Bulletin of the Federation of Small Anthropology Programs . . . Vol. 6, No. 2 (Fall, 1997)
Proctoring a midterm exam several days ago, I pushed the stack of bluebooks off to the side of the desk and took a few minutes to browse through the September American Anthropologist. Procrastination was rewarded with a gem of an article by Carol Mukhopadhyay and Yolanda Moses on "race" in anthropological discourse. With wonderful clarity, the authors untangle the conceptual strands, from our discipline's history and politics, that have often hobbled discussions of race in the classroom, as well as our ability to communicate about it to the public. For cultural anthropologists, merely asserting that "race" is a social construct, part of our terminology for categorizing U.S. population diversity, has little effect when "racial categories have become phenotypically marked and culturally real" (p. 526). The authors suggest, among other things, that we teach about interactions historically between sociocultural and biological processes that have made physical differences so salient in American folk classifications.
My students, I know, would put forth other reasons than the terminological confusion and lack of dialogue within the discipline for the relative silence on matters of "race." They insist that it is political correctness which stifles any sustained conversation on "race," whether in the classroom or in other relatively public campus forums. They are half right. Most literally lack the conceptual vocabulary to talk about "race" without recourse to invidious stereotypes, and many have the good sense to be embarrassed by this. But they may also be half wrong. As Rosaldo (1989) pointed out in his discussion of Ilongot headhunting, sometimes people have little to say about a culture's most deeply held propositions, in part because such truths are seemingly so self-evident. Maybe it is this way with what Mukhopadhyay and Moses have called the "American racial worldview," a framework packing enormous cultural force (Rosaldo again), encrusted with emotion and submerged beneath platitudes and clichés.
So it is refreshing to hear other advocates for reinvigorating anthropology's role in the discourse on "race," even though their review of our recent lapses on the subject makes me wonder how anthropology can possibly be involved in the teaching of multiculturalism without discussing "race." It strikes me, once again, that our dominant culture's peculiar way of handling human diversity demands the domestication of anthropology (see discussion of some of these issues, including "domestication," in the FOSAP Newsletter, Fall 1995). Some history on the context of the construction of the American racial worldview, for example, cannot be regarded as a digression in an intro-level anthropology class otherwise devoted to the analysis of difference of the faraway sort. Nor is anthropology itself devoid of interesting case studies in the history of the evolution of our culture's racial paradigm. A critical look at anthropology's "race" discourse suggests we not only need to teach anthropology but also about anthropology.
In keeping with the theme of the 1998 AAA meetings ("race") and with FOSAP's tradition of pragmatism, we might begin to think about what kinds of sessions on anthropology and "race" would be most useful to us. A session on resources for teaching about "race?" ( For a head start in this direction, take a look at the teaching modules described on page eleven.) A good place for putting forth your proposals is FOSAP's annual business meeting. This year's FOSAP business meeting in Washington D.C.is slated for Saturday, November 22 at 6:15 in the North Salon of the Hotel Sofitel. We're looking forward to input from members about sessions, as well as FOSAP's direction and leadership over the next few years. Some of us who have been especially active in FOSAP are anxious for new infusions of energy and ideas from our membership and from people new to the profession who might want to contribute.
We already have two announcements in this issue of the Newsletter for session proposals for the AAA meetings in 1998, one on teaching ethnographic methods to undergraduates and another on computer courseware for the classroom. And we anticipate a good turnout for this year's FOSAP-sponsored session on Assessing Assessment: Success, Failure and Ambiguity, a timely topic in this era of calls in legislatures for accountability in state educational institutions and increasing public scrutiny of the rising costs of post-secondary education. Can small anthropology programs take the pressure? The assessment session promises no easy answers, but draws on the experience of our membership with contemporary assessment measures often focused on "student learning outcomes." We hope to see you there.
Ann Maxwell Hill
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Catherine M. Cameron (Cedar Crest College)
Is there any interest among the membership in a FOSAP-sponsored symposium for the next meetings ('98) on the topic of teaching of research methods (in the classroom or in the field) to undergraduate students? It is tentatively titled: "Our Method Is Madness? (Or, Mad about the Method): Teaching the Ethnographic Approach to Undergrads." Please consider and critique the proposal below. E-mail Cate Cameron (email@example.com) if you have comments or would like to participate in or be an organizer of such a symposium. We also will be discussing the proposal at the FOSAP business meeting, Saturday, Nov. 22, 1997, 6:15 p.m., North Salon, Hotel Sofitel, and would appreciate your input.
