Course Topics

Anthropology 101 Cultural Anthropology
A study in what it means to be human, this course uses the concept of culture to account for the tremendous variety of practices and beliefs throughout the world. Students will also examine patterns in human behavior, addressing cultural similarities as well as cultural differences. Course content provides insight into how cultural anthropologists do what they do—what methods they use to study culture and what ethical issues they may encounter while doing so. Students will be expected to engage some of these anthropological methods through completion of an ethnographic research project over the course of the semester.

Anthropology 103 Linguistic Anthropology
An introduction to human language, with an emphasis on the relationship between language and culture. Topics include the origin and evolution of language, primate communication, language acquisition, language and society, and current issues in linguistic anthropology, such as linguistic human rights and language death. Students will gain hands-on experience with the methods and techniques of descriptive and historical-comparative linguistics.

Anthropology 204 Native Peoples of North America
The history and culture of Native Americans extending from the initial settlement of the Western Hemisphere to the present. The major emphasis of the course is on the definition of belief systems and values that account for the distinctiveness of the Native American experience.

Anthropology 205 Religion and Culture
What is religion? When and how did it develop? Is religion a human universal? What features, if any, are common to all religions? How and why do religions change, and what happens when different systems of religious belief and practice come into contact? This introduction to the anthropology of religion explores these questions and others through in-depth case studies from the ethnographic literature, comparisons made across cultures, and the theoretical works of anthropologists and other scholars. Though some attention is given to the world’s major religions, the course emphasizes the religious traditions of indigenous peoples around the globe.

J-Term Courses

Anthropology 221/Africana Studies 221 Anthropology of East Africa: Culture Change Among the Maasai (Tanzania)
Like other peoples of East Africa, the Maasai pastoralists of Tanzania and Kenya are experiencing rapid culture change in response to global, national, and local forces. In this course we will study "traditional" Maasai culture and examine the ways in which the Maasai of northern Tanzania are adapting to changing social, political, economic, and environmental conditions. Topics to be explored include the shift from herding to agropastoralism; the tension between traditional and formal modes of education; the declining use of Maa, the mother tongue, in favor of Swahili and English; the adoption of Christianity in place of or alongside traditional religion; changes in coming-of-age rituals; cultural dimensions of health, healing, and the spread of HIV/AIDS; challenges to traditional gender ideology; the Maasai relationship to their environment; and the impacts of ecotourism, cultural tourism, and wildlife conservation programs on the pastoral way of life.

From bases near the city of Arusha and the small town of Monduli students will interact with Maasai people in urban and rural marketplaces; in schools, medical facilities, and places of worship; and at Maasai bomas (family compounds) in the bush. We will also visit the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation area to explore the tension between pastoralism, wildlife conservation programs, and tourism.

Paideia 450 People and Parks: Pastoralism and Conservation in East Africa (Tanzania)
This course will examine the tensions between the national parks movement and pastoralist societies through the lens of the Maasai people of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. Of particular interest is how wildlife conservation efforts and ecotourism have impacted the relationship of the Maasai to their environment, in turn causing rapid cultural change such as shifts from herding to agropastoralism and wage labor; modification of coming-of-age rituals; and increasing adoption of formal modes of education and Christianity in place of or alongside traditional modes and beliefs.

From bases near the city of Arusha and the small town of Monduli, we will study “traditional” Maasai culture and examine the ways in which the Maasai of northern Tanzania are adapting to changing social, political, economic, and environmental conditions. Students will interact with Maasai people in urban and rural marketplaces; in schools, medical facilities, and places of worship; and at Maasai bomas (multi-family compounds) in the bush. We will also visit the African Wildlife Foundation, the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, the Manyara Ranch Conservancy, Gibbs Farm (a luxury resort for western tourists that highlights Maasai culture), and the pilgrimage route at the Oldoinyo Lengai volcano in order to explore points of intersection between wildlife conservation programs, ecotourism, and pastoralist societies.