American Life and Culture Class Syllabus  

ANTH 180 / CES 180

Either ANTH 180 or CES 180 may be taken for credit, not both.

The course has its own site (blog):

Manouchehr Shiva, PhD

Office Hours: By appointment.

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to a cultural understanding of contemporary American society. We discuss major theoretical and conceptual principles and perspectives of present-day cultural anthropology and cultural studies, and the way they could be applied to studying the life-ways of various American communities. We explore how the perspectives and methods offered by anthropology can assist us in understanding the United States.

This is an inter-active or a seminar-like class. Class participation, questioning, and critical thinking are highly encouraged.

This is also a research-oriented class. You will actively participate in a variety of research-oriented assignments.

You will take an active part in your learning process. You are asked to participate in the class discussions prepared, work on research projects, share and actively participate in the class’s learning process, and critically reflect on what you read and discuss.

All readings and audio-visual material are online and free.
See each unit’s What to Do section to see the list of materials to be covered for that unit.

Grading — Total of 1000 points

You will all know your quiz grades in the class. The quizzes are open-book, multiple choice, and they will be discussed and graded in the class as part of your learning process.

For your unit assignments, you get a B grade if you turn them. You get an A grade if you meet the requirements. You all have the chance of revising your assignments to get the best grade possible. Review other teams’ blogs to see examples of those that have done a better job. This is a seminar-like class, it is based on sharing and commenting on each other’s work.  

Class Discussion, Participation, and Ethnographic Note Assignments: 25 points for each unit –  total of 250 points – 25% of total grade.

Quizzes:  — 5 quizzes (one quiz per two units) – 50 points each –  Total of 250 points – 25% of total grade

 Total of 250 points –

25% of total grade

Quizzes are open book and could be done in groups.

 Final Exam: 250 points — 25% of total grade. Covers all units.

The final exam is open book

Final Project Report: 250  points   — 25% of total grade.

 It is suggested that the Assignments and the Research Project Report be  presented as blogs posts. 

Due Dates 

Unit 1 and Unit 2 Assignments  and Quiz One Are Due by April  15

Unit 3 and 4 Assignments and Quiz Two Are Due by April 29

Unit 5 and Unit 6 Assignments  and Quiz Three Are Due by  May 13

 Unit 7 and Unit 8 Assignments and Quiz Four Are Due by May 27

 Unit 9 and Unit 10 Assignments and Quiz Five Are Due by  June 10

Final Exam and Research Project Reports Are Due by June 14


Research Project
The focus of the research project is an outline of a study of a contemporary American social or cultural phenomenon, event, institution or process from an anthropological perspective. It is recommended that the topic is about an American art/creative form (visual, musical, literary …)

Students choose the focus of their research project by the second unit of the quarter.

Research Projects are done in small groups (2-4). 

Research Project Report– It is recommended that the research project report is done in a blog format online.   The report  is a re-writing of your postings about your research topic during the quarter, based on the feedbacks you have received and your own further research.

Use Proper citation and add bibliography

Research Projects should include the first, the last and at least 6 other aspects or contexts of your research topic from the following list (Each week on a different aspect). You can suggest other aspects of your topic too, if you would like to:

1)      Historical context

2)      Ideological, religious, worldview-related

3)     Ritual

4)      Socio-economic class

5)      Socialization/enculturation or learning

6)      Communicative, symbolic or linguistic

7)      Gender

8)      Family

9)      Kinship

10)     Generation

11)    Art

12)   Communal identity (racial, ethnic, national, ethno-religious, …communal) aspects

13)     Power-related or political aspects

14)     Material Culture

15)     Embodied

16)    Global or globalization-related aspects

Research Project Report is a rewriting of what you have done throughout the quarter about your research project (different aspects) based on the feedback you have received and your own further research.


Unit 1 Culture

Understanding the Other and the Self
Culture and Cultural Anthropological Perspectives
Cultural Studies
Anthropological Fieldwork and Research Methods
Comparative Approach
Cultural Relativism and Ethnocentrism
Holistic Approach
Culture and Power
Culture and History
Culture and Globalization,
Culture and Gender
Culture and Generation
Culture and Class,
Culture and Ethnicity/Nationalism

Unit 2  Ritual, Power, History and Myth

Culture and Ritual
Ritual and Ritualization
Ritual and Construction of Class, Gender, Generation, Ethnic and National Identities
Ritual and Power
History, Myth, and Ritual


Unit 3  Religion

Religion in America
Anthropological Perspective in Studying Religious Beliefs and Practices
Public and Private Dimensions of Religion in American Lives
Religions and American Politics

Unit 4   Political Economy and Socio-Economic Stratification

Political Economy and Class in the U.S.
Production, Distribution, and Consumption Patterns in the U.S.
Culture and Class
The Meaningful and the Material
Constructions of Class in America

Unit 5 Socialization / Enculturation

Enculturation and Socialization
Aspects of American Childhood and Adolescence
Anthropology of American Education
Anthropology of American Higher Education
Socialization/Enculturation and Sub-cultures
Media and Enculturation/Socialization

Unit 6  Language, Society, Worldview and Culture

Language, Gender, Class, and Ethnicity in America
Language and Power
Language and Worldview
Language, Culture and Subcultures
American Media and Language
American English and Globalization

Unit 7  Gender, Generation and Family in the U.S.

