Anthropology E-20           Instructions for Short Paper


One of the major purposes for 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. On the other hand, when reading about another culture we sometimes see ourselves and our culture reflected back to us in mirror-like way.  We see the human qualities of the other’s apparently strange conduct because we can analogize in terms of something familiar to us.  But analogies can be deceptive if we distort the other’s world by assuming it is nothing more than a reflection of ourselves.


Credit students are required to write a very short (3 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. You may wish to show that things which are superficially similar between “us” and “them” are really different, or that things which appear different may have some underlying similarity. One possible paper topic, for example, might be to identify ways in which Trobriand focus on reciprocity involving prestige displays with yams has some analogous counterpart in American culture in terms of both similarities and differences.


Because Trobriand  society is not as highly fragmented as ours into very different sub-cultural traditions with enormous differences in wealth and social class, you should take American culture in terms of a local tradition of family, community or small political unit that you know well  (if you do not considerer yourself  “American” then pick something you are).


Be sure you proofread your paper for spelling and grammar, 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. Do not try to complete a finished paper in one go.  It is almost always best to write a first draft, and then revise a few days later after giving it additional thought. Please remember that plagiarism, or presenting ideas of others without attribution as if they were your own, is severely sanctioned by university policy. Be very sure that you do not merely copy from the book. This includes material taken from the Internet. I will also consider other suggestions for papers with advance approval.


You must submit a short one paragraph statement of your topic. I would prefer your proposed topics to be submitted by simple email, since I can respond more quickly. But if you do not use email, you may certainly submit your topic in hard copy.




April 11, 2002:  deadline for  hard copy paper topic if handed in class

April 16, 2002: deadline for paper topic if emailed to as a simple email rather than attachment .

April 25, 2002: paper due either in hard copy paper form in class, or emailed as an attachment in a common word processing format (Word, Works, RTF, WordPerfect, etc.)   Please do not submit as a simple email.    


Late penalties:  1/3 grade (e.g., B to B-) for late topic submission, 2/3 grade for submitting paper without prior topic approval, plus  1/3 grade for each week or portion of week the final paper is late. (e.g. an A paper which was handed in at the final might be marked down to a C).  Exceptions may be made in serious emergencies.