will read and critically discuss a number of contemporary anthropological monographs possessing exemplary theoretical, methodological and empirical sophistication. Short written assignments will supplement in-class discussion. As a secondary goal, students will craft and workshop a proposal for their own thesis research. Required of, and only open to, senior anthropology majors who have successfully completed Anthropology 318.

    492 Thesis

    Senior major students record in a thesis a substantial original research project based on the previous semester plan and basic bibliography.

    498 Honors Thesis

    Designed to further independent research leading to the preparation of an undergraduate honors thesis in anthropology. Required of and limited to senior honors candidates in anthropology. Prerequisite: admission to honors candidacy.

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