Anthropology E-20


Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology

Harvard University, Spring 2002

Thursdays, 7:35-9:35 PM, Sever Hall 103

Dr. Thomas M. Kiefer (617) 731-6344, 12-1PM, 8-9PM, most days) (


Office Hours:  To Be Arranged.  Instructor is always available before and after class.


Texts and Readings  (at Harvard Coop, Textbook building, 3rd floor)


1.       Cultural Anthropology (10th ,9th or 8th ) by William Haviland  (Harcourt Brace).  This is an excellent text, offering an overview of the major topics of cultural anthropology, and a tiny bit on human evolution and prehistoric archaeology.   Course lectures will roughly parallel each of the 16 chapters.  You should try to read the assigned chapter(s) in advance, paying attention to the study questions in the handout.  (Note:  The Coop only has the latest 10th edition and it is fairly expensive.  The text has been used before there are used copies of the 9th and 8th editions around. had 45 used copies as of January 28, at considerably lower prices.  Any edition published after 1990 should be perfectly satisfactory)

2.     The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea by Annette Weiner (Harcourt Brace, 1987).  This is an ethnographic description, emphasizing the women’s perspective on perhaps the most famous and well described small-scale non-literate known to anthropology. It will be supplemented by several films.

3.     Assorted supplemental readings,  distributed from time to time.

The following is not required – recommended only

The Tausug: Law and Violence in a Philippine Moslem Society by Thomas M. Kiefer (Waveland Press).  A short ethnography based on the instructor's field research on Jolo Island (between NE Borneo and the Philippines). This just went out of print this year but the Coop has a few copies.

Readings and texts may also be available at the Grossman Library in Sever Hall (3rd floor), for reading there, as well as the Tozzer Library.


The textbook by Haviland will serve as the basic text. The lectures and class discussions will not primarily duplicate material in this text, but rather explore certain topics in greater depth, and some topics not covered in the book.  You may tape record class sessions if you wish. The best way to study each chapter is to read the material once through carefully.  Then try to answer the study questions and definitions, going back to the text as necessary. If you do this regularly and methodically you should not have difficulty with any examinations.


Students enrolled in this course may use the Tozzer Anthropology Library, next to the Peabody Museum at 21 Divinity Ave. This is one of the most extensive anthropology libraries in the world. Identify yourself at the door and show some enrollment ID (course receipt, etc)  If you are a degree student and have regular library privileges, you can take material out. But I cannot overestimate the value of a  curious beginning student spending half a day or so just browsing through the stacks.


There are other more complicated and theoretically sophisticated textbooks available in any decent library for the curious.  The best available book in my opinion is Roger Keesing and Andrew Strathern: Cultural Anthropology – A Contemporary Perspective  (Harcourt, Brace, 1998).  A much older, but still wonderful, book is Anthropology by Alfred Kroeber (1948)  as well as Man and his Works (1948)by Melville Herskovits [ in both disregard the very outdated material on archaeology and human evolution].  Another excellent book is An Overture to Cultural and Social Anthropology by Robert Murphy (Prentice-Hall, 1986).  This is a brief introduction to the field which is short on "facts" but is much more sophisticated than many textbooks. It has a slight Freudian bent. All of these books may be available on reserve at the Tozzer Library and/or the Grossman Library.


Written Assignment


One of the major purposes of studying cultural anthropology is to gain insight into our own culture  and way of life by comparing it with cultures that are very different: how “weird” we must appear to others who do not share our world view. Credit students are required to write a very short (2 to 5 page double-spaced) mini-essay. The essay should discuss some aspect of Trobriand culture which gave you some insight into a comparable aspect of our own culture.  Identify and discuss some characteristic of Trobriand culture which led you to examine a premise of your own culture which you might have previously taken for granted.


The assignment is due April 25.  Be sure you proofread your paper, leave at least one inch margins, use at least an 11 point font ( no script), and if you use footnotes or endnotes, proper formatting is expected.   Unsatisfactory papers (as to either content or writing) may have to be re-written. Please remember that direct plagiarism, or presenting ideas of others without attribution as if they were your own is severely sanctioned by university policy. This includes material taken from the Internet. The instructor will also consider other suggestions for papers with advance approval.


Internet Resources


Go to,  for general anthropology resources.   For specific helps with the textbook go to   This will lead to a good site containing links based on chapters, sample exams based on chapters, email to the author, and lots of other interesting material.  Breaking news articles of interest can be found at 


Course materials, and some lecture summaries and links should be available at the instructor’s website  There will be a link on the home page to anthropology E-20.


