Course Meeting Times

Seminars: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session

Course Description

This course explores the diverse meanings, uses, and abuses of the concept of culture using historical materials and contemporary examples from around the globe. The word 'culture' is used liberally to indicate practices, symbols and representations ranging from a piece of clothing to elusive claims concerning the environment. Often, however, the word culture can stand for something like race, class, religion, and other ways in which people and groups differ. The course consists of interactive lectures, group discussions, and films. Students will learn the contexts and theoretical concerns that allow culture to be discussed and used as a representation, a political term, a process, as embodied, and as mediated, among other forms. Together and in various combinations and intensity—depending on the contexts—they comprise a tool for understanding the world around us that is in constant flux.


Class Attendance / Participation

I take attendance and participation very seriously, as this is a CI-H course. By all means try not to miss a class even if you are underprepared. If you must be absent, alert the instructors prior to your absence. More than one unexcused absence will affect your final grade. Participating means that you complete assigned readings prior to each class, take notes in the class, and participate in discussions and ask questions for clarification as you need.

Recitations are your chance to exchange ideas, ask questions, demonstrate your knowledge and your opinion, and learn from each other. During recitation students will be asked to lead the discussion for a part of the hour. You can use the questions that are provided for the readings or you can come up with your own. You can volunteer to lead a discussion if you choose the topic and date ahead of time and inform the instructor. When no volunteers are present, the recitation leader will nominate a leader during the class.

At the end of the recitation the recitation leader will ask a student or two to summarize the main points of our discussion.

Reader Responses / Writing Assignments

Students will have 6 assignments throughout the course. The assignments will be distributed throughout the semester. Some assignments will be as simple as to summarize the main points of the readings while others will require you to reflect on readings as well as on your field research projects. All assignments will be short; no more than 2 pages double-spaced.

Research Projects

Students will conduct three ethnographic field projects and write analytical papers on each:

  1. Observation and description of a public space (four-pages double-spaced)
  2. Analysis of the meaning and content of a public space (six-pages double-spaced)
  3. An ethnographic study of an aspect of Halloween (ten-pages double-spaced)

You will use methodologies that are covered in lectures, readings, and discussions. The third paper must be rewritten and resubmitted.

Please submit only hard copies of the final drafts of your written work! Following your third fieldwork project on Halloween, each student will make a conference-style presentation in class.

The requirements for this subject conform to the requirements for all HASS-Ds .


Participation 20%
Reader responses / writing assignments (6) 25%
Project 1: Public space observation 10%
Project 2: Public space analysis 15%
Project 3: Halloween study 25%
Presentation 5%

Class Electronics Policy

This class has a "no electronics" policy (no laptops, cell phones, iPods, iPads etc.). Keep a dedicated paper notebook or journal for this class. Note-taking in class and section is an exercise in participant observation. View your class notes as fieldnotes that prepare you for your three field projects.

Required Text

Buy at Amazon Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style . Routledge, 1979. ISBN: 9780415039499.


We are fortunate to have a writing advisor. Each student is required to meet with the writing advisor at least once for their third (final) papers. Additional meetings can be scheduled.

Good writers benefit from having conversations about their work-in-progress; it gives them a chance to "see what they say" anew. They understand that writing is a process in service to an idea. They also understand that in the course of writing, they will change their minds many times -- and that this is a welcome event. We discourage writing a paper the day or two before it is due, not because it can't be done, but because, as a writing strategy, it precludes the pleasure of hard-won discovery that arises from thinking about how to best articulate your idea, first for yourself and then for others. With this in mind, come to conferences with a piece of writing/draft that launches the essay/assignment.

You are expected to be responsible for and engaged with your own writing and learning process; the writing advisor is dedicated to helping you in that process. Come to individual writing conferences prepared with specific questions that will help you move your writing to the next stage. An engaged conversation, with your draft at hand, will help you to think differently about what you have produced so far. Lack of preparation, arriving late or in a state of general passivity about the work of the conference will result in a "no-show" grade for that required meeting. Email your draft to the advisor as a MS Word readable attachment in 12 pt type a day ahead of your conference.


1 Introduction to the class Assignment 1 distributed three days after session 1
2 Does culture matter?
3 What is culture?

Assignment 1 due

Assignment 2 distributed

4 Thinking anthropologically

Assignment 2 due the day after session 4

Project 1 distributed: studying place/human subjects

5 Fieldwork now and then Assignment 3 distributed
6 Place and space in anthropological field methods Assignment 3 due the day after session 6
7 Public space and public culture (thick description)
8 Spaces of inequalities
9 Bodies in space

Project 1 paper due the day before session 9

Assignment 4 distributed

Project 2 distributed

10 Power, discipline, and space

Assignment 4 due the day before session 10

Assignment 5 distributed

11 Interpretive turn: search for meaning
12 Agency, gender and culture Assignment 5 due the day before session 12
13 Laughter, carnival, and folk festivities
14 Subculture and resistance Project 2 paper due two days after session 14
15 The meaning of style Assignment distributed: write up Halloween field notes for project 3
16 Symbols and consumption
17 Student presentations

Halloween field notes for project 3 due

Deadline to sign up for individual meetings with writing advisor

18 Student presentations (cont.)
19 Student presentations (cont.)
20 No class—work on papers Project 3 first draft due
21 Resistance and subversion Assignment 6 distributed
22 The fun of the politic and politics of fun
23 Gender, style, and space Assignment 6 due the day before session 23
24 Movie
25 Reading
26 Wrap-up Project 3 final draft due the day after session 26