Ethnographic Observation: Doing Cultural Anthropology

 Description Unit 1 Culminating assignment ( Ethnographic Observation: Doing Cultural Anthropology Upload to Canvas in doc or docx, format by the due date. Papers in other formats will not be accepted. Goal: In Unit 1 of this course, we’ll introduce cultural anthropology and what we call the anthropological perspective, the culture concept, and how anthropologists go about studying culture. We’ll learn that anthropologists undertake fieldwork, write ethnographies, and attempt to make more general theoretical observations about social and cultural practice. By the end of this unit, I would like you to gain a small taste of this process. For this assignment (, you will undertake an off-campus ethnographic observation. It doesn’t matter so much what you observe, but the situation should be of interest to you. The main requirement is that there be social interaction of some kind. I encourage you to be adventurous and to enjoy yourself. If you play it too safe, you might not learn very much, and that will be apparent in your finished draft. At the same time, of course, culture, as we conceive of it, takes place everywhere, even in the most routine daily interactions. Can you depict your cultural scene with fresh eyes? The main criterion is that there be human interaction that you can observe, describe, analyze, interpret and reflect upon. The presentations, readings, and activities in Modules 1-3 should help you to undertake this assignment ( The assignment ( itself should comprise two parts: Part A: Observation: Depending on the situation, you can adopt one of two strategies: Sit and observe while taking notes. Note as many details as you can. Focus on how the “natives” behave and what they say (if you can hear them). If appropriate, you may interact or ask questions. This approach focuses more on observing. Participate yourself in a situation. If you cannot write down notes, make mental notes. As soon as possible afterwards, sit down and write down your thoughts as accurately as possible. You may, of course, combine the two approaches. (This option may constitute more of a challenge, because you will be reconstructing your observation from memory. If you wait too long, the details will begin to fade and your description may be too vague.) Afterwards, use your notes to type out a more polished observation. (Suggested length for this section: 2-3 pages). Part B: Analysis/Interpretation. “Hmm, what do I think is going on culturally?” (Suggested length: 1-2 pages.) In a concluding section, analyze and interpret your observation from an anthropological or cultural perspective. I’ll be particularly impressed if you are able to draw on course readings. If you cite these refer to author and page in parentheses: (Bohannon, p. 25). What can you say, culturally about the particular situation you have observed? What questions does this raise in your mind? Do not indulge in sweeping generalizations (i.e., “Everybody in the bar was a drunken fool,” but rather, “The three groups I observed watching the sporting event displayed very different behaviors.”). I encourage you to focus as much as your situation allows. How can you relate your analysis or what you have observed back to class readings or discussion? (This is key.) What have you been able to see, and what haven’t you been able to see? You might also reflect on your experience as a “participant-observer.” How did you feel while undertaking the observation? What has this experience suggested to you about how you observe people or about doing ethnography? Do not use a separate title page. In the top left corner of your first page include your name, Course (ATH 175), Date, My name, the assignment ( (Ethnographic Observation 1), and a title that will make me want to read your paper. Your final draft should be typed, double-spaced. Insert page numbers. You can’t cram everything that happens at your event into a short paper, so choose the details that strike you as most interesting or culturally significant. I am looking for papers that are very well written and that show enthusiasm, thought, originality, and cultural insight. Good luck. Call or communicate by email if you have questions or concerns.

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