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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

J.Ben Fitzhugh
ANTH 469
Seattle Campus

Special Studies in Anthropology

Delineation and analysis of a specific problem or related problems in anthropology. Offered occasionally by visitors or resident faculty.

Class description

Special Topic on Historical Ecology.

How is human history shaped by the physical environment? How is environmental history shaped by humans? Is the conservation crisis a recent development? Is cultural complexity adaptive? Why do civilizations fail? What is sustainable development?

This class is designed to explore the historical dimension of the environment, human adaptation, and cultural evolution. The class will critically evaluate arguments made in popular texts and the professional literature using the archaeological, historical, and ethnographic evidence. We will seek to go below the surface of these accounts by looking at the primary anthropological research that bears on the claims made and to develop a stronger understanding of how environment and culture have co-evolved and influenced each other in the history of human development. In the process students will come to better understand modern human-environmental dynamics as historically situated. Students can expect to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the role of human-environmental interactions in the unfolding of human history, both over long term of human history and the short term of decades and centuries. Case studies will be drawn from around the world. Examples of specific topics under examination include: climate change and human response; anthropogenic extinctions, conservation and ecosystem management; and the agroecology of plant domestication and genetic modification.

Student learning goals

critical reading and thinking

collaborative learning

understanding the historical dimension of human interactions with environment and climate

informed global stewardship

General method of instruction

Seminar. Students will explore the topic of human historical ecology through the evaluation of several provocative readings and problem-oriented discussions. Students will work together with the instructor/s to critically evaluate the claims made about human history and contemporary contemporary environmental issues. We will seek to go below the surface of these accounts by looking at the primary research that bears on the claims made and to develop a stronger understanding of how environment and culture have co-evolved and influenced each other in the history of human development.

Recommended preparation

One or more classes in archaeology (ARCHY), environmental/sociocultural anthropology (ANTH), and/or biological anthropology (BIOA) recommended but not required.

Class assignments and grading

Reading primary and popular scientific literature. Preparing written opinion statements, discussion questions, and debate points weekly. Leading discussion on readings 2 or 3 times in the quarter. Final research project will result in a presentation and final paper.

Students will be evaluated on the basis of their class participation (discussion facilitation, discussion participation, and on-time submission of reading annotations), presentation, and final paper.

Components: Discussion facilitation (preparing questions and leading discussions) 20% Discussion preparation (annotated reading notes each class session) 30% Term project/paper: Title and Abstract for term project 5% Annotated bibliography of sources for term project 10% In class project presentation 15% Final paper 20%


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.
Last Update by J.Ben Fitzhugh
Date: 03/14/2010