Distance Learning

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Social Anthropology

Syllabus for pre-PhD Distance learning course on Sociology


Barsegh Gishyan, Ph.D, Associate Professor
Yerevan State University, Department of Sociology

1. Course module description
This course serves as a review to the discipline of anthropology with a primary emphasis on socio-cultural anthropology. It is designed for graduate students whose exposure and background in the discipline is limited, and undergraduate seniors bringing their undergraduate program to a conclusion and planning on pursuing further additional training and careers in social sciences. This module includes the following topics: difference between survey research and ethnographic techniques, anthropological research in complex societies, cross-cultural studies of national character, industrial and nonindustrial societies, impact of Western culture on the developing world.

2. Objectives of the course module
2.1 To introduce students with the core concepts of social anthropology.
2.2 To consider impact of Western culture and institutions on the developing world.
2.3 To consider local cultures and their future. 
2.4 To explore culture and personality studies.
2.5 To introduce students with the anthropological concepts and theories of the modern world system.
2.6 To consider the place of industrial and nonindustrial societies in the world system.
2.7 To develop deeper understanding of students how industrialization impacts on social stratification.

3. Assessment
Since this is a distance-learning course, assessment will be based only on students’ written work.

  • Weekly written essays – 60%
  • Final essay-40%

4. Course module program

Class 1 The Scope of Socio-Cultural Anthropology
-  General anthropology.
- The sub disciplines of anthropology (socio-cultural anthropology, archeological anthropology, biological, or physical, anthropology, linguistic anthropology, applied anthropology).

-  Anthropology and the other social sciences (socio-cultural anthropology and sociology; anthropology, political science, and economics; anthropology and history).

- BETEILLE, A. 1974 Six Essays in Comparative Sociology (1-21), Oxford University Press.
- Clifford, J. 1988The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Literary eval­uation of classic and modern anthropologists and discussion of issues of ethnographic au­thority.
- Harris, M. 1989 Our Kind: Who We Are, Where We Came From, Where We Are Going. New York: Harper & Row. Fascinating popular anthropology; origins of humans, culture, and major socio­political institutions.
- Marcus, G. E., and M. M. J. Fischer 1986 Anthropology as Cultural Critique: An Experi­mental Moment in the Human Sciences. Chi­cago: University of - Chicago Press. Different types of ethnographic accounts as forms of writing, a vision of modern anthropology, and a consideration of anthropologists' pub­lic and professional roles.
- Nash, D. 1988 A Little Anthropology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Short introduction to societies and cultures, with comments on developing nations and modern America.

Assignment 1:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What are the subdisciplines of general anthropol­ogy? What unifies them into a single discipline?
  • How does cultural anthropology differ from sociol­ogy?
  • How is anthropology related to other social sci­ences?

Class 2 Field Methods
-  Survey research.
- Difference between survey research and ethnographic techniques (observation, participant observation, interviewing, the genealogical method, life histories).
-  Anthropological research in complex societies.
-  Urban anthropology (network analysis).

- Bernard, H. R. 1988 Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. The most complete and up-to-date survey of methods of data collection, organization, and analysis in cul­tural anthropology.
- Brim, J. A., and D. H. Spain 1974 Research Design in Anthropology. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Discusses hypoth­esis testing and anthropological research de­sign.

Assignment 2:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What is survey research design, and how does it differ from ethnography?
  • What is the difference between sociology and social anthropology?
  • How do social networks in cities differ from those in tribal societies?
  • What techniques do anthropologists use to study urban life?

Class 3 Culture
- The definition of culture in social anthropology.
- Cultural rules, violations and research strategies.
- Ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.
- Universality, particularity and generality of culture.

- 1990 Prime-Time Society: An Anthropological Analysis of Television and Culture. Belmont, CA: Wads-worth. How the content and impact of com­mercial television reflect cultural differences. Kroeber, A.L., and C. Kluckholn
- 1963 Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Def­initions. New York: Vintage. Discusses and categorizes more than a hundred definitions of culture. Wagner, R.

