Baruch College     |     Spring 2015      |


Instructor: Elliott Liu


Class Meetings: Tu-Th, 7:50am

Office Hours: Th, 9:30am—10:30am


Course Overview:

Cultural anthropology emerged as a social science in the 19th and early 20th centuries, describing itself as the study of human beings in their social and cultural context. Cultural anthropologists examine how human beings organize themselves in groups and societies, and how they conceive of themselves and the world around them. They examine how ideologies and power structures shape people’s lives, and how people both act in accordance with, and transform, these systems.


This course aims to familiarize students with the basics of anthropological fieldwork, revisit some of the historical debates that have shaped anthropology, and examine aspects of our contemporary world through an anthropological lens. It stresses the importance of critical analysis: many of our readings will disagree with one another, and it will be our job to identify the assumptions and implications of different arguments. Through assignments and discussions, students will develop these analytical skills, and use social scientific theories to examine the world around us in terms of class, race and gender.


Course Objectives:

  • Develop a basic understanding of culture as an anthropological object;
  • Build an understanding of important anthropological concepts and debates;
  • Acquire and develop a set of critical analytic skills (i.e., critical thinking, reading, writing) to explore the relationship between knowledge, power and representation.


Course Requirements:


Panel Discussions

Students will lead ONE discussion panel over the course of the semester. When leading a discussion panel, on must: 1) provide a summary of ONE of the authors we’ve read for the week: their central claims, the evidence they draw upon to formulate them, and the implications of their perspective. And 2) offer critical comments and/or a set of questions the class should consider, drawing connections to previous readings, or debates that have emerged thus far in class. Panelists are responsible for keeping the discussion active, relevant, and interesting—feel free to either reign in discussions that are off topic and to raise provocative questions to spur conversation. You may coordinate with the fellow members of your panel in whatever manner works best for you.


Midterm Exam:

The midterm exam will include a mix of short-answer and essay questions. During most classes, key concepts will be taken from the day’s topic and written on the board. Knowing the meaning of these terms and relationships between them will go a long way to answering the short response questions. Integrating these concepts into your essays is central to getting a good grade. The questions will include prompts based on course readings, lectures, films, and discussion.


Fieldwork Project:

Over the course of the semester, you will complete a fieldwork assignment, in which you will conduct participant observation and do background research on a topic of your choice. More details on this assignment are provided in the project handout. This project will count as your final exam, and will be presented to the class in the last week of the course.



Attendance and participation: 10%

Quizzes: 10%

Panels: 10%

Midterm exam: 30%

Fieldwork Project: 40%


Classroom Norms:

This course covers issues about which people may have personal experience or strong feelings. One goal of this class is to develop students’ ability to discuss class readings and contemporary issues in a critical yet respectful manner. Thus, students should strive to share to their opinions in a constructive way, and treat each other with respect regardless of whether they agree or disagree on a given topic. It should be self-evident that slurs and insults of any kind will not be tolerated.


Students with Disabilities:

I will do my best to accommodate students with disabilities. If you feel comfortable doing so, please inform me as early as possible so that the proper accommodations can be made. I will certainly respect your privacy. For more information on the services Baruch College offers to students with disabilities, visit:


Course Schedule


The dates and readings below are subject to change as the semester progresses. All reading assignments will be available on the course blog. Always bring the readings with you to class.


Week 1: Th 1/29

  • Introduction to course, syllabus, and basic context of anthropology.


Week 2: Tue 2/3, Th 2/5

 Introduction to anthropology

  • Malinowski, Bronislaw. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. 1922. Pp. 81-95.
  • Sterk, Claire. “Fieldwork on Prostitution in the Era of Aids.” In Spradley and McCurdy. Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. Prentice Hall, 2009. Pp. 33-44.


Week 3: Tue 2/10

Modes of analysis

  • Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. “On Social Structure.” In Structure and Function in Primitive Society. The Free Press. Pp. 188-204.
    • Skim an example: Evans-Pritchard, E E. The Nuer. Oxford. Pp. 139-147.
  • Geertz, Clifford. “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture.” In The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books, 1973. Pp. 3-10.
    • Skim an example: Geertz, Clifford. “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight.” In The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books, 1973. Pp.  417-421.


