The following essays ask you to do something quite different from what you may be used to. We are asking you to be active researchers and interpreters of your own world and to describe and analyse your observations using thick description.

SOCA1020 – What is Anthropology?

Assessment 3 – Essay (30%)
Assessment Type
Essay of 1500 words (excluding references)
Description The purpose of this assessment is for you to critically engage with the course material to develop your understanding of anthropological theory and ethnographic realities and advance your ability to evaluate and engage analytically with theory (secondary sources).
Weighting 30%
Due Date 6 November 2020
Submission Method Turnitin
Assessment Criteria Rubric

The following essays ask you to do something quite different from what you may be used to. We are asking you to be active researchers and interpreters of your own world and to describe and analyse your observations using thick description. You will use anthropological theory (and we have included suggested readings as a starting point for each topic to help you make sense of your research). Please ensure that you include at least five references.
You have to submit a 1500 word essay. Required and suggested essay readings will be made available through the course reading section on Blackboard. Submit by Turnitin by the due date.
 Assessment criteria
Your essay will be marked in line with how well you score in terms of the three key criteria:

  • How well the student has understood this type of ethnographic writing
  • How well the student uses techniques such as thick description to recreate the experience
  • How well the student relates their material back to the anthropological theory

In addition, we will use a standard essay feedback guide (see end of this document) as a general rubric, which sets up the overall framework for what is required for an anthropological essay.
Essay topics
 Topic 1: Auto ethnography: write an ethnography of your own health experience
We all have had experiences as lay people with the medical system and medical professionals. After reading Di Giocamo’s and Stoller’s accounts of their interactions with the medical system, write your own experience of being a stranger in the village of the sick (or you may wish to describe the experience of someone else you know well). Pay attention to some of the following features: rich description of the experience, the tensions between your knowledge and understanding of your body and illness and those of the medical profession, how medical professionals position themselves in the interaction, and how technology is used and explained. Remember to preserve the confidentiality of all the people involved in the interaction.
 Required reading
Di Giacomo, S. M, 1987, Biomedicine as a cultural system: an anthropologist in the kingdom of the sick, Case studies in Medical Anthropology, 315-347.
Stoller, P. 2004, Stranger in the village of the sick: a memoir of cancer, sorcery and healing, Boston: Beacon Press.

Topic 2: Thick description: ritual

Describe in thick description a ritual that you have participated in or observed (for example a wedding, baptism, graduation ceremony).  Pay attention to the fact that rituals are a series of prescribed practices, so be sure to show the stages of the ritual. What does the ritual hope to achieve?  Is your ritual a rite of passage? If so, describe the stages of separation, transition and reintegration.
 Required reading:
Gmelch, G. 1971, Baseball magic, Transactions, 8 (8):39-41.
Malinowski, B. 1948, Magic Science and Religion and Other Essays, Boston: Beacon Press.

Essay 3: Observation: gender and the supermarket experience

For this essay, you will have to carry out a period of fieldwork in a supermarket. You will have to observe the supermarket at a variety of different times of the day week to capture a wide range of gendered experiences as possible. You will write an essay that will involve a thick description of the setting and the interactions within the setting and an analysis of the gendered relationships and roles that become apparent through your observations which will involve constant reference to your field notes. Please don’t talk to anyone!
 Required reading:
Geertz, C, 1973, Deep play, notes on the Balinese cockfight, in The Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Basic books
Couniuhan, CM. 1999. Food, power, and female identity in contemporary Florence. In The Anthropology of Food and Body: Gender, Meaning, and Power. London: Routledge
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