Cultural Anthropology Week 15: The Final Countdown

May 30th, 2015

The last lecture wraps the course material back around from globalization and applied anthropology back to the fundamentals of anthropological research. Like a good conclusion, the last lecture should not have any startling new materials, so I created it out of past slides. I took the most eye-catching and discussion-generating photos and overlaid the main points of each lecture. The result was a fairly dynamic trip down memory lane, if I do say so myself.

The process involved looking at all of the previous lectures. Like an old yearbook photo, the first lecture looks a bit cringeworthy to me now. Back then, I was slavishly following the textbook, cramming in ten slides just on the definition of culture. For the final lecture, culture was just ‘shared and learned beliefs and behaviors.’ I definitely have to redo the first lecture for the future, even though it got good comments from the students. I should at least make its style fall in line with the groove I got into by the fifth week. The first lecture did not even start with a fullscreen attention-getting image! It was just black text on a white background.

Class went well without any major concerns or regrets, though I ran into some technical difficulties at the start. In the excitement of going to the museum last week, I left my lecture thumb drive in class. I loaded up today’s lecture on another drive at home, but the classroom computer would not read it. Luckily, I had the slides with everything but the presenter’s notes uploaded on Blackboard! I signed in and downloaded that version to use. One shudders at what would have happened if I had kept uploading text-less slides to Blackboard as I did at the beginning of the semester.

I had made a final exam study guide to hand to the students. Learning from last time, I did not elaborate too much on it after passing it out. I then gave the final lecture, which mostly matched the study guide. During one of the breaks in the lecture, I was checking Facebook on my phone outside when I saw someone post a link talking about takanakuy, or ritualized Andean fist fighting. Held on Christmas, the event is a festival where people with grudges engaged in refereed combat to settle their differences and start anew for the next year. (Yes, the article on Facebook used Festivus as a reference point). I immediately went to the computer to find a good video and I showed it impromptu to my students after the break! Besides really rousing the class, it also had a lot of tie-ins to talking about rituals, social control, and the function of alcohol (which is the final glue used to mend the fences).

After lecture, I had the last team present their poster, since it was not ready last week. There was still the issue of poster grading. In my poster instructions, I had stated that there would be a peer component in which the team members would rate each other’s performance. Sensing some discord in at least two of the groups, I was not sure if that was the best idea anymore. Like past conundrums, I put it to the students: should they grade each other or not? The class was overwhelmingly against individual poster grades, possibly sensing some type of prisoner’s dilemma shenanigans. With that settled, I told them each team would get a shared grade based on the poster and everyone seemed pleased.

With that, it was time for the last end-of-class question. It was a simple “Which was your favorite lecture, and why?” Then, the last class was done. See you after… the final!


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