In response to this era of institutional competition, colleges and universities are looking for niches that make them distinctive from other places. One result is the increasing emphasis given to undergraduate research in courses, with faculty, and sometimes in field schools. With the possible exception of the senior thesis, student research in the past was largely confined to graduate programs. Now colleges are trying to lure students with the promise of being able to do primary research, even as first year students, of their own devising or with faculty. This allows institutions to boast that they produce graduates with research expertise, helping students in their quest for jobs or graduate school admissions. Anthropological methods involving participant observation and the case study approach are valuable as one of the many tools of social research, yet they are sometimes assumed to be easily accessible and obvious to anyone with a good antenna and the ability to take good notes. This assumption is particularly the case in small, combined sociology-anthropology programs where the teaching of ethnographic approaches is considered to be the "soft" side of social research. As a result, the ethnographic component of methods courses sometimes gets short shrifted by the focus on quantitative approaches. While we might agree in principle that methods courses should include a variety of research tools, the reality is that the semester time crunch makes it likely that survey techniques are given more attention than qualitative methods.
This symposium is proposed in order to have us (and especially those of us in small programs) think about a variety of issues that pertain to the teaching research methods to undergraduates. Some of these include: (1) expanding the possibility of teaching qualitative methods beyond dedicated methods courses, i.e. in our intro course or other ethnographic courses; (2) how small programs might devise ethnographic field schools on a small scale for the purposes of doing local community-based research; (3) the defensibility of participant observation techniques in combined methods courses; (4) a consideration of how ethnographic techniques have currency in applied (and, often, for-profit) research; (5) communicating how qualitative and quantitative approaches are compatible with both students and our number-crunching colleagues.
Anthropologists in small programs often do not give much attention to the teaching of ethnography because of the need to cover other areas and sometimes because our sociologist colleagues are willing to teach a methods course for all majors. Nonetheless, it may be time to rethink this position and re-instate the teaching of anthropological methods in our programs. This symposium will help demonstrate how we might do this.
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Harold F. Turnbull (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)
The economic crisis spanning the past several years in the state of California has resulted in significant funding pressures being placed on education. This has led California's 23-campus state university system to reexamine its mission and to seek methods of cost-cutting which can effectively address the fiduciary problems without compromising the quality of education for which the system is famous. A major approach being implemented is to encourage each campus to concentrate its energies and resources on a narrower range of programs that do not duplicate the programs offered at neighboring campuses. The idea is that in a large system like the CSU it should not be necessary for every campus to offer every program. A more efficient use of increasingly limited resources is to have each campus specialize to some degree, and to eliminate or minimize any redundancy. As long as a prospective student is able to find the program of her or his choosing at a reasonably close campus, individual educational needs are served.
In this world of diminishing funding and increasing campus specialization small disciplines, especially those which do not fit neatly into a campus specialization theme, can find themselves particularly challenged to find ways of adapting to a new campus mission (i.e., find ways of not falling prey to the redundancy elimination axe). Anthropology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) is one such program. To best integrate into Cal Poly Pomona's evolving mission the anthropologists have chosen to "technologize" their curriculum. Some of these new curricular approaches may be applicable to other small anthropology programs.
As one of the California state system's two "polytechnic" universities (the other being San Luis Obispo), Cal Poly Pomona was clearly slated to focus its attentions on the more technical and applied disciplines. The challenge for anthropology at Cal Poly Pomona, then, was to find ways to adapt its program (a traditional generalized four-field approach) to an increasingly more technology-oriented environment, and to do this without compromising the integrity of the high quality generalized program already in place (and without any additional resources). The solution was to divide the current major into three options: a General Anthropology option (GA), which retains the qualities of the former major; a Cultural Resource Management (CRM) option focused around applied/contract archaeology; and an innovative new Computer-Based Anthropology (CBA) option which is designed to take advantage of the computer and internet revolution now sweeping the globe, and to appeal to the technologically focused students that Cal Poly Pomona tends to attract. Surprisingly, perhaps, it has proven possible to make the necessary adjustments without substantialy adding to the existing curriculum, and without adding additional faculty. The changes necessary largely involved only reorganization and course restructuring.
The CRM option has proven particularly attractive to the administration at Cal Poly, not only because it adds a clearly applied emphasis to the anthropology major, but because it also promises the possibility of drawing external funding to the university via contracts and grants. This option has required that our tenured archaeologist "re-tool" somewhat from his more traditional academic training, and that we enhance our part-time instructor pool with CRM specialists. Other than that, however, the resources and curriculum were essentially already in place, just not oriented toward the new perspective. The plan with this option is to begin small, working within the limits of current resources, and then to grow gradually as anticipated grants and contracts come forth, adding additional faculty and facilities as justified. In the long run it is anticipated that the CRM option will prove self-supporting. CRM requires laboratory facilities, CRM expertise, and connections with external agencies involved in cultural resource issues, all of which could be difficult to acquire if not already in place. Thus setting up a CRM program may not be feasible for many small anthropology departments. Computer-Based Anthropology, however, can be set up by any department with access to a computer lab and the internet, and with faculty who are reasonably computer literate. Thus, Computer-Based Anthropology deserves special attention.
