Ethnology and Ethnography in Anthropology

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Exercise ID: 1.04
Class size: Medium 25-50
Level(s): III
Source: Submitted by HRAF member

Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Student chooses from pre-selected list
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable: Death, Marriage, Gender, Sex, Education/Socialization
Region selection: open (student choice)
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Student chooses from entire collection
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable:

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? Yes
Assignments for students to complete in groups? Yes
Assignments for students to complete on their own? Yes
Instructions for Microfiche version? No

Dianna J. Shandy, Department of Anthropology, Macalester College

Note to instructors: The following assignment has worked successfully for courses with student enrollments from 25-40. Group sizes of 5 tend to work best for this assignment. It introduces students to eHRAF World Cultures as a research tool and allows them to focus on a geographic area of the world that interests them. In addition, this assignment provides an opportunity for larger classes to get process feedback on their writing and to strengthen collaboration and oral presentation skills. Reference librarians can be enlisted to instruct students in how to use the database.

Anthropologists are engaged in both ethnographic and ethnological study. Ethnography is the in depth study of a particular cultural group, while ethnology is the comparative study of ethnographic data, society and culture. Many of the readings for this course and your own research project have been ethnographic in nature. For this assignment you will again write a short ethnographic paper on a specific culture, but you will work with a small group to develop an ethnological presentation that analyzes each member’s contributions to the study of a particular social institution (e.g. death or marriage) in a cross-cultural framework.

*Step One: Sign up for a topic (Gender, Marriage, Death, Education/Socialization, Sickness, or Sex ). The Outline of Cultural Materials provides a full list of all OCM subjects and topics covered in eHRAF World Cultures. The OCM subjects can be found in Browse Subjects or in the Add Subjects function of an Advanced Search of eHRAF World Cultures.

*Step Two: Within your topical group, assign a geographic area to each member (Africa, Asia, North America, Oceania, or South America). Each group member should be responsible for a different area. (If there are only four members of your group, you will not cover all five geographic areas).  In eHRAF World Cultures the geographic areas can be found in Browse Cultures or in the Add Cultures function of an Advanced Search.  Click here for a current list of culture names and geographic regions covered in eHRAF.

*Step Three: Each member of the group now has a geographic area and a general research topic, for example, sickness and Africa. Next, using the on-line eHRAF World Cultures database students will select a specific socio-cultural group on which to focus the individual paper. Each member of the group will research and write a 7-9 page, typed, double-spaced paper. You may have to be flexible in the selection of a specific population based on availability of ethnographic material on a particular subject. For instance, if there is not enough material on sickness among the Bemba in Africa, try the Azande.

Individual paper topics within a group might look something like this:

  • Sickness among the Somali in Africa
  • Sickness among the Sinhalese in Asia
  • Sickness among the Tlingit in North America
  • Sickness among the Bororo in South America
  • Sickness among the Tikopia in Oceania

Keep in mind that these topics should be broadly interpreted, i.e. discussions of marriage lead us into questions regarding post-marital residence rules, desirable number of spouses, possible kinship tie with spouse, wedding rituals, etc. As a group, you should decide whether you want to develop a narrow or a broad focus for your topic in light of the material that you find in doing your research.

*Step Four: On Nov. 12, turn in a copy of your DRAFT paper to me. Provide a copy of your draft paper for each member of your group. Read your colleagues’ papers and be prepared to provide feedback. As a group, meet with a Macalester Center for Academic Excellence tutor to discuss the papers and generate ideas for the cross-cultural group presentation. Revise draft papers using peers’ and tutor’s feedback. (Failure to turn in the draft on time will result in a substantial deduction of points from your final assignment grade.)

The Final Draft of your paper will be evaluated on the basis of substance, effective paper development, and good writing mechanics.

*Step Five: On Fri., Dec. 7, turn in your FINAL DRAFT HRAF individual paper.

*Step Six: On Dec. 10, 12, and 14 your group will present a 25 min. cross-cultural analysis of your topic. How is sickness viewed across the cultures that your group investigated? Are there commonalities across cultures? How does diversity manifest itself, and what are the possible linkages to other aspects of social organization? Each member of the group should participate actively. Your peers and the instructor will evaluate the presentation according to the following criteria: Organization and effectiveness of the presentation, cross cultural analysis of topic, and originality/insight of the presentation. Feel free to be creative and have fun with the presentations. Groups in the past have played ethnographic jeopardy, hosted talk shows, and run public debates to get their message across. You are only limited by your imagination.

Below is a link to a list of the societies grouped by geographic region from which you may select your specific study population. Again, keep in mind that you may need to explore available resources before finalizing your selection.

Culture List with OWC Codes

Citing eHRAF Documents

You should include a standard bibliographic reference for the material, i.e.
Appadurai, Arjun
1996 Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Don’t forget to include page numbers when citing material in the text! You should also include the basic retrieval statement for an on-line database: Retrieved [month day, year,] from [source] on-line database ([name of database], [item no.–if applicable]).

Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 11-03): Peer Evaluation Form

Name of Group/Presentation Topic: (CIRCLE ONE):
DEATH-Dec. 10
GENDER–Dec. 12
SEX-Dec. 14
Please evaluate this group’s presentation according to the following criteria:

1. Organization and effectiveness 
Did the presentation communicate a clear message? Did the group organize the material in a way that was easy to follow? Was it an effective presentation (organized, compelling, polished)? Did all members participate actively?

1 2 3 4 5
(poor) (excellent)

2. Cross-Cultural Analysis
Was it apparent that the group had critically analyzed the material presented? Did the group understand the material well enough to push the analysis to it fullest potential? Did they effectively cover all the salient points?

1 2 3 4 5
(poor) (excellent)

3. Originality and insight
Did it enhance your understanding of the topic presented? Did it challenge you to think in new ways?

1 2 3 4 5
(poor) (excellent)

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