Ant 200: Syllabus


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Anthropology 200: History of Anthropology
[Winter 2009, Th. 3:10-6:00;CRN 53807; 224 Young Hall]

Prof. Bruce Winterhalder
Anthropology, and Graduate Group in Ecology
(218 Young Hall; 754-4770; 


Reading Materials (Books)
Reading Materials (Papers)
Office Hours
Course Organization and Expectations
Written Assignments
Oral Assignments


Description back to top

The catalog description of this class calls for study of the history of socio-cultural anthropology theory, from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. It promises to focus on original texts in the context of the development of the field as a whole. We will take both of these charges seriously.

As historical background, we will read Marvin Harris’ 1968 classic, The Rise of Anthropological Theory. Although 40 years old, this book has never been superseded. It remains as quirky, biased and authoritative on the material it covers as was its author. We will then read all or most of four original, monograph-length works by central historical figures: Darwin, Engels, Boas and Polanyi. All fall within our time period; each is essential to the development of our field. And, each figures prominently in its present configuration and issues. A half-dozen other individuals could have been chosen and we will not completely neglect one of the most important of the missing: Marx. 

Finally, I will ask each of you to read and report on one more recent volume, focused on the interpretation of the history of Anthropology. I have listed four titles (see below) from which you may select, depending on your own particular interests. If you have another selection you are eager to read, I am receptive to being convinced that we should add it to the list.

The seminar is open to graduate students; advanced undergraduates in Anthropology or a related social science may register by permission. It does not presume previous courses in Anthropology, although that would be useful. It should be of interest to any student in the subfields of economic, ecological, social or archaeological anthropology, broadly speaking.

Reading Materials (Books) back to top

There are five required books, which we will read and discuss as a group. They are available at Student Stores. They include:

Boas, Franz. 1995 [1940]. Race, Language and Culture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Darwin, Charles. 1997 [1871-72]. The Descent of Manand Selection in Relation to Sex . Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Engels, Frederick. 1972 [1884]. The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. New York, NY: International Publishers.

Harris, Marvin. 2001 [1968]. The Rise of Anthropological Theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Polanyi, Karl. 2001 [1944]. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

I highly recommend that you read the Harris volume in the break prior to the start of Winter classes.

In addition, I will ask each of you to read and report on one of the following, more recent works on the history of socio-cultural anthropology:

Hiatt, L. R. 1996. Arguments About Aborigines: Australia and the Evolution of Social Anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kerns, Virginia. 2003. Scenes from the High Desert: Julian Steward's Life and Theory. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Kuper, Adam. 1988. The Invention of Primitive Society: Transformations of an Illusion. New York: Routledge.

Layton, Robert. 1997. An Introduction to Theory in Anthropology.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Patterson, Thomas. 2004. Marx’s Ghost: Conversations with Archaeologists. Oxford: Berg Publishers.

Segerstråle, Ullica. 2000. Defenders of the Truth: The Sociobiology Debate. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reading Materials (Papers) back to top

Stocking, G. W., Jr. 1968 On the limits of "presentism" and "historicism" in the historiography of the behavioral sciences, edited by G. W. Stocking, Jr., pp. 1-12. The Free Press, New York.

Lewis, H. S. 1999 The misrepresentation of anthropology and its consequences. American Anthropologist 100:716-731.

Lewis, H. S. 2001 Boas, Darwin, science, and anthropology. Current Anthropology 42:381-406.

Lewis, H. S. 2001 The passion of Franz Boas. American Anthropologist 103:447-467.

Office Hours back to top

I will have office hours (day/time not yet announced). Times besides these can be arranged by appointment. Please come by if you have questions or suggestions, or just want to discuss the course or related materials. I use email regularly and can always be reached at:

Course Organization and Expectations back to top

We will meet once a week for approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes, with a short break midway through the period. Following the introductory meeting, the quarter will be devoted to discussion of Harris, the four articles and the monographic readings. One or more of you (depending on enrollment) will be responsible for leading discussion in most class sessions.

Written Assignments back to top

For each class numbered 2 through 7, please bring to class 3 copies of 3-5 discussion questions on the assigned readings. One is for me, one for the discussion leaders, and one for you. I encourage you to keep written notes (in the form of a précis) on your readings. You will have to be quite selective about their length.

I anticipate having two written projects. The first is a 5-8 page, double-spaced, essay book review on your supplemental reading selection.

The second is a power point presentation with accompanying notes, of sufficient length and detail to constitute an hour and twenty minute lecture, on one of the following individuals: Boas, Childe, Durkheim, Kroeber, Lévi-Strauss, Malinowski, Mauss, Marx, Morgan, Radclifffe-Brown, Spencer, Steward, Westermarck, White, or Wittfogel. We will collectively establish a contents outline for this project in intellectual history. The resulting presentations will be placed on SmartSite, where they will be available to each of you, a 'starter kit' for your own class on the history of anthropology.

Oral Assignments back to top

Your oral responsibilities encompass are several. If you are the discussion leader(s), you should prepare a brief introduction to the readings (no more than 5-10 minutes), know the material thoroughly, and be prepared to talk about it. You should be prepared to pose questions to your classmates, yours and theirs.

In those class sessions in which you are not a discussion leader, you should come to class prepared to analyze and talk about the material, and help others to answer their questions. Please be prepared to refer to supporting text when formulating your thoughts on the readings.

Attendance back to top

Your main responsibility is to come to class prepared to discuss the readings. You may wish to raise questions about the interpretation or to offer observations from your own knowledge and experience. It is equally appropriate (and potentially enlightening to all of us) to express bafflement, offer an insight, or to comment on what you found striking or especially interesting, perhaps troublesome, about the materials.

There is a lot of reading for this class, so you will have to be smart and selective about the parts you read carefully and those you read with less diligence.

Grades back to top

I will weight assignments as follows: Written questions (20%); Supplemental reading, written review and oral presentation (30%); and General oral participation and knowledge of material, as leader and as discussant (50%)

Schedule back to top

Week/ Class Date
Class Activity and Discussion Leader(s)
Week 1
(8 January)
Stocking 1968
Lewis 1999
Darwin Chs. 1-7
Description of course, review of syllabus, personal introductions
Week 2
(15 January)
Darwin Chs. 8 & 17-21 Discuss:
Stocking 1968, Lewis 1999
Harris Chs. 1-4
Darwin Chs. 1-7

Leader(s): Carly, Steven

Week 3
(22 January)
Engels Discuss:
Harris Chs. 5-7
Darwin Chs. 8 & 17-21

Leader(s): Amy, Bruce

Week 4
(29 January)
Lewis 2001, 2001
Boas 1-130, 172-175, 191-195
Harris Chs. 8-11

Leader(s): Becky, Elizabeth

Week 5
(5 February)
Boas 199-210, 243-294, 356-406, & 626-647 Discuss:
Lewis articles
Harris 12-15
Boas 1-130, 172-175, 191-195

Leader(s): Katie, Ryan

Week 6
(12 February)
Polayni, Pt 1 & Pt. 2 Discuss:
Harris Chs. 16-18
Boas 199-210, 243-294, 356-406, & 626-647

Leader(s):Corin, Alan

Week 7
(19 February)
Supplemental Volume Discuss:
Harris Chs. 19-21
Polanyi Pt. 1 & Pt. 2

Leader(s): Bret, Bruce

Week 8
(26 February)
Supplemental Volume


Harris Chs. 22 & 23


Week 9
(5 March)
None Presentations
Week 10
(12 March)
None Summary and Conclusions
Course Review