Computers are now used extensively in all four of anthropology's quadrants. The internet is proving an invaluable resource for anthropological research and global exploration. Converting an existing curriculum to a computer-based format is a relatively logical and straightforward process. Moreover, today's student often finds computer approaches to education very appealing. She or he is typically much more computer literate than the student of even a few years ago. In addition, she or he is likely to find the acquired computer skills highly marketable upon matriculation, whether applying for a job or for graduate school. Thus computer-based programs can be highly attractive to students, are well- suited to anthropology, and are relatively uncomplicated to put into place.
The Computer-Based Anthropology being implemented at Cal Poly Pomona is structured around a core of traditional anthropology courses (two in each quadrant), most of which incorporate at least a minimal computer component (typically as a demonstration mechanism), coupled with eight activity courses in which students receive specialized computer training of an anthropological nature. The computer activity courses include:
Web is one of two new courses developed specifically for the CBA option. It is essentially a guided exploration of the peoples of the world through the medium of the internet. Emphasis is on web sites which demonstrate key anthropological principles or reveal details about particular cultures. Students are also introduced in this course to the internet as a kind of "culture" worthy of investigation in-and-of itself. Computer Applications in Anthropology surveys the broad range of uses for computers in all four of anthropology's quadrants. This course was introduced into the curriculum at Cal Poly Pomona a few years back, and its popularity was a key factor in the decision to develop the computer-based option. In Demographic Anthropology students explore on-line demographic databases and do computer modeling of anthropological populations and simple simulations. Methods in Anthropology is a traditional methods course modified to emphasize computer approaches to anthropological research. In addition to the more traditional approaches to anthropological research, students explore on-line and CD-ROM anthropological databases and are taught to do statistical analysis with the data utilizing the popular SPSS program. Anthropology Computer Lab, another totally new course, provides an intensive exploration of specific anthropological computer applications. Different applications are taught in different quarters and students are encouraged to repeat the course for credit. Comparative Primatology, a traditional primate survey course, has been modified to take advantage of the excellent CD-ROM interactive primate encyclopedia developed by Burton and Eaton (1995, The Multimedia Guide to the Non-Human Primates, Prentice Hall). Students develop multimedia term projects in this course, based on internet resources and library research. Anthropology at Cal Poly Pomona shares a department with geography. The geography program already includes an outstanding option in geographic information systems (GIS). As GIS is increasingly being utilized within anthropology, especially archaeology, geography's introductory GIS course has been added to the CBA curriculum. This course is then followed by a course specifically exploring GIS applications within anthropology.
Although the new anthropology options at Cal Poly Pomona will not formally go into effect until Fall 1998, word-of-mouth information about the options has already filtered out to students and other programs on campus. Considerable interest has been indicated, particularly in the CBA option. Numerous inquires have come forth, and in some cases from surprising places such as Engineering, Computer Science, and Business. Students in these majors, who often shy away from anthropology, have asked about the possibility of double-majoring. Perhaps it is a coincidence, but in the last year the number of anthropology majors has increased by 20%, concurrently with word getting out about the new options.
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Constance deRoche (University College of Cape Breton)
Recently, after some years, I returned to teaching economic anthropology, in a course called Work and Sharing, to second-year undergraduates, almost all of whom were Arts students. Enrollment in the course had doubled. This could most parsimoniously be explained by a general increase in student ratios across the board in our institution and, more importantly, by the serendipity of the semester's schedule of courses. I suspected that interest in work-related topics, by job-worried Generation X students, had little to do with the course's expanded enrollment. Through a brief student attitudinal survey and an ensuing class discussion, I found that students perceived "things economic" as carrying no more professional or life course utility and no more inherent interest value, than they had years earlier. These efforts also confirmed that students still saw "things familial" as much more personally useful and interesting.
These discoveries added to my ever-present concern to demonstrate that anthropology can be relevant, and even fun. I wanted to convince my apparently reluctant student clientele that my class was more than a dismal and/or esoteric course-credit convenience. I wanted to show them that economic relationships are everywhere, not just on Wall Street, and that these need not be abstract, impersonal, and oppressive. Believing in the pedagogical wisdom of hands-on experience, I designed two projects for use by students with a very limited disciplinary background. One of them, which I developed from a classroom exercise I had previously used, is described below. It capitalizes on the perception that "economy" is abstract and remote, while "family" is familiar turf, and thus apprehensible and attractive.
