I’ve been contributing too little to Neuroanthropology of late. To be honest, I’m exhausted. I’m doing a new class on human evolution and diversity for the anthropology department here at Macquarie University, and it’s kicking my posterior. I have all the usual time devouring requirements of a new class, with the added fun of 130 students, my own high expectations, and my desire to put biocultural and biological anthropology on a bit more solid footing here. I was never trained to do this — although I really enjoyed human evolution, archaeology, and biological anthropology as an undergraduate — but I really felt like it needed to be done, even if I’m not the ideal person to do it.
As recently as 2005 and 2006, a very noisy law professor here at Macquarie, Dr. Andrew Fraser, was advocating a return to the ‘White Australia’ immigration policy (see Wikipedia on him here). As Wikipedia explains (I don’t want to do the legwork on this one to give it a deeper reading): ‘In July, 2005, he received national attention in Australia by opposing non-European immigration, saying that Australia should withdraw from refugee conventions to avoid becoming “a colony of the Third World” and that African immigration increased crime rates.’ His explanation was a hodge-podge of ‘scientific racism’, discredited eugenic theory, and over-heated rhetoric. The timing was ironic; when I was trying to negotiate the terms of my contract, Macquarie was sealing off its campus because of the furor.
I felt that anthropologists needed to respond to Fraser’s ideas (as well as a lot of other things) with a serious biological anthropology unit on evolution and diversity in humanity. But our department has, of late, been offering almost entirely sociocultural anthropology, as many European and Australian departments do. And that’s how I got to offer a unit, ‘Human Evolution and Diversity,’ for Macquarie first-year students. It’s been going well, but it’s draining me.
Since Macquarie is going to force us all to put our unit outlines up online, I thought I should beat them to the punch and share it with our readers. It’s not ideal, by any stretch: unfortunately, my hands are tied in terms of how much I can ask students to read, and all the textbooks I looked into were ridiculously expensive in Australia. For some reasons, books here seem to be about twice the price that they are in the US, where textbooks are already expensive. I’d love to find a cost-effective solution to giving the students a more serious reader and will try to do that for next year.
In the meantime, I’ll share the unit outline in the spirit of collegiality. I sure benefited from the ones I was able to find online. The cover is first, then the body of the outline (so you don’t have to have the cover if you don’t want it — the graphics file is pretty large). The whole thing is formatted for A4 paper, so you may have to play with it if you want to take a look. You’ve been warned: the whole outline is over thirty pages as we are required to include lecture summaries for every lecture, extensive discussions of all our policies, and supplementary readings (probably the most valuable part of the whole mess).
Click to download: