The goal of this exercise is to observe a ‘cultural scene’ as an
anthropologist would (i.e. based on everything you have learned in the
course to-date). The student will analyze their observations in terms of
themes from the subfield of cultural anthropology such as how it helps
frame our societies (family, lifestyle, lineage, language and
communication) and, in some ways, its evolution.
Culture as we have discussed in our readings and lecture notes is an
incredible advantage that has allowed humans to enter almost every niche
in nature. The development and maintenance of culture is what sets
humans apart from other species. Culture varies by time and location.
For this assignment, students will be observing a particular setting for
25 minutes, writing up your observations, and then analyzing them.
In a 3 page written assignment, answer the following questions.
1) 1) Discuss culture and its importance to anthropology.
a. This should include defining culture using the text and/or lecture notes.
2) 2) Choose a time and location for where/when you are going to conduct
your observations of an ethnographic scene
a. Examples of Possible Ethnographic Scenes
i. The coming and going of shoppers in a mall
ii. Getting on and riding the bus
iii. Buying coffee at a coffee shop
iv. Crossing at a cross-walk
3) 3) Go to the specified location and proceed with your observations.
a. The easiest way to do this is to find a place to sit quietly and to
simply watch what is going on.
i. Please do not talk to or interview people during this time.
b. Take handwritten (recommended) notes in a small notebook and/or
mental notes of:
i. details about the scene itself (time of day, lighting, furniture,
plants, sounds, temperature, smell, vibe/energy, etc)
ii. the people around you, not only their behavior but general
information about their characteristics (age, race/ethnicity, gender,
iii. what you see people doing
1. this is the heart of your description and should provide the
instructor of how the people you saw were involved in the scene you were
iv. your thoughts and feelings while observing may be a brief section of
4) 4) When your 25 minutes are finished, leave the scene. In a quiet
place, fill out your notes. Be sure you include more details about the
topics from step 3.
a. At this time, you should start to think about what themes, patterns,
or conclusions you saw. This step is critical.
b. Type up your notes (you will add them to the end of your write-up)
5) 5) Write a 3 – 5 page reaction paper about your observations Your
paper should include
a. Discussion about and definition of culture
b. a ?thick description? of the location
i. i.e. building you were in (what is the architecture like),
descriptions of people there (in terms of characteristics: age,
race/ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status), sounds, smells,
temperature, time of day and week, etc
c. clear detail of your observations
d. analysis of themes and patterns in behavior you observed
i. this and the next requirement are key for a good grade, as it is
about observing and commenting ? not just describing
e. analyze your observations, their themes and patterns using at least
four anthropological concepts from the text and lecture notes so far
i. this should include clearly identifying the concept you are going to
use, defining the concept using the text, and then applying the concept
to your observation
1. because you will be paraphrasing or directly quoting from another
source, you will need to use APA-formatting with in-text citations and
f. Conclude with a discussion of your experience of the situation. For
example you might write how you felt when you started to detect a
pattern in characteristics and/or behavior.
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