Amoshaun Phynn Toft
Examines different approaches to understanding the production and consumption of culture and cultural practices. Invites students to evaluate cultural research, to experience with different research methodologies, and to carry out research assignments. Explores ethnographic, textual, and arts-based methods.
What is culture, why does it matter, and how can we study it? These are the questions that will organize this course. Culture has received a great deal of attention in the popular imagination and in the academy, and for good reason. Changing dynamics in media production and consumption have highlighted the importance of culture in politics and social change, and cultural products have become the largest export commodity in the United States. This has led to claims of a left/right, urban/rural â€œculture warâ€? within the U.S., and â€œcultural imperialismâ€? globally as we export movies, music, and TV programming around the world. But how do we move past the popular debates to examine culture and its role in society from the perspectives of a variety of academic disciplines?
We will start by breaking culture into its component parts, focusing on culture from the perspective of identity, ritual, and communication. In each of these areas we will examine the major theoretical approaches and survey a range of methodological approaches, contrasting their strengths and weaknesses as tools in the study of culture. In working through this process, students will focus on cultural areas of personal or intellectual interest, engage in mini-analysis projects using a range of methods, and develop a research proposal in an area of their choosing that employs an interdisciplinary approach to the study of culture.
Ultimately, students should leave this course with a new appreciation for the ways that we reproduce cultural practices in our everyday lives, how cultural rules and norms perpetuate inequality, and how cultural literacy and reflective cultural practices can offer possibilities for social, political, and economic transformation.
Student learning goals
A critical engagement with social theory on culture from an interdisciplinary perspective
Ability to identify fundamental differences between several research methods
An understanding of the relationship between social theory and research methods
Ability to design a research project using multiple methods of analysis
Ability to write a research project proposal
Ability to work with others effectively in a collaborative learning environment
General method of instruction
Prior coursework in social science or humanities courses will be helpful but are not required. Interdisciplinary Studies majors will benefit from taking BIS 300 before this course.
Class assignments and grading
Ongoing reflection and analysis essays Summary and analysis exercises Short quizzes Online and in-person presentation on theory and method A cultural research project proposal
Participation and classroom engagement = 25% Reflection, summary, analysis, and quizzes = 25% Research project = 50%