Council on Anthropology and Education
Abstract: A distinct problem within anthropology has been the tendency for scholars to frame anthropological research and methods in terms of an encounter with the "other," a category that has long presumed an unmarked white, cisgender, and middle-class norm (Smith 1999: 2). This encounter-narrative impacts the teaching and learning of anthropology in classroom settings and is often alienating or unhelpful to students in diverse, international classroom environments (e.g., with students from working class backgrounds and/or linguistic minorities who may also identify as refugees, immigrants, students of color, LGBTQ+, etc.). In an era in which anthropological knowledge provides relevant skill sets for confronting the “grand challenges affecting humankind” (Nolan 2013: 391), how can we reconstruct anthropological pedagogy and syllabi to overcome this narrative of an encounter with the “other” that has so long shaped our discipline? How can we make anthropology speak to a wider student population? And further, what can we as educators do from a practical standpoint to improve access and equity in our ever-expanding post-secondary student populations?
Whether considering language variation (e.g. Alim and Smitherman 2012), multiple literacies (e.g. Heath and Street 2008), engaged pedagogy (e.g. Brondo 2017), or decolonized curricula (e.g. Smith 1999), students and educators alike frequently struggle with identifying and implementing best practices for equitable and inclusive teaching and learning. This roundtable brings together scholars teaching diverse student populations at post-industrial universities and community colleges, as well as students attending these universities, to explore practical ways of decolonizing and decanonizing our classrooms. Drawing from our experiences teaching in metro Detroit, greater New York, and metro Los Angeles , we examine reading lists and syllabi that better speak to our students, and we explore key methods for ridding our teaching of deficit models. We consider strategies for teaching anthropology in a manner that is useful for students who are unlikely to become academic anthropologists, strategies we hope will break down the persistent tendency to separate anthropological theory and practice. We also discuss approaches that build coalitional empathy among students and for navigating and holding space in our classrooms for oppression-based trauma (e.g., trauma from xenophobia, forced displacement, racism, etc.) as these come up for students and instructors who have lived the material. During our discussion, participants will share key strategies that they have found effective in their classrooms: for instance, online teaching, extra support and scaffolding in our writing and reading assignments; and hands-on assignments that teach students to apply anthropology in ways that map on to their professional development. We believe that these issues are not only a matter of pedagogy but of equity and social justice in academia and beyond.