Course Syllabus

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Department of Anthropology

SUNY Oswego


Course Information

Course Registration Number (CRN): 93536

Departmental Course Code: ANT 112-HY1

Semester: Fall 2020

Meetings: M/W/F 9:15am–10:10am, Online in Blackboard and in Hewitt Union 104 (Ballroom)

Instructor Information

Professor Rebecca Peters, PhD, MPH


Office: Mahar Hall 205

Phone: Ext. 3590

Office Hours: Wed and Thurs 4:30pm-5:30pm, and by appointment, online. Email to receive the Zoom link or find it on the course Blackboard site.

Course Description

Anthropologists study what it means to be human and how human societies have changed over time. Cultural anthropology, as a specific subdiscipline, comparatively investigates the similarities and differences of contemporary societies. Central topics include language, race, religion, health and illness, political structure, economic production and exchange, and kinship and family structure, among others. Anthropologists study “other societies” as well as their own, understanding all cultures to be products of historical and social processes that can be studied and perhaps intervened upon. Anthropologists interrogate what most people take for granted—what each time and each place would see as normal or natural. The classic shorthand for the aim of the discipline is that it seeks to “make the strange familiar and the familiar, strange.”

ANT 112 surveys the defining questions, methods, and findings of contemporary cultural anthropology. We focus on ethnography as its hallmark method and product, demonstrating what this social scientific practice can contribute to human knowledge and action in today’s world. Through this survey, we develop a deeper understanding of human diversity and come to value diversity as a strength in the address of contemporary social problems.

Course Goals

At the end of this course, students will be better able to:

Work Products

At the end of the course, students will have produced:

Course Logistics

This course aims to meet online at our scheduled time on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Beginning in the second month of the course, we may arrange for small cohorts to meet in person in our assigned classroom. This will be discussed in class beforehand and is dependent upon a number of factors related to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. Whether in person or online, our usual pattern will have the Monday class period as a lecture and short exercises introducing the week’s topics. The Wednesday and Friday class meetings are given over to group exercises and discussions on the week’s readings. Please be aware that all online course meetings will be recorded. Recordings from online sessions will be available after processing but in-person participation is more effective for student learning.

In compliance with SUNY Oswego’s COVID-19 reopening plans, face masks must be worn, and worn correctly, for any in person meetings pertaining to this course.

Student Assessment

Student performance will be assessed as outlined in the following table.

Assignment / Assessment

Due Dates

Points Available


Weeks 2, 4, 6, 9, 12


Reference Manager Tool

Weeks 5 and 10


Ethnography Elevator Speech

Week 7


Ethnographic Poster Project

Weeks 12-13


Course Total




In lieu of large, cumulative exams, this course is structured to support students’ learning by checking their understanding roughly every other week with an individual, online quiz. Due dates for online quizzes are firm, as these assignments structure and support students’ progress through the course materials. Falling behind in these materials threatens student success and jeopardizes a student’s ability to contribute positively to group work. Any difficulties in meeting deadlines must be communicated immediately to the instructor. With the instructor’s approval, a maximum of two quizzes may be “made-up” and submitted for credit after their original due dates. This is meant to build some flexibility into the semester in the case of illness or other unavoidable delay; please use these “late passes” wisely.

Students will be able to take each quiz twice before it closes on its due date. If you are disappointed by your first score, review your course materials and notes and speak with your instructor to address any questions you have before you re-take the quiz. As quizzes are due each week by Friday midnight you will want to take it the first time by mid-week to give yourself time for a re-take if necessary. Quizzes are on Blackboard and are the building blocks toward larger projects on the course’s two central texts. For these, Angela Stuesse’s Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South and Jessica Barnes’s Cultivating the Nile: Everyday Politics of Water in Egypt, students will work in teams to prepare poster or online presentations on their ethnographic findings and applications.

Other Independent Work

The Reference Manager Tool and Elevator Speech assignments demonstrate student mastery of skills and content important to success in this and upper-level courses. Due dates for these assignments are firm and integral for the mandatory reporting of midterm grades. Upon petition these assignments may be submitted up to five days late but will be docked 2 points per day in the case of the Reference Manager Tool and 8 points per day in the case of the Elevator Speech.

Group Work

Groups will conduct work over the course of several weeks toward the final poster presentation project, which will be publicly displayed in a series of poster symposia. Outside guests are invited to these symposia and students will gain the valuable experience of professionally presenting ethnographic research to a public audience of attendees. No late work will be accepted in this set of assignments.


Attendance in class is obligatory. Student absences will adversely affect performance on quizzes and group-based work.

Extra Credit

Extra credit opportunities are periodically available and will be announced in class when they arise; the maximum extra credit a student can apply to their final grade is 20 points.

Final Exam

There is no scheduled final exam.

Course Grade Calculations

Final course grades will be awarded as detailed in the following table.


Percentage Points

Number Points


94% – 100%



90% < 94%



87% < 90%



83% < 87%



80% < 83%



77% < 80%



73% < 77%



70% < 73%



67% < 70%



63% < 67%



60% < 63%



< 60%

< 240


Schedule of Topics and Assignments

Students should plan to complete roughly half of the week’s readings by the Wednesday meeting and the remainder by the Friday meeting each week. For the bulk of the semester, students should prioritize reading the focal ethnography (either Stuesse or Barnes) first, and the textbook (TdG) second. As a 3-credit course, ANT 112 expects students each to work roughly 6 hours per week, outside of class meetings, to complete readings, assignments, and group projects.


