"The popular concept of tolerance in America is based upon its image as a melting pot, where everyone blends together to form an indistinguishable mixture. The real measure of tolerance is how well we deal with difference."

-Richland and Deer, 2004


  • Course: Anthropology through Expressive Culture (Fall 2014)
  • Classroom: Chapman Hall 201
  • Days/Hours: 11-12:15 pm Tues/Thurs
  • Instructor: Jean Dennison
  • Office: Alumni 409E
  • Email: jeand@email.unc.edu
  • Office Hours: 10 -10:50 Tues/Thurs

The purpose of this class is to investigate expressive culture (both written and visual) whose primary aim is to challenge/provide a fresh perspective on cultural assumptions. In particular, the goal of the class is to understand where stereotypes come from and what purpose they serve, the role of binaries in forming these stereotypes, and the possibilities for a Third Space. Rather than presenting a singular truth, the class will seek to engage lived experience and compel students to think critically about the world around them. By contextualizing expressive culture within wider anthropological debates, the class will encourage students to explore the various factors shaping their world today, including cultural representation, science and technology, disability, race, settler colonialism, gender, politics, and consumption.  

Rather than seeing this engagement of lived experience as narrowly limited to the ethnographic/documentary genres, this class will consider a wide range of examples, including novels, science fiction, Hollywood, world, and experimental works. Students will be asked to critically assess the claims of writers and film–makers and work toward a better understanding of how the real in social life can be understood and represented. In addition to the weekly readings, students will be required to post weekly on the course's sakai page, take two exams, and create their own visual or written response to current cultural assumptions.


Upon completion of this course, students should be able to: 1) critically explore issues of cultural anthropological concerns, including disability, science and technology, modernity, race, settler colonialism, gender, poverty, and politics; 2) use their critical reading/viewing skills to investigate lived experience through expressive culture; 3) use strategies learned in class to create their own expressive culture.


The following books can be purchased at University bookstores or online.


Course Requirements

Participation (200 points)

Participation in the recitation sections is a major component of this class. If you do not attend recitation or cannot talk articulately about class lectures, film screenings, and the assigned reading, your participation grade will suffer. The highest grade you can receive without articulate participation in your section is a C. Recitation sections will begin the second week of the semester, with discussions focused around the previous week's class material. No personal technology (including laptops) will be allowed in the recitation sections. For excused absences, the TA must be notified ahead of time. You are only allowed one unexcused absence before your participation grade will suffer.

The participation grade will be broken into two parts and graded based on your performance during the two halves of the semester. For each unexcused absence (over the one allowed for the semester) students will be deducted 20 points. For each day students are there, but do not talk in class they will be deducted 10 points. Please check your midterm and final grades on Sakai, consulting your TA asap if you notice a discrepancy.


Question Posting (200 points)

For each week, starting in the second week, students are required to write two short answer/discussion questions on the in-class lecture, expressive culture, and reading assignments due that week. In 3-5 sentences students should show engagement with the course content, providing a context for the question. All questions must be posted to the appropriate place (Assignments / Questions Posting) on the course's sakai page by Saturday at 11:59pm. These questions will not, under any circumstances, be accepted late and are intended to test students on their ability to meet a deadline. Extra credit assignments, however, will be available throughout the semester.

The first question of each posting should connect one of the key terms from that week's lecture to at least two pieces of expressive culture from that week. For the weeks dedicated to student presentations at the end of the semester, tie two student projects to any lecture from the semester.

The second question should focus on connecting the reading from the week to one of the key terms from any lecture thus far. This question should only be answerable to someone who has completed the reading in order to seek examples from the text to illustrate a key term.

You do not need to answer the questions. The goal of these questions is to show your engagement with the expressive culture and key terms of the week, which will be outlined, defined and discussed during the lecture. Some weeks your questions will be graded for completion (0 or 10 points per question) and other weeks they will be graded more rigorously. These weeks' questions will each be graded on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being 'exceptional', 8 being 'adequate', and 6 being 'needs improvement.' Comments and grades will be posted on Sakai.


Critical Expression Project (200 points)

Utilizing some of the strategies presented within the readings/films from class, students will create a short critical expression response. The goal of this assignment is to create your own expressive culture that shows the power dynamics hidden by a particular stereotype. Students should engage with at least one of the themes discussed during the semester, including disability, science, race, consumption, simplicity, savagery, gender, or othering. To succeed in this project you will need to not just represent stereotypes, but show what kinds of problems they create and/or how people seek to create a third space. All projects should discuss how this stereotype is connected to larger structural forces.

Students are strongly encouraged, but not required, to work in groups of up to four students. Time in discussion sections will be devoted to forming groups, but you are also allowed to work with students from other sections. A discussion board will also be made available through the course's sakai page for posting your project ideas and seeking group members. If you work with a group you must upload this form to evaluate your fellow group members as part of your final project.

