Home 603 Mesoamerica Cultures

Book List

Week 1-2 Carmack

Week 3 Whisnat

Week 4 Whisnat

Week 5 Whisnat

Week 6 Nash

Week 6 Essay 1 Question

Week 6 Essay

Week 7 Nash

Week 8 Manz

Week 9 Manz

Week 10 Binford

Week 11 Binford

Week 12 Oppenheimer

Week 12 Quinones

Week 12 Essay 2 Question

Week 12 Essay 2

Week 13 Oppenheimer

Week 13 Quinones

Week 14 Dow

Week 15 Dow

Final Paper


Essay Two
Anthropology 582
Cultures of Mesoamerica
Fall 2004


In the last three ethnographies read in class the anthropologists (Nash, Manz, and Binford) have attempted to provide you with an understanding of how the penetration of global economics and politics has impacted indigenous populations in Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Compare and contrast the ethnographies in terms of the message(s) they wished to convey to their readership, their methodology in acquiring the data used to document the group/phenomenon under question, and the way in which they as anthropologists saw (and continue to see) their relationship to the people and process they documented.  I do not want you to simply be descriptive; this essay will require that you evaluate and analyze these three areas and that you develop a deeper understanding of the agendas of each author.  For example, how were the authors different in terms of what they saw as significant in their population/research area?  To what degree did they see the history of the region/state as important to the time period they researched? Was the historic depth sufficient for the messages they wished to convey and the conclusions they drew? Were contemporary descriptions of the culture of the group under investigation sufficient for you to understand the motivations and outcomes of the phenomenon?  Based on the ethnography, how does each author understand anthropology as a discipline and themselves as anthropologists?  When you incorporate the films into the analysis did you find tensions between the ethnographies and the documentaries?  Did you find corroborations?  Obviously the role of the U.S. is a huge factor; how did each author describe this role in terms of macro and micro effects on the state apparatus?  How did each author understand the motivations and ideologies of the groups outside of the one they worked with, i.e., the ladinos, mestizos, elite, military, etc., and how well was this conveyed to the reader?  Do not limit yourself to the example questions I just outlined – feel free to provoke where you feel it is appropriate in describing the messages conveyed by the authors, intentionally and unintentionally.  My intent is to get you really evaluating how anthropology produces ethnography and how this becomes the narrative for the region.  Anthropology has an immense ethical responsibility in selecting the research subject and in developing an ethnographic account of a people at a specific moment in time.  It is through this process that people outside the area, and many within, come to know how a group understands themselves, their world, they way in which history has been faithful to the documentation of their lives, and how contemporary policies create modern cultures. 
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