Ant 211: Syllabus

— Categories:

Anthropology 211 (Advanced Topics in Cultural Ecology):
Cultural Ecology Classics and Their Consequences
[Winter Quarter 2006; CRN#73691; TR 9:00-11:50]

[Revisions for Spring Quarter 2008 Pending
Prof. Bruce Winterhalder



Reading Materials
Office Hours
Course Organization and Expectations
Written Assignments
Oral Assignments


Description back to top

The focal reading materials for this course are a series of classic, monograph-length studies in the cultural ecology of non-western peoples. In each case we will attend to the work itself (the problems addressed and their historical context, methodologies used, results and interpretation), and to its consequences for subsequent research in the sub-field of cultural ecology. Using various bibliographic tools, we will track the impact of these publications via study of reviews, the debates they provoked and especially the follow-up research they stimulated. Our goal is a broad understanding of the intellectual history of this subdiscipline, as seen through the lens of some of its most venerated, ethnographic scholarship.

This class emphasizes the practice of writing grant proposals. For each of the monographs we read, you will be asked to prepare, and the class will discuss and critique, a short follow-up research proposal. That proposal will have you return to the field site and time of the monograph to undertake research on a topic of your choosing. 

The seminar is open to graduate students. Advanced undergraduates may register by permission. It does not presume previous courses in Ecological Anthropology (Environmental Anthropology or Cultural Ecology) although that would be useful. It should be of interest to any student in the field of human or cultural ecology, economic anthropology and, broadly speaking, to Anthropology majors with an interest in these particular subdisciplinary fields. It will appeal to anthropology or other social science students keen to practice writing grant proposals.

Reading Materials back to top

There are four required books, which we will read and discuss as a group in the first part of the quarter. In addition, later in the quarter you will be responsible for reading several packets of material selected and organized by a classmate (see below). The books are available at the UC Davis Bookstore. They include:

Agricultural Involution: The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia(Clifford Geertz, 1963)

Pigs for the Ancestors: Ritual in the Ecology of a New Guinea People
(Roy Rappaport, 1968)

Basin-Plateau Aboriginal Sociopolitical Groups (Julian Steward, 1938)

Hanunóo Agriculture
(Harold C. Conklin, 1975)

Office Hours back to top

I will have office hours 8:30 AM to 10:00AM, Monday through Wednesday. Times besides these can be arranged by appointment. Please come by if you have questions or suggestions, or just want to discuss the course or related materials. I use email regularly and can always be reached at:

Course Organization and Expectations back to top

We will meet once a week for approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, with a short break midway through the period. Following the introductory meeting, the semester will be divided into two parts. In Part I, we will read the four monographs as a group, at the rate of one/week. In Part II we will revisit each monograph, in sequence, but now looking at its intellectual impact and consequences for research (e.g., reviews, debates and follow-up studies). One or more of you will be responsible for leading discussion in each of the two matched classes (Parts I and II) which make up our analysis of each book.

In Part I, the Discussion Leader (s) (DLs) for each book will present a brief (15 minute) introduction to the volume, focusing on the biographical and educational background of the author and the intellectual or analytical context for the research. He or she will then lead a discussion of the monograph, drawing on questions formulated in advance by all members of the class. The last hour of the class will consist of a series of mini-proposals for follow-up research. The proposals assume that the ethnographic setting can be revisited as it was described in the monograph. 

In Part II the DL will choose and distribute a small set of readings (one week before they are the subject of a class meeting). These 2-3 readings are to be selected from among the materials found during research on the impact of the volume. He or she will then present results of that research, focusing on the reception of the work (reviews and commentaries), debates it provoked, and subsequent fieldwork or study it stimulated. This assignment can be characterized as intellectual history on a small scale. It will require you learn to use citation indexes, trace bibliographic strings through journals, and read in the recent history of anthropology. Class discussion will focus on the presentation, and on the written materials that everyone has read.

Written Assignments back to top

In summary your obligations for written work include:

a) For each class, Part I:

[ ] Three to five discussion questions, circulated at the beginning of class;
[ ] A one page, single-space, follow-up research proposal (see "Short Proposal")

b) For each class, Part II:

[ ] A precis (see "Precis") for each of the articles assigned by the discussion leader for this monograph

c) For the class as a whole:

[ ] A written essay, 20-25 pages in length, on the monograph you investigated, its reception and its consequences.

Oral Assignments back to top

Your oral responsibilities encompass:

a) For each class, Part I:

[ ] The DL(s) should be prepared to make a brief presentation and then lead a discussion on the volume being considered. Everyone else should be prepared to participate. This means being familiar enough with the work that you can readily locate passages that provoke questions or supply answers.

[ ] Everyone should be ready to make a brief, oral presentation (5-10 minutes) on their research proposal.

b) For each class, Part II:

[ ] The DL(s) should be prepared to present his or her research on the consequences of the volume and to lead a discussion on the assigned readings. As above, everyone should be prepared to participate, having read the materials provided.

Attendance back to top

Your main responsibility is to come to class prepared to discuss the readings. You may wish to raise questions about the interpretation or to offer observations from your own knowledge and experience. It is equally appropriate (and potentially enlightening to all of us) to express bafflement, offer an insight, or to comment on what you found striking or especially interesting, perhaps troublesome, about the materials.

Grades back to top

I will weight assignments as follows: class presentations and participation (30%), long essay (30%), research proposals (30%), discussion questions and precis (10%).

Schedule back to top

Week/ Class Date
Discussion Leader(s)
Week 1
(5 January)

Introduction; syllabus, précis & proposal

Start Reading. . .
Week 2
(12 January)

Rappaport discussion & research proposals


Week 3
(19 January)

Steward discussion & research proposals


Week 4
(26 January)
Geertz discussion & research proposals


Week 5
(2 February)
Conklin discussion & research proposals (Handout readings for Rappaport follow-up)


Week 6
(9 February)

Rappaport impact
(Handout readings for Steward follow-up)


Week 7
(16 February)
Steward impact 
(Handout readings for Geertz follow-up)


Week 8
(23 February)

Geertz impact
(Handout readings for Conklin follow-up)


Week 9
(2 March)

Conklin impact


Week 10
(9 March)
Summary Discussion
Essays Due


Filed under: