Cultures in Contact

ANT 326L (31715) Spring 2014
LAS 324L (40835)

Samuel M. Wilson



  1. Activities - 25% There will be 12 activities you must carry out. They are listed at the bottom of this page. In most cases you have to read, watch, or visit something and write a brief account or analysis of it (1/2 page, single-spaced). We will not count the two lowest scores, so a total of 10 exercises will contribute to your final grade. Sometimes the activities correspond to what we are doing in class and sometimes they do not.

    There is a possibility of getting extra credit on these Activities. Recently people have done some extraordinary work
    with these, bringing in additional research, suggesting additional sites or alternative assignments. They went beyond the basic assignment to get at the larger issues. So we have made it so that an Activity can earn up to 3.5%, providing up to 10% extra credit.

  2. There are three midterm exams ; each exam is worth 25%. The exams only cover one-third of the course each. The third exam it is not comprehensive. It only covers the last third of the course. There are no plusses and minuses in your final course grade.

Activities -- The following activities are due on the Tuesday of the week they are assigned. Some of them are still changing and developing, so check back on the web site before carrying out the activity.
  • Activity 1 -- Cajun and Metis music and culture -- Listen to this NPR piece on the music and culture of the Metis -- listen to the story here. Then explore this site and read about Cajun music and culture. Please listen to all you want, but especially some of the songs under "The 1920s and the 1930s". Also, read pps. 450-452 from the Nabokov book. If you want more information on Cajun history, look here. Briefly, who are the Metis and the Cajuns? What is there in this music that suggests that it reflects the combination or intersection of two cultures? What similarities can you hear between Metis music and Cajun music. Write this up in a 1/2 page, single spaced, or so and hand it in next Tuesday.

  • Activity 2 -- 1492: AN ONGOING VOYAGE, an exhibit by the Library of Congress.
    Please read through the Exhibit 1492: An Ongoing Voyage, produced by the Library of Congress. You can find it in the Library of Congress's version or on a Sunsite mirror.

    Although I am familiar with the topics covered in this exhibition, I still found things that were new and surprising. Please explore the site and write about 1/2 page on an some aspect that you found interesting and had not known of before. Also, could you comment on the idea of "inventing America" -- what is that and why would people do it? Please don't just give what the site says, but think about who is writing and who their audience was and think about the range of possible motives they might have had.

  • Activity 3 --
    Please listen to this radio piece from "A History of the World in 100 Objects", and look through the images regarding a Mexican Codex Map. It's about the early Spanish conquest of Mexico. Make sure you use the visuals and zoom in on all the details of the map. Please describe how, in general terms, Mexican Catholocism incorporated a number of aspects of the previous pre-conquest religions, and please provide two or more specific examples. If you care to try for extra credit with this assignment, please examine it closely and describe and inerpret some thing or things that might be missed in a cursory look. Or compare these depictions of buildings and maps to present day images or maps.

  • Activity 4 -- Selected readings from "Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library and Renaissance. Culture" homepage.
    • The exhibit "ROME REBORN: THE VATICAN LIBRARY & RENAISSANCE CULTURE" was put on by the Library of Congress in 1993.  It included material from both the Library of Congress and the Vatican Library.
    • Please browse through the site, reading what interests you most.  I would like you to read the section "About the Exhibition" and also read the section on Ptolemy's geography, under mathematics.
      Answer the following questions: 1) When was Ptolemy's Geography written?  (note: you can always make use of reference material, like an Encyclopedia to get more information). 2) When did it become widely available to European scholars? 3) What impact did it have?
    • Another interesting section of the exhibit deals with Rome's dealings with the Far East ("How Rome went to China").  Please read through this section carefully (and also "The Jesuits in China") and answer these questions:  4) why was Rome so interested in China, and 5) Why were the Chinese elite willing to entertain the Jesuits?  What were they interested in getting in return?
    • Please limit your typed answers on a single page.

  • Activity 5: Exploring American Identity
  • Activity 6: Please listen to this NPR segment on the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. This took place on the Mall in Washington, D.C. in September 2004. Also check out the web site for the NMAI. While there was some controversy concerning the museum, the opening was seen as a significant event by many Indian people. Of the small group of Native Americans interviewed, what sentiments can you identify that seem to be held by everyone? Please list at least three. Now browse through a few of the articles published this week in "Indian Country Today", a widely read newspaper dealing with Native American Issues. What range of sentiments do you see expressed, and compared with the NPR piece, list some of the major topics of interest to American Indian people today. Again, please note at least three.
  • Activity 7 -- Worlds of Difference: Haida Bones, parts I and II. Listen to this two-part piece on the repatriation of Native American skeletal remains.

