NPR: Will Your Job Be Done By a Machine?

May 27th, 2015

Seems like I’m safe, even though they automated getting a picture of me.


Cultural Anthropology Week 14: Field Trip!

May 21st, 2015

Ever since a student joked that we should go to the San Diego Museum of Man as a class, Week 14 was going to be special. In addition to the trip, the day also marks the end of the poster project that was started after spring break. The plan was simple: we will have the team poster session at the start of class and then go to the museum for a few hours.

Well, plans have had a way of not working out like I had imagined. The first issue, which was the result of last week’s lack of work during poster work time, was that only one poster arrived in class completely done. Another was brought to class unassembled and the third was missing in action. In my design for the project, the poster was supposed to be finished the week before, but none of the teams got that impression. For next time, I will emphasize that the poster is due before the presentation. I may have the posters turned in to me the week before, at least for a graded inspection, for example.

The second issue was that it was another rainy day in San Diego. As a result, many students missed the start of class due to traffic. (The freeways get packed at the slightest hint of rain). As we waited for more people to show up and for the second team to glue their text to the poster, I talked with the team that had their poster done. I did earn a lot of professor points as, right after a student joked that we should get breakfast on the way to the museum, I revealed that I brought mini cupcakes for the class.

When poster two was done, I started the presentations. The team with the newly-minted poster elected to go first. I had the other students gather around as the team went over what they found out about the culture they researched (the Basque of France and Spain). After their summary I tested their ability to think on their feet by asking a few light questions about their research. We then went to the next poster and heard their talk on the Ainu. Their poster had an interesting cyan color scheme, which I was told was due to the printer running out of ink!

At that point, the third team received a call from their missing teammate, who had the poster. It turned out that the student was hurriedly printing out the material at the library. Since it was time to leave for the museum I told the third team to have the poster ready for the next class.

It is school policy that I have nothing to do with field trip transportation so I drove to the Museum of Man alone. The rain had turned into a drizzle by then. Even on a rainy morning, Balboa Park, where that museum was located was packed with cars. By the time I found parking in one of the farther lots, most of the students were already at the museum. I handed out their extra credit assignment and they were off.

{ Museum of Man panorama. }

{ Museum of Man panorama… Museum of Manorama.}

Oh, right, the assignment. I made two assignments for the museum trip: a serious one about the Race: Are We So Different exhibit, and also a fun photo scavenger hunt for the rest of the museum. I had gone to the museum on a free Tuesday a few weeks ago to find inspiration for clues and wrote them up this past week. The task is for students to photograph what each clue was referring to, then upload the photo to a wiki page on Blackboard. The scavenger hunt was collaborative, so everyone gets all of the points for each clue that was correctly solved. You can download the assignment for your own purposes here!


{ Life-sized Gigantopithecus! }

The students went off to see the museum, clue sheets in hand. To my surprise, most of them moved in a pack. Since the team concept did not seem to take hold, most recently evidenced by the poster project, I expected the students to wander off on their own. For a while I stuck around near the entrance to wait for more students, but after a while, I went off on my own. I passed the pack of students a few times. After a while, at their urging, I went along with the pack. It was fun to see them try to figure out the clues as they went, and I did see the museum recently so there was not much for me to do on my own.

{ Statue of a garuda from Bali. My mention of Bali in every lecture became a running joke. }

{ Statue of a garuda from Bali. My mention of Bali in every lecture became a running joke. }

A few of the students paid extra to see the Instruments of Torture exhibit. I had never seen it, so I got a ticket as well. It was interesting and disturbing to see all of these torture implements and read about how they were used. It is astounding how the people in power invested so much in creative ways to injure and publicly humiliate in the Renaissance and colonial times. My favorite torture museum is still the Museo de la Inquisición in Lima, though, since the museum is actually in a location where they tortured people.

After seeing that exhibit, a few students cashed in their coffee drawing winnings. Over bubble tea and pho, we talked about our own experiences at the school and how the class went. I learned a lot about their lives away from school, the other seven times twenty-four, minus three hours of their lives. With lunch wrapped up and the sun shining, it was time to call the field trip a success.

Next week is the last class session before the final exam. On the agenda is the third poster, and a final lecture which will review everything we have learned about cultural anthropology. Sometime I will also have to work out what to do for the participation and attendance grades. It is pretty exciting that the semester is coming to a close! See you after class.

