Student Websites and the Classroom: Anthropology Online

Over the past year, Eric Lindland has guided his students in creating websites as part of their anthropology coursework. Using Weebly, an easy-to-use platform, these Notre Dame students have shown off their learning online.

In Lindland’s Fall 2009 class, Cultural Difference and Social Change, students who had returned from a significant international experience over the summer came together to process what they had learned. The websites proved central in that process, and also let students show what they had done and what it meant to other students and their families and friends.

Each student designed and built a website devoted to sharing stories, photos, links, and other features of their international experience. Each website also represents each student’s perspective on the privileges and challenges of doing intercultural work, and about the strategies of cooperation and service between Western and non-Western peoples that can improve qualities of life for all involved.

Explore these websites to learn more about the practical, on-the-ground aspects of living and working abroad as a student, and about the larger structural factors that condition the lives of those who share their food, shelter, culture, and hopes with those who choose to become intercultural sojourners.

Brianna Muller’s site Paz, Amor y Justicia covers her work at Familias de Esperanza in Guatemala. Shannon Coyne created Opportunity and Inequality about her time in the village of Putubiw in central Ghana, and drew in comparative experiences in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Lindland’s class Ritual, Sport and Play also created their own websites. Each site “explored some example or facet of these three interrelated genres of human behavior.” The in-depth exploration, which included original research and analysis by the student, ranged from Little League to Party Culture to Soccer and even Yoga.

A great example here is Justin Perez and his site Masculinities at Play: Pickup Basketball at Notre Dame.

In Introduction to Anthropology, the student websites “sought to address a question of anthropological interest that is conducive to both biological and sociocultural inquiry, and present a range of informed responses to that question from the perspective of anthropologists and other theorists of human behavior.”

Topics included Pre-Columbian Transoceanic Travel (not Columbus!), Malaria: Perpetuating the Cycle of Poverty, We Make Faces (on facial expressions cross-culturally), and many more.

Link to student websites for Cultural Difference and Social Change

Link to student websites for Ritual, Sport and Play

Link to student websites for Introduction to Anthropology

Community Based Work – Student Posts 2009-2010

I wanted to provide a handy list of the posts that my Notre Dame students wrote based on their community-based research last fall. Much of this work has built on previous efforts, and you can read about my approach to community-based research (including a fun video!) and find links to published articles and earlier student work in the post Community Based Work and the Importance of Being Integrative.

The Posts

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Getting Help Early to Feeling Welcomed

Finding a Voice: Establishing a Support Network for HIV+ Women

“We Pregame Harder Than You Party”

Obesity Meets Family Medicine

I also want to include Brandon Sparks’ post on his ethnographic/CBR research in Africa. This piece drew on his senior thesis, which he finished in 2009.

Funerals and Food Coping in Rural Lesotho

Sin & Sex: Student Posts on Compulsion Spring 2010

My freshmen students in ANTH 13181 “Compulsion” have now wrapped up their nine posts that range over sin and sex. Here’s the full list of what they wrote. Down below I talk more about the class itself.

Augustine’s Original Sin

Be Afraid, America. Be Very Afraid: The Effect of Negative Media

Stealing Pears: We All Want To, But Why?

The Pitfalls and Pratfalls of Criminals

Psychopathy: Is It In You?

Nature vs. Nurture and Sex: Why the Fight?

Inside the Mind of a Pedophile

Love Is A Process

Attraction

There are all nine. For those of you interested in how to integrate blogging into a class, please see my detailed explanation of how I approach this sort of assignment in last year’s post Culture and Compulsion: Student Posts 2009.

All right, onto ANTH 13181 “Compulsion.” This class was one of Notre Dame’s University Seminars. The university seminars are small classes, capped at 18, for freshmen to gain broad exposure to a certain field through focusing on a specific topic of interest (compulsion, in my case). These classes aim to ground freshmen in university-level writing, critical reading, and discussion. I also had two basic goals for the class, to show how anthropology uses a holistic approach to examine human behavior and to read some great works of literature as anthropologists.