Format Requirements

Students should choose the format of their response based on their previous experience and what they are trying to communicate. Whether working alone or in a group, written expressive culture, including ethnography, fiction, poetry, and spoken word, should be between 5-7 double spaced pages long; video projects should be 2-5 minutes long; audio composition should be between 4-5 minutes long; a political cartoon should be at least 5 scenes; and photography projects should contain at least 10 sequenced images/combined images. All material must be created specifically by your group members during the semester and be used only for this class.

Each project must include at least three in-person interviews, using the interview strategies discussed in class. Some part of the content of the interviews must be directly incorporated into the project. All interviews require gaining written informed consent and projects must follow the ethical code laid out by the American Anthropological Association. Please use the template to create your informed consent. The full informed consent sheet and 3 signature pages must be scanned and uploaded along with the final project.

GRC Meeting

In this research-exposure course, you will be working with a Graduate Research Consultant, who will assist you in the research project. The GRC Program is sponsored by the Office for Undergraduate Research, and you may be able to use this research-exposure course to meet a requirement of the Carolina Research Scholars Program. I encourage you to visit the OUR website to learn about how you might engage in research, scholarship and creative performance while you are at Carolina.

Each group member is required to spend 30 minutes talking with the GRC as they are developing their project idea. Each student will automatically lose 30 points on the project if they do not meet with the GRC. Please sign up to meet with the GRC on the course's sakai wiki page by 10/2 and if you need to change the date after that time, email the GRC. The GRC Program is sponsored by the Office for Undergraduate Research. I encourage you to visit this web site to see other ways that you might engage in research, scholarship and creative performance while you are at Carolina.

Class Presentations

By 10/2 students are also required to sign-up on the course's sakai wiki page to present their expressive culture project or 25 points will be deducted from their project. Class presentations will take place 11/11 through 12/2. Presentations will be limited to 5 minutes and will involve reading a section of or displaying your visual work for the entire class. Students are required to post these projects on the course's sakai page as a .ppt, .tif, .jpg, .pdf, .mov, or .mp3 file before their class presentation, along with a digital copy of your interview informed consent sheets, and a brief document describing how work was divided among group members. Files larger than 200MB will need to be compressed or broken into multiple parts. Unless students get permission through the IRB they are not allowed to show these projects publicly, and they can only be placed on the internet on password protected sites, such as sakai. Each group should bring any technology necessary, including their own computer (and VGA adapter for Macs) to ensure quick display.


The grade for this project will be divided into the following areas: meeting the format requirements (50 points), the content's critical engagement (50 points), its expressive qualities (50 points), meeting with the GRC (30 points), and peer evaluation (20 points). [Students working alone will receive full credit on the peer evaluation and need not upload the form. Students in groups failing to upload the form will be penalized the full 20 points].


Around the UNC campus there are several places to access equipment. The Beasley Multimedia Resource Center and The Media Resources Center both have still and video cameras available as well as computers with video and web page design software. You are strongly encouraged to reserve the equipment from the MRC well ahead of time, but the Beasley center is on a first come first serve basis, so get there early. While the Beasley center is only open to students enrolled in classes registered with the center, such as ours, the Media Resource Center is open to all students, faculty and staff. During the semester the Beasley center will provide various training sessions including in Final Cut Pro for video editing and various software for web page design. The MRC also offers online tutorials and one-on-one media lab classes in a wide range of visual media programs to fit your schedule. You are strongly encouraged to take advantage of these training opportunities. The Beasley center also has trained staff on hand during operating hours to answer additional questions.

Of course, students are also welcome to edit/design their projects at home with their own or free editing software.

Technology problems are very common, so please do not wait until the last minute to attempt this assignment. Problems with technology will not be accepted as an excuse for late projects. Various resources related to video production, including a suggested timeline and technique guide, are under resources on Sakai.


Midterm (200 points)

Based on the lectures, films, and readings from the first half of the semester, students will complete a short-answer in-class exam.  Prior to the exam, students will be given a list of possible questions, from which five will be selected for the exam.  Each question will be worth 40 points and should be answered in 250 words (8-10 sentences).  One source for these questions will be students' postings. Students must bring their own blank Blue Book to the exam.


Final (200 points)

Based on the lectures, films, and readings from the second half of the semester, students will complete a short-answer in-class final exam.  Prior to the exam, students will be given a list of possible questions, from which five will be selected for the exam.  Each question will be worth 40 points and should be answered in 250 words (8-10 sentences). One source for these questions will be students' postings. Students must bring their own blank Blue Book to the exam.



  • 930-1000 (points)          A
  • 900-929                       A-
  • 870-899                       B+
  • 830-869                       B
  • 800-829                       B-
  • 770-799                       C+
  • 730-760                       C
  • 700-729                       C-
  • 670-699                       D+
  • 600-669                       D
  • 599 and below              F


Extra Credit Events

Around the University there are various expressive culture events that can be attended for extra credit. Approved events will added to the course's sakai assignments page at least one week before they occur. You can petition via email to have additional events added. Only those events that can easily be related to class lectures will be added as potential extra credit options. To receive extra credit, students are required to attend the event and write a one-page three paragraph essay. The first paragraph should describe the event, the second connect the event to a key term from class, and the third should connect the event to an expressive culture piece from class. Students can earn up to 15 points for each event listed on the sakai page. The extra credit reports are due on the appropriate sakai assignment page prior to the final exam.


