We’re on Hiatus because …

… this is a class web site. I’m offering the class again in Spring, so come back for more insights!

And thank you so much for your comments and pingbacks. The authors here are undergraduates studying anthropology, and these are often their first attempts at making sense of social theory. Your comments mean so much to me. I’ve send on links to the students (some of whom have graduated) because it matters that we are speaking to each other.

Sincerely – “Dr. Kate”


Welcome to Spring 2016

Before we start, here’s some notes about this blog for the students in SOCA 302 in Spring 2016.

Read through the previous blog posts. These were written by other students like you, with about as much knowledge of anthropological theory as you (perhaps even less!). See what they’ve written? It’s fun, it makes theory accessible, and hopefully it will help you in learning more about theory.

Few people anywhere are perfect experts in theory. Even the experts argue and debate about what things ‘really’ mean and whether so-and-so meant that when s/he wrote this. So, if you see something in a blog post that you think is a misinterpretation, don’t assume that you’re wrong! Your interpretation is as valid as any other.

Use more formal language in the blog posts – no text-speak/abbreviations, please!

If it is not clear that your user name is you, then add your name in at the end of each of your posts or comments.

Be sure to categorize your post. There’s a list on the left of the screen when you are writing a post, and if a tag you want is not in the list, then create a new category. Don’t forget to uncheck ‘uncategorized.’ It will help all of us with navigation.

Please DO add images to your post!

Preview your page before publishing.

Look for your invitation to be an author for this page in coming days.


Karl Marx belie…

Karl Marx believed that the product of human labor was separate from and hostile toward its maker. The same might be said of the product of our commercial activities on the Internet. You might not believe that your institutional doppelgänger works against you, but it does not seem like a stretch to argue that the sum of your activity as a consumer—your social-media posts, credit history, the freakishly accurate profile advertisers have of you—is its own creature, and can move about independently of you. You can also assign any number of automated tasks to your doppelgänger, which it will perform tirelessly.

Think about this – ways in which Marx’s theory of the alienation of labor can now be extended to consumption.

The Afterlife of Pia Farrenkopf,” The New Yorker, March 27, 2014


Professional Demeanors on our Class Blog

Be creative and adventuresome, but treat this all professionally. I can see that a lot of people have personalized screen names – not too surprising if you already have an online presence! BUT do not expect other people in the class to know who you are. I can guess because I’ve known some of you a long time, but other students might not know who is responding. 

Therefore, if you are using a personalized screenname in which your legal name is not obvious please sign your posts with your first name and last initial.

Transparency is important in professional communication.

New post Postmodernism

From: Making Anthropology Public [donotreply@wordpress.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 14, 2012 2:28 PM
Subject: [New post] Postmodernism

New post on Making Anthropology Public


by TheAnthroGeek

A fellow blogger write a great description of the importance of this piece of art here:

Rene Magritte‘s piece, which translates to, “This is not a pipe.” No, in fact, it is a picture of a pipe. It’s not the actual thing. Magritte’s piece (which was actually done decades before Warhol) illustrates what I believe Warhol was trying to convey with nearly all of his art. Warhol was trying to tell us that we were not looking at whatever was the subject of his pieces, but rather, a representation of them. It’s almost as if Warhol was channeling Magritte through his art, though until I made that realization, I had never heard of a connection between the two artists before.


The Postmodern movement in anthropology started in the 1960s. The main issue Postmodernist anthropologist have with ethnographies are that they are open to bias and subjectivity. They argue that ethnographies are not actually science and shouldn’t be. Postmodernists want to emphasize the opinions of those people being studied and believe that anthropologists should take part in cultural activities to gain a sense of how those cultures operate. Also Postmodernists want ethnographies to be available to everyone, specifically those being studied.

“anthropological writings are themselves interpretations, and second and third ones to boot” -Clifford Geertz

Putting a stop to the scientific method.

Vincent Crapanzano – Hermes Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description

Vincent Crapanzano argues that there are problems with being an ethnographer and writing ethnographies. Problem number one is that the moment you start a study as an ethnographer you have already created boundaries you cannot pass in your ethnography simply because you ARE an outsider. Problem number two is that the ethnographer must make what is foreign to him/her known and yet still keep it foreign. Problem number three the ethnographer must be able to not lie and at times it not divulge the whole truth.

