One Does Not Simply…Write About Anthropology

My Time as a Graduate Student

End of the Semester

on May 5, 2013

This is the end of my first year of grad school. The last of the semester has been crazy with paper writing, exams, and preparing for thesis work for the summer. In Presenting Anthropology, our final project was to put a final portfolio together of three of our best challenges. I decided to use the audio challenge, kids challenge, and the avant-garde challenge.

Audio Challenge

Two other graduates and myself wrote and recorded Anthropology Did You Know? These were six recorded audio clips that portrayed some of the major theorists in the discipline such as: Margaret Mead, Claude Levi-Strauss, Clyde Snow, Lewis Binford, Franz Boas, and Jane Goodall. These audio clips were about two minutes each and included interesting facts about each of the above named theorists. The introduction within each audio clip is fifteen seconds with about seventy seconds of scripting and fifteen seconds of concluding music. Each audio clip varies between one minute and forty seconds to two minutes in total duration.

We attempted to represent each of the subfields of anthropology as best as possible. For example, the clip of Claude Levi-Strauss that I wrote and narrated helps to identify his structuralist views. In addition to the audio clips, we typed out and made available the transcripts of each clip for those who may be hearing impaired or may just want to know what we said.

The inspiration behind the use and creation of audio clips was the desire to present interesting facts about anthropologists who we regarded as important figures to the discipline, based on previous research and study. We found that these personalities would be the best for the public to learn. These short clips have enough information for a quick glimpse into the discipline that may gain the interested of anyone who may ultimately be interested in the field of anthropology. As Linda Catlin states in her article, Anthropology Radio, we tried to make sure to keep the clips to about two minutes because it is the “maximum length of the listener’s attention span” (Catlin 1999). Keeping within two minutes was a challenge to try to convey all the information we wanted and retain a tone and pace that were reasonable, but I believe that we were able to accomplish this successfully.

Audio Transcripts

Kids Challenge

For the kids challenge, I illustrated and designed an activity book and coloring book that included all four subfields of anthropology with four pages dedicated to each subfield.  I decided to do a coloring book because I thought it was the perfect venue to expose children to new concepts. The use of workbooks to teach children is not a new concept. Coloring books alone help to develop and hone fine motor skills, so why not use a workbook to explain other concepts such as culture, evolution, cultural material, and language. While I do not expect that children will fully understand all of the ideas presented in the workbook, they will certainly learn something and have fun doing so.

The inspiration for this challenge project came from various activity and coloring books that I would work on with my nieces and nephew. These workbooks also covered difficult subjects ranging from counting to animal identification but presented the topics in a workable and fun way. I knew the same concept could be applied to anthropology given the appropriate artwork and games/activities. I figured this would be an interactive way for kids to learn about the subfields, what anthropologists do, and think about their culture and cultures around the world. It is usually difficult to try to explain anthropology to adults so trying to word this activity book for children to understand was challenging. I honestly never thought about how to explain and present anthropology to children, so this challenge was both fun and interesting in trying to come up with ways to explain anthropology. Additionally, I think that in focusing on how to present the idea as simply as possible, for small minds to understand, it helped me to develop a better posture for explaining anthropology to adults.

Anthropology coloring and activity book

Avant-Garde

In anthropology, we talk about so much the “gods of anthropology” that it seems so far off in the past when we read about them. But in reality, we are not that far away if we map it.  For the Avant-Garde Challenge, Amanda Lawson-Cullen and I collaborated on the construction of the University of West Florida Anthropology Department staff academic genealogies.UWF staff-anthropology 2-logo This project went from just focusing on the cultural professors to the majority of the anthropology department (minus Maritime archaeology). The idea for the project originated from t-shirts that my undergraduate anthropology class created with the genealogy of the Anthropology Department of the University of Mary Washington.

One of our professors from University of West Florida had been thinking about putting a department genealogy together as well. In addition, Amanda and I were getting sick of just talking about archaeology during the course of this class, so we wanted to come up with something that would present cultural anthropology. Although it pertains mostly to the students at UWF, you can realize how closely academically related you are to Franz Boas or some of the other big names in anthropology by creating an anthropology genealogy. As anthropologists, we do pride ourselves on our academic lineages and it’s cool to know that you may be just a generation or so away from some of the renowned names in the discipline. It was also an important exercise in learning about theorists within anthropology and identifying where individual ideas originated from and deciding which viewpoints held the most sway to individuals.

It is important to know where you came from personally and academically. This heritage that we have in anthropology allows us to calm an identity within the discipline that many other disciplines do not have the pleasure of. Genealogies also allows us to remember those who have pasted and have made an ever lasting impression upon us. Although many of us have similar lineages, but it is the experiences and influences from our academic elders that defines who we are.

Resources:

Catlin, L.

1999. Anthropology radio. Anthropology News 40(6).          http://www.uwf.edu/kkillgrove/Catlin-1999-AnthropologyRadio.pdf (accessed April 30, 2013).

Falk, Dean.

2000. “Gorillas: The Largest Primates of All.” Chap. 12 in Primate Diversity, by Dean Falk, 298-317. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Larsen, Clark Spenser.

2008.  Our Origins: Discovering Physical Anthropology. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

A to Z Teacher Stuff.

2012. Word Search Maker. http://tools.atozteacherstuff.com/word-search-maker/ (accessed April 2, 2013).

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