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Anthropological Sciences 401

ANSC 401: Anthropological Theory

Prerequisite:  ANSC 201, ANSC 301 and ANSC 302, or permission of instructor

Credit Hours: (3)

The study of anthropological theories which provide explanations for human biocultural evolution and variation. Both classical and current theories in the Anthropological Sciences relating to behavior and biological evolution are examined and their relationships explored.

Note(s): Students cannot receive credit for ANSC 401 if they have received credit for ANTH 441 or ANTH 322.

Detailed Description of Content of Course:

This course addresses the following topics:

1. Early Anthropological Theory;
2.  Historical Particularist, Functional Theory;
3.  Neo-Evolutionist Theory;
4.  Contemporary Cultural Anthropology Theory;
5.  Processual Archaeology; Middle-Range Theory;
6.  Post-Processual Archaeology;
7.  Behavioral Archaeology and Agency Theory;
8.  Natural Selection and Evolution;
9.  Other Mechanisms of Evolution;
10. Punctuated Equilibrium;
11. Life History Theory.


Detailed Description of Conduct of the Course:

The course material is presented in lecture and seminar discussion format.  Student will be given reading assignments which cover original as well as critical summaries of theoretical approaches in the Anthropological Sciences (including, for example, Lewis Binford’s Working at Archaeology, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Ernst Mayr’s What Evolution Is,  Jon McGee’sAnthropological Theory: An Introductory History, and Robert Preucel’s Processual and Postprocessual Archaeologies).  There will be frequent writing assignments on these readings which form the basis of in-class discussions.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

The goals of this class will be to give advanced majors in Anthropological Science a background in both classical and current anthropological theory. Emphasis will be strongly placed on those theoretical approaches that lend themselves to rigorous scientific investigation and evaluation. A specific focus will be on the connections and interactions between theoretical approaches across disciplines and sub-disciplines (biological anthropology, archaeology, evolutionary ecology, etc.). Students will gain an understanding of how theory directs and forms the basis for explanations of human biology, behavior, and evolution.  


Assessment Measures

Student grades will be based on writing assignments, in-class exams, and participation in class discussions of the readings. Writing assignments may include weekly reading summaries and evaluations as well as longer papers exploring a particular area of anthropological theory. Because of the importance of the discussion portion of the class, attendance and participation will be included in assessment for ANSC 401.


Other Course Information

There is an attendance requirement for this class.


Review and Approval
December, 2009