Week 2: Ethnography
Ethnography is the way that anthropologists study and teach others about cultures. Anthropologists learn about cultures by engaging different groups of people, asking questions, writing down their answers, and then thinking about the best way to understand behavior.
Cultural anthropologists use an emic perspective when studying another group, meaning they describe a particular culture in terms of its internal elements.
The focus of this semester is West Africa, and this week our lecture was about Benin. Students were intrigued that the people of Benin snack on bush rats! They also bonded over a love of soccer.
Last week students were broken into three clans. Each clan chose a name, selected a language, and determined a social structure. They even designed a flag.
This week each clan selected 1 ethnographer per group, and then sent that ethnographer out to observe another clan’s culture using the Ethnographer’s Guide.
After interviewing other clans, told us what they learned about the new culture.
Lastly, the clan defended errors of interpretation.
I am lucky enough to have three amazing teaching assistants, who each govern a separate clan. They manage the students productivity and limit their rowdiness. (A task I can not be more grateful to not be handling alone.) They helped the clan select an ethnographer to travel to another group. Surprisingly, we had multiple students volunteer. I was giddy over the level of participation. All students were interactive as the ethnographer completed the survey. The TAs helped narrow the clan members answers, but every one seemed engaged for the length of the activity. When the ethnographers presented to the class, they were confident and demonstrated they had grasped the concept. I was very proud of these three students. (I rewarded them with lots of stickers to show my gratitude. Amazing what an 11 year old will do for a sticker!) In my opinion, this activity was a success. Although, I was unable to gauge if the students answering the questions understood ethnography as well as I could with the anthropologists.