Course Meeting Times

Lectures/Seminars: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Complete Course Description

Through investigating cross-cultural case studies, this course introduces students to the anthropological study of the social institutions and symbolic meanings of family, household, gender, and sexuality. We will explore the myriad forms that families and households take and evaluate their social, emotional, and economic dynamics. In particular, we will analyze how people's expectations for, and experiences of, family life are rooted in or challenged by particular conceptions of gender and sexuality. What does it mean and entail to be a "man" or a "woman" — as well as a "good" father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, in-law, grandparent, etc. — in different cultural, religious, and political contexts?

Classes will integrate lecture and discussion. Each class is keyed to a set of readings, and it is crucial that students keep up with the readings and be prepared to discuss them in class. Class participation — in terms of regular attendance and participation in discussion — will count strongly towards the final grade. Occasionally we will break into small groups for more concentrated discussion. Some lectures will directly engage our readings while others will integrate background historical and theoretical information.


Participation/reader responses 25%
Argumentative essay 1 25%
Argumentative essay 2 25%
Argumentative essay 3 25%


You must attend class and participate in discussions; this part of the course (including reader responses) will account for 25% of the final grade. Writing reader responses will help you feel prepared to speak up in class; if a student does not volunteer, she or he may be called upon to speak. Students who miss more than three classes will lose credit.

Reader Responses

These responses consist of a couple paragraphs describing your reaction to one or more of the readings for that session. Do not summarize, but rather give us your response to the reading. These should take no more than 30 minutes to write. While reader responses are not individually graded, they will be factored into the overall evaluation of your performance. You will write 4 over the course of the term.

Argumentative Essays

You will write three papers, each counting for 25% of your final grade. The first paper will address the relationship between families, households and political economy. The second paper will discuss how gender/sexuality are formed both within and despite kinship and family relations. The third paper on a topic of the student's choosing may include personal reflection and/or interviews.

Required Books

Buy at Amazon Hansen, Karen V. Not-So-Nuclear Families: Class, Gender, and Networks of Care. Rutgers University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780813535012.

Buy at Amazon Wardlow, Holly. Wayward Women: Sexuality and Agency in New Guinea Society. University of California Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780520245600.

Buy at Amazon Paxson, Heather. Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece. University of California Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780520223714.