Topics and Readings

Assignments Due



TdG Chapter 1



Culture + the Ethnographic Method

Stuesse Postscript + TdG Chapter 2

Quiz 1


Race & Ethnicity

Stuesse 1, 2, 3 + TdG Chapter 3




Stuesse 4 and 5 + TdG Chapter 4

Quiz 2



Stuesse 6 and 7 + TdG Chapter 5

Reference Manager Tool I Due



Stuesse 8, 9, 10 + TdG Chapter 6

Quiz 3


Marriage and Family

TdG Chapter 7

Elevator Speech


Religion + Illness & Healing

TdG Chapter 10 and 11



Gender and Sexuality

Barnes 1 and 2 + TdG Chapter 8

Quiz 4


Politics and Power

Barnes 3 and 4 + TdG Chapter 9

Reference Manager Tool II Due



Barnes 5 and 6 + TdG Chapter 12



Quiz 5

Prepare Posters



Poster Presentations


Applied Anthropology I

Readings TBA



Applied Anthropology II

Readings TBA

Elevator Speech Revision (if required)

Course Materials


Course materials, including announcements, links to online meetings, assignments, and student grades will be available through the course Blackboard site. Students should be aware that the “Blackboard app” for mobile devices will not show all materials within the course site. Students should use Blackboard within a web-browser such as Chrome or Firefox. You may have better results turning off any ad-blockers or “whitelisting” Blackboard. Please check Blackboard regularly for announcements and updates.

Books and Readings

Only the first two weeks of course readings will be available for download on Blackboard. It is a copyright violation to post entire books to the course Blackboard site; fair use and educational use allows only small portions of texts to be posted for free download by students. The required texts are available through the campus bookstore in several versions, including e-books, and are available online for rental through major booksellers. Purchased books can often be resold at the close of the semester if used gently. Penfield Library may have some texts available for loan or as e-books.

Required Books

Jessica Barnes. 2014. Cultivating the Nile: The Everyday Politics of Water in Egypt. Duke University Press. ISBN: 978-0-8223-5756-8

Angela Stuesse. 2016. Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South. University of California Press. ISBN: 978-0-520-28721-1

Other Recommended Resources

Laura Tubelle de González. 2019. Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology. University of Toronto Press. ISBN: 978-1-4875-9405-3

Gary Ferraro, Editor. 2016. Classic Readings in Cultural Anthropology, 4th edition. Cengage Learning. ISBN-10: 1-285-73850-0


An additional cost is associated with this course, much in the way that laboratory or art supplies are required for some courses in the sciences or fine arts. This course includes a poster presentation assignment, conducted in small groups at the end of the semester, and each group is expected to purchase a professionally printed poster for their final presentation. Poster costs depend on the design selected but usually range between $15.00 – $40.00. Each semester, the instructor seeks subsidies for this cost; any available subsidies will be discussed in class.

Course Policies


If you have a disabling condition which may interfere with your ability to successfully complete this course, please contact Accessibility Resources, located at 155 Marano Campus Center, phone 315-312-3358,


SUNY Oswego is committed to enhancing the safety and security of the campus for all its members. In support of this, faculty may be required to report their knowledge of certain crimes or harassment. Reportable incidents include harassment on the basis of sex or gender prohibited by Title IX and crimes covered by the Clery Act. For more information about Title IX protections, go to or contact the Title IX Coordinator, 405 Culkin Hall, 315-312-5604, For more information about the Clery Act and campus reporting, go to the University Police annual report:

Students in this course are expected to behave professionally and respectfully with one another, the instructor, and guests or visitors. Cultural anthropology focuses on human differences and similarities and in class we will regularly discuss topics where people hold divergent, and often very strong, views. It is common and expected that the discipline challenges people’s beliefs—beliefs about society, about others, and about themselves. We base these challenges on an uncompromising empiricism—qualitative and quantitative data are the foundations of our analyses. All well-evidenced opinions, respectfully shared, will be welcome and honored. Exploring and carefully considering different views lies at the heart of the discipline. Students are not required to adopt any particular position or perspective but are expected to practice critical open-mindedness. This means earnestly considering each piece of evidence and interpretation carefully before making up one’s mind and being open to changing one’s mind when presented with new and different interpretations or pieces of evidence.


SUNY Oswego is committed to Intellectual Integrity. Any form of intellectual dishonesty is a serious concern and therefore prohibited. You can find the full policy online and you are expected to be familiar with the policy as it is published there.

In this course potential violations of intellectual integrity will be automatically forwarded to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for impartial adjudication. Violations include plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, fabrication or falsification, copyright violation, and facilitation of academic dishonesty. All work that you submit in this course is understood to have been produced only, and originally, by you for the sole purpose of fulfilling the requirements of this course. Group work and peer consultation is encouraged and supported in this course, and all contributions to your work by way of review, suggestion, and collaboration should be acknowledged in your submissions.


Most student concerns are best addressed in conversation with your colleagues and your instructor. Online meeting rooms will be open five minutes before class begins and remain open ten minutes after to facilitate the brief conversations that will remedy most concerns. Online office hours are another good venue for discussions, and private appointments can be made via email for online conversations outside office hours.

Outside class and office hours, email is the preferred venue for communication. I will send messages only to email accounts, either directly or through Blackboard. Please ensure you check your account regularly. To send messages to me, you should use either Blackboard or your email account to send messages to Please write a complete email message, with a subject line, salutation, body of message, and closing, with your preferred name. I endeavor to respond within 24 hours throughout the workweek but please be patient; within any communications venue my students always receive first priority but email itself as a venue does not receive my attention except for once or twice per day, most (but not all) days.