Though the assignment could be adapted for students living in other circumstances, the assignment took advantage of the fact that virtually all students on my campus are day students who live in family-based households. I asked my class to investigate the economics of their own households by undertaking a structured exercise, sufficiently delimited to permit quick and reasonably confident completion, using common sense and generalized practical skills. Essentially, each was asked to undertake a number of small instrumental tasks: (1) keep a short-term diary of goods-and-service exchanges between oneself and a chosen co-resident kinsperson (preferably "mom," given the current North American division of labor, or an offspring, for those living with a family of procreation); (2) estimate the market value equivalence of each exchange by pricing comparable products and services, and explain the logic of the choices involved; (3) extrapolate, in a reasoned but rough-and-ready way, the market value of exchanges for a year (This was meant to have them arrive at a more provocative figure); (4) produce a balance sheet identifying the debtor and amount of debt, and prepare a "bill" for the outstanding amount; (5) present the bill to the other and propose a plan for making or taking repayment.
This series of minor technical tasks formed the basis for an investigation of the norms governing household exchange. This goal was to be accomplished by three further tasks. First, students were directed to record the other's initial reaction to the billing proposal and explore that reaction in a brief, informal interview. They were then to reflect on their own feelings about that proposal. The final phase of the project asked them to relate the principles they had empirically "discovered" to theoretical issues being addressed in the course (see below).
Since FOSAP members are well-travelled pedagogical guides, readers will have noticed the many minor pitfalls hidden along the route of this rough-grained assignment mapping. So, I should provide some experientially-based advice. I found it helpful to prepare a detailed project assignment sheet that included further concrete specifications, e.g. on the necessity of presenting a status description of the kinsperson, about the length of the recording period, etc., and advice about how to choose diary days and extrapolate to a longer time period. I also used the assignment guide as an opportunity to discuss the ethical implications of the assignment, e.g. data on a household that could be identified by its link to the student, and ways of dealing with these issues. The assignment guide also suggests supplementary readings on, for example, techniques of informal interviewing, for those whose backgrounds require them.
Attentive students are always concerned with operational technicalities that can reveal their observational, recording, inferential, and presentational skills. But they need to be encouraged to search the forest of issues, rather than becoming snagged on the branches of device. If you try this assignment, you should warn your students that the project involves mere simulation, since there are no true market equivalencies of familial products and services. For example, to what is an hour's heart-to-heart with mom comparable? One clever offspring was inspired to "pay" his total bill with a medium that surely no money can buy, a kiss on his mother's cheek. Students need to realize that the point is not to impose a market model on a familial one, but rather to investigate the results of that hypothetical imposition. That is, it is just the lack of fit between informal and formal economies that the assignment is meant to highlight. Also, be sure students understand that the pragmatically partial analysis demanded of them is inherently distortive, because household exchange involves a complex of differently structured relationships. To whom do you credit "rooming" costs, for example, where one of two parents works for cash and the other at subsistence? Attempts at accounting evoke an awareness of this complexity. In brief, emergent questions and difficulties provide an experientially grounded impetus to think about and debate concepts and techniques for analysis.
Two other observations follow from the normative violation that is intrinsic to the project. One is a technical caveat: Some students think it embarrassing or silly to propose a situationally inappropriate course of action (billing and repayment), and this can intrude upon the research process. It is wise to forewarn students that if the proposal is to function as an effective eliciting device, they must treat the request for a response as a serious one. To that end--and to ensure that it will be taken seriously by the other party--they should also explicitly present it as a hypothetical one. The second point is more broadly methodological. Their experience of embarrassment is part of the method of the medium. It is in through this "breaching experiment' that their culture's implicit interactional rules become unveiled.
This assignment can be differentially integrated into varying course designs. It can, as described here, be used as an individual research exercise, raising issues that can be collectively explored in the classroom, as time permits. Alternatively, it can be undertaken as a collective, but then far more hypothetical, in-class exercise, as it did when I piloted it a few years earlier in a course for first-year students. In this case, based on students' personal knowledge and experience, a "typical" North American domestic relationship can be constructed and market cost equivalents can be estimated. In my experience, the billing proposal can provoke a lively class response.
The assignment can be adapted in other ways to accommodate differences in household arrangements or research-subject preferences. Where students do not live in family-based households or privacy concerns exist, students can chose to research familial dyads other than their own. Other interesting options include allowing some students to focus on more socially distant relationships and comparing an example to (an unidentified) family-based case in class.
