Fall 2022 - SA 201W D100

Anthropology and Contemporary Life (A) (4)

Class Number: 3441

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    RCB 5118, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Natasha Ferenczi
    Office: AQ 5069
    Office Hours: Friday 12:30-2:15pm or by appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    Recommended: SA 101.



An introduction to the anthropological perspective as applied to the organization of everyday life in contemporary settings. Introduces positivist, interpretive, and critical interpretive approaches to the analysis of social actions, identities, and values as enacted in space and time. Writing.


Contemporary life is characterized by a dizzying pace of change and new normals. Cultural practices in the twenty-first century are navigated amidst political, economic, environmental, and climate instabilities, the global Covid-19 pandemic, opioid crisis, homelessness, new forms of sociality and communication, cancel culture, censorship, colonialism, class and gender discrimination, systemic ethnic and racial discrimination and expanding global-local interactions. How are people interacting with and/or challenging these forces as they plan for their futures? Anthropology is a unique discipline as the focus is on the in-depth study of people and cultures through extended field research and participation in everyday life, aiming to appreciate the world through their eyes. The dislocations, challenges, and opportunities for people and communities emerging in these changing times has generated new social contexts for anthropologists to analyze and expand understanding around. How can we ethically create representations of people’s worlds amid unequal power relations and ensure that our own common-sense understandings do not further perpetuate existing inequalities? This question has directed anthropology in creative and collaborative directions that have included co-authorship, co-imagining characterizing relationships between anthropologists and their research participants, explorations in genre use by combining textual approaches with genres such as ethnographic film, photography, graphics, cartoons, poetry, drawing, and performance, and also in terms of a broadened sense of “the field” in fieldwork (virtual, multi-sited ethnography, ethnography at home, or following particular themes). The ability to critically reflect upon and re-imagine the discipline, maintains this adaptability that works to strengthen the relevance and ethical applications of anthropological knowledge and furthers understandings of power relations and social agency, thus extending the capacity for social advocacy. As a class, we will review shifts in theoretical and methodological approaches in anthropology over time and discuss and analyze various aspects of contemporary life as we consider the ways anthropology can further our understanding of them, including, geographies of addiction, citizenship, the public health and legal apparatus, re-demarcations of public and private space, biopolitics, and relationships between social and physical environments.


❖ To be able to identify and articulate what is distinctive about critical interpretive anthropological approaches and the kinds of insights such approaches can generate to further our understanding of social issues, including dialectics between individual agency and social structure. (Final Essay)
❖ To connect personal experience to those of others being read about or watched and cultivate reflexive awareness of one’s own personal beliefs. Recognizing the significance of critical reflexivity and identifying knowledge politics implicit in “common-sense” understandings and everyday concepts familiar to you, demonstrating the capacity for reflexive thinking and analytic forbearance. (Auto-ethnography, Exam, Final Essay, Participation).
❖ To develop critical thinking and analytical skills and creative academic writing skills, by formulating original research questions and using selected theoretical concepts to critically engage with current events and/or a contemporary social phenomenon through original on-line and library research. To interpret and analyze the context at hand, showing the role anthropological analysis can play in understanding it. (Final Essay, Critical Annotation).


  • Participation 15%
  • Critical Annotation 15%
  • Midterm 20%
  • Autoethnography 20%
  • Final Essay 30%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Honesty and Student Conduct Policies: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T20.01), and academic honesty and student conduct procedures (S10‐S10.05). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style. It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website.

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.

The Sociology and Anthropology Student Union, SASU, is a governing body of students who are engaged with the department and want to build the SA community. Get involved!  Follow Facebook and Instagram pages or visit our website.



Garcia, A. (2010). The Pastoral Clinic: Addiction and Dispossession along the Rio Grande. University of California Press.

Other readings will be posted on Canvas


Kohn, E. (2013). How Forests Think Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human, University of California Press.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html