SC2218 Syllabus 2012

SC2218: Anthropology and the Human Condition
Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore
Semester 1, 2012/2013
Dr. Eric C. Thompson, Lecturer
Office: AS1 #04-31,
Consultation: By Appointment (email me to set up a time)
Lectures: Thursday, 10 to 12 am, LT14

Aims and Objectives This course has three primary aims and objectives. The first is to provide students with an introduction to the discipline of anthropology as a study of human society and culture. Second, the course will introduce an anthropological perspective developed within this discipline from the late-19th century into the early 21st century. Third, students will acquire an idea of what this anthropological perspective can tell us about the human condition – in other words, the biological, social, and cultural conditions shaping our lives and how we act within those conditions.

Modes of Enquiry In order for you to actively learn the material in this class, think of the course as an ongoing dialogue between yourself, the readings, films, lecture material, the instructors, and your classmates. In addition to the traditional platforms for interaction of lectures and discussion groups (tutorials), participants in the course will engage in collaborative construction of a Wiki on Anthropology and the Human Condition ( The Wiki will include collaborative notes, queries, and commentary on the lecturers, readings and films recommended by the instructor for the course. It will also be a platform for students to move beyond the instructor’s recommendations and create their own content and recommendations for understanding anthropology and the human condition. The ideas and concepts in the class are to be discussed, debated, and thoughtfully considered – not just a set of facts to be memorized!

Requirements, Assignments, Assessment Students should maintain regular attendance in lectures and tutorials. Students must come prepared for tutorials, which means reading relevant materials, viewing films and completing assigned Wiki contributions or other written work before each tutorial session (see details below). The assignments and course participation will count for 50% of the overall grade. The final exam will count for 50% of the overall grade. Assignments for the course will contribute the following percentages to the final grade:
Course Participation 15%
Wiki Participation 15%
Ethnographic Review Essay 20%
Final Exam 50%

Course Participation (15% of total marks)
Course participation includes attendance and participation in tutorials as well as participation in exercises conducted during lecture sessions (details to be announced). Students are required to come prepared to discuss readings and films in tutorials in addition to the exercises. The topics you need to prepare (read and view films before tutorials) are as follows:

Session 1: Origins of the Anthropology, Human Diversity, Concept of Culture (Wk 1-4 Material)
Session 2: Kinship and Gender (Wk 5-6 Material)
Session 3: Economics and Exchange (Wk 7-8 Material)
Session 4: Ethnicity, Nation, Imagined Communities; Modernity and Change (Wk 9-10 Material)
Session 5: Anthropology in the 21st Century (Wk 11-12 Material)

Wiki Collaboration and Participation (15% of total marks)
In addition to lectures and discussion groups, the Anthropology and the Human Condition Wiki ( will be a primary platform for participation and learning in this course. A Wiki is “a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content.” That is according to Wikipedia, by far the most well known Wiki on the Worldwide Web. You should register on the Wiki (create a profile) and explore the Wiki as early as possible in the semester.

When you register on the Wiki, use a pseudonym (not your real name and not your student number). Report your pseudonym to your tutorial leader in the first discussion group session. This will allow you to participate on the Wiki with some degree of anonymity. You will need to be responsible for what you write – your instructor and tutors will know who you are! But your classmates and anyone else who reads the Wiki will not be able to identify you personally. You should feel free and at ease to express yourself on the Wiki.

You are expected to make at least TWO substantial contributions to the course wiki during the semester. A substantial contribution would be a page of commentary of approximately 500 words added to one of the main pages on readings, films and lectures or its equivalent. Wiki pages for readings, films and lectures should include two primary things: (1) summaries of the main points and content; (2) commentary on the content. These are collaborative efforts, so work to make the pages as good as possible. For example, you can edit and comment on what others have written, not just your own work.

Evaluation of Participation: Your participation will be evaluated on three things – quality, cooperation and quantity. We will be emphasizing the first two – are you making quality contributions and are you collaborating productively? (Trying to outperform others in negative ways will be penalized… let’s not be kiasu, ok?). Quantity – the number of contributions or time you spend – is less important than the first two.

Submission of Wiki Participation:
You may submit one contribution before the mid-term break. At the mid-term, if you submit, you will be given feedback on your first contribution, so you know if your contributions are excellent, good, adequate, or need improvement. Submit a Word Document to the IVLE Workbin > Student Submissions > Preliminary Wiki Contribution Folder by September 20. The document should include your full name as it appears on IVLE, your Wiki Name, the Title of the Page Contribution, and the URL (internet address).

For example:
Eric Charles Thompson
Wiki Name: socect
Page Title: Working with the Wiki
You can also include a brief statement about additional work you’ve done to participate on the wiki, such as discussion comments.

You must submit a final wiki contribution, as above, but including two wiki pages that you have contributed and any additional information if you wish. Submit this as a Word Document to IVLE Workbin > Student Submissions > Final Wiki Contribution by November 1.

