Linda S Watts
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.
As a methods class, this course introduces students to the research resources available to them (both on campus and in the community). Class members will build their background knowledge regarding the study of culture and a modest amount of experience with a variety of techniques in use within cultural study. The emphasis will be on materials and methods of textual analysis. Students can gain facility with close reading of primary sources (such as oral history, ethnography, newspapers, census records, genealogy, probate records, house inventories, photographs and other media, government documents, and the like). A suite of assignments will assist class members in demonstrating their ability to apply course content to a collaborative fieldwork project.
Student learning goals
UNDERSTANDING CULTURE: Identify what cultures, subcultures, fieldwork, and ethnographic research are; differentiate between insider and outsider perspectives; observe consciously and record systematically; recognize the fieldworker as a key instrument of research
UNDERSTANDING FIELDWRITING: Keep a notebook; write exploratory fieldnotes; record and organize double-entry notes; analyze and question your fieldnotes; consider point of view
UNDERSTANDING TEXTS: Expand your definition of what a "text" is;expand your definition of what the act of "reading" is; consider ethics in field research; identify and record your fixed, subjective, and textual positions; read cultural artifacts
UNDERSTANDING SITES: Use a spatial gaze when you look at a setting; develop a sense of place in your research and writing; identify a focal point as you describe place; map space; notice colonization in cultural settings.
UNDERSTANDING CULTURAL TESTIMONY: Design and ask interview questions; use a cultural artifact in an interview, listen closely to informants; establish rapport with informants; tape and transcribe interviews; reflect on your interviewing process; analyze spoken evidence.
UNDERSTANDING ARCHIVES: Recognize archives as tools for research; locate family and historical archives in fieldwork; choose either a diachronic or synchronic framework for organizing archives; understand, evaluate, and read electronic archives; expand the idea of archives to include alternative collections; create and write annotated bibliographies; use archives as artifacts in your research.
General method of instruction
We will employ a combination of presentation, facilitated discussion, and hands-on activities.
Students choosing this course should do so on the basis of a genuine interest in the course enterprise. Class members will be expected to maintain a high level of engagement in the learning process, including rich and thoughtful contributions to class discussion.
Class assignments and grading
Please see "basis on which grades are assigned" (below).
Class contributions will represent a significant portion of the course grade, as will a series of written assignments in which students pursue and present a project demonstrating their capacities for cultural research.