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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Teaching and Learning Anthropology publishes analytical, reflective, and review articles on the topic of teaching and learning anthropology. The journal also publishes original undergraduate and graduate anthropological research and writing. We hope to engage a broad audience of students and faculty through open-access publishing.

We are currently seeking submissions from anthropologists in all subfields. 

Special Issue: Teaching Migration

Issue cover


Special Issue: Teaching Migration

Introduction to a special issue on teaching migration.


Reading Alex E. Chávez's Sounds of Crossing: Music, Migration, and the Aural Poetics of Huapango Arribeño (Duke University Press, 2017), a Pedagogical Lesson

In this article we argue for a slow, methodical, and collaborative approach to difficult texts. This article is the story of how, thanks to the efforts of the students and professor, a book that rewards diligent effort, and some creative pedagogical strategies borne of desperation, the experience of reading Alex E. Chávez’s Sounds of Crossing became a highlight of our college experience. In this article we explore the differing perspectives of students and faculty, including the reasons students came to view this as a meaningful experience. Some of our significant findings include the following: 1) the reading of the book was meaningful even though it was difficult; 2) the meaningfulness of the reading was not diminished by how difficult the theoretical and musical material remained, even with close exegesis; 3) the difficulty was eased by specific pedagogical methods, mainly based on collaborative learning, that were found by the students to be effective for increasing comprehension and navigation of the text; and 4) the connection between the book and the students’ lived experience enhanced the appeal of the text, their willingness to continue with it in spite of difficulty, their tolerance for confusion, and their overall satisfaction with the experience of reading it.


“Judging Extreme Hardship”: An in-class activity for teaching critical interrogation of discursive frames in U.S. im/migration law

A key element in teaching the anthropology of im/migration is fostering critical analysis of the discursive frames used in conversations about im/migrants. In this article I describe an in-class activity I use to foster critical thinking about discursive frames on im/migration—specifically those which are embedded into U.S. immigration law. Students are asked to play the role of an immigration judge deciding on a de-identified version of an actual “hardship waiver” case—a petition for relief from deportation. By putting themselves in the shoes of an immigration judge, students must work to disconnect from their own biases and assumptions in order to attempt to apply immigration law. In the process, students learn about the inner workings of the immigration system and interrogate how discursive frames shape the application of immigration law.

Designing an Assignment on Undocumented Migration: It’s All About Framing

Teaching about undocumented Mexican migration means teaching about an issue often seen as controversial. In many contexts, assumptions students bring with them can inhibit their ability to engage with nuance to more effectively understand the issue. It is therefore imperative that instructors deliver this information in a way that allows students to see such nuance. This article details an essay assignment I use to teach about undocumented Mexican migration in the context of the political and economic frameworks that help drive it. A key feature of this assignment is its use of “decoupling,” or separating the issue at hand from ideologies and associations surrounding it in order to facilitate understanding. Use of this strategy helps students understand this complex issue in a way, it is hoped, they can apply to complex issues beyond.


Teaching Im/migration through an Ethnographic Portrait Project

The Im/migrant Ethnographic Portrait Project was designed for introductory cultural anthropology courses and has a threefold aim: 1) to familiarize students with research methods, 2) to facilitate students’ deeper understanding of migration by connecting course readings with a hands-on project, and 3) to humanize im/migrants by bringing students into one-on-one conversations where they will hear a person’s story in their own words. To support students’ success with this semester-long project and to ensure (as far as is possible) that no harm is done, we provide instruction and feedback through a series of progressive assignments. In this essay we explain each of these steps before concluding with remarks about the challenges and benefits of teaching this project.


Telling Migration Stories: Course Connections and Building Classroom Community

This commentary shares an assignment on family migration stories from an upper-division undergraduate course on global migration. The assignment, which asks students to interview each other about their family migration histories and then analyze their partner’s story, requires students to apply course readings to the real-world context of their peers’ experiences. The commentary provides an overview of the assignment and challenges students encountered. I also highlight the lessons learned, both in terms of course content and classroom community. The large public teaching university where I work is a Hispanic-serving institution and is home to around 1,000 undocumented students. Many more students are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Bringing in students’ personal experiences with migration serves to build academic confidence and classroom community among these mostly first-generation students while building connections among students and setting the tone for the course as a whole. It positions students as experts and valuable members of our classroom learning community, while recognizing the importance of their experiences with issues of culture and identity, xenophobia, transnational family-life, immigration enforcement, and immigration status. The assignment also disrupts narrow assimilationist narratives of migration by highlighting the diversity of students’ migration histories.

Project- and Human-Centered Teaching and Learning: Diplomacy Lab and the Expanded Public Charge Rule for New Cabo Verdean Immigrants

This commentary introduces the U.S. State Department-sponsored Diplomacy Lab. This program provides interdisciplinary teams of students an opportunity to learn how to directly inform government policy development and implementation. In the project discussed here, a team of student researchers considered how the new public charge final rule could impact Cabo Verdean immigrants in the United States. The program demonstrates how project- and human-centered pedagogy through social science research advances student learning by providing students an opportunity to directly observe the complex effects of policy decisions on people’s lives.


Offering Informal Education in Public Libraries through Exhibit Design

The American Anthropological Association’s forthcoming traveling exhibit on the subject of migration and mobility is designed to be hosted by public libraries. By recruiting libraries as host institutions, we make scholarship accessible to general audiences and provide a focal point for programming and community engagement. This essay outlines our approach to designing with libraries in mind, aiming to influence public discourse about a topical issue.