Cultural Anthropology Week 13: Not According to Plan

May 13th, 2015

Week 13 brings the last lecture with new material and more time to work on the poster. Well, that was the plan. Several complications got in the way. Unlucky 13!

First, as the semester winded down, I was worried about the surprise Dean class inspection I was told about. While I was visited by a professor a few weeks ago, I was told to expect two visits. With so few class sessions left, and one a field trip, I was did not want to cause a scheduling snafu with my bosses. Earlier in the semester, I submitted a form that stated when my lectures were going to be for the inspection, but the class schedule had changed by then.

Increasingly paranoid about an impending Dean visit, I rearranged the day’s schedule. It made more sense to do the lecture first, then have poster work time, but what if the Dean shows up in the second half of the day? Instead, I declared poster work time to be first in the morning, and then end with the lecture.

Complication two was that poster work time was lackluster. Only one of the three teams even brought the poster to work on, so that left two teams with nothing to do. The team with the poster left for the library to work on it, with instructions to return in an hour. Since the class then turned into hang-out time, I started browsing streaming videos that I could show instead. As I searched, one of the students actually went up to the board to have an impromptu game of hangman, which entertained the class for a little bit.

I ended up showing a video I saw a while ago, but had no time for. It was also a little weird. Someone during the religion and rite of passage lecture mentioned the Satere-Mawe practice of wearing mittens filled with bullet ants. A little bit later, one of the Youtubers I follow had a video of going to Brazil to experience the ritual (skippy62able, 2015).

The video showed how connected we are with today’s technology, so I thought it had a little connection to what we have been learning. It was also pretty interesting and funny.

After that, I went on a hunt for another video. On the Films Media Group site, I saw a film called The Himbas Are Shooting (Bardet, 2012). The Himba, one of the Namibian pastoralists, were actually on my mind because someone in the last lecture asked about their hair style in one of the slides. (This article [Styles, 2014] has great pictures of Himba hair. On a side note, I have noticed that the Daily Mail of all places have great articles of a cultural anthropological nature, with wonderful photos by Eric Lafforgue and Stephanie Ledoux).

The film turned out to be really charming and entertaining. It also tied into the lecture that day on applied anthropology since it was about giving traditionally underprivileged people a voice (the director, Solenn Bardet, appears to be an anthropologist in everything but professional training).

The plot of this film, which plays with documentary and fiction, is that the members of a Himba village want to make their own documentary to show what they think is important about their life. The result is a series of vignettes that could be real life, an acted-out scene, or both. The students watching in class noted the sense of humor that the Himba filmmakers exhibited. Across all of the lectures and films before, something about people that did not get across was that people are funny all over. Several times, there were parodies of western culture which hit home pretty solidly.

The film ended right when the lecture was scheduled to start. For some reason, the lecture did not garner as much interest as the previous lectures. Maybe moving the lecture to the last half of the class time sucked the energy out of the class. Or the reality of the upcoming poster deadline hit. In any case, watching a Bolivian rap video only got a bit of attention and an attempt to discuss the military application of anthropology did not really go anywhere.

After the class ended, I checked my school email. The Dean’s assistant emailed me back about the Dean visit I was so concerned about. The message: I misunderstood the procedure! The visit by the Dean was actually for my online class, and that was done. So basically I was worried about nothing the whole time.

While it was a drag to end the lectures on a low note, things are looking up for the remaining two classes. Next time we will be presenting the posters, which are probably being made as I write this. Then it is off to the museum! The last class will be a final review as I tie everything together. See you after the museum!


Bardet, S. (Director). (2012). The Himbas are shooting [Film]. Paris: Gédéon Programmes.

skippy62able (Username). (2015, April 6). L.A. BEAST vs the worst pain known to man (ft. LA FENIX) (warning: multiple man tears) [Video]. Retrieved from

Styles, R. (2014, April 18). That’s an unusual look! Namibia’s Himba tribeswomen sport incredible hairdos created using goat hair, butter and mud (but the married men have to cover up in turbans). Retrieved from

Cultural Anthropology Week 12: Getting Very Near the End

May 8th, 2015

How to cover globalization in two and a half hours? I broke up the topic into three parts. The first is the lead up to world systems theory, delving again into how anthropology is conducted to show how the field has switched from viewing cultures as contained systems to seeing cultures as nodes in a grander system.

