Cultural Anthropology 298: The Evolution of Culture
Course Syllabus, Summer 2001
Instructor: Brian Malley
Office: B242 East Hall
Office hours: MW 8:00-10:00 AM and by appointment
Why are we a cultural species? How did we get this way? In this class, we will review the history of the human lineage and recent proposals for the evolution of culture, and then take a close look at what exactly needs to be accounted for and whether current theories adequately address the complexities of cultural life. The final part of the course will be devoted to exploring non-reductionistic ways of conceiving the relation between biology, mind, and culture.
--To introduce the history of the human lineage, with particular emphasis on the emergence of cultural lifestyles. You will learn the basic facts of the history of the human lineage and the emergence of culture in the archeological record.
--To introduce anthropologists¹ claims about culture. Anthropologists have found culture to be more complex than is commonly assumed in accounts of cultural evolution. You will learn the ways in which the anthropological notion of ³culture² differs from both the popular notion and that often used in current theories of ³cultural² evolution.
--To examine non-reductionistic ways of conceiving the interaction of biologically evolved minds with culture. You will learn how a cultural environment can ³retask² evolved cognitive functions, how cultural patterns are reproduced in individual interactions, and how the interaction of cognition and culture can give rise to complex, dynamic cultural systems.
Materials: A course pack is available at Accucopy for $25.25.
Course Requirements: Your final course grade will be based on the following criteria:
Participation (20 points). All students are expected to come to class prepared and to contribute to class discussions. Your comments and questions will greatly enrich this course.
Short assignments (40 points). At the end of each section a short assignment is due. ÿ The first is a hominid evolution timeline: draw a timeline that captures important features of hominid evolution, including, for example, such things as species variation, geographic range, tool manufacture, cranial capacity, subsistence pattern, and so forth. Be creative: make your timeline as informative as possible! (Make sure to include a key when you turn it in.)
The remainder of the short assignments are one-paragraph synopses of each of the assigned readings. This exercise is designed to help you get the main points of the articles, so strive to make your synopses as short and concise as possible while still capturing the author¹s main point(s). Well-written synopses will make it much easier for you to write your term paper.
Term paper (40 points). Write a 5-7 page paper engaging one or more of the arguments we will cover in class. You may agree with the argument by providing further evidence for it or by answering objections to it, or you may disagree with the argument by providing evidence against it or criticizing it on theoretical grounds. The paper should be double spaced, in 12 point Times New Roman font, with 1² margins all around and page numbers centered at the bottom of each page. A bibliography so entitled must be appended. Use name-date citation of works throughout. Due Wednesday, August 8.
Overview of Human Evolution (Weeks 1-2)
Boyd, Robert and Joan B. Silk (1997). ³The Earliest Hominids,² ³The Ancients,² and ³The Moderns² (pp. 342-390, 427-498) in How Humans Evolved. W. W. Norton & Company.
Mithen, Stephen (1996). ³The Drama of Our Past² (pp. 17-32) in The Prehistory of the Mind. Thames and Hudson.
Assignment: Timeline of hominid evolution
Memetics and Evolutionary Psychology (Week 3)
Tooby, John and Leda Cosmides (1997). Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer. cogweb.english.ucsb.edu. This is a short, readable digest of the authors¹ widely-cited 118-page statement of the logic, goals, and assumptions of evolutionary psychology, and its relation to other disciplines (in Barkow, Cosmides, & Tooby (1992). The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. Oxford.).
Buss, David M. (1992). ³Mate Preference Mechanisms: Consequences for Partner Choice and Intrasexual Competition² (pp. 249-264) in The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby, eds. Oxford University Press.
Assignment: Article synopses
Cultural Complexity (Weeks 4-5)
Geertz, Clifford (1973). ³The Growth of Culture and the Evolution of Mind² and ³Notes on the Balinese Cockfight² (pp. 55-83, 412-453) in The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books.
Levi-Strauss, Claude (1967). ³The Story of Asdiwal² (pp. 1-47) in The Structural Study of Myth and Totemism. Edmund Leach, ed. London: Tavistock.
Ortner, Sherry (1973). ³On Key Symbols² American Anthropologist 75: 1338-1346.
Harding, Susan F. (1987). Convicted by the Holy Spirit: The Rhetoric of Fundamental Baptist Conversion. American Ethnologist 14: 167-185.
Assignment: Article synopses
Cognition and Culture (Weeks 6-7)
Bateson, Gregory (1972). A Theory of Play and Fantasy (pp. 177-193) in Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine.
Mannheim, Bruce and Dennis Tedlock (1995). Introduction (pp. 1-20) in The Dialogic Emergence of Culture. Dennis Tedlock and Bruce Mannheim, eds. Urbana: University of Illinois. You may find this reading difficult: bring questions to class.
Sperber, Dan (1996). ³Mental Modularity and Cultural Diversity² (pp. 119-150) in Explaining Culture. Blackwell Publishers.
Whitehouse, Harvey (2000). ³Order and Disorder in Melanesian Religion² and ³Cognition, Emotion, and Politics² (pp. 81-124) in Arguments and Icons: Divergent Modes of Religiosity. Oxford University Press.
Assignments: Term paper, Article synopses
1. Learning is, and can only be, your responsibility. I am one of your resources.
2. The Anthropology office (1058 LSA Building), where my mailbox is located, is normally open 8:00 AM 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday. Do not slide work under the door after hours, as it may be discarded.
3. Keep a copy of all work you turn in.
4. I do not email grades.