Among the lessons to be drawn from the exercise, I suggest the following. Most generally, the assignment illustrates that anthropology can shed new light on the terrain of everyday experience; it finds its place in the home culture as well as the culture of the home. Processes of economic production and exchange, in other words, the "substantive" economy, are shown to be more widespread than is credited by our culturally conventional definition of the economy. They transcend the formal (monetary and officially regulated) economic sector. The household economy is thus part of a larger informal economy, an idea that obviates the tendency to reduce the informal section to "illicit" behavior. In effect, the assignment also attempts to illustrate how institutional arrangements form the setting within which economic actions occur. It can help demonstrate how "self-interest" is indeed contextualized by structure and sentiment, and it can form the basis for a critique of the methodological individualism inherent in more formal economics. At the most mundane level--for example, particularly where the assignment might be adapted for use in a first-year course--it illustrates how the principle of generalized reciprocity finds a real, if restricted sphere, even in systems dominated by other modes of exchange.
The assignment stands as a concrete reference point that facilitates comprehension of such abstract lessons. Informal feedback from my students, as well as advice from colleagues with experience in "hands-on" teaching methods, suggests that students do appreciate active involvement and welcome a break from more standard library research. This assignment forms part of a core that will, I hope, grow into a larger collection. So I would be pleased not only to receive commentary on it, but also to exchange ideas about similar exercises that others use. I would be happy, as well, to share copies of my assignment guidelines.
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Chad Litton (Southeastern Oklahoma State University)
As most of you know, the job market for anthropologists of any stripe is limited. For those of us who are interested in getting jobs that focus mostly on teaching, the market is even smaller. And to make it better yet, those of us who are ABD or brand new PhD's have about as much chance of success as a good hard snow in Durant, OK. However, there is hope. I am an example of an ABD who got a job at a teaching institution. I am the newest Assistant Professor of Sociology at Southeastern Oklahoma State University (in Durant).
The road to Durant from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was filled with disappointment and frustration. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. My suggestions to those of you who are looking for work or who have a student looking for work are fairly simple. First, you must be sufficiently broadly trained in order to apply for many positions. At UW-M the anthropology program is designed around a full four-field approach. One of the reasons I went there was to get a broad background. The broader the scope of your training, the more appealing you are to a smaller school. Second, you must be able to show enthusiasm for the discipline and teaching. I have been fortunate to become involved with FOSAP at a point in my career which helped the organization and myself. Participation in conferences and getting out publications at many levels gets substance in your vita and shows employers that you are serious. Third, you must apply to every job you might be remotely be qualified for, regardless of the location or the size of the school. As the saying goes, "you gotta play to win."
Be brave when the rejection letters come in the mail. You can use them to line the birdcage, or to take notes for your research. When you finally get the call for an interview, start to prepare yourself. Find out about the program, the faculty, the school, etc. Call the admissions office and have them send you a catalogue. Look for the publications of the faculty. Check the WEB for the institution's home page. Be prepared with questions and information about the school. This shows you are interested in the institution and serious about the job.
When you get on campus, regardless of the travails of flight delays or other travel hassles, present yourself as bright, cheerful and thoughtful. Nobody wants to hire someone who appears stressed out. You are on trial and you are under inspection, to be sure, but remember, if they were not interested in you, you would not be there.
These ideas are just a few simple things you can do to help get through your experience in the job market. I am living proof that someone can get a job today. Although I am the only anthropologist in a small sociology department, I am thrilled to be teaching anthropology among colleagues and students who value my expertise.
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Manuel Luis Carlos (California State University, Monterey Bay) and Juan J. Gutiérrez (California State University, Monterey Bay and Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Mexico)
For a period of four weeks during the summer of 1997, in collaboration with faculty members from the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro (UAQ) in Mexico, we directed the field research of seven undergraduate students from California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). The fieldwork took place in the peasant village of Concá, a settlement in the tropical lowlands of the state of Querétaro, Mexico. Unlike undergraduate groups over the last ten years, this year's students were trained in field research methods through the use of a novel computer-based field research simulation instructional program, software developed by Dr. Manuel L. Carlos and his collaborators at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1995-96 with NSF funding (Carlos, et. al. 1997). Thus, the summer field session brought particular excitement to the authors of this article, as the experience would demonstrate the comparative advantages, if any , of training students with our software application called Ethnographic Field Research Simulator (EFRS). Other groups of student summer researchers had been trained for their summer research experience in Querétaro using only the more conventional methods of lectures, discussions, and slide presentations.
Field School Activities and Student Research Topics
Once in Concá, students conducted several days of field reconnaissance which served to introduce them to the villages in the surrounding counties (municipios). Afterwards, each was assigned responsibility for a specific area of research in the village. In addition, we and some of the UAQ anthropology faculty lectured and held discussions with them about the state of Querétaro, the local region, and other topics. Professor Martha Otilia Olvera of UAQ's Institute for Anthropological Research also joined our field school activities. She did much of the daily and weekly supervision of the students and contributed extensively to the success of the program.