The second part was a lengthy but non-comprehensive trip though the causes and effects of globalization, starting at industrialization and touching on both the positive and negative results, such as cheap consumer goods, cheap labor, multinational corporations, pollution, and climate change. For the slide on pollution, I built on a random fact I mentioned last lecture that got a lot of attention: that an underground coal fire has been burning in Pennsylvania since the 1960s. I did a little more research on coal seam fires, which the class enjoyed hearing about, though it was a pretty terrible realization that these fires are raging in many parts of the world wasting fuel and dumping toxic gas into the atmosphere. Sleep tight!

The last third of the course was more directly anthropological in nature. I looked at the effects globalization has had on people who practice different subsistence strategies. The take-home message was that the simpler the strategy, the harder the entrance into world economics. This sets up the next lecture on applied anthropology and how anthropologists fight for the least powerful.

I chose a few video clips to show the class, but actually playing them on screen exposed a flaw in how I choose videos. I typically have candidates playing in a little window on my computer when I am working on the lecture. Oftentimes, I am not watching the video, but listening to the content to make sure that it is interesting and jives with the lecture. As I played one of the videos in class, I was met with the most cheese-tastic special effects with 80’s laser sounds. It could have been worse, I guess! Another video, which I had not really watched, was presented in that hip animated whiteboard style. The students really enjoyed that one.

This lecture really starts the conclusion of the course. As we started with how anthropology is done, the next class ends with what anthropology is doing. After that, the next next class has no lecture. The class will have the poster session and then it’s off to the San Diego Museum of Man to see the traveling Race: Are We So Different exhibit! See you, after class.

Cultural Anthropology Week 11: Make It On the Run

May 1st, 2015

The second exam brings an opportunity to work on my exam-making skills. The first exam had some things I wanted to change. I might have gotten too into making the test go from easy to hard, with easy being really easy (“What is anthropology?”) and the hardest was very hard (“How many morphemes are in this sentence?). The second exam will still have ramping difficultly, but with a less extreme curve. Also, why the questions got too difficult, there were too few of them. Everyone was done– well, everyone had done all they could– well before the half-hour mark of the hour-long exam. I felt comfortable in bumping the number of multiple choice questions from 15 to 25. Looking back, 15 is really a very small amount of questions.

Actually writing the exam took place on the road. On a family trip to visit my brother’s house, I brought along the iPad and keyboard and typed the test in the passenger seat. I just wrote what was on my mind, which I think goes along with what I think are the most important points. By the time we went to my brother’s house and back, two 40 minute trips, I had a finished draft of the exam.

Back at my own desk, I went through the draft to tally the number of questions that addressed each lecture. I had more questions about kinship and religion than I had for gender and race, so I evened them out by replacing some of the questions. I also reordered them all in roughly easy-to-hard order. Then it was off to the campus print center!

In class, I addressed a few questions the students had about what we had learned so far. The questions were very apt and they all actually related to one of the test questions. Right before the exam, I brought out a book called Mindset by Carol Dweck. The college gave out copies of this book for a professional development book club and the meeting happened to be after this class. The gist of Dweck’s book is that having a growth mindset of accepting challenges as opportunities to learn produced longer term success. In her experiments, she gave a half hour talk on mindset to various classes with impressive results. I figure an impromptu minute-long talk to my class before the exam would not hurt.

Test completion took more time than in the previous exam, but only one person was pushing against the deadline (he had come in to class late). I had fewer questions about the exam as well. I also noticed that people were in better spirits this time. I don’t have the tests graded yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if grades were improved.

The rest of the class ended up being a lecture on technology, as the syllabus stated. Last week, I was looking for a better topic, but I warmed up to the old plan. The lecture was formatted differently than the others, which is a good change of pace. I delved into how anthropologists approached technology via models such as cultural ecology and cultural materialism. Then, I went over a few of the major technological developments in human history and prehistory, starting with stone tools and ending up at information technology. The slide on alcohol was an especially big hit with the students, learning about different ingredients and fermentation processes, including using spit as a catalyst for chicha, or Andean maize beer.

The next lecture, on globalization, will be the last class-length topic, well after discussing the exam. In a way, this is the beginning of the end for the anthropology class, as we head towards the conclusion of anthropology’s place in the world. Phase one is learning about how globalization has high potential for abuse and exploitation, though there are good aspects as well. See you after class!

