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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. 


Threshold Concepts in Social Anthropology: Literature and Pedagogical Applications in a Bridging Project

This article considers what UK-based higher education researchers Jan Meyer and Ray Land describe as “threshold concepts,” asking how these concepts might apply to the field of social/cultural anthropology. This is explored in relation to the practical pedagogical project of constructing a curated online resource kit to support students who are “bridging” into social anthropology from other disciplines. In this article, we review the literature on threshold concepts in social anthropology as well as some adjacent writings on “key,” “core,” or “signature” anthropological concepts. The potential value of boundary work and troubled/troubling knowledge as a generative space emerge as useful points of consideration. We then present findings from our own surveys and focus groups with University of Otago students, summarizing their emphasis on “felt” and applied levels of understandings, the significance of ethnography, and a “hidden curriculum” of values. We explain how the lens of threshold concepts helped us interpret these responses, evaluate possible resources to meet their needs, and shape the content and structure of the online resource kit we called “AnthNav.” We conclude that while the threshold concepts framework is not the only way to understand anthropological education, it can be a valuable discussion-starter for those teaching in complex institutional settings.


Anthropology and Museums: Notes from a Course in Bahia, Brazil

This paper describes a course on Anthropology and Museums offered at the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. The interface between anthropology and museums is of great relevance for the elaboration of an effective pedagogical strategy in teaching anthropology. The course described here included both theoretical and practical activities aimed at covering contemporary debates about anthropology, museums, and material culture as well as at offering direct first-hand experiences for students. The development and results of the course highlight the usefulness of adopting this theoretical-practical mixture for the effective engagement of students in the educational process.

Moving from Reading to Dialogue to Action: Teaching Degrowth in Anthropology Courses

Collectively, how can we work towards reducing human impacts on the environment to lessen the process of climate change and develop plans for climate change mitigation and adaptation? Current trends such as extreme climatic events and climate stress, food insecurity, declining natural resources, and inequitable access to food, health care, and education make it clear this is a time to act.  After teaching at a university for a few decades, I find students are overwhelmed with the increasing amount of negativity in their local and global worlds. By introducing the concept of degrowth into several classes, I found ways to empower students to use their own data collection to inform themselves of what they could do differently to lessen their impact on the environment. Degrowth is defined as a philosophy of life or a lifestyle that calls for a conscious effort to reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose. Degrowth is also a political and social movement based on ecological economics designed to lessen consumerism and production; in a word, it is anti-capitalism. Degrowth is a re-envisioned way of living that emphasizes quality of life and conviviality that serves as an economic strategy to respond to the limits-to-growth dilemma. This paper discusses an approach used to engage students in degrowth and create an opportunity to help them move from passive reading of assigned articles to taking action to globally heal Earth.


Student Showcase

To Be Told You Have Cancer

This paper functions as a narrative examining the firsthand account of a family encountering the mother’s diagnosis of ovarian and lung cancer.  This experience and its relationship with society is explored through concepts such as the perception of time, family roles, biomedical culture, and conceptions of normality. While explicitly delineating the connections between theoretical lenses like those of Arthur Kleinman and Ruth Benedict to the story at hand, the main purpose of the paper is to highlight the complexity of illness. This is completed by examining only the very first moments of diagnosis and its profound, permanent effects on patients and their loved ones.