The project assigned for this course will provide you with some experience in doing
anthropology. Although one paper does not make you an anthropologist, it should give
you some sense of the difficulties and rewards of the field, and of the anthropological
Note that the project must be based on activities that you observe or
participate in during the semester, not on recollections or activities in the past
Since you are doing a project involving human beings, you are required to conform to the
ethical guidelines of the discipline and San Jose State University.
PROJECT MAY BE UNDERTAKEN UNTIL IT HAS BEEN APPROVED BY
A paragraph stating your ethnographic project proposal is due on
The topic of your inquiry is open, although you will investigate it through the basic
anthropological approach of participant-observation. You may also complete this
assignment by collecting and individual’s life history or interviewing someone about his
or her special cultural knowledge, but we must discuss this option before you begin.
Topics have included, ballet, piano and gymnastic rehearsals, life in the lounge of a dorm
or cafeteria, an ethnic festival or religious observance, the flea market, selling a car or
cruising a bar, informal rules for most any job (waitress, bus driver, etc.); culture of a
national laboratory, an ER, a shopping mall, sports event, children on playgrounds, thrift
shops etiquette, political rallies, fund-raisers, riding elevators, using rest rooms, cell
phones, ATMs etc.
A key to a good project is to find something in which you are interested, which is
accessible to you and which will provide you with rich descriptions that you can analyze.
The time you spend performing observations will vary depending upon your topic, but