    Please listen to these two audio segments and comment on the issue of the repatriation and reburial of Native American skeletal remains. There is a great deal on the web under topics such as "repatriation" and "reburial". There is also a debate published in Archaeology Magazine linked here. Please list at least two arguments for repatriation and at least two arguments against it.

  • Activity 8 -- Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings
    • "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."-- Thomas Jefferson
    • We live in a world that has many histories. History is never as simple as just "what happened," because people imagine, interpret, and construct history in ways that are meaningful and sensible to them.
      Does the recent news that Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson probably had one or more children together change your view of history, or allow you to see the history of "Cultures in Contact" in the U.S. in a different light?
    • Here is an NPR piece discussing the issue:
    • And here is the Monticello web site's set of links to related stories, including "Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: A Brief Account"

  • Activity 9 -- Explore the Africans in America web site and answer questions about slavery, Native Americans and westward expansion.
    • The television series "Africans in America" recently aired on PBS. The experience of slavery and African-Americans was not simply a singular experience between whites and slaves. For this assignment, explore the series's companion web page, especially the section concerning westward expansion. Answer the following questions in two to three complete sentences each.
      1. Why was Philadelphia different from most US cities between 1776 and 1865?
      2. What does the Declaration of Independence have to say about slavery?
      3. Briefly, what was the compromise of 1850 and what was it's impact of subsequent events?
      4. What role did slavery play in the settlement of Texas under Mexican rule and how did it affect the region after 1846 and Texas's attempts to gain statehood?
      5. What was the "weeping time" and in that context, what rationale did Sidney George Fisher offer for the continuation of the institution of slavery?

  • Activity 10 -- The Indian Child Welfare Act

  • Activity 11 -- There is U.S. Census Bureau Report on Native American populations here. Please read through this information. In particular, please provide answers to the following questions:
    • What are the five largest tribes?
    • What percentage of Native Americans live in poverty, and what percentage of all Americans live in poverty? For the Poverty Questions this Wikipedia Article might help.
    • Of the Native American Tribes for which specific information is available, which tribe has the highest percentage of people living in poverty and which the lowest?
    • Please tell me about one other interesting or surprising piece of data you found on this site.

  • Activity 12 -- Read this New York Times article about "How Lucrative Gambling Pits Tribe Against Tribe." How do you see the balance of positive and negative results of Native Americans gaming? Please note some of the plusses and minuses, and discuss some of the ways gaming has changed things for American Indian tribes. You might also wish to use the Gale Virtual Reference Library to get general information on the topic of Native American gaming.


other possibilities

  • Seeking Ancestry in DNA Ties Uncovered by Tests
  • Interview with Wilma Mankiller
  • Activity XX - AILLA is a digital archive of recordings and texts in and about the indigenous languages of Latin America. -
  • Activity ## read and comment on creek treaties -
  • Activity XX - Kennewick Man --
    search: /
  • Racial identity in America
  • From Generation to Generation - Survival and Maintenance of Canada's Aboriginal Languages
  • Go to the National Museum of the American Indian's NMAI Radio page and listen to the piece called "Coyote Bites Back: Indian Humor". Can you identify any dimensions of Native American humor that are unique to that genre? What are some of the main themes in the jokes and things discussed in the piece?
  • NMAI - Listen to "We are still here" piece dealing with the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian.
  • Sioux Warrior Red Cloud - NRP Piece
  • [Audio report on the Red Lake Chippewa of Minnesota and the new welfare reform laws.

    Listen to the following report from the September 8th, 1998 edition of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered". It concerns the way in which the Red Lake Chippewa of Minnesota are dealing with new welfare reform laws that will force major changes in the economic and cultural life on the reservation. The report deals with some of the modern stereotypes and myths many people hold about Native Americans (such as their attunement to the environment or the success of casino gambling) while highlighting the concerns of a group unsure how change will affect their community.

    Write a short essay (approximately 1/2 page, single spaced) on this topic. Include observations on how some of the problems the Red Lake community faces have deep historical background and how modern myths and stereotypes affect these people.

    Click HERE to listen to the first portion of the report (approximate running time 12:30).
    Click HERE for the second portion of the report (approximate running time 8:00).

    This audio piece gives a little background on the welfare reform issue.]