Spring 2024 - SA 101 D900

Introduction to Anthropology (A) (4)

Class Number: 1953

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Mon, 2:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Bascom Guffin
    Office Hours: Tuesday 2:30 – 3:30 pm



Anthropology asks fundamental questions about how people live and interact in different contexts. Engages with contemporary social life around the world, including the relations among people, ideas, and things. Provides analytical tools to help understand the role of culture and society in our lives. Breadth-Social Sciences.


Anthropology is often considered a collection of curious facts, telling about the peculiar appearance of exotic people and describing their strange customs and beliefs. It is looked upon as an entertaining diversion, apparently without any bearing upon the conduct of life of civilized communities. This opinion is mistaken. More than that, I hope to demonstrate that a clear understanding of the principles of anthropology illuminates the social processes of our own times and may show, if we are ready to listen to its teachings, what to do and what to avoid.
                                                                                                                                                                                             — Franz Boas, Anthropology and Modern Life, 1928
As the quote above points out, anthropology is often stereotyped as the study of “primitive”, “exotic” cultures “over there.” And while a great deal of anthropology does focus on the lives of non-Eurowestern peoples, it has from the start been comparative, considering the entirety of humanity as its subject. Anthropologists study almost all aspects of our complex species and the ways we live and interact, from the symbolic realm of how we communicate with each other; to the ways we form our worldviews; to political, economic, and ideological relationships that form global power structures. What anthropology comes down to, then, is not a bunch of facts to memorize and then promptly forget at the end of a class, but rather a way—really, multiple ways—of examining and thinking about the world and the human condition, and particularly about human diversity and sameness. It provides a set of analytical tools to help understand the role of culture and society in our lives.

Our collective project in this course, then, is to begin to apply some of the observational and analytical tools of anthropology to a small sampling of peoples and sociocultural phenomena around the globe and to our own immediate worlds. As we do so, we will think critically about these approaches and the phenomena they seek to describe and analyze, and we will consider the ongoing relevance of anthropology to our own lives and the world around us.

Specifically, we will use what we learn during the semester to think about the existential crisis posed by human-created global heating (aka “global warming” and “climate change”). In doing so, we will see that we can apply the diversity of anthropological knowledges to make real contributions to understanding what global heating means for us as humans and how we might work to mitigate its effects


As a successful student in this course you will become able to:

1. Think anthropologically by:
   a. understanding and appreciating how human diversity is a product of sociocultural processes
   b. relating to people different from ourselves based on their own experiences, logics, and the like
   c. applying anthropological knowledge(s) (concepts and theories) to examine/reflect on your own life experiences and issues facing the larger human community

2. Describe some of the diversity of topics and issues that the field of anthropology addresses, and why an anthropological perspective is important to them
3. Systematically gather and analyze information from the world using primary ethnographic research methods and synthesize it using theory to address a substantive issue
4. Communicate clearly and persuasively, through writing, interpersonal dialogue, and other means of expression
5. Apply anthropological skills, understanding, and knowledge outside the classroom setting
6. Act as an empowered learner, taking control of your own learning process, both during your university career and as you move out into the world


  • Class Participation and Attendance 15%
  • Weekly Reading Responses 15%
  • Project Proposal + Ethics Tutorial 5%
  • Gathering Data: Participant Observation and Conversation Write-up 20%
  • Community Action Project (requires a US $15 fee) 10%
  • Final Project (in a communicative medium of your choice) 35%


Grades in this class will be based on a percentage scale. Reading responses will not be accepted after 12 noon the Sunday before lecture; late submissions for other assignments will result in a grade reduction of 5 percentage points per day, unless you present documentation for a medical reason or other significant emergency. With the exception of reading responses, all assignments in this course, graded and non-graded, must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned.

: 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.



Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology. 2017. Ed. Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de Gonzalez, and Thomas McIlwraith. Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Association.

• Access the book (ebook or single PDF chapters) at http://perspectives.americananthro.org
• Listed in the Schedule of Topics and Readings as Perspectives + “Chapter title”

All other readings are available through the SFU Library, Canvas, or online as noted.


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