AHSE1145 The Human Connection: Tools and Concepts from Anthropology for Understanding Today's World

The book Wired to Care opens with the story of a designer who disguised herself as an elderly person to better understand the experiences of the elderly in our society. Author Dev Patnaik explains his interest in this experiment. It comes down to empathy: All of this is to reclaim a very old idea, that quantitative data and facts are no substitute for real-world experience and human connection. Anthropologists have long argued for the importance of putting oneself in other people shoes for better understanding. The anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski wrote in 1922 that the goal of the anthropologist is "to grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world." In this course, students will try out the anthropological methods of participation, observation, interviews, and analysis of cultural materials and texts. This is a hands-on course for students who want to get out and meet people all with the aim of greater understanding. The course focuses on three thematic topics important to our society in the twenty-first century. Past offerings have focused on aging, religion, health, and globalization. The class includes assignments, events, and interactions that will take students off campus (perhaps to the Needham Senior Center, local coffee shops, and to Boston's ethnic neighborhoods) and will include visitors from area institutions.