Cultural Anthropology Week 10: Preparing for the Future

April 24th, 2015

Week 10 (!?) is a shakeup of the usual class schedule. For the first time, even including the first class, there was no new lecture material. Instead, the first hour was a review for the second exam, and the rest of the time was poster work time. When I was planning the course, way back in December, I figured that I could use an easier week by this point. Past Keith was correct in his prediction and I thank him.

After the first exam, I asked the students what both they and I could do different for next time. It turns out that the game I played was not viewed as especially helpful. Also, I was asked to provide a study guide. Sometimes I forget the simple things when going for the experimental! The good ol’ paper study guide was something that I had not even considered. I told the class I would put both suggestions to use for the second exam.

Before class, I wrote up a study guide that was a pruned outline of the course topics. I looked online for examples and some were just the slide outline. Boiling the last five weeks (nine, actually, since the exam was cumulative) into slide titles would have produced a guide that was too long to be useful. The 29 questions of the exam would only cover a small fraction of the slides anyway. Instead, I picked the top few topics and vocabulary words for each week. Making this guide was a great tool for me to design the exam as well. More on that next time.

On the morning of class, I met with the first student who cashed in the coffee drawing prize! It may be surprising to hear that no one who has won the weekly coffee drawing has actually claimed the reward. I suppose that the commuter college setup means that people are generally busy and far away when not in class. This first coffee chat was very interesting as I learned more about a student who was especially vague in the beginning-of-course survey. I also received some good suggestions about what to do in the rest of the class and for future classes.

The actual exam review had some highs and lows. I started with handing out the study guides and just going over what I had written. I’m pretty boring without cool pictures! I’m not sure reading over the study guide with the students really helped them. The second part of the review was more successful. I had told the students in the previous lecture and via email that I was going to have an activity and that they should be ready with questions from the course. Actually, I did not have an activity worked out until the night before class. A while back, I had read about an activity where students anonymously write questions and answer each other’s questions. I don’t remember where I read about it, but some version of the idea stuck in my mind.

In class, I had them form a big circle with the wheelie-desks and each get out a sheet of paper. I gave everyone around five minutes to write a question on the course material at the top of the sheet. Then, I collected the sheets and shuffled them, before randomly handing them back. The process was simple: each student should write a short answer or reflection on the question and pass the paper to the left. Each student would then add their own thoughts to the sheet until each paper had a comment thread of sorts about the top topic. Some students remarked on how this is like a low-tech message board! As sheets were passed, I caught a glimpse of some ‘likes’ that people left next to other people’s writing.

The commenting part of the activity went pretty well without direction. As papers piled up, students would be urged to wrap up their current sheet a little faster. I can directly cite where I came up with this part of the process: playing Magic: the Gathering with friends where we built decks out of shuffled cards being passed around. Anyway, since the questions and answers were anonymous, no one was put under high pressure to write something brilliant. I even told them that if they had nothing to say, or if they got their own question that round, to just pretend to write something and move on.

I sat in the big circle but did not write anything myself. I sampled the sheets as they passed by. Also, I had a great view of the clock, learning from my experience with the article discussion a few weeks ago! When each sheet had around ten responses, I had the students stop to get ready for the last part of the activity.

To capitalize on the low stakes anonymity, I had the students do some public speaking. Even though it was the tenth week, I had never heard the voices of a few of my students. While the pedagogy books are in favor calling on the quiet students in class, I am not comfortable with that advice. A long time ago, I was the quiet student who loathed being called on randomly. This activity presented a good opportunity. I had the students take turns going around the room, reading the question they ended up with to the class and then telling us about about the best comments on their sheet. It was great hearing the quiet students talk and they performed their roles extremely well.

I collected the sheets as “the natural conclusion to this activity,” even though I could not use them for attendance as they all lacked names. I did get to incorporate some of the questions into the upcoming exam, though.

The rest of the class time was spent working on the team poster project. I presented each team with the Elmers tri-fold poster, that I had bought (remember, there are only three teams). Each time started out working or reworking out their roles in class, but one-by-one they went to the library for research. Well, two of the teams might have “gone to the library,” since I didn’t see them there later! One of the teams was definitely there when I made my way to the library. A deal’s a deal with poster free time so I didn’t mind the disappearing act: it was their decision to make.