The first half of the class focused on sin. We read Alan Jacobs’ Original Sin: A Cultural History, followed by Saint Augustine’s Confessions and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. During the second half we switched to sexuality. We opened with sections from Edward Shorter’s Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire and Anna Clark’s Desire: A History of European Sexuality. Then we read two novels, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I have attached the Lende Seminar Syllabus 2010 for anyone who is interested.

I had eighteen great students, all freshmen, from a wide variety of backgrounds and intellectual interests. Besides everything they learned, I am proud that we created a space of open discussion together. Believe me, it’s not necessarily easy for 18 and 19 year olds to discuss crime and sex in a classroom setting! But we did it, and did so in an honest and intellectually sophisticated manner. Well, most of the time. Sometimes we just had to laugh at the foibles of human nature, including our own.

I really enjoyed this class, and want to finish up by thanking the students. It was a great class!

Attraction

By Chilinh Nguyen and Greta Hurlbut

“We just had good chemistry,” is a reason often cited as an explanation for why two people find each other attractive. However, it is usually said without realizing that there is truly a science behind attraction. Chemistry can help guide people in finding their mate. For instance, attraction can be analyzed in terms of physical characteristics like smell and body type and how they can indicate potential reproductive success.

Recent research addressed attraction and the smells of various test subjects. In this research, women were exposed to t-shirts worn by various potential mates. They were asked to rate which smell they found most attractive, and the t-shirt each woman rated the highest belonged to the man that had DNA that was most dissimilar to her own (Sexual Attraction 2006).

This attraction to a mate with dissimilar DNA is important, as can be seen when studying the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), a set of genes that determines immunity to pathogens. Children born to couples with the most different MHC had a broader immunity and were healthier (Sexual Attraction 2006). Therefore, it would be ideal to be attracted to the mate with the most dissimilar DNA because this increases the chances of healthier children.

Another feature that determines attractiveness is the waist-to-hip ratio. Studies have generally shown that a low waist-to-hip ratio is considered attractive, with the ideal being about 0.7 (Berngner 2010). The waist-to-hip ratio itself is important because bigger hips are an indicator of fertility and ability to bear children (Carter 2006).

One study was conducted by Dutch psychologist, Karremans, using two identical mannequins that differed only in their waist-to-hip ratios. One had a ratio of 0.7, while the other had a ratio of 0.84. Men who had been blind from birth were asked to touch these mannequins, focusing on the waists and hips. Because they were blind, they were presumably less influenced by factors such as media and societal ideals. They also decided the more attractive mannequin was the one with the waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7. (Berngner 2010)

Other studies have been conducted around the world where men were shown line drawings of women, and again, the ones that were considered most attractive had a lower waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 (Bergner 2010). These findings help prove the theory that the attractiveness of a female is based a lot on her capacity to be a good mate.

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Love Is A Process

By Bill Nichols & Chris Burke

Love is a process. That is the message that stuck with us after reading the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover and watching the film Kinsey. Throughout Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the main character, the aristocratic Connie Chatterley, spends her time in relations with three different men, finally settling with the third after gaining more experience about what love is and how it can be expressed.

In Kinsey, the main character, the scientist Alfred Kinsey, presents the country with a new outlook on sex, encouraging and educating people on different ways of expression. Kinsey’s actions within the movie agree with our focus, that the physical side of a relationship matters in the larger picture of love and that love can undergo dramatic changes over time.

Connie Chatterley and Alfred Kinsey’s stories illustrate how love is a process with many facets. These facets include experiences in the physical and emotional sides of relationships, experiences with past lovers and their effect on the present, cheating, and sex as passion of the moment or steady habit.

Love: From Habit to Passion to Habit

Love making, in any form, can change from the passion of the moment to steady habit over the course of time. As presented by D. H. Lawrence in his afterword to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, at times “the act tends to be mechanical” (338). Lawrence described how we can lose interest when sex becomes just another chore instead of viewing it as a passion-filled act between two lovers. From the thrill and satisfaction of losing your virginity to relying on multiple partners outside of your marriage to sustain interest, love can be seen in different forms overtime.

With love as process, partners will learn over time what their relationship needs in order to thrive. Whether in the passion of the moment through sex, or through other ways, love between two people needs to be an active endeavor, not something that becomes mechanical and dull in which all forms of the expression of love are lost.