The students were asked to begin gathering data for a collective ethnographic report on the community, reporting on its material base, social and economic organization, and the ideas and representations of life of the people of the area. In this context students defined their own topics of interest by elaborating a research question that would guide their work while in the community. For example, one student chose to work on the question of how the people of Concá made a living (production and reproduction); another examined the differences in economic roles played by village men and women (division of labor). Other students chose to focus on religious expression, including community rituals and practices, and on international migration to the US.
Preparing for the Field: The Electronic Classroom
To prepare students for their 1997 summer research experience in Querétaro, Carlos and Gutiérrez jointly taught the computer simulation course in the fall of 1996 and the spring semester of 1997. We titled the course, "Learning to Do Ethnographic Research in an Interactive Multimedia Electronic Environment," or LERIMEE, and published a description of it in the FOSAP Newsletter for Spring, 1997 (Carlos, Gutiérrez and McCarty 1997: 15-17). We had previously organized a more traditional kind of fieldwork experience in Querétaro's peasant communities for other student groups from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where we both had affiliations and where Carlos is still Professor Emeritus. However, the student group in summer 1997 was serving as a part of a "post-electronic" instructional experiment. Unlike previous groups, they had been prepared for their fieldwork experience in the LERIMEE course, where they learned specialized field methods and analysis.
As reported in the FOSAP Newsletter article, the EFRS-based curriculum uses an interactive multimedia simulator to teach students observational skills, interviewing, cultural and spatial navigation in communities, census taking, mapping, and the construction of genealogies, among other methods and techniques. EFRS contains a full ethnographic field research methods curriculum in an interactive multimedia CD-ROM format. Additional material for the LERIMEE course was developed and made available through a WEB site established at the following address:
[Note: this URL is no longer valid (6/3/2003).]
Practicing and Teaching Ethnography in the Electronic Age
Though the EFRS courseware materials and LERIMEE curriculum are intended to provide research skills that are transferable to any field setting involving the study of peasant cultures in Third World societies, EFRS uses authentic ethnographic field scenarios and data from a number of Querétaro's peasant villages to train students in field research methods. Hence, students were exposed to doing fieldwork in Querétaro long before their actual project began.
The quality of the students' research and data, as well as the level of their cultural adaptation to Querétaro, exceeded that of any previous group we have directed that received preparation using traditional course instruction methods. Based on discussions with our students during seminars, faculty from the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro remarked on how well the group understood the field setting. For our part, we found that students had less difficulty with "culture shock." They also were able to apply their EFRS-learned field data collection skills with greater ease and with an improved understanding of the information collected, relative to earlier groups. In reading their field journals we noted that this summer's students collected more detailed and richer, or "thicker," data than had previous student groups. And the 1997 students were less dependent on direction from the supervisors of the field school, manifest in a better understanding of the steps required to enter a community and engage in a practical and fruitful dialogue with informants. Moreover, students were well-aware of budget and time issues (something covered in detail in the EFRS curriculum), and at the end of the project, they delivered what we regard as a highly professional oral field report. We intend to document these improvements in student performance in greater detail and continue tracking student performance in the field, following their exposure to EFRS and the LERIMEE in the coming summers. We also intend, as noted below, to ask students to write carefully considered, reflective essays on their learning experience using these electronic materials and the application of these skills to the actual field experience.
In Fall 1997 when students return to their regular study schedule, they will be writing brief, reflective essays on the learning of research methods electronically using EFRS and as complemented by WEB-based material and the lecture/discussion materials presented to them in the field. They will also prepare a multimedia WEB-based ethnography of their findings, using the technological insights gained from working with the EFRS material and the LERIMEE curriculum.
Electronic Ethnography: The Steps to Be Taken
As we are confident of the extraordinary advantages of the use of our courseware as the core of the instructional materials used, we intend to make the EFRS material and other related parts of the instructional package for LERIMEE commercially available for distribution to other instructors at other universities in the very near future. We will continue to refine our courseware through further testing of the materials at other colleges and universities, hopefully with the participation of some our colleagues in FOSAP. Our students, with the two of us serving as participants and advisors, will also be publishing on the WEB, starting in January 1998, the results of our annual summer ethnographic research experiences beginning with the 1997 season.
A mere five years ago, we speculated on what it might be like to learn ethnographic research methods in a computer-accessed electronic media, to archive and use multi-media data in our ethnographic analysis , and to analyze collected multimedia field data (including sound, video, slides, text, graphics) using computers (Carlos, Knutson and Gutiérrez 1992). We feel pleased to have made a start toward realizing our plans and goals.
Carlos, Manuel L., Juan J. Gutiérrez and Philip McCarty 1997 Doing Ethnographic Research in Mexican Peasant Communities in a Multimedia Computer Lab Environment. FOSAP Newsletter 6(1): 15-17.