Assignment 3:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What does it mean to say that culture is symbolic, shared, patterned or integrated?
  • What is the distinction between emic and etic?
  • What are ethnocentrism, cultural relativism, and what are their poten­tial problems?
  • What is meant by cultural universals, generalities, and particularities?

Class 4 Culture and Personality Studies
- Personality and worldview.
- The individual and culture.
- Early culture and personality research Max Weber: The Protestant Ethic and Capitalism.

- Margaret Mead: Coming of Age in Samoa.
- Ruth Benedict (cross-cultural studies of national character).

- 1984, BARNOUW, V Culture and Personality, The Dorsey Press, Inc.

Assignment 4:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What were the contributions and shortcomings of the studies of culture and personality by Mead, Benedict, and Kardiner?
  • What were the aims and limitations of national character studies?
  • What is the culture of poverty, and under what conditions does it emerge and persist?
  • How did Weber relate the Protestant ethic to the development of capitalism?

Class 5 Industrial and Nonindustrial Societies in the World System Today
- The anthropological concepts and theories of the modern world system.
- Industrial and nonindustrial societies in the modern world system.
- Industrialization and social stratification. 

- 1982 Europe and the People without History. Berkeley: University of California Press. An anthro­pologist examines the effects of European ex­pansion on tribal peoples and sets forth a world-system approach to anthropology.

Assignment 5:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What is the world-system perspective, and why is it important in anthropology?
  • What is the capitalist world economy? Why does capitalism require a world economy?
  • What have been the major forces influencing cul­tural interaction during the past 500 years?
  • How does industrialization destroy indigenous economies, ecologies, and populations?

Class 6 Social Change and Development 
- Cultural resistance and survival.
- Development and local cultures.

- 1984 The Three Worlds: Culture and World Develop­ment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Examines the nature of development pro­cesses and critiques existing theories.
- 1985 Anthropology and Contemporary Human Prob­lems, 2nd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. Overview of major problems of today's in­dustrial world: over consumption, the envi­ronment, resource depletion, hunger, over­population, violence, and war.
- 1988 Tribal Peoples and Development Issues: A Global Overview. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. Overview of case studies, policies, assess­ments, and recommendations concerning tribal peoples and development. Cernea, M., ed.

Assignment 6:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What is acculturation, and where can we study it?
  • What are some common reasons for the failure of economic development programs?
  • What does it mean to say that an economic devel­opment project is culturally compatible? What are the advantages of ensuring that projects are cul­turally compatible?
  • In your opinion, what criteria should be used to evaluate the success of an economic development program?

Class 7 Anthropology and Contemporary Currents of Economic, Social, and Cultural Change
- Academic and applied anthropology.
- Anthropology and education.

- WULFF, R. M., AND S. J. FlSKE, EDS. 1987 Anthropological Praxis: Translating Knowledge into Action. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Recent cases illustrating the use of anthro­pology in solving human problems in various areas.
- 1986 Becoming a Practicing Anthropologist: A Guide to Careers and Training Programs in Applied An­thropology. NAPA Bulletin 3. Washington, DC: American Anthropological' Association/ National Association for the Practice of An­thropology. Useful brief guide for students contemplating a career in applied anthropol­ogy.
- Serrie, H„ ed. 1986 Anthropology and International Business stud­ies in Third World Societies, No. 28. Wil­liamsburg, VA: Department of Anthropol­ogy, College of William and Mary.

Assignment 7:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What is applied anthropology?
  • What was the relationship between the old applied anthropology and colonialism? What's different about modern applied anthropology?
  • What are Batalla's criticisms of applied anthropol­ogy?
  • What are educational urban and medical anthropologies, and what are their applications?

Class 8 Closing exam
Based on your interest, choose any topic discussed within this course module and write an analytic essay (13-15 pages).

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