This article Does Having More Sex – Like Brazilian Health Officials Recommend – Actually Improve Your Health describes the effects of love as an active endeavor. Within the piece Dr. Ian Kerner, a certified clinical sexologist, proclaims, “Sex also strengthens the immune system, help you have a better relationship with your partner, and make you feel more connected with your partner….” From health to connection, sex does matter.

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Inside the Mind of a Pedophile

By Michael Cochran & Meghan Cole

Most people imagine pedophiles as ugly old men dressed in trench coats, hiding in the bushes, waiting to snatch young children off the street. However, recent television shows, such as To Catch a Predator, have exposed pedophiles as local neighbors, trusted friends, clergy, babysitters, teachers, and even family members.

Conceptions about pedophiles have been changing rapidly, and pedophilia has recently become a topic of increased awareness and concern. Not only do television shows expose pedophiles, but there are new sexual offender disclosure laws, websites that track convicted sexual offenders, and more investigations of pedophilia, especially after the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Yet children still remain vulnerable to sexual offenders regardless of their public façade.

The increasing attention on pedophilia has caused many Americans to question what this disorder entails, its characteristics, and what type of treatment should be sought for abusers. What is pedophilia? Do people choose to be pedophiles or are they born that way? This post will address these questions.

Pedophilia

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) defines pedophilia as recurrent sexually arousing fantasies, impulsive desires, or behaviors involving sexual acts with a child and that occur over a period of at least six months. In most cases, the pedophile is at least sixteen years of age and at least five years older than the child. Those who suffer from pedophilia have a compulsion to abuse young children.

Categorizing Pedophiles

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Proceedings from ASCS 09 Conference online

The Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science, held in Sydney last year, are now online for anyone to access. Thanks to the editors, Wayne Christensen, Elizabeth Schier, and John Sutton, for pulling the whole collection together!

I didn’t get to stay for the whole conference because I was running around doing preparation things for the Australian Anthropological Society Conference that we held in December. Nevertheless, I saw some really good papers, and some of the others are especially interesting for those of us interested in neuroanthropology. Please peruse the whole list, but for a discussion of cultural variation in cognition, of special interest might be: Nian Liu’s Tuesday, Threesday, Foursday: Chinese names for the days of the week facilitate Chinese children’s temporal reasoning, Zhengdao Ye’s Eating and drinking in Mandarin and Shanghainese: A lexical-conceptual analysis, Collaborative remembering: When can remembering with others be beneficial? by Celia B. Harris, Paul G. Keil, John Sutton and Amanda J. Barnier, and Expanding expertise: Investigating a musician’s experience of music performance by Andrew Geeves, Doris McIlwain, and John Sutton.

I also like the look of Evaluation of a model of expert decision making in air traffic control, by Stefan Lehmann and colleagues, but I haven’t had the time to really read it (and won’t get time for a few days). Ben Jeffares’ paper was excellent in presentation, but I haven’t yet checked out the written version yet: The evolution of technical competence: strategic and economic thinking.

My paper from the conference, Cultural variation in elite athletes: Does elite cognitive-perceptual skill always converge?, is available as a pdf. I have to admit, it’s a shallower paper than I usually like to present, but I had to cover a LOT of turf, and it’s primarily a proposal for a research program, reviewing the neurological and behavioural places where I expect we might find the clearest evidence of cultural difference in neural dynamics. I’ll take the liberty of reposting the abstract:

Anthropologists have not participated extensively in the cognitive science synthesis for a host of reasons, including internal conflicts in the discipline and profound reservations about the ways that cultural differences have been modeled in psychology, neuroscience, and other contributors to cognitive science. This paper proposes a skills-based model for culture that overcomes some of the problems inherent in the treatment of culture as shared information. Athletes offer excellent cases studies for how skill acquisition, like enculturation, affects the human nervous system. In addition, cultural differences in playing styles of the same sport, such as distinctive ways of playing rugby, demonstrate how varying solution strategies to similar athletic problems produce distinctive skill profiles.

I’d love to hear any responses to the piece. I don’t usually present in cognitive science, as I’m more comfortable in my home discipline of anthropology, working from a pretty solid base of anthropology into the border of brain-culture research, so I’d be interested to learn what scholars situated more confidently in cognitive science think of the piece.