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By Jen Black
You wanted to get your CS, G, and Non-Western Perspectives requirements out of the way in one class. Lucky for you, there were a couple of seats left in ANTH 1200, and now you are on your way to learning all about anthropology... and killing three birds with one stone. But what exactly did you just sign up for?
What will I learn?
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology is not just a good introduction to "cultural anthropology," which is itself a sub-field of the larger discipline, but it is also serves as a good introduction to anthropology and the rest of the social sciences (e.g. sociology, history, or psychology) as well. What you will be learning is how the anthropological perspective works, a method of learning about other cultures that may be totally different than your own, and the different factors that anthropologists consider as they study other peoples. You might find yourself questioning your own world view as you explore some ideas that seem strange - or even uncomfortable - given your own cultural perspectives. This class will help you to understand that just because another way of life may be radically different, it is not necessarily wrong.
How will I be graded? What are my learning objectives?
Depending on your instructor, you may find yourself graded on multiple choice and short-answer tests or asked to produce a series of assignments or papers. If you are in a course with a lot of tests, focus on terms, concepts, and the kinds of questions that you find in the end of the textbook chapters. If you are in a class that is more paper-based, then you will need to know these terms, and you also will need to be familiar with the theoretical frameworks of anthropology. How do your paper topics - and opinions on these topics - tie in to the theories that your teacher has been discussing? Can you apply these theories to your topic?
Which section of ANTH 1200 do I want to take?
The anthropology program at the University of Wyoming has designed a new section of the course for anthropology majors and honors program students, so keep this in mind as you review the sections of the course that are open. Both approaches to the course guarantee that you will learn a lot, but this special section is much more theory and writing-centered than its counterpart for students looking for a more basic introduction to cultural anthropology.
A few more thoughts...
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology is more than a USP-fulfiller. ANTH 1200 prepares you to tackle questions that your other instructors may address without an anthropological or social science-perspective, and you will be much better prepared for these classes. In an increasingly global world, every university student has to become more and more ready to tackle issues that have international ramifications. Not everybody out there thinks like an undergraduate student at the University of Wyoming, and the sooner that you can embrace these different perspectives, the happier and better off you will be in your undergraduate education. Moreover, if you take advantage of a study or travel abroad opportunity, having learned not to be ethnocentric (biased toward your own culture) will help you enjoy your experience so much more!
- Do not expect that this may be like some anthropology courses you may have taken before. You will be expected to do a lot of memorization and/or critical analysis to succeed in this class.
- Do not skim a terms sheet or study guide and expect that just familiarizing yourself with the terms will be sufficient. You will need to really know the words and phrases that the professor has emphasized; try making flashcards and quizzing yourself to make sure you really know what they mean.
- Do not expect anthropology to be an easy A! The content may be easy to understand eventually, but only after you have spent a fair amount of time with the material. You will need to keep up with the material and be familiar with it for it to make sense; anthropology is not often intuitive (even for other social science students!).
- Do read your textbook, or at least skim it to get the general ideas and key concepts being addressed. If your professor assigned it, it will either tie in with the lecture or cover some material that will probably show up on your exams (or in class discussions).
- Do attend class. This is true for any course in any discipline, but it is especially essential in situations where the lecture or discussion material will form the majority of the questions or the topics for your papers. If you are not able to attend, be sure that you have a friend in the class who takes in-depth notes! Even if the instructor posts the PowerPoints after the lecture, it will not make anywhere near as much sense if you did not hear what he or she had to say along with the slides.
- Do have an open mind. Some topics that are regularly covered in cultural anthropology courses include polygamy, homosexuality, gender roles, and controversial religions. If an issue seems to be uncomfortable for you to discuss or study, really question in your own mind why this might be and analyze it. You might end up with a paper topic - or even a way to be more understanding of other beliefs or lifestyles on our very diverse campus.
Studying for Exams:
If your instructor provides a study guide or terms sheet, then you are in luck! Your best bet is to write each term or concept keyword in your notebook, then rewrite the notes you have associated with it. Add in any additional information you can find regarding the concept in your textbook, until you have a good paragraph of information either from your notes or the book. Finish by converting this paragraph to bullet-points so that you can make flashcards. Start doing this at least three or four days before your test, and you will be one hundred percent prepared!
If your professor does not make a study guide available for the tests, then you can still use this method, but you will have to make your own term sheet as a base. Go through your class notes, textbook, and handouts, and write down all of the major terms and ideas that have been mentioned. Then proceed as if the professor had given you the guide. You get even more out of it if you bring your term sheet to the teacher before the test to have him or her look it over!