While at the library, I looked around the stacks since I like books and stuff. I saw a section set aside for books about teaching. I checked one out that looked interesting: The Adjunct Professor’s Guide to Success (Lyons, Kysilka & Pawlas, 1998). I may have to destroy it, though, since it knows my secrets. Under a section about what to do when you are underprepared for class, it suggested both having a class activity and having free work time!

Next time: making the second exam and my increasingly busy schedule. See you after class!



Lyons, R.E., Kysilka, M.L., & Pawlas, G.E. (1998). Adjunct professor’s guide to success. New York: Pearson.

Cultural Anthropology Week 9: An Important Day

April 16th, 2015

This week brings what I consider to be the most important lecture of the course. The topic is race as a cultural or social construct. Since race has such a large effect on people in our culture, it is important to know the current state of research on human variation and how race is an inaccurate model for it. Without the support of biology, race is a cultural construct, which places it in the realm of cultural anthropology.

The lecture on race was split into three parts. The first was the history of the race concept, stemming directly from the previous class on colonialism. The second part was about how the biological race concept was refuted anthropologically, first by Franz Boas, and then by other studies. The last third as about the genetic evidence against biological races and a conclusion that emphasizes the role of culture in giving meaning to racial categories.

As I mentioned at the end of the last post, this class was going to be observed by the full time anthropology professor at the college. When she walked in, I was having a discussion in class about how we do not consider the cultural diversity of distant places. As an illustration, I had an image of a shirtless Korean man with a tattoo of Africa on his shoulder and a wild set of dreadlocks. That was the best time for someone evaluating me to walk in!

I wrapped up the lecture and left the class so the students could fill out their evaluation forms for the visiting observer to collect. As I sat outside, I had a few good conversations with my students as they left the room, some with students who never spoke. I spoke with the professor as well when everything was done. She said I had some good ideas in my class, which was great to hear.

Maybe it was I had told my class how important it was to attend this lecture for the evaluation, but everyone was there and they were really engaged with the lecture, even before the guest arrived. Understanding the many arguments from anthropology and biology about why race is a cultural construct is no easy task, but the class had a lot of good observations and questions throughout the whole lecture. Actually, I was so happy with how the class went that I was pretty euphoric for a few hours afterward. It’s a good feeling, but it also meant that I did not get anything done the rest of the day.

Week 9 was the last full single-topic lecture for a while. Next week, there is no topic as the students prepare for the next exam and work on the poster project. The week after that is the exam and half a class on… culture and technology? When I wrote the syllabus, the second half of the course was sketchier than the first half since it was so far in the future. I may change the topic, though I can’t think of anything in particular right now. My remaining classes are on globalization, activism (which will also cover medical anthropology), and the current state of research (another filler topic).

See you after class!

Cultural Anthropology Week 8: On to Bigger Things

April 9th, 2015

After spring break, we started the second half of the course. The second half brings a change in both the lecture material and the assignments. I have gone over almost every major subdivision of culture (e.g., religion, social organization, gender, subsistence), so the remaining lectures zoom out further to talk about anthropological issues across cultures. For example, the first post-break lecture is on colonialism, which is the historical process by which European countries spread across the other continents, causing drastic cultural change. One of my students asked about colonialism way back in the first lecture, so it was good to make that connection across classes. The remaining lectures are on other broader issues such as race and globalization.

For now I had to concentrate on the current topic. The lecture went as expected. I’ve gotten very comfortable talking about each slide without repeating the bullet points verbatim. My slide notes have gotten more and more lengthy with additional topics that I could mention. The ‘verbal only’ stuff hopefully makes the class worth attending since I have started posting full slides on the Blackboard side instead of the ‘coloring book’ textless slides.

I wrapped up the last slides on religion from before break. My last slides on religion were about the spread of religious belief and how various cultures have adapted to it, so I took those slides and incorporated them in the colonialism lecture itself. Having a little more time this week also allowed me to show the video clips on Kwakitul dancing that I had omitted. The students found the clips interesting, so I was glad I had time to show them after all.