Carlos, Manuel L, Juan J. Gutiérrez and Melody Knutson 1995 Teacher's Corner: Binational Field Research and Training. AnthroNotes 17 (Spring): 22-25.
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Ann Maxwell Hill (Dickinson College)
Four years ago, our anthropology department at Dickinson College began a summer ethnographic field school in Cameroon, West Africa. Like other field schools, our general goal was to give students opportunities for living and doing research in another culture, especially one that was outside the European mainstream. An African field site was particularly attractive because Africa as an area of study is underrepresented in our curriculum, both in the department and in the college overall. So our proposal, after a little fine-tuning, was easily passed by the College's curriculum committee
Such institutional support for a small field program, typically involving only four to seven students per summer, likely puzzles those of you who have labored on your own to organize summer field schools. The enthusiasm for our field school reflects Dickinson's heavy curricular commitment to international education; about half our graduates have studied abroad, most of them in one of the nine study-abroad programs run by the College. Naturally, when we set about organizing the field school, we benefited from time-tested procedures already in place for travel arrangements, budgeting, College financial aid for our students, and allocation of academic credit.
Goals for Students
Our six-week field school is open to all Dickinson students who have taken the introductory anthropology course and to students at other colleges. Given the varied backgrounds of the students, and the fact that most had never been outside the U.S., our challenge is to give them as much support as possible in their immersion in Cameroonian cultures, while also exposing them to basic ethnographic skills as they develop a thesis or question to guide their research. In the writing-up process, much of which they do after returning home, we suggest readings to students that help them make connections between their data and a theory or model.
Most of what students learn, whether about Cameroonian cultures or anthropological research, takes place in the field; there is neither the time nor the funds for an extensive program orientation on the Dickinson campus. Not surprisingly, a great deal of the program's success depends on the on-site director. Through evening seminars and working with individual students on their projects, the on-site director teaches basic ethnographic skills, such as developing and testing interview questions and keeping field journals. Counseling and trouble-shooting are also part of the job description. Whenever possible, students board with Cameroonian families, requiring adaptation to everything from foods to family dynamics. Inevitably, some students need advice or simply a sympathetic listener as they find their particular niche in the life of their families. The director also helps students with the logistics of research in an unfamiliar community.
This brings me to another role our department plays in setting up the field school: working closely with Cameroonian scholars and local people to ensure the program works well not only for our students but also for them. The program orientation for the field school is conducted in Cameroon by scholars at two of Cameroon's major universities, Yaoundé and Buea. They provide students with background on Cameroon's cultures, history and economy, and, equally important, orient students to everyday life in Cameroon -- the how-to's for bargaining, eating, drinking, getting around and so forth. We rely on them, as well, to help us locate field sites in the Anglophone area of Cameroon and to put us in touch with local people who, in turn, help the director find housing for the students. The director also hires university students for help with planning feasible research projects and with translating.
All of this requires advance planning. As beneficiaries of the College's evolving commitment to African studies, we've taken advantage of opportunities to invite Cameroon scholars to teach at Dickinson, some for the short-term, some for as long as a year. Their presence in our classrooms has aided our efforts to diversify our curriculum and to plan ahead for the summer field school. For their part, they welcome the opportunity to stay on our campus and teach in a U.S. college.
Another part of our job in preparing for the field school is to see that visa applications go smoothly and that students' health is protected. We advise students on inoculations and make sure they take malaria prophylactics before, during and after the trip. So far, student health during the six-week stay in Cameroon has been reasonably good.
We also encourage students in the spring to think ahead about possible research projects, with mixed results. Most of them are too busy with course work during the semester to focus on planning for Cameroon. The few who have been able to zero in on a research plan during the spring preceding their trip often find their plans unworkable in the context of actual field conditions. This is a dilemma familiar to any veteran fieldworker, but a bit daunting to undergraduates the first time out, and another reason the role of the on-site director is so crucial.
Typically, students bring to the field a general interest in a very broad topic, such as women's issues, health care, religion, or the environment. These are starting points for the director, who works with students to gradually narrow down their topics. Students often get their feet wet by observing a process or scene relevant to their topic, then writing a description of it to share with the director. A student interested in women may attend a meeting of a women's church group; another, beginning with a broad focus on religion, may observe fortune-tellers working with clients by the side of the road. Several forays for purposes of observation and "thick description" may lead to interviews and participant observation. Each step is a springboard for the next, with the student becoming progressively more involved in the project and moving closer to articulating a specific research problem or question. In the process, students grapple with issues such as informed consent, the value of participant observation vs. interviews, whether to work with an interpreter or get along in limited English, and all the other small decisions that characterize day-to-day fieldwork. The director also structures a few occasions where students can present their research to-date to one another and get feedback. When students return home from Cameroon, they work on formally writing up their results, again in consultation with the director via E-Mail or phone. They complete their papers before the fall semester begins. Copies of their papers are sent to an anthropologist at the University of Buea and are deposited here in the Dickinson College archives. Finally, we hold a Cameroon Night on campus where students can present their research and talk about their experiences.
