Paper Short Abstract:
Based on experience teaching introductory anthropology in English to French information science students, I interrogate how anthropological views on culture and ethnography intersect with or challenge these students' conceptions of what culture means to them as participants in a globalizing world.
Paper long abstract:
At a time when teaching social science and humanities subjects has come under attack from outside of academic discourse, particularly in the US context, it is important to consider how to teach subjects such as anthropology in a way that is relevant and meaningful to students, especially those who are pursuing other disciplines. Teaching the concept of 'culture', as is fundamental to introductory anthropology courses, becomes complicated when the term is embedded in students' own beliefs and worldviews, and is regularly used in common language in ways that do not always correspond to anthropological perspectives. The particularly Anglophone aspect of how 'culture' has been treated theoretically within the discipline means that issues of translation and interpretation arise when we teach about 'culture' (or related ideas such as 'race', 'ethnicity', or 'national identity') to non-English speakers or to those whose social and educational backgrounds provide them with different models of what 'culture' signifies. Additionally, ethnography and qualitative methodology is alternatively understood when viewed through the lens of Big Data and market research, a perspective which these students tended to equate with social scientific analysis. In this paper, I draw on class discussions, student classwork, exams and papers, and compare this material to the results of a questionnaire on culture and identity administered at the beginning of the term, and I consider pedagogical and theoretical implications of engaging with the culture concept in this context.
Teaching and learning anthropology and ethnography in transforming contexts: objectives, practices, pedagogies and challenges [TAN]