Gender in America
Youth and American Culture
Representations of the Youth in the Media
The Elderly in America
American Family Patterns

Unit 8 Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism

Race and Racism in America
Constructing Ethnicity in America
Nation and Nationalism in America
Trans-Nationalism in America

Unit 9  Power, Politics and The State

Culture of American Politics
Power and Politics
Concepts in Political Anthropology
The State
Class, Power and the State
Power and Ideology
Political Rituals

Unit 10  Case Studies

Based on the interest of the instructor and the students a few topics are chosen to study and apply cultural anthropological and cultural studies approaches.

American Media and American Life
Sports in America
Violence in America
American Politics Abroad


Taking an online course requires basic computer literacy and a little more. You must be proficient in navigating the World Wide Web (the Web) and may have to be able to download and install plug-ins. An online course often requires accessing the Web on a regular basis. You need a reliable ISP that seldom responds to your call with a busy signal. You need to be able to write English on a word processor, save documents and organize the resulting files, copy documents into your clipboard and paste them into another application, and attach documents to e-mail and retrieve them.”



All humans learn and all humans teach. Humans learn and teach in communities, and communities embody more knowledge than any one individual possesses. These characteristics have been fundamental first to human biological evolution, and then to the origin and evolution of cultures. Formal education takes place in a special community — the learning community. The more cohesive the learning community and the more focused it is on shared goals, the more intense is the learning experience.

In the best of learning communities, both “instructor” and “students” are learners. The instructor takes responsibility for the overall goals and direction of the course, the materials, pacing, lessons, and assessment. But students must take responsibility for their own learning. They must bring questions to the table, and act critically upon the materials of the course. Learning cannot be passive; it’s hard work. Certainly it’s useful and rewarding, but like long distance running, it hurts a lot while you are doing it and feels great when you stop.

Online courses are in many ways more focused and intensive learning communities than those encountered in the classroom (“on the ground”). You will be reading a lot and writing a lot, and communicating intensively with your fellow class members.

It’s assumed that we are all there to learn some anthropology, to develop and exercise critical thinking skills, and to stretch ourselves creatively in the exploration of ideas. But above all we are all there to discover ways the tools of anthropology can illuminate our daily lives and current problems of the human condition in the U.S.



STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES:  If you have medical information to share with me in the event of an emergency, please contact me via email or come to see me during office hours. Emergency preparedness is important! If you need course modifications, adaptations, or accommodations because of a disability, I can refer you to our Disability Resource Center (DRC).  If you prefer, you may contact them directly by going to B132 or by calling 425.564.2498 or TTY 425.564.4110.  Information is also available on their website at


EXPLORE THE LMC! The Library Media Center is at your fingertips!  I strongly encourage you to visit the LMC at least this quarter, but you can also access it via the web.  Talk to a Reference Librarian at the Library (D-126), by calling (425) 564-6161, or by email:

For all of your written work:  Submit proofread work only.  Work not proofread will be returned once for a rewrite, expected to be handed in within 48 hours.  If you need help with your writing, please make use of the following student support services:

Preventing Plagiarism:  Plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty occurring when students use information or material from outside sources and do not properly cites those sources.  This is grounds for disciplinary action.  It is your responsibility to understand plagiarism and its consequences.  Plagiarism occurs if:

a.      You do not cite quotations and/or attribute borrowed ideas.

b.      You fail to enclose borrowed language in quotation marks.

c.      You do not write summaries and paraphrases in his/her own words and/or doesn’t document his/her source.

d.      You turn in work created by another person.

e.      You submit or use your own prior work for a current or past course, or work from one current course in another course without express permission from your professors.  This may also be considered academic dishonesty.

f.       Consequences: If it is determined that you have plagiarized or engaged in other forms of academic dishonesty, you will likely fail the assignment and possibly the course, despite points earned through other work. Acts of academic dishonesty are reviewed for disciplinary action.


There is a general introductory class (Survey of Anthropology) which highlights all four sub-disciplines of anthropology.  BC offers in-depth courses in Anthropology which I encourage you to take: archaeology (Great Discoveries in Archaeology; Archaeology; Ancient North America; Incas & Their Ancestors; Aztecs, Mayas, & Their Ancestors), biological anthropology (Biological Anthropology; Bioanthropology with Lab; Cross-cultural Medicine; Forensic Anthropology), cultural anthropology (Food, Drink, & Culture; American Life & Culture; Cultural Anthropology; Sex, Gender, & Culture; Environment & Culture; REEL Culture; Religion & Culture) and linguistics (Language, Culture, & Society).  Check BC’s Course Catalogue for a full description of each course.  We will also be offering several special topics courses spanning the discipline. Topics may include Primatology, Experimental Archaeology, Anthropology of Immigration and Scandinavian Culture.  There are no prerequisites for any of these courses and they fulfill degree requirements.  Different formats (on campus, on-line, hybrid) are offered.  Stop by and visit the Social Science Advisor, Deanne Eschbach, in Room D110, for free professional planning and advising, or contact Anthropology Prof. Tony Tessandori ( to learn more about majoring in anthropology.



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