I do have one amusing anecdote from my colonialism lecture. Throughout these lectures I have been making an effort to present information from a neutral perspective. When discussing topics such as polygamy and warfare, I emphasize how the practice fits in with the rest of the culture and not judge it in any way. It’s the anthropological method! Well, in discussing colonialism, I was talking about the major products that were grown and shipped around the world:

“The Europeans took crops such as sugar cane, tobacco, cotton, and coffee around the world to mass grow them in suitable habitats. A large cheap labor force was needed. The solution that the colonizers used… was slavery.”

With that, I finally cracked up trying to keep my lecturer composure. I led the class into a little tension-relieving laugh during this serious lecture.

After the colonialism lecture, it was time to start the team poster project that I have been looking forward to since the planning stages of this course. My original plan was to the have poster projects presented at a class poster session with outside guests, and maybe even a public venue on campus. Since my class has twelve students, or three groups of four, the plans got scaled back to just a classroom affair. Still, I was excited to get started. Over the break, I wrote up the assignment instructions. The goal is to make a three panel poster on an indigenous culture. Since meeting as a group outside of class is difficult for community college students (who don’t live nearby in dormitories), my instructions divided the poster into eight roles. I figure that with four people per team, each student would take two of the roles, at least at first. The roles vary from research-oriented to poster design-oriented. The variety of roles allows students to choose what they are inclined to do. The students can get their roles done on their own time and bring their contribution to class for input and poster construction. It should also be possible for students to crank out their roles during poster work class time, if they were inclined.

As with my other attempts to convey a lot of instructions to the students, class got a bit chaotic. I need to brainstorm on how to hold people’s attention for this type of activity. Maybe I should pass out the instructions and talk about them before I have everyone break into teams. With the instructions in hand and everyone already arranged into teams, they just went through the instructions on their own as I tried going over the points slowly. I suppose that I could just have them go at it without my walkthrough as well.

The three teams told me which cultures they had decided to research, so it was off to the campus library! I led them there as a class to where the anthropology books were located. The library actually has a lot of books on anthropology. However, most students went to the computer banks to use the Internet for research instead. It was another crushing reminder of my age since Internet research was not a thing until my graduate school years. I still remember when my adviser told me about this new site named Google…

Anyway, we spent the rest of the class time at the library and students eventually filtered out. They did get a lot of preliminary work done, so I was pleased. The students will not return to the project for two weeks. Next week is perhaps the most important lecture: race. The next class is also important to me professionally because I will have an observer evaluating me. This is normal new adjunct procedure, or at least that’s what they tell me. I think that if I just do what I usually do, it will go well.

See you after class! (This is now my ending catch phrase).

Cultural Anthropology Week 7: Halfway There

March 27th, 2015

This week brought by first attempt at having a discussion on some scientific articles. I think it was a rewarding activity, but definitely one in which I need more experience. Thinking back to my student days, I was the person who had little to say in class discussions. In fact, I was actively trying to blend in to my surroundings and/or drawing in my notes at a furious pace. Fast forward a bunch of years and here I am leading a discussion of articles that I chose. Cue this picture:


Since the discussion was originally planned for the prior class (did I subconsciously let it get delayed?), I decided to do it at the beginning of this class session. I originally wanted to do the “think-pair-share” type of escalating discussion, but with such a small class, I just had everyone form a circle with their wheelie desks. Did I mention that the student desks have wheels and cupholders?


The articles I had chosen for us to read and discuss were “Alternative kinship, marriage, and reproduction” (Levine, 2008) and “Troubling kinship: Sacred marriage and gender configuration in South India” (Ramberg, 2013). They relate to the previous lectures on kinship and gender, and have a lot of connections between them as well. The Levine article is a review, so there is a good recap of how anthropologists study kinship and how it has changed with different shifts in focus and methodology. Ramberg’s article is based on her own ethnography of a practice in which a child is dedicated to a goddess called Yellamma. The dedicated person, a devadasi, has a new gender role that is both male and female depending on the context. Ramberg brings this information back to how anthropology is conducted to point out how the traditional kinship diagram (with the triangles and circles) has the flawed assumption that gender is fixed when determining kinship. Together, these articles have a lot of different subtopics to discuss.

The actual discussion of these articles went pretty well. I can’t really say that we fully discussed the articles, but we did spend an hour and a half (!) talking about all things religion and gender. Most students had something to say at some point, and there was a lot of good back-and-forth among them. I definitely need to be in view of the clock next time since we went a half hour over the duration that I had planned. As a result, the lecture was cut short: the first time that has happened!