Participating in Class Discussion:
What is the key to participating in class discussions? Read, read, read! If you do not do the reading, not only will your class performance suffer because you are lost when your peers are talking, but you will have zero to contribute to the conversation. While you might have a general idea of what is going on if you skim through the material on a superficial level, your best bet is to set some time aside for each of the assigned readings, then, as you read, highlight, underline, or write comments on significant concepts that you want to mention during the class discussion. If your reading has a controversial component, make sure that you think through the issue enough that you can take a stand, not just rehash the author's opinion.
Writing an Anthropological Paper:
How do you write an anthropological paper? The answer is that you will mostly be writing like you would for any other class, but you will have to also incorporate specific theoretical perspectives into your writing and probably do a lot of reading and research that may not have been necessary for papers in classes like English 1010.
Your best bet will be to brainstorm. Brainstorm a lot. Whenever you are having class discussions or listening to your teacher's lecture, jot down a few notes to yourself on how you would tackle the issue being discussed in one of your papers. You may find yourself already able to guess what half of the paper prompts will be in advance by doing this! Once you have a topic and have formed a solid opinion on the issue, then you will need to think about what theories are most applicable to your paper. What kind of approach do you want to take within your arguments?
When you finally sit down to write your paper, you may not even want to make an outline but at least write down some notes to yourself. What key points do you want to bring up in your paper? Just having something to remind yourself of what you wanted to write will help you immensely. Then, write your first paragraph. Make sure that you have a solid thesis: be sure that you state the main points that your paper will include, and state the point that you are arguing - it does not need to be fancy at all, but if you give yourself this firm foundation, the rest of the paper will follow easily. Just be sure that you incorporate analysis into your following paragraphs, instead of just rephrasing points from your research materials.
Even if you have no paper assignments for your anthropology class, you can still benefit from some of the approaches that you could take in order to prepare yourself to write a high-quality paper. Getting used to thinking in "paper mode" helps you critically analyze course content and helps you to integrate your readings into the new perspectives introduced in lecture and discussion.
"The most important concept in ANTH 1200 would be learning to see the diversity of a culture and how one must see others with an open mind. You have to be open-minded because those around you could be from a completely different area from you and their way of life is completely different. It is not better or worse, just different."
"The most important concept that I learned from this class is cultural relativity. Every culture does everything their own way, which is most important and efficient for their own culture. As an outsider you may not understand why a culture acts in a certain way, so you cannot be biased and judge them based on their actions. You must base our opinions based on their culture as a whole."
"The best study aid would be small study packets that were given out by the professor. Review your materials to the point where if someone asks you a question, you can not only answer it yourself, but also teach it to others. Flash cards are also helpful, especially for this class."
"When I read I would highlight and annotate in the book. I would ensure that I would write down the most important points from each section so I would remember these points when the teacher was talking about them."
"Study habits for this course were different than others because you need to learn not only an answer, but why that answer is what it is. It will make the learning easier when you know why rather than just an answer. Make sure that you set aside small portions of reading at a time so that the assignments are not just a blurred portion of the class."
"When writing for an anthropology class, you usually will need to write in first-person, emphasizing your own thoughts. You must also ensure that you put in your own opinions on the subject so that you have a very clear and concise argument on the subject right away. You should use words like I argue, I consider rather than I believe or in my opinion to strengthen your argument.
"The most important study tool for me was making sure that I did the reading prior to class to ensure that I understood what the teacher was talking about."
"This class required a lot more reading than most of the other classes that I took. I also had to ensure that I understood all the theories and the time frame when an anthropological piece was written."
"The thing that I enjoyed most was seeing amazing pictures of where the instructor has traveled. It's awesome to see that with this job you can go away for six months and live a completely different culture and lifestyle. The class is extremely interesting in that aspect."
"I would recommend this class to a freshman because it was completely different than anything I had learned before. It opened my eyes to a new field that I hardly knew was an option. I really enjoyed learning about the different cultures because I did not know how different cultures truly were in our world today."
- "Always communicate with your professors. Whatever the problem is they are the people who can help you."
- ""To study for tests, use websites' tools and really interact with the material, whether through communication with your professor or with other students."
- "Always attend study sessions/reviews for the test. They are great sources for the kinds of questions you will encounter on the exams."
- "You're in the class. If you want the most out of it, engage with it. Scan and look at ethnographic material - it's what cultural anthropology is all about!"
- Read through the chapters for the upcoming lecture, paying attention to the chapter headings as an outline. This will help you to better understand the lecture."
- "Anthropology helps you tackle social issues by helping you look at the way you understand your world. It helps you be more aware of sensitivity and makes you more professional - and helps you make new connections."