ANTH 240
Work as a Cultural System Spring 2023
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
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“You know my reputation,” sang Billy Joe Shaver, “I am everything I do.” In many ways we are homo faber, the species that makes its world and we are defined by what we make, by the work we do. This course will undertake a broad survey of work as cultural systems across time and space. How do societies define work, how do they organize it? Who controls the processes of work, who controls the product of work? When is work an act of pure creation and when is it stultifying labor? How is work enabled and how is it compensated? What defines the difference between work and leisure and how are they valued? How does control over access to work, the organization of work, and the appropriation of its products determine difference, power, and equity in a society? These questions will guide an examination of work drawing on works of philosophy, history, ethnography, literature, and film examining people at work ranging from hunter-gatherers to tin miners, from slaves to corporate managers, from merchant mariners in the age of sail to physicians struggling to adapt to computerized medical records.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 15
Class#: 3955
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: students will compose several response papers, a take-home midterm exam and a final research paper of 15-20 pages
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Anthropology and Sociology majors
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
DPE Notes: Access to work, control over the work process, control over the fruits of labor, and compensation for work, are a principal means for creating and maintaining social difference, power, and equity. It is impossible to seriously study the nature of work without discussing these topics. By placing the universal experience of work in a broad spatial and temporal context students will discover an enhanced analytical ability to critically understand their own experiences of work and those of others.

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