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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Sasha Welland
ANTH 429
Seattle Campus

Expressive Culture

Anthropological view of one expressive aspect of culture: plastic and graphic arts, myth and folktale, music, dance, humor and tragedy, or play and games. Prerequisite: either one 200-level ANTH course or LING 203.

Class description

This course provides an overview of key theoretical issues in the anthropology of art. Through course readings, we will explore how various cultural critics and ethnographers have studied the arts not as autonomous fields of cultural production, but as expressive forms deeply enmeshed in social, political, and economic relations. By active engagement with this literature, we will examine how the struggles and desires of individuals, groups, and nations are negotiated through visual art, music, and dance. These discussions and related portfolio assignments will serve as a springboard for students to develop original ethnographic research, involving creative and analytic components, on a particular form of expressive culture. Creative projects that explore experimental forms of ethnographic presentation will be showcased in a class-produced "salon." These projects will involve collecting and developing material for a final analytic paper. Course themes include cultural representation, poetics, performance, and the politics of production, exhibition, circulation, and consumption. This is a seminar-style course, with mini-lectures by the instructor, complemented by instructor- and student-facilitated discussion.

Student learning goals

To explore the following questions: How is art a form of cultural production? What are the institutional frameworks that structure cultural expression? What possibilities exist for challenging power structures inherent in such frameworks? What types of social negotiation take place through forms of expressive culture?

To analyze various forms of ethnographic writing about expressive culture.

To learn to construct effective descriptions and analyses of non-textual forms of experience.

To experiment with forms of ethnographic display and communication.

To develop creative academic work in the field of expressive culture, which students will then be able include in their portfolio for job or graduate school applications and/or expand into further research.

To come up with our own working definition of expressive culture.

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Course Website (requires UW NetID)
Last Update by Sasha Welland
Date: 10/19/2007