Summer 2024 - SA 201W D100

Anthropology and Contemporary Life (A) (4)

Class Number: 2410

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 6 – Aug 2, 2024: Wed, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Elliot Montpellier
    Office: TBA
    Office Hours: Monday 1-2pm, 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.


While contemporary society is often seen as speeding up, fracturing, a series of disruptions, or as nearing the brink of climate catastrophe, there remains extensive space to frame the present – fraught as it is with environmental, social, political economic, and cultural dislocations – in terms of continuities and in conversation with social realities and cultural norms that have come before. In this sense, this course frames the anthropological study of the present in relation to the theoretical and methodological developments of anthropology in response to the changes around the field. The class will study the developments in anthropological theory and how these intersect with shifting methodological approaches including, for example, debates around media and digital anthropology, the turning of the anthropological gaze onto anthropologists’ own societies, planetary anthropology or anthropology for the Anthropocene, ‘patchwork’ ethnography, and various forms of experimental ethnography.

In the face of the so-called newness of contemporary life, anthropological approaches and theories, with their emphasis on in-depth and extensive research conducted by participating in the everyday lives of people and communities research at field sites across the world, may at first appear out-of-synch with the fast pace of today’s society. However, the field’s attunement to lived experiences, preoccupation with interpretive approaches to complex social questions, and openness to interdisciplinary thinking has helped anthropology remain, in its own way, resilient and generative of new understandings of broader changes in, for example, what constitutes the ethnographic field, the ethics of digital research, the political stakes of scholarship, and even in theorizing ‘culture,’ the central concept of the discipline itself.


  • Explain key anthropological theories, how they emerge in response to historical developments of the field, and how they equip anthropologists to study contemporary lives and societies
  • Recognize anthropological concepts and ways of understanding the everyday across different scales of social organization both in ethnographic case studies and in current events
  • Apply an ethnographic sensibility in thinking through contemporary social issues by putting anthropological methods and thinking into practice
  • Describe and analyze critical anthropological theories and research methods used by anthropologists and engage these methods in critically considering one’s own society and experiences
  • Understand the impact of history, power, colonialism, and globalization on culture and society to critically consider continuities and ruptures in contemporary societies and lived experiences
  • Develop sophisticated and well-organized arguments, orally and in writing, using critical anthropological thinking



  • Class participation and attendance 15%
  • Weekly Assignments (total of 5) 25%
  • Mid-term Exam 10%
  • Digital ethnography assignment 20%
  • Final research paper 30%


Details regarding weekly assignments will be outlined in the first week of class


Attendance and participation in all assignments is required. Please complete all readings prior to coming to lectures, participating in exercises, and submitting assignments.

Please submit assignments on time or write to me to request an extension in the case of illness or emergency. Late assignments for which no extension was granted will be accepted up to five calendar days past the due date with a penalty of 5% per day.

Please come to class prepared to engage in critical thinking, to consider where scholars are coming from in their writing, and to respect differences in intellectual opinions among your peers.

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.



Readings will be available through the SFU Libraries and/or in open access publications. All materials will be posted or linked to on the class Canvas page.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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.