The lecture topic was religion, which as expected garnered a lot of discussion as I went through my slides. I managed to fit culture-bound syndromes in the lecture on the fly. I wanted to put it in some lecture but I had not found a place to place it. The slide on beliefs turned out to be a good place. The students were very interested in how what we call mental illness is expressed and treated in other cultures. I am debating whether to have an extra credit assignment based around an article on koro, or genital retraction syndrome (Mattelaer & Jilek, 2007). Is that weird? But it’s a topic that really got the attention so I want to roll with it.

As time ran out, I quickly wrapped up the slide on polytheism and let the students go. I kept telling the students that the next lecture is on race, but looking at the syllabus, it is on colonialism, which is what bridges religion and race in my roadmap through anthropology. The last part of the religion lecture is on the spread of Christianity anyway, so it all works together.

Spring break is this week, so we will not meet again for another week. The break signals the halfway mark in the course! The second week has a change of pace as each team gets to work on a poster presentation. During the break I drafted the assignment instructions, including coming up with a list of cultures to choose from and a way to split the poster into different roles for each team member. Some roles will be researching a part of the culture while other roles involve designing and printing the text. I hope the different types of roles allow the students to do what they want in this project.

Levine NE. 2008. Alternative Kinship, Marriage, and Reproduction. Annu. Rev. Anthropol.. 37:375-389.

Mattelaer JJ, Jilek W. 2007. Koro–the psychological disappearance of the penis. J Sex Med. 4:1509-15.

Ramberg L. 2013. Troubling kinship: Sacred marriage and gender configuration in South India. American Ethnologist. 40:661-675.

Cultural Anthropology Week 6: Post-Game

March 19th, 2015

So how did the test go? After grading the tests, I looked for patterns in the results. Everyone got the first question (“What is anthropology?”) correct, so that was good. Beyond that, results varied. My last two multiple choice questions were missed by a majority of the students. I knew the last one was meant to be beyond what I was expecting, but the question before was trickier than I had thought. Showing the test to some friends, I realized that the question was too ambiguous. My solution was to give the points back for those two questions for every student. Those who got it right would then have received an extra bonus for their work.

I handed the tests back in class and had a little discussion about how it did or did not meet their expectations. One comment that made a lot of sense to me was that I should provide a study guide so the class has a better idea of what I’m expecting. My test review exercise asked the students what they thought was important, but I actually never heard their responses in the process. For the next exam, I may do a review of the study guide and some polling about confusing concepts that I could explain further. While I had it in my head that there was just the one midterm and the final, there is actually another exam in April. I can see how test review version 2 works out then.

After the test business, it was time for the video that I wanted to show. It is a half hour on kinship and descent from an old anthropology documentary series. It is very old fashioned and very low fidelity, but it mentions a lot of concepts that I talked about in class. The video was a good buffer between the test and the lecture as well (Abrams, 1994).

As with the last lecture on marriage, the lecture on gender was a big hit with the class. We spent almost ten minutes on just the title slide, of a female Kurdish peshmerga soldier on the frontline fighting ISIS. The first half of the lecture, on gender roles and stratification, drew a lot of personal observations. The second half, on supernumerary genders, was also engaging. There was so much discussion that I ran out of time for the activity that I had planned: the article discussion/lesson on article reading. I told them that we would do that first thing next class. Due to a misunderstanding with the campus print shop, I had enough paper copies for everyone (I had ordered just 1 copy for myself). Since the discussion activity was being delayed already, I decided to convey my article reading technique via a written essay. I quickly typed it up in the two days after class and emailed it to my students. I will polish it a little further and put it on my blog, like I did with the paper writing tips.

The streak of engaging topics continues next week with religion. (It’s not hard since anthropology is holistic, but the paper discussion is a great tie between gender and religion). I have a lot of slides, which needed a lot of pictures, but I hope to get through them all after a half hour or so of discussion.

The week after next is spring break, so there is no class on campus. I will be working two online classes during this time, though. After spring break ends, another online class will start, so I will be doing four classes simultaneously! (If you’re keeping score, there is this classroom cultural anthropology class, the final grading week of an online class, the second week of another online class, and the start of a new online physical anthropology class of my own design).



Abrams, I.R. [Producer]. (1994). Kinship and descent part 1 [Film]. Faces of Culture. Fountain Valley, CA: Coast Telecourses.