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.

Topics for First Argumentative Essay

The aim of this paper is to develop an original thesis and to argue for it with reference to theoretical and case study materials from our readings. Six to seven double-spaced pages (roughly 2,000 words). Be sure to engage the arguments of and quote at least three of our authors. Be thorough in your citation practice.

Develop a thesis around one of the following topics:

1. Gender Acquisition

Individuals learn gender - to identify as a girl or boy/ woman or man, to be able to act in gender appropriate ways, and to look like either a woman or man. But children (and adults) do not always conform to these lessons completely, or consistently. Drawing from our readings — and also, perhaps, from your own culturally situated observations — formulate and develop an argumentative thesis having to do with the acquisition and practice of gendered attributes and identities. For example, which means of gender acquisition (emulation, elicitation, ritual) seem to you to be most powerful, and why? What can we learn from concrete examples about the relationship between culture and biology more generally? In your paper, link the specific (empirical) to the big picture (theoretical).

2. Gender and Labor

Write an essay discussing how gender relations are, in part, formed, reproduced, and contested in labor relations. Possible theses to develop could begin with — but are not restricted to — the following: a contrast between how gender and labor are organized in agrarian versus wage labor societies, and with what social and ideological repercussions; a discussion of the gaps between ideologies and social realities (lived experiences) concerning gender and labor in agrarian and/or wage labor societies; how gender and labor relations have historically been informed by — and have reproduced — ideologies about race/ethnicity.

Topics for Second Argumentative Essay

Six to seven double-spaced pages, regular font (roughly 2,000 words). These are argumentative papers — develop a thesis and argue it by marshalling evidence from our readings and class discussions. Be sure to engage the arguments of and quote at least three of our authors. Be thorough in your citation practice.

1. Gay Marriage

Write a paper analyzing the gay marriage debate in the contemporary U.S. Drawing on news stories, popular magazine articles, op-ed pieces, and/or legal decisions, characterize briefly the key positions taken on the issue. The majority of your paper will be devoted to your interpretation and analysis of these positions: why do Americans (and possibly others) debate the issue in the particular ways that you've discerned? Your analysis should begin by explaining some of the cultural, historical, and structural (i.e., economic, legal) elements that have come together to make possible the very question of gay marriage/parenting. Why has this topic has become an issue of social concern now, at this historical moment (i.e., what other social changes have occurred to allow gay marriage to be thinkable, let alone potentially politically viable)? And what is at stake symbolically, materially, and institutionally in these debates or negotiations concerning gender and sexuality: what are the real and/or perceived repercussions for individuals and for a society? Conclude with a brief discussion of what your analysis leads you to advocate on the issue — this might be a specific legal or political action, a line of scholarly inquiry, an education policy, etc.

2. Is There a Family?

Our task as anthropologists is not only to recognize cultural variation among the ideological forms that ideal families take, but also to consider the gaps between people's ideals and the reality of their lived experience. Here we encounter questions of agency and resistance, as well as the role of unequal economic conditions and power relations that ideologies of family may cover over. Real families only rarely, if ever, conform to ideological expectation — and yet, those ideals are only occasionally and gradually revised. In order to investigate both ideological constructs and lived experience — and what we find in the gaps between — write a paper comparing some aspect of family relations in two or more cultures we have read about. Focus your discussion either on issues related to marriage and sexuality or to parenting and parent-child relations. Either way, you must frame and analyze what you describe by making use of the theoretical arguments forwarded by authors we have read.

Topics for Third Argumentative Essay

The third paper on a topic of the student's choosing may include personal reflection and/or interviews.