As important as the research project is, we find that students' daily immersion in Cameroon culture is probably a more salient source of learning about another culture and about themselves. Euro-American and African American students are a conspicuous minority wherever they go in Cameroon; both groups are locally termed "whiteman," along with everyone else who is perceived as not African. In some sense, because of the legacy of colonialism in Africa and the international status of the U.S., our students are treated as a privileged group. For example, they sometimes have access to muncipal or village officials that is denied to ordinary Cameroonians. But in other ways, always standing out from the crowd and attracting gangs of small children wears thin. Most students, but especially Euro-Americans, are not used to stares nor life on the margins; I think they all learn a visceral, if unconscious, lesson about the social construction of difference attuned to criteria other than skin color.* When they board with local people, they also have to adjust to life in large, extended families where privacy is not always possible. Not only are families different from American ones but so are men's and women's roles. The female students note, for example, that they are expected to do their own laundry, while male students are relieved from such tasks by women in the household. Learning a different etiquette is another typical lesson of the home stay. Having been for most of their lives on the receiving end of gift-giving, students invariably need to become sensitized to occasions when they are expected to give presents. Finally, families and their activities are often the source of student research projects (e.g. life course celebrations), and many of our students begin their interviewing "at home" among sympathetic informants.
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*African American students, for obvious reasons, are much more thoughtful about Cameroonian constructions of ethnicity and ethnic differences than are their white peers, although both groups of students are initially surprised that African Americans are so sharply distinguished from Africans.
Acknowledgments. Thanks to Ellen Ingmanson, Dickinson College, and Pete Brown, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, for their insights into the field school in Cameroon.
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Organizer: Daniel E.Moerman (University of Michigan-Dearborn)
Many anthropology programs, especially in smaller institutions, have recently had to respond to new requirements for "assessment, " often at the behest of regional accreditation agencies, state legislatures or state boards of education. These assessment systems are quite different from traditional program reviews which have usually addressed issues of curriculum, productivity and research. Assessment typically focuses on "student learning outcomes" and attempts to evaluate student achievement of goals which are often defined in program "mission statements." Assessment programs often include one or another of these elements: standardized tests, exit interviews, student portfolio programs and/or alumni surveys. Such programs are often highly contested with voluble supporters and opponents. This symposium will seek to evaluate the claims (pro and con) for assessment, to describe its historical origins and structural implications, and to explicate successful measures of adoption and resistance.
Daniel E. Moerman (University of Michigan-Dearborn) Introduction
Byron Dare (Fort Lewis) The Ideology of Assessment: Reagan's Revenge
Manuel Luis Carlos (University of California-Santa Barbara) and Michael Gallegos (California State University-Monterey Bay) The Use and Content of Student Electronic Portfolios to Assess Student Learning Outcomes in Anthropology: A Case Study of a Computerized Course on Field Methods in Ethnography
Peter N. Peregrine (Lawrence University) The Double-Edged Sword of Assessment
Kathleen S. Fine-Dare (Fort Lewis) Cultural Contradictions and Assessment
Lawrence Breitborde (Knox) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Assessment in Small Institutions
Ann Maxwell Hill (Dickinson College) Discussant
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Pat Rice reminds us that three teaching modules, described briefly below, from the Council on General Anthropology (CGA) are now available upon request. They may be reproduced for classroom use, but may not be duplicated for sale. Write or E-Mail Patricia Rice, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, West Virginia University, Morgantown WV 26505-6326, firstname.lastname@example.org. Pat produces these modules under a grant from CGA given to the Committee on Teaching Anthropology (COTA). She welcomes new proposals for "how to do it" modules from successful classroom exercises in any field in anthropology. She (COTA) will pay authors, in her words, "a whopping $250" for each module, which she then edits, prints and mails out. Here's what is currently available:
This exercise requires students to identify a newly excavated hominid skull at a hypothetical excavation. Students answer this question by measuring three indices on "paper skulls," including those of chimpanzees and all known hominid grades. As they work, they compare their findings to known indices. Then they must identify three skulls on their own, the last one being the skull that has just been found.
This module is designed to show students that the traits that experts and lay persons have used to identify "races" (skin color, stature, hair form, etc.) do not covary. Instead they show independent clines. Includes "trait maps" and "race maps."
This module is intended to update instructors and students on the latest compendium of ideas about what race is in 1997 and how anthropologists deal with the subject. Shows change in what consitutes "science" over time and demonstrates that racial categories are social constructs.
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