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Literature Research Essay
This written assignment requires students to formulate a specific topic according to their own interests and preferences that engages with the overall anthropological focus of the course. Selecting their personal topic – i.e. on changing marriage patterns in a given community, on same-sex marriage in a given setting, or on ideas about femininity in a given society –, students will then produce a 1500 to 1800 word essay, using at least five (5) academic (mainly anthropological) sources, a maximum two (2) of which can be taken from the course’s required reading texts. APA style will be used for references and bibliography (a style guide is provided for download from the course Moodle site).
This assignment requires you to write a short essay that uses a combination of course resources and academic resources that you will research for yourself. The overall goal is for you to challenge common sense ideas around a given topic relevant to the course and to demonstrate why it is necessary to use a critical anthropological perspective in analyzing this particular phenomenon.
As a next step, you will need to research the available literature on that topic and ascertain that you have enough (and not too much) material to write about that topic and, in so doing, challenge commonsensical notions on that topic by making a valid anthropologically minded argument. What is important here is to demonstrate the difference between popular perceptions of a subject and the more complex and specific reality that anthropological analysis provides.
Anthropology is concerned with correcting misconceptions about culture by using critical and historical perspectives on how societies develop and what that means for people living in them. Your Literature Research Essay allows you to practice your critical anthropological lens by focusing in on one of the key topics of the course, investigating how it presents itself in a social context of your choosing – e.g. in Canadian Inuit society, in the LGBTQ community in Rio de Janeiro, in rural Southern Nigeria, among low-income inhabitants of Paris, in colonial Samoa, etc. At the same time, it invites you to demonstrate how the knowledge conveyed in the course challenges commonly held and often ‘naturalizing’ ideas about sex, gender, the body, sexuality, kinship, or marriage. In order to reach the best possible result in your analysis, try to make your focus as specific as you possibly can – i.e. define your focus as narrowly as your literature will allow.
You will have to use at least 5 different academic sources (book chapters, journal articles, books), most of which should have an anthropological focus. At least 3 of these sources should come from your own independent literature research while the remaining 2 can consist of required readings assigned in class. Films watched in class, e.g., may be used as additional sources. If you intend to use lecture material to support your argument, make sure you actually access the literature referenced in the lecture slides (check the presenter comments on the respective slides); the PDF slides themselves do not count as a viable literature source for your bibliography.