Course Syllabus

Anthropological Theory Part I

Department of Anthropology

SUNY Oswego


Course Information

Course Registration Number (CRN): 91026

Departmental Course Code: ANT 210­-OY1

Semester: Fall 2020

Meetings: M/W/F 11:45am–12:40pm

Instructor Information

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

All human cultures study themselves and others, seeking to make sense of humanity and their own place in human history. In the western academic tradition, the comprehensive and holistic study of humanity has coalesced into the discipline of anthropology. This course is the first in the sophomore series required for the major and minor in Anthropology: this course, ANT 210, reviews the history of anthropological thought from western antiquity to the mid-twentieth century, while the spring course, ANT 211, reviews contemporary theory from the mid-twentieth century to the present.

The course emphasizes the social context of anthropological inquiry as a formal, western academic discipline. In keeping with the socially contextualized nature of knowledge production and anthropology’s history of social critique and activism, the contemporary discipline is energetically re-examining how its intellectual heritage is commonly depicted, and to whom credit is commonly given for its ideas and principles. This course draws from and contributes to this larger disciplinary endeavor, critically surveying anthropology’s early history and attending to all participants in the production of anthropological knowledge. This commitment means we will spend relatively less time on the “big names” of anthropological history and thought, and more time on the lesser known names and the everyday people whose bodies, possessions, experiences and opinions – whose lives – have given us our knowledge of humanity today.

Course Goals

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

Work Products

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

Course Logistics

This course meets online at our scheduled time on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In a usual week, the Monday class period will be a lecture introducing the week’s topics; the Wednesday and Friday meetings will be targeted to group exercises and project work on the course’s major assignments. 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.



Week Due

Points Available

Contributions and Collegiality


30 (cumulative)

Article dissection

Week 07



Week 13


Mahar Early Anthropology Display

Week 14


Then and Now Essay

Week 15


Total Course Points





Attendance in class is obligatory. Student absences will adversely affect points earned toward “Contributions and Collegiality” and in group-based work generally. Indicating attendance on the online system (Qwickly) without actually attending class is fraudulent (a form of fabrication or falsification) and will be reported to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a violation of the academic integrity policy (see section below on academic integrity).

Individual Assignments

More information on each assignment is available in Blackboard and will be discussed in class. Students will be responsible for readings and an annotation of a current research article, a short opinion essay applying anthropological theory to current events, and a longer essay summarizing and applying a “classic” work to the contemporary discipline.

Due dates for assignments are firm. Late assignments can earn only partial credit.

There is no final exam.

Group Work

Students will participate in group projects that cumulate to a class project presenting portions of the history of anthropological thought in a public display for Mahar Hall. More information will be discussed in class on the assignment, and materials to support team building and teamwork strategies for working in groups can be found on Blackboard and will be discussed in class meetings.

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.

Course Grade Calculations

Final course grades will be awarded as detailed in the following table. Recall that assignments submitted past their due dates can earn only partial credit.


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%



Schedule of Topics

Students should plan to complete roughly half the week’s readings by the Wednesday meeting and the remainder by the Friday meeting. As a 3-credit course, ANT 210 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


Introductions and Agendas

Everyone is an anthropologist

Why theory matters




Early Histories


Enlightenment & Positivism








American Cultural Anthropology


Lowie & Kroeber

Mead & Benedict

Psychological Anthropology

Article Dissection

(Week 7)


French Structural Anthropology



British Social Anthropology



Cognitive Anthropology


(Week 13)


Reviews and Project Work

Early Anthropology Display in Mahar

(Week 14)


Then and Now Essay

(Week 16)

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 large portions of texts online for students to download. 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.

We do plan to continue with both volumes of Erickson and Murphy, and the Morris dictionary, in the spring ANT 211 course.

Required Texts

Paul A. Erickson and Liam D. Murphy. 2017. A History of Anthropological Theory, 5th Edition. University of Toronto Press.

Paul A. Erickson and Liam D. Murphy. 2017. Readings for a History of Anthropological Theory, 5th Edition. University of Toronto Press.

Recommended Texts

Mike Morris. 2012. Concise Dictionary of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 9781444332094.

Additional Texts

Laura Nader, editor. 2015. What the Rest Think of the West Since 600 AD. University of California Press. ISBN:9780520285781

Mark Anderson. 2019. From Boas to Black Power: Racism, Liberalism, and American Anthropology. Stanford University Press.

Lee D. Baker. 1998. From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954. University of California Press.

Charles King. 2020. Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Invented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century. Doubleday.

Andrew Bank. 2016. Pioneers of the Field: South Africa’s Women Anthropologists. Cambridge University Press.

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.


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.

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 (including fraudulent attendance records), copyright violation, and facilitation of academic dishonesty. All work that you submit in this course will be 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 are encouraged and supported in this course, and all contributions to your work by way of review, suggestions, 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.