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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2007

S S 301 • Honors Social Science: Anthropology

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43255 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM

Course Description

Anthropology provides a unique window on the human experience. Anthropologists live in the communities they study in order to determine and then to describe the ways in which different communities define and interpret their experiences. This course will explore the anthropological approach to the study of persistent poverty in the United States. We will review some of the major social theories that have contributed to anthropology and some of the related social sciences. We will explore the kinds of approaches anthropologists and other social scientists take to the study of poverty. Furthermore, we will discuss the ethical issues that emerge from undertaking research on other people, particularly those impoverished, and then releasing the findings to them and to others. We will emphasize, in particular, the diverse groups that make up the United States and their distinctive experiences marked by gender, race, and ethnicity. In all of our considerations, we will consider the impact of poverty research on current social stereotypes, social policies, and institutions in the United States.

About the Professor

Professor Lein is a professor in the School of Social Work and the Department of Anthropology. An anthropologist by training, she has done extensive research on social issues of families, children, and poverty, including residence in a housing project in a large Texas city to research how members of that community, particularly mothers, maintained their households while in public housing and on welfare. She has published numerous articles and several books, including her most recent book, Making Ends Meet. Professor Lein received her doctorate in social anthropology from Harvard University. Her husband and three children occasionally join her in her anthropological fieldwork.

Grading Policy

This course contains a substantial writing component.

Students will be expected to participate actively in classroom discussions and small group discussions. Each student will complete a series of short assignments (10 essays, 1 1/2-2 pages each) related to understanding the dynamics of poverty and to the debates that will take place in class. The class will also require participation in a debate on a poverty issue presented to the entire class. There will be a 5-7 page contribution to a team-written research paper.


Several types of readings will form the basis of this course. First, we will review policy responses to poverty and the theories that underlie them. However, the larger proportion of our readings will report on specific research projects that apply anthropology to current interpretations of poverty-related problems in the United States. Students will read a variety of articles representing different approaches to the study of poverty and discuss the implications.


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