Renato Rosaldo – Grief and a Headhunter

Renato Rosaldo and his wife Michelle spent 30 months studying the Ilongots in Manila, Philippines, whose people numbered 3,500 and covered an area of 90 miles in the northeast uplands. While studying these people he came across a ritual known as headhunting (a ritual in which following the loss of a close family member, a man becomes enraged and cannot find relief from said rage until he has fulfilled the ritual of cutting off a head and discarding it, as to discard his rage), for which he could not really grasp the concept as to why one would partake in such a ritual. When he asked the Ilongots they replied in a brief statement,

“rage born in grief, impels him to kill his fellow human beings.”

It wasn’t until the author himself was faced with the loss of a close loved one that he able to begin understanding the feelings of bereavement that the Ilongots were faced with. Only then was he able to truly understand their ritual of headhunting.

The focus of ethnographies tend to be purely on ritual and completely miss context and texture because too often the observer is trying to be completely unbiased and in return they miss the significance of the cultural event.

“Even when knowledgeable, sensitive, fluent in the language, and able to move easily in an alien culture, good ethnographers still have their limits, and their analysis are incomplete.”

Rosaldo, only through his experience with bereavement, was able to adequately explain the headhunter’s ritual in an understandable manor.

“My use of personal experience serves as a vehicle for making the quality and intensity of the rage in Ilongot grief more readily accessible to readers than certain more detached models of composition.”

Roy D’Andrade – Moral Models in Anthropology

Moral Models speaks on the attacks on the anthropological standpoints through time. By discussing the differing views within the profession it seeks to find the appropriate way to approach the topic of ethnographies. The agenda be

“that anthropology be transformed from a discipline based upon an objective model of the world to a discipline based upon a moral model of the world” where “model” means “a set of cognitive elements used to understand and reason about something” and “Moral” refers to “primary purpose of this model, which is to identify what is good and what is bad and to allocate reward and punishment.”

TheAnthroGeek | April 14, 2012 at 11:28 am | Categories: Post-Modernism | URL: http://wp.me/pb2eT-cr

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A sample Exam

Hi, all,

I promised a sample exam, as if we were having a midterm, and I just plumb forgot.

Here it is – available for those who actually look at the blog 🙂

University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Spring 2010

SOCA 302 001

Anthropological Theory – Sample Midterm Exam

Instructions for Exam

  1. Remember, I will choose the final two questions out of these.
  2. Your answers need to be complete, comprehensive, and fully articulated. That’s the downside of you getting the test questions ahead of time. I expect well-thought-out answers. The upside is that if this were a take-home exam, you’d have to have page citations and I don’t expect that here.
  3. You can expect to spend at least an hour writing this exam – possibly longer. Don’t rush. Be patient. Trust your own insights and knowledge. You did a lot of work in this class, so let it show.
  4. I will grade your exam on the basis of:
    1. Clarity – could I understand your points? That means you need to re-read your answer as you go along to make sure that your discussion follows some sort of logical order.
    2. Accuracy – you have to have really understood what each theorist said, at least as far as is possible.
    3. Insight – do you see how things are connected, do you see how they are the same and how they are different?

 Test Questions:

  1. Consider how anthropology theorists deal with ‘culture,’ as in the concept of culture. Some directly address it, some do not; some emphasize it, some denigrate it. Compare and contrast Durkheim’s and Harris’s use of the culture concept.
  2. What is the goal of anthropological explanation? For some, it was to find shared humanity (universalism) and for others it was to explain cultural difference (particularism). Discuss the different ways anthropological theorists have dealt with this problem. I suggest focusing on the differences among the 19th century evolutionists and/or Durkheim compared to the Boasians or Levi-Strauss.
  3. Should anthropologists try to explain change (adaptation) or continuity (tradition)? Why or why not? Be sure to answer with reference to actual theorists read in this class.
  4. Consider what Marx contributed to theory since the 1940s. You can consider White, Steward, Wolf, Harris, Fried, Rappaport, etc., but you must consider two of them. Be specific and detailed. It’s not just power, for instance, but HOW they conceptualize power (etc.).