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Auto-ethnography

Anthropology is not exclusively about the “Other.” It is also a critical engagement with our own socio-cultural lives. Thus, you will now explore what you have learned in the course by applying it to the context of your own lives and preparing an auto-ethnographic paper (two-three pages long).

For this assignment, I want you to think and act like an anthropologist critically engaged with your own cultural experience. You will select a cultural event in your own life (holiday celebration, dinner with family, social function with friends, etc.) and analyze its tacit structure/logic using anthropological analysis. The focus of the assignment, however, will be your own behavior and thinking. While examining others behaviors will be important for this exercise, the real emphasis will be placed on “making anthropological sense” of your own ways of thinking/acting.

The purpose of this assignment is to get you to move beyond your “normal” experience and understand it in an interesting and analytical way. It is meant to make the familiar aspects of your life unfamiliar.

The assignment must be divided into two parts: the first part descriptive and the second part analytical.

For the description, prepare a brief section 1-2 paragraphs detailing what occurred during the event. Remember that your description should establish the context for your own behavior. In other words, set the context up in a way that allows the reader to understand the nature of what you are participating in. For your description, consider the following issues:

Take notes! Be sure to write notes about what you see, who you see, what they’re doing, etc. Don’t rely on your memory alone.
Focus on details that you think will help for your analysis section. Don’t just write a list of details for your description section. Rather, focus on particular details that will be discussed in your analytical section.
What is the context of the event? Where did it take place? How was space used? What was in the space? What were people wearing? Etc.
Think about what you/people are doing (their speech), what you/they are wearing, their body language, the time of day, etc.
For the analytical piece, prepare 5-6 paragraphs explaining your anthropological terms. Remember, this is an auto-ethnographic analysis. You are thus analyzing your own behavior. It is the chance to subject yourself to the analysis. For this section, consider the following issues:

What is the etic representation of your own behavior? How can you, the anthropologist, translate your own actions in such a way that that speaks to a larger story about that event?
What is implicit within your own actions? Think here about the body, performance, language, dress, etc. Tease out the implicit structures (norms) of your conduct. Think about gender and/or race. In what ways do your actions communicate implicit logics about gender/racial/class performance? Are your actions willful or ‘automatic?’ Explain.
Use the concepts you have learned to assess your behavior and relate your actions to the context. How has the context of your behavior shaped it? Is inequality at work? How? What expectations affect your cultural performance?
Critical for this assignment is the connection between what you describe and how you analyze. In other words, your description must be relevant for your analysis: analyze what you describe. Do not focus on aspects of the event that are not relevant for your analysis. You must use course concepts in your analysis. Failure to do so will result in point deductions.

Category: Essays

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