Teaching Tales (Episode II)

That’s right – I changed my unit of analysis from a “part” to an “episode.” Those of you who teach, especially in the world of small, highly interactive classrooms full of undergraduates, will understand that the experience is enough like a sitcom to warrant the analogy.

Today’s episode took place in my senior capstone Anthropological Theory seminar during the final class meeting. We were munching on local delicacies such as shrimp tacos, carnitas tortas, and enchiladas verde, when students asked me to talk more about “that HTS controversy” and the AAA’s. (Although I could tell that this was somewhat of a cheap attempt to get relief from talking about reading they hadn’t quite completed, the food made me weak, and I went along with the diversion.)

What followed was an interesting little discussion about anthropological involvement in World War II, Vietnam and other South East Asian military campaigns, metanarratives, identity, ethics, personal responsibility, and agency/structure as mediated through practice (I can fit that last one into any conversation – just try me).

The tone in the room was getting increasingly agitated and concerned. Students looked genuinely worried. One finally said, “But if the government comes to your door and demands that you use your anthropology to help them, do you HAVE to?!” I was about to reassure her that as far as I knew it had not yet reached the point of forceful conscription, when a peer helpfully responded, “Omigod!!! Didn’t you people SEE Transformers?!!!”

It was time to move on to the next reading anyway, and she had now provided me with the perfect segue (an element of all well-crafted sitcoms): so we discussed Foucault’s vision of power and discourse analysis with a whole new zeal.