Mini ethnography

Purpose: The goal of this exercise is to observe a ‘cultural scene’ as an anthropologist would (i.e. based on everything you have learned in the course to-date). The student will analyze their observations in terms of themes from the subfield of cultural anthropology such as how it helps frame our societies (family, lifestyle, lineage, language and communication) and, in some ways, its evolution. Description: Culture as we have discussed in our readings is an incredible advantage that has allowed humans to enter almost every niche in nature. The development and maintenance of culture is what sets humans apart from other species. Culture varies by time and location. For this assignment, students will be observing a particular setting for 25 minutes, writing up your observations, and then analyzing them. Listen to APUS anthropologist Donna Rosh give you some pointers for people-watching as an anthropologist (or read the script). Watch APUS anthropologist Jennifer Cramer give you some pointers about studying behavior in primates, tips which also work for studying human behavior. Directions for 4-6 page Assignment: Choose a time and location for where/when you are going to conduct your observations of an ethnographic scene (mall, public transportation, coffee shop, etc.). Go to the specified location and proceed with your observations. Find a place to sit quietly for 25 minutes and simply watch what is going on. Do not talk to or interview people during this time. Take notes (handwritten recommended). Include details about the scene itself (time of day, lighting, furniture, plants, sounds, temperature, smell, vibe/energy, etc), with focus on the details about the people around you (their characteristics, their behavior). At this time, you should start to think about concepts that you’ve learned in class that fit with your observations. This step is critical. Write a 4-6 page paper about your observations (your notes do not count toward this page estimate). Your paper should: Include a ‘thick description’ of the location with clear detail of your observations Analyze your observations, identifying and defining four anthropological concepts that fit your observations. Definitions should be supported with cited sources. Analyze how these anthropological concepts fit your observations. Reflect on this activity. What was it like to observe other people through the lens of an anthropologist? Include your field notes at the end of your paper Conclude with a discussion of and reflection on your experience of the situation. For example you might write how you felt when you started to detect a pattern in characteristics and/or behavior. What is an anthropological concept? Anthropological concepts are anthropological terms and ideas. Examples of some that we’ve studied include: ethnocentrism, ethnicity, reciprocity, kinship, language and communication. You should not use this exact list of four concepts and expect them to fit your observation scene. You may, of course, use others – depending on what concepts are relevant to your observation. We also have two examples to share with you from APUS anthropologists- one from Jennifer Cramer’s fieldwork in The Gambia and one from James Turner’s fieldwork in Mexico. One common misstep is to apply the four subfields of anthropology or to apply the four parts of the definition of culture.

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