As a recent (under)graduate (and hopefully soon-to-be graduate student), I can’t seem to turn off the academic side of my brain. This page features basic info on the fields of anthropology and gender studies, a list of some of my favorite academic literature, and a few other things.
Anthropology: An Introduction
I thought it would be a good idea to include a page explaining the basics of anthropology and anthropological research to anyone not familiar with the field. Here, I’m concerned with American anthropology.
From human origins and evolution to material culture to language and culture, anthropology is concerned with the Big Question: “What does it mean to be human?”. Anthropology is a holistic field in that it attempts to reveal and understand “the big picture” of human existence and its diverse forms.
- Four Areas of Concentration: American anthropology is divided into four main areas of specialization: biological anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology. A good overview of each of these fields can be found on the American Anthropological Association’s website. Although many anthropologists specialize in one of the four areas, the theories, practices, methods and knowledge bases overlap one another. As a holistic approach to understanding the human condition, it is only appropriate that the four areas of anthropological study be interrelated in their research pursuits.
- Cultural Anthropology & Ethnography: Since my background is in sociocultural anthropology, I am more familiar with the research methods typically used by sociocultural anthropologists. Cultural anthropologists produce ethnographies on cultures of subcultures. Ethnography is a genre typically focused on describing, in rich detail, the culture and lives of others. Ethnographic research typically involves prolonged immersion in another culture (fieldwork). While conducting fieldwork, anthropologists take notes, learn new languages, customs and religions, take photographs and audio/video recordings, and participate in daily life as much as possible within the bounds of the culture. I say “within the bounds” to mean that the anthropologist would not intentionally try to participate in activities that would be seen as taboo or uncustomary. For example, a male anthropologist would not insist on attending a traditional women’s ritual.
- Ethnocentrism & The Etic v. Emic Perspectives: Anthropologists are especially aware of their own cultural biases and the dangers of ethnocentrism (believing that your own culture or way of life is the ‘right’ way and is superior than all others), and they take great care to recognize the biases and limit their influence on research and analysis. Anthropologists are trained to recognize the difference between the etic (outsider’s perspective) and the emic (insider’s perspective) and work to reveal and analyze the latter.
- Ethics & Critical Ethnography: Like other social scientists, anthropologists are held to a strict code of ethics which is aimed at protecting research participants and their needs, rights, and desires. Empathy, compassion, and understanding are all central the an anthropological perspective. However, critical analysis is equally important, and anthropology is often a vehicle for critiquing inequality and the institutions which uphold it.
Gender & Sexuality Studies: An Introduction
An ongoing list of literature - some academic, some not – that I really enjoyed. Maybe you will, too.
Gender, Sexuality, Women, Men, Femininity, Masculinity, etc:
- Kimmel, Michael: Manhood in America: A Cultural History (1996); Men’s Lives (several editions); Men & Masculinity (several editions); “
- Connell, R.W.: Masculinities (1995); “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept” (Gender & Society, 2005)
- Halberstam: Female Masculinity (1998)
- Schippers, MiMi: “Recovering the Feminine Other: Masculinity, Femininity, and Gender Hegemony” (Theory & Society, 2007)
- Faludi: Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (2006)
- Levy, Ariel: Female Chauvinist Pigs (2006)
- Levy, Ariel: Sperm Counts (2009)
- McCaughey: The caveman mystique: Pop-Darwinism and the debates over sex, violence, and science (2008)
Anthropology & Ethnographies:
- Kulick: Travesti: Sex, Gender, and Culture Among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes (1998)
- Boellstorff: Coming of Age in Second Life (2008)
- Askew: The Anthropology of Media (2002)
- Taft: Ethnographic Research Methods (1997)
On the SCA:
- O’Donnell: The Knights Next Door: Everyday People Living Middle Ages Dreams (2004)