Honor Code

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has had a student-administered honor system and judicial system for over 100 years. The system is the responsibility of students and is regulated and governed by them, but faculty share the responsibility. If you have questions about your responsibility under the honor code, please bring them to your instructor or consult with the office of the Dean of Students or the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance at:http://honor.unc.edu. This document, adopted by the Chancellor, the Faculty Council, and the Student Congress, contains all policies and procedures pertaining to the student honor system. Your full participation and observance of the honor code is expected.

Plagiarism is the deliberate or reckless representation of another's words, thoughts, images or ideas as one's own without attribution in connection with submission of academic work, whether graded or otherwise. Students seeking more information are encouraged to take the online plagiarism tutorial. Plagiarism will not be tolerated in this class and will result in a failing grade for the class and suspension for one academic semester. Materials for class assignments should be produced specifically for this class unless prior approval from the professor is granted.


Students requesting classroom accommodation must first register with Accessibility Services, Division of Student Affairs. They will provide documentation to the student who must then provide this documentation to me when requesting accommodation.

Personal Technology

No personal technology (including laptops) will be allowed in the recitation sections. During lecture, personal technology is allowed, so long as it is being used to take notes. The TAs will be walking around the room and will revoke everyone's privilege if they find people regularly misusing it.

Week 1 - Introduction to Expressive Cultures

  • 8/19 – Intro to class; View in class: The Danger of a Single Story (19).
  • 8/21 – Read for class: The Speed of Dark (SD) pages 1-68; View in class: Resolved (90) 65-DVD11397.

Week 2 - Ability/Disability

  • 8/25 – Discussion sections begin
  • 8/26 Read for class: SD 69-149; Lecture
  • 8/28 Read for class: SD 150-224; View in class: Autism the Musical (94).
  • 8/30 - Question posting due

Week 3 - Science/Society

  • 9/2 – Read for class: SD 225-308; Lecture. View in Class: Infected.
  • 9/4 – Read for class: SD 309-369; View in Class and discuss: Selling Sickness (52).
  • 9/6 - Question posting due

Week 4 - White/Color

Week 5 - Rich/Poor

Week 6 - Midterm

  • 9/23 – No Lecture Class; Read: Caucasia 281-350.
  • 9/25 – Read: Caucasia 351-413. Midterm Exam (bring bluebook)

Week 7 - Critical Expression Projects

  • 9/30 – Read for class:Round House 1-52; Introduce Final Project
  • 10/2 – Sign-up deadline on sakai for GRC and final presentation. Read: RH 53-105. No Lecture Class: Work in groups to develop project ideas. Write out brief project description and any questions to bring to GRC meeting.

Week 8 - Civilized/Savage

  • No discussion sections
  • 10/7 – Read for class:RH 106-155. Lecture. View in Class: Bad Indians, Geronimo E-KIA, a poem by the 1491s.
  • 10/9 – Read for class: RH 156-214. View in class: California's "Lost" Tribes (55) 65-DVD14467.
  • 10/11 - Question posting due

Week 9 - Developed/Underdeveloped

  • 10/14 – Read for class:RH 215-257; Lecture. View in class:Life and Debt (finish on own).
  • 10/16 – Fall Break
  • 10/18 - Question posting due

Weeks 10 - Male/Female

  • 10/21 – Read for class: RH 258-310; Lecture. View in Class: Black and White (17) 65-DVD12642.
  • 10/23 – Read for class:RH 311-368; View in class: The Codes of Gender (76) 65-DVD10121.
  • 10/25 - Question posting due

Weeks 11 - Straight/Gay

  • 10/28 – Read for class: Does My Head Look Big in This 1-69; Lecture. View in Class: View in class: No Homo (5), Put This on the {Map} (3), and En Bild (25) 65-DVD4576.
  • 10/30 – Read for class: DMHLBT 70-116; View in class: Cure for Love (59).
  • 11/01 - Question posting due

Week 12 - Freedom/Terror

Week 13 - Presentations I

  • 11/11 – Student Presentations.
  • 11/13 – Student Presentations. Read for class: DMHLBT 235-296.
  • 11/15 - Question posting due

Week 14 - Presentations II

  • 11/18 – Student Presentations. Read for class: DMHLBT 297-360.
  • 11/20 – Student Presentations

Week 15 - Thanksgiving

  • No discussion sections
  • 11/25 – No Lecture: Working Day.
  • 11/27 – No Class: Thanksgiving

Week 16 - Presentations III

  • No discussion sections
  • 12/2 – Student Presentations

Final Exam (Bring Bluebook)

  • Thursday December 11, 12pm







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