Examinations and Grades


There will be a short (45 minute) midterm examination on April 4.  There may be occasional self-grading take home tests as necessary.


The final examination on May 23 will consist of an "objective" part containing true false, multiple choice and such like, and one or two essays.  The essays will be chosen from a list of possible questions to be distributed the last day of class. The exam will be roughly weighted equally to the lectures and readings. You will not be expected to memorize ethnographic trivia for its own sake.  You are not expected to remember detail from the assigned articles, but you should have a good sense of the major points. Exams will stress general concepts and ideas, but the provenance of an idea (“who said what, where and when”) will not be important in exams (notwithstanding the rule that proper attribution of ideas not your own is generally expected in written papers). 


Previous examinations in this course are available for your review in the Grossman Library   ( 3rd floor Sever Hall).  By university rules non-credit students may not take any examinations. Any arrangements for a special examination at a different time must be cleared first through the Registrar with ample advance notice. No Exceptions! Details on make up exams and special exams can be found at page 184 of the current Extension catalog.


Please bring a self-addressed stamped postcard or envelope to the final examination if you want early confirmation of your grade, as the Registrar may take some time to send out official notice.  You should bring a large self-addressed envelope with at least 6 oz  postage ($1.49), if you wish your exam sent back.  You may request it back later, but it probably will not have comments.


Students whose native language is not English (and are not substantially bilingual): If you need extra time to complete an exam or need to bring a dictionary, please check with instructor before the scheduled exam. Persons who have special needs for examinations should consult with appropriate authorities at the Extension School.


Grades will roughly be weighted as: 20% midterm examination, 20% short essay, and 60% final examination.  But,the midterm grade will be dropped if the final exam grade is higher.  Therefore, no make up midterms will be given.  If you miss the midterm, your grade will be based on the final.  Attendance will usually be kept, but your attendance will only be a factor in your grade if you are on the margin.



Schedule of Topics and Reading Assignments 


January 31:           Introduction-What is Anthropology?


February 7:           The Concept of Culture and Ethnographic Field Research. Read Haviland 1-3, Weiner Introduction and Chapter 10. Becker: “How I Learned What a Crock Was” (handout). Film about Bronislaw Malinowski “Off the Verandah”.


February 14:          Society and Culture.  Re-read Haviland 1-3. 


February 21:          Cultural Persistence and Change.    Read Haviland 15-16, Weiner, chapter 1.   Film: “Trobriand Cricket”


February 28:         Language and Communication.  Read Haviland 4,  Hall “The Sounds of Silence” (handout)  Film: “A World of Gestures: Culture and Non Verbal Communication”

March 7:           Language (continued) Whorf “Language and Experience”, Re-read Haviland 4. Weiner 2


March 14:              Culture,  Self and The Individual.  Read Haviland 5, Weiner 3-4.  Becker: “Becoming a Marijuana User” (handout). Film: “Magical Death”.


March 21:              Subsistence and Ecology.  Read Haviland 6, 16, ”, Nelson “Eskimo Science” (handout).


March 28:             Spring Break – No Class  (note: there is a lot of reading the next few classes

                                         – you might want to work on ahead if you can)


April 4:                 Arts and Expressive Culture.  Read Haviland 14.  The cross cultural study of music.  [Midterm examination second hour]


April 11:                Economics: The Distribution of Goods and Services. Film: “Down from the Veranda”,  Read Haviland 7.        Weiner 5 ,9 .  Film: ”The Trobriand Islanders of Papua New Guinea”.


April 18:                Kinship, Marriage, Family, and Descent Groups.  Read    

                               Haviland 8,9,10    (written assignment due next week)


April 25:               Non-Kinship Grouping by Gender, Friendship, and Class.

 Read Haviland 11, Weiner 7,8,  (written assignment due)


May 2:                  Politics and Law. Read Haviland 12; Weiner 6,7; Malinowski: short excerpt on “Trobriand suicide”. (handout). (Note:  if you anticipate missing the final meeting next week, please bring a self addressed stamped envelope today to receive any written exam instructions or study questions which may be distributed)                         


May 9:                  Religion and Magic. Film:”  Read Haviland 13,  in MSR. Gmelch  “Baseball Magic”,  Miner “Body Ritual among the Nacirema” (handout).


May 16:                   Exam period – no class (unless it is necessary to make up a class which had to be cancelled, or if enough students want to come for a general discussion).


May 23:                Final Examination