Ethnographic Review Essay (20% of total marks)
Each student will write an individual ethnographic review essay. The essay should be approximately 3,000 words. Essays of fewer than 2,500 words or more than 3,500 words may be marked down. You may choose to write your essay based on either of the following two options:

Option One: Comparative ethnographic review essay.
In the essay, you will review and compare ethnographic material from the two main texts for the course (Lee’s The Dobe Ju’hoansi and Adams & Gillogly’s Everyday Life in Southeast Asia). The essay should be written about a common theme that you find in this material – for example, about kinship, economics, gender, ecology and environmental issues. The theme can be one discussed in lectures or one that you find in the readings yourself. The essay must include a review and discussion of material from The Dobe Ju’hoansi and from at least three of the ethnographic chapters in Everyday Life in Southeast Asia. The essay should also provide your own assessment and ideas about the theme based on the readings and can be related to your knowledge and experience of the theme in your own life as well.

Option Two: Ethnographic book review essay.
In the essay, you will review an ethnographic monograph (i.e. a book based on ethnographic fieldwork). You may base your review on any of the books listed on the approved Ethnographic Book List from NUS Press. All of these are available for purchase at the NUS Press Office and Bookstore at AS3 #01-02. As an NUS Student, you get a 35% discount on all the books they sell! If you want to write your review based on a book not on the list, please consult with your tutorial instructor first to get approval. The book review should follow a style similar to a professional book review, which both describes the content of the book and gives an assessment of its contents (see for example the two book reviews by Prof. Thompson assigned for this course). In addition, you should relate the book to the contents of the course, specifically: How does this book compare to the ethnographies (Lee; chapters from Adams & Gillogly; other readings) that we are reading for this class? How does the writing style and presentation fit into the ethnographic tradition discussed in lectures (not all the authors are anthropologists; you should particularly make a note if the author is not an anthropologist and how their ethnographic approach seems similar or different from mainstream anthropology)? How does the contents of the book speak to particular themes covered in the course (i.e. kinship; gender; senses of community; etc.)?

Submission of Ethnographic Review Essay:
You may submit an outline or abstract of your ethnographic review essay. Your tutor or instructor will provide feedback on the submission, so that you will know if the essay is on the right track. This submission will not be marked. The submission should be no more than 500 words. Submit to IVLE Workbin > Student Submissions > Essay Outline by October 4.

You must submit your final ethnographic review essay to IVLE Workbin > Student Submissions > Ethnographic Review Essay by November 8.

Final Exam (50% of total marks)
The final exam will take place during the exam period. For the exam you will write two or three short essays in response to questions posed in the exam. The exam will be a comprehensive exam. It will cover all material from the course, including lectures, readings and films. Further details and suggestions for preparing for the final exam will be given in lecture toward the end of the semester.

Deadlines and Due Dates:

September 20 (Thursday, 5pm)
Preliminary Wiki Contribution Optional
You may submit one of your two Wiki Contributions on this date for feedback. Your tutor or instructor will mark the essay and provide feedback so that you know if your contribution meets expectations of the assignment. This submission is optional. Submit as a Word Document to the IVLE Workbin > Student Submissions > Preliminary Wiki Contribution.

October 4 (Thursday, 5pm)
Ethnographic Review Essay Outline Optional
You may submit an outline or abstract of your ethnographic review essay. Your tutor or instructor will provide feedback on the submission, so that you will know if the essay is on the right track. This submission will not be marked. The submission should be no more than 500 words. Submit to IVLE Workbin > Student Submissions > Essay Outline.

November 1 (Thursday, 5pm) Mandatory
Final Wiki Contributions
You must submit your wiki contributions by this date. You must provide the Title and URL (internet address) for each of your two main wiki contributions. You may also provide links to additional contributions you have made, such as to discussion threads and may provide comments on other contributions you have made, such as editing or improving the wiki by moving pages to their proper location. Submit as a Word Document to IVLE Workbin > Student Submissions > Final Wiki Contribution.

November 8 (Thursday, 5pm) Mandatory
Ethnographic Review Essay
You must submit your final ethnographic review essay by this date. Submit to IVLE Workbin > Student Submissions > Ethnographic Review Essay.


Required Books: Available at the NUS COOP Bookstore.
Richard B. Lee, The Dobe Ju/’hoansi. Fourth Edition. (2012).
Kathleen Adams & Kathleen Gillogly, Everyday Life in Southeast Asia. (2011).

Additional Reading: Other required readings are available in IVLE E-reserves and/or Workbin.
Thompson, Eric C. (2012) Southeast Asia: Populating Land and Seas.
Thompson, Eric C. (2012) Review of Everyday Life in Southeast Asia, Adams & Gillogly, eds.
Cronk, Lee (1999) Righting Culture. pp. 1-15
Stone, Linda (2000) Kinship and Gender, pp.1-20
Weatherford, Jack (1997) The World Market pp.1-12
Bestor, Theodore (1999) Wholesale Sushi pp.201-242
Thompson, Eric C. (2008) A World of Anthropologies (Review Essay). pp. 121-127.

Films for the course are available on IVLE and through the Central Library Media Center. Students are responsible for viewing all films on their own. Please view the films on IVLE, so that the original video tapes remain in good condition.
Week 1: “The Shackles of Tradition” (Boas) (CVC3348)
Week 2: “The Journey of Man” (CDV 1144)
Week 3: “Strange Beliefs” (Evans-Pritchard) (CVC 3349)
Week 4: “Sight Unseen” (CVC11933)
Week 5: “Dadi’s Family” (CVC 2335)
Week 7: “Off the Veranda” (Malinowski) (CVC 3347)
Week 9: “None of the Above” (CVC7758)
Week 10: “On Cannibalism” (CVC 11156)
Week 12: “A Man without Pigs” (CVC 7457)

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