New anthropology fieldwork course to be offered next fall

A new anthropology course, Anthropology 161: Fieldwork Lab, will be offered next fall. The course, which was proposed by Senior Lecturer in Anthropology Cathy Stanton at the anthropology department faculty meeting on March 11, will teach traditional anthropological fieldwork methods to students.

According to Stanton, the new course, which she will teach, will be offered on Wednesday afternoons. It will be an upper-level anthropology course, though it will be open to all grade levels, according to Stanton.

“We think it’s appropriate for students at all levels, as long as they realize that it [involves] a substantial component of doing work out in the field,” Stanton said. “Even a [first-year] could take it.”

Professor of Anthropology Deborah Pacini Hernandez noted that Tufts has offered a wide range of fieldwork classes in past years, including courses taught by Stanton and herself. Accordingly, Pacini Hernandez explained that the anthropology department is highly equipped to offer Fieldwork Lab in the fall.

“Building on the department’s extensive experience teaching Public Anthropology courses, Professor Stanton’s Fall 2015 course, Fieldwork Lab, is now even more strongly positioned to meet the challenges of providing students with the right balance of ethnographic theory, historical and cultural context, and hands on practice, all within the time constraints of a 13-week semester,” Pacini Hernandez told the Daily in an email.

As a course within the Department of Anthropology, Anthropology 161 is the third iteration of a series of fieldwork courses offered over the past two years, Stanton explained.

“We’ve been essentially working the bugs out of it, trying to think ‘How can we do this, what’s the appropriate level, what are the issues?’” she said. “Because you always face complications when you’re trying to get off the hill and do something in the real world.”

Ultimately, Stanton explained that the course will involve fieldwork with the newly founded Boston Public Market in the Market District of Boston. The market is open year-round and offers a wide variety of foodstuffs to customers, including meat, grains, fish, vegetables and baked goods.

“We’ll be interviewing their first cohort of vendors, trying to get a sense of where they locate themselves within the food movement,” Stanton said.

In contrast to previous versions of the course, Stanton explained that next fall’s course will pose a general research question to the students, which the students will then analyze and study over the course of the semester as they create individual projects.

“The general inquiry in this case is, ‘How is this first cohort of vendors locating themselves within the politics of food at the moment?’ and within that [inquiry] students will be interviewing specific vendors,” Stanton said. “Out of that they’ll get to pull a question that’s interesting to them and then make a final product out of that.”

In addition to individual student research projects, Stanton explained that the class as a whole will also produce a collaborative project based on the fieldwork conducted at the Boston Public Market.

Stanton added that the interviewing component of the class is key to this type of research. Accordingly, she hopes to arrange interviews with the vendors during the first three weeks of the class in order to get students’ research started off well.

Although Fieldwork Lab is not currently a required course for the anthropology major, Stanton indicated that there are ongoing faculty discussions surrounding whether it should become one.

“It’s a [class] that could integrate really well into our major,” she said.