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Ant 211 Intensive Ag: Syllabus

Anthropology 211 (Advanced Topics in Cultural Ecology):
Farm Families and the Ecology of Intensive, Sustainable Agriculture 
[Spring Quarter 2008. CRN# 66333. Th 3:00-5:30. 224 Young Hall]

Prof. Bruce Winterhalder



Reading Materials
Office Hours
Course Organization and Expectations
Written Assignments
Oral Assignments


Description back to top

The focal reading for this course is Robert Nettings classic synthesis of the cultural ecology of intensive, family agriculture: Smallholders, Householders: Farm Families and the Ecology of Intensive, Sustainable Agriculture (Stanford Univesity Press. 1993). Netting's book is a thorough synthesis of cultural ecology studies by anthropologists, geographers and others, embedded in an over-arching argument about the rationality, structure and persistence of this means of livelihood. It commands our attention for the breadth of its coverage and the analytically compelling and somewhat contrarian position Netting takes on his subject. He argues that intensive agriculture will persist as the means of livelihood for hundreds of millions of people in precisely definable circumstances; this not only is inevitable but it is ecologically desirable; and the family is the most effective, maybe the only means of effectively organizing this form of production. We will examine his argument carefully.

This class emphasizes skill development in two kinds of scholarly practice: (a) on-line database search for primary research literature; and (b) the writing of grant proposals. We will, as a classs, focus our discussion not only on Netting's arguments and evidence, but on more recent literature that updates and may strengthen or challenge his case. Likewise, each student will read a monograp-length study of a particular case of intensive agriculture, and will both report on it and design a reseach proposal to revisit that setting to pursue reseach on some or another issue raised by Netting. The who class will discuss and critique these proposals. 

The seminar is open to graduate students. Advanced undergraduates may register by permission. It does not presume previous courses in Ecological Anthropology (Environmental Anthropology or Cultural Ecology) although that would be useful. It should be of interest to any student in the field of human or cultural ecology, economic anthropology, peasant agriculture, international agricultural policy and development and, broadly speaking, to Anthropology majors with an interest in these particular subdisciplinary fields. It also will appeal to anthropology or other social science students keen to practice research skills and proposal writing.

Reading Materials back to top

There is one required and one recommended book available at the UC Davis Bookstore. They include:

Netting, Robert M. 1993. Smallholders, Householders: Farm Families and the Ecology of Intensive, Sustainable Agriculture. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Berger, John. 1992. Pig Earth. New York: Vintage Books.

Please note that the Netting book is required; the Berger book is recommended, for its lyricism and as a more humanistic counterpoint to Netting's social science approach.

In addition, each students will be asked to read and report on one additional book, title of their choosing. It should be a full length economic anthropology or cultural ecology monograph -- an ethnography -- on a particular society practicing intensive, household agriculture of the type described in Netting. I will provide a list of suggested volumes. I encourage you to look independently for possibilities suited to your own particular scholarly interests, perhaps in a particular region of the world, society or language group.

Office Hours back to top

I will have office hours 1:30 to 3:00 PM, Monday and Wednesday. 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 semester will be divided into two parts. In Part I, we will read and carefully analyze Netting's argument and evidence, and will discuss the impact on his case of subsequent research. In Part II we students will report on their monographic reading in light of Netting's thesis, and we will hear and comment on the research proposals. Depending on enrollments, one or more of you will be responsible for leading discussion in each class.

In Part I, we will hear and discuss short reports (no more than 5 to 10 minutes) on student-located, primary research materials, published subsequent to Netting's book but relevant to the chapters in his work discussed the previous week. After a short break, we will then move on to discussion of the Netting chapters assigned for this particular week's class. 

In Part II of the quarter, we will hear reports on the cultural or economic anthropology monographs read by each student, and then, following those summaries, we will discuss and critique presentations of research proposals.

Written Assignments back to top

In summary your obligations for written work include:

a) For each class, Part I:

[ ] A full citation and precis, for each of your follow-up research articles, for circulation to other class members; and, 

[ ] Three to five typed discussion questions, for the Neting chapters assigned for this class, again with sufficient copies to circulate to class members.

b) For classes, Part II:

[ ] A full citation and short abstract for the monograph which you will present to the class; and,

[ ] A three-four page, double-spaced, written research proposal, circulated to the class via e-mail at least two days in advance of the meeting at which it will be presented.

Oral Assignments back to top

Your oral responsibilities encompass:

a) For each class, Part I:

[ ] Prior to break, each student or student team should be prepared to talk about one or more of the follow-up articles they have located, for 5-10 minutes.

[ ] After break, the discussion leader should be prepared to lead a discussion on the assigned chapters in Netting; Everyone else should be prepared to participate. This means being familiar enough with the work that you can readily locate passages that provoke questions or supply answers.

b) For each class, Part II:

[ ] Students will have two primary responsibilites: (i) A short, approximately 15-20 minute presentation on the monograph that they have read; and (ii) A 15 minute presentation on their research proposal, followed by discussion.

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.

Grades back to top

I will weight assignments as follows: class presentations and participation in Part I (50%); monograph presentation (15%), research proposal (15%), and oral participation (20%) in part II .

Schedule back to top

Week/ Class Date
Discussion Leader(s)
Week 1
(31 March)

Introduction: Syllabus, Précis & Proposal

Start Reading. . .
Week 2
(7 April)

Discussion, Netting Prologue, Chs. 1, 2.



Week 3
(14 April)

Follow-up Articles; Discussion, Netting Chs. 3-6.



Week 4
(21 April)
Follow-up Articles; Discussion, Netting Chs 7. 8.



Week 5
(28 April)
No class


Week 6
(5 May)

Follow-up Articles; Discussion Netting Ch. 9 - Epilogue



Week 7
(12 May)
Follow-up Articles; Netting Summary & Pig Earth



Week 8
(19 May)

Presentation on monographs



Week 9
(26 May)

Presentation on monographs; research proposals


Week 10
(2 June)
Research proposals; Summary