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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Rachel R Chapman
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

Course Description

What is Alter/Native Anthropology?

Alter/Native is a concept in search of a definition. That is part of our work for the quarter. The term Alter/Native Anthropology comes from the much-debated concept “native anthropology.� Native Anthropology refers to the spectrum of ideas, insights and projects of individuals and groups engaged in the study of their own “home� – the place or places from which they claim to originate, or in which, because of an intimate connection, they might be considered or consider themselves “insider,� “indigenous� or “native.� In its original conceptualization, native anthropologists was used to refer to people whose “home� has been the site of oppressive power relations and struggles, coercion, violence and exploitation, people whose societies, communities or cultures were the targets of colonial domination and the objects of anthropological inquiry, not the subjects or anthropologists.

Today we suspect that the dichotomy between native and anthropologist is fundamentally flawed. As “hybridization of cultures, languages and media becomes the rule, any notion of purity has disappeared� (Halleck and Magnan 1993:161), and the boundaries between observer and observed, oppressed and oppressor are known to be blurred, overlapping, mutually constituting, shifting and variable over time and space. Yet there is still a critical need to examine the theoretical, epistemological and practical contributions of the “counter-discourses�, the “narratives from the borderlands� of alternative historical voices.

On one hand, the work of so-called “native anthropologists� has been deemed valuable only when mediated by “experts,� marginalized within the traditional disciplinary canon of anthropology, dismissed as biased or inauthentic or altogether ignored or erased from disciplinary history, because it is not taught to new generations of anthropologists in training and not credited with the innovations and insights it produced. On the other hand, it has been suggested that by virtue of the unique perspectives and experiences gained by native anthropologists from the “borderlands�, “margins� and from the “bottom looking up�, their collective work constitutes the foundations of an “alternative,� potentially transformative, counter-hegemonic and “decolonizing� anthropology.

In this seminar we will come up with our own evaluation of this work and its possibilities. We will explore, question and if appropriate, challenge the categories structured along binary oppositions of “outsider/foreign/objective/ legitimate� and “insider/native/ethno/ borderland /mestizo/ subaltern/marginal/hybrid/halfie/indigenous� as they apply, not only to questions of race and ethnicity, but to other identities and practices of anthropologists, for example gender, sexuality, nationality, religion, occupation, class or caste. Our work is to unpack these sometimes assumed, sometimes assigned markers of social location and the very real political and economic consequences such as enslavement, poverty, or even genocide.

By partially reconstituting anthropology as a discipline through the placement of “Alter/Native� scholars within anthropology’s history and canon, and placing them at the center of learning, students are challenged to identify core ideas, questions and approaches most helpful to their own personal, intellectual, research and activist program development. Alter/Native Power as I am using the term, then, refers to the creative potential of the ideas, insights, tools, strategies and projects that are informed by “alter/native� approaches and enhanced by “alter/native� strategies we come away from class with to put to work in the world. A preliminary definition of Alter/Native Power is the dynamic history, research, scholarship, community engagement and social action agenda that these strategies and critiques engender and make possible.

Course Objectives 1) To present a critical review and history of native anthropology that reinstates core contributors and their contributions to shift our views of and propose an alternative anthropological canon; 2) To assist Participants from various disciplinary backgrounds to prepare for or engage in de-colonizing research practices by facilitating the articulation of their own methods (doing, being, learning), epistemology (what can be known and who can be knowers) and methodology (orientation towards theory and analysis of how research should proceed); 3) To explore as a group the possibilities for and core ideas, questions and approaches of an Alter/Native anthropology most helpful to their own intellectual and research program development.

Student learning goals

By the end of this course students should be able to: 1) Define Alter/Native power as a set of useful tools, theories and approaches that can be applied to research across disciplines and apply these to the evaluation of written and visual materials;

2) Articulate and map out a revised interpretive history of the discipline that includes “native anthropologists” and their work;

3) Produce an alter/native bibliography and alternative data sources for future work in their area of interest;

4) Demonstrate integration of course themes through the development of an analytical review essay.

General method of instruction

Professor facilitated discussion Large and small group in-class discussion In-class individual and group exercises Close readings of film and other expressive arts Spontaneous in-class thought-piece writing

Recommended preparation

Contemporary Ethnography History of Qualitative methods ethnographic field experience Anth 215 performance ethnography any experience performing creative writing

Class assignments and grading

Overview of Course Requirements – Assignments and Evaluations 1. Participation: This course is a reading, writing and responding intensive SEMINAR! Students must complete required readings in preparation for class discussion periods. Class attendance is required, and active class participation during discussion periods is essential. My goal is to make class as interactive as possible. Speak up, ask questions, and share your experience.

2. Reading Summaries: A brief response piece summarizing the week’s readings is required for each set of readings. You do not need to spend more than 30 minutes total on these reflections. They could ideally include summary, identification of most useful concepts and terms, links between concepts and readings and questions for discussion, but may take any form you find effective. They are for the purpose of keeping you reading AND facilitating substantive discussion on readings. All response assignments must be typed so they can be shared electronically. You are responsible for maintaining your own copies of assignments to put in the final portfolio. NO late summaries will count, so hand in the professor’s copy of whatever you have at the beginning of each class. Make sure you write at least 1 question or PROMPT to engage the class in discussion about the week’s readings.

3. Presentations and Discussion Leadership: Each class session, one Participant will give a 5- 10 minute presentation on the readings based on their summary, and be ready to engage other students in a discussion of the class readings. Presentation guideline provided on page 5.

4. Alter/Native Bibliography and Data: Each student will prepare a 10-20 item annotated bibliography of work done by “alter/native” contributors as they relate to your area of interest (geographic, subject, geo-social location, identity). The entries do not have to be academic work, rather should include any “alternative” sources of data relevant to the field or topic of interest (i.e., play scripts, artwork, poetry, fiction, visual media, journals, letters, e-posts, blogs, etc.). A one page summary of what is included and how it relates to your area of interest should be included. (Due Friday Week 5)

5. Final Paper/Portfolio: Preface to an edited volume: Participants will prepare a 10 to 15 page final review essay based on class readings and student writings, based on the following prompt: How would you write a preface to an edited volume titled: Towards an Alter/Native Anthropology? The final paper will be handed in as part of a final portfolio that includes weekly summaries.

Coursework Evaluation: Participant Contribution to Class (group):10% Achievement of individual goals (self): 10% Presentation: 10% Portfolio of reading summaries: 45% Final Collection and Essay: 25% TOTAL: 100%


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 Rachel R Chapman
Date: 01/03/2011