Population and Society (L48/L97 3612)
Fall 2009, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:00-11:30
Prof. Geoff Childs
Dept. of Anthropology, McMillan Hall 330
Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 9:00-10:30am
TA: Mary Ann Vicari
Office: McMillan Hall 302
Office Hours: Wednesday 12:30-2:30
TA: Jing Xu
Office: McMillan Hall 307
Office Hours: Monday 2:00-4:00
Population and Society employs the inter-disciplinary lenses of demography and anthropology to
study population processes and their social consequences.
The overall objective is to familiarize
students with the basic data, methods, concepts, and theories of population studies, and to
demonstrate how anthropological research contributes to our understanding of demography.
The course begins with an introduction to demography, the academic discipline devoted to the
scientific study of population, and to anthropological demography, the sub-discipline of
anthropology that provides a cultural perspective on population research.
Afterwards the focus
shifts to a critical examination of the sources of demographic data, most notably surveys and
The core of the course then centers on the three most fundamental
demographic processes: mortality (death rates), fertility (birth rates), and migration (population
The combination of demographic and anthropological approaches allows students
to explore both empirical trends (e.g., declining births rates; disparities in death rates; migration
from poor nations to wealthy nations) and their social ramifications.
We use three case studies in this course.
Demographic Change and the Family in
Japan’s Aging Society
, examines cultural and social implications of population aging in Japan.
The second, Lee and Wang’s important monograph
One Quarter of Humanity
, is a longitudinal
summary of population processes in China, the most populous country in the world. The third,
, is an anthropological study of China’s “singletons”, children who are coming of age
under China’s one-child policy.
In this course students will learn factual knowledge about the state of the world’s population,
data requirements and methodologies for calculating basic demographic measures, and
theoretical approaches to the ways in which culture, economics, and politics interact to influence
Students can expect to gain fundamental skills in demographic literacy,
and the ability to think critically about demographic processes and their social implications.