Assignment 1 Writing Exercise: Ethnography

Description about this class :  Do you eat to live, or live to eat?  If the latter, this course may be for you.  As anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss wrote, the plants and animals around us are not just good to eat, they are good to think with and through. Anthropologists study the human condition in all its forms, including how we evolved as a species, how we communicate, how we lived in the historic and prehistoric past, and how we organize our lives in different parts of the world today.  In the realm of food, we thus pay close attention to the ways in which humans hunt, fish, gather and grow food, how we get enough calories to survive in differing environments, how food helps us to constitute families, religious identities and other social networks, and even how food comes to be a source and a symptom of social inequality.  We will address all of these issues, as well as the symbolic uses and meanings of food in sacred and everyday contexts.

Assignment #1:  Writing Exercise:  First Person/Third Person

In reading Allison and Carsten, you saw two subtly different ways of doing ethnography.  You feel that Allison’s style is more “personal” or “relatable,” while Carsten’s is more “scientific.”  Some prefer one style, some prefer the other.  What is it exactly that gives us these impressions about the two essays?  Both authors use both first and third person in their writing, but Carsten limits her use of the first person to the opening few paragraphs, where she frames the research that she draws upon in the essay.  Allison not only toggles back and forth, she also uses her own life (and her son’s) as part of the material on which the essay is based.

Assignment:  Take a social interaction you have had in the last week.  Describe it first in anthropological terms (i.e. both describe and extract some sociological analysis from the material you’ve described) where you are “in” the description.  You may use the first person if you choose.  Now describe and analyze the same interaction while writing yourself “out” of the description.  Use the third person and refer to yourself in a more distanced manner (“a 20-year-old male college student,” for instance).  Each analysis should be ½ to 1 page long.  Think about which style of writing felt more natural.  What differences did each presentational style introduce into the analyses you offered?

The assignment is 1/2-1 page in first person then another 1/2-1 page in third person 

(also include a few lines about the experience of writing in each perspective)

So, in total the assignment will be between 1 and 2 pages

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