Week 4: Tue 2/17, Th 2/19

 Structure and agency


Week 5: Tue 2/24, Th 2/26

Class, capitalism, exploitation

  • Erik Olin Wright, “Class Analysis”
  • James, Selma. “Marx and Feminism.” In Sex, Race and Class. PM Press, 2012. Pp. 147-152.


Week 6: Tue 3/3, Th 3/5

Capitalism and social r/evolution

  • Spencer, Herbert. Principles of Sociology. Pp. 481-488.
    • Re-read: Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. “On Social Structure,” Pp 203-204.
  • Marx, Karl and Engels, Freidrich. The Communist Manifesto. Section 1.


Week 7: Tue 3/10, Th 3/12

Materialism and Culture

  • Selection from Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
  • Glenn, Evelyn Nakano. Unequal Freedom. Harvard, 2002. Pp. 144-156, 158-173.
  • Practice field notes due in class Thursday, 3/12


Week 8: Tue 3/17, Th 3/19

What is gender?

  • Mead, Margaret. Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies. Morrow, 1963 [1935]. Pp. 279-289.
  • Lorber, Judith. “The Social Construction of Gender”. In Women’s Lives: Multicultural Perspectives, 3rd ed., Gwyn Kirk and Margaret Okazawa Rey, eds. New York: McGraw-Hill. Pp. 21-24.


Week 9: Tue 3/24, Th 3/26

  • Review and Midterm


Week 10: Tue 3/31, Th 4/2

  • Rubin, Gayle, “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex,” Pp. 157-177.
  • Silvia Federici, “Wages Against Housework,” Falling Wall Press, 1975. Pp. 1-8




Week 11: Tue 4/14, Th 4/16

  Gender and sexuality

  • Pascoe, CJ. “’Dude, You’re a Fag’: Adolescent Sexuality and the Fag Discourse” Sexualities 8(3). Pp. 329-346.
  • David Valentine, Imagining Transgender, 3-19.


Week 12: Tue 4/21, Th 4/23

What is race?

  • Selection from Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. Routledge, 1994.
  • Buck, Pem. Worked to the Bone: Race, Class, Power and Privilege in Kentucky. Monthly Review Press, 2001. Pp. 12-27.
  • Fieldwork analysis due in class, Th 4/23


Week 13: Tue 4/28, Th 4/30

Within and against racial regimes

  • Kelley, Robin D.G. “The Riddle of the Zoot”. In Race Rebels. The Free Press, 1994. Pp. 161-182.
  • Jacobson, Matthew Frye. Whiteness of a Different Color. Harvard University Press. Pp. 52-68.


Week 14: Tue 5/5, Th 5/7

New forms of race and racism

  • Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism Without Racists. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. Pp. 1-4, 25-30.
  • Hill, Jane. “Language, Race, and White Public Space.” Pp. 680-686.
  • Powell, Enoch. Speech transcript. 1968.
  • Quiz


Week 15: Tue 5/12, Th 5/14

  • Presentation and discussion of fieldwork projects
  • Fieldwork project due in class Thursday 5/14







Cheating and plagiarism are serious offenses.  The following definitions are based on the College’s Academic Honesty website.


Cheating is the attempted or unauthorized use of materials, information, notes, study aids, devices or communication during an academic exercise. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Copying from another student during an examination or allowing another to copy your work
  • Unauthorized collaborating on a take home assignment or examination
  • Using unauthorized notes during a closed book examination
  • Using unauthorized electronic devices during an examination
  • Taking an examination for another student
  • Asking or allowing another student to take an examination for you
  • Changing a corrected exam and returning it for more credit
  • Submitting substantial portions of the same paper to two classes without consulting the second instructor
  • Preparing answers or writing notes in a blue book (exam booklet) before an examination
  • Allowing others to research and write assigned papers including the use of commercial term paper services


Plagiarism is the act of presenting another person’s ideas, research or writing as your own, such as:

  • Copying another person’s actual words without the use of quotation marks and footnotes (a functional limit is four or more words taken from the work of another)
  • Presenting another person’s ideas or theories in your own words without acknowledging them
  • Using information that is not considered common knowledge without acknowledging the source
  • Failure to acknowledge collaborators on homework and laboratory assignment


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