course
Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology

May 2014

I took this class in the fall of 2012. Professor Ivy was great, very approachable, and made the readings interesting and fun. She expects you to have completed the readings, and to contribute something to the class discussion, whether through volunteering to read or approaching her after class with questions/comments. The structure of the class may have been a little disorganized, and sometimes you were required to read a large portion of a reading in a short amount of time, but they were always interesting, and the TAs were very helpful when it came to answering questions. Overall, this was a great way to fulfill any anthro-related requirements, and also a good way to supplement an interest in philosophical works.

Jan 2009

This could easily be dull, dry lecture course that anthro majors reluctantly sit through (it's required), but instead it's lively, interesting, and an overall great introduction to social and anthropological theory. Professor Pemberton is excellent at relating the various texts to one another as well as to the cultural/historical moment they emerged from. His lectures are engaging, well-paced (he even takes the time to repeat important points--very nice for those of us who still take notes by hand!), and interspersed with memorable anecdotes from his fieldwork in Java. There is *a lot* of reading, but hey, this is anthropology. It's all worth it.

Dec 2008

I'll echo a few of the other reviewers in saying that Professor Pemberton is a great guy whose lectures, all around, are sort of disastrous. While he clearly has a genuine enthusiasm for the material and obviously knows what he's talking about, Pemberton seems to have a bit of trouble when it comes time to bring the readings into a context that can be understood by those who aren't well-versed in anthropological theory— which, considering that this is an intro course, is a fairly large portion of the class. Speaking of the readings, Professor Pemberton seems to overestimate the amount of reading that is reasonable for a course like this one; his syllabus consisted of maybe half a dozen books (sometimes 400-500 pages each) and a separate course reader of quite a few hundred double-sided pages... and he fully expects that his students read every last bit of it. While the readings are often interesting, it can quickly grow difficult to enjoy them, as it often feels like there is no in-class synthesis of the texts, that you're simply reading for the sake of reading. All that said, Professor Pemberton is a very nice man. Quirky, sure, and maybe a bit too rooted in the procedures and history of what should be a more personal discipline, but a very nice man, nevertheless— especially in office hours, where he'll gladly sit and discuss anything from the course material to life at Columbia, often for extended periods of time.

Jan 2008

just lectures every day, but he's interesting and endearing so you find yourself (gasp!) actually paying attention in lectures. no discussion sections thank god, but he's awesome in office hours

Jan 2005

Beneath clear lectures on anthropological and social theory, Professor Ivy has very interesting viewpoints. In terms of class lectures, she does her job, mapping out the ideas of Levi-Strauss, Foucault, and even contemporary anthropologists. Yet, sometimes you get a glimpse of her interest in critical and literary theory, and how anthro approaches these disciplines. I enjoyed writing papers for this course. There was much room for creativity as well as theory. More than providing answers, she asks questions, revealing the contradictions within anthropology. You will want to follow the Interpretations of Culture course with this one. Some prior knowledge is helpful. All in all, Ivy's a cool professor.

Jan 2005

Professor Ivy's lectures are decidely un-spectacular. Never once did I leave amazed, thrilled, or bowled over with her brilliance or the depth of the material, which is, in my opinion, the mark of a great lecturer. But, since amazement is a pretty high demand, the material is great, and Professor Ivy is exceedingly kind and seems to really care about her students, I would still recommend her. You can certainly do a hell of a lot worse.

Jan 2005

While some people think Ivy is great, I do not agree. Having taken two classes with her, I do not think that she is a good professor. I cannot comment on her abilities as a researcher or theorist, but I did not feel that she was able to really explain the complexities of the topics that we were dealing with in class. So many of her comments seemed to be either very self-evident, or impossibly inscrutable. I did learn a lot in both classes, but it was through my own efforts with the texts. She does not lead discussion effectively, and did not do a good job of balancing lecturing with questions.

Nov 2003

In spite of the following email conversation from last May, I still have a soft spot for Prof. Val Daniel. I think it’s because of the day he mumbled something about being sent to the corner as a young schoolboy in Sri Lanka, or the infamous tales of an Indian wedding in New Jersey. Or perhaps the day he reflected on the discipline of cultural anthropology and said, “Something so utterly useless... must be the discipline of my heart.” And that warmed my heart. The man is brilliant. (1) Dear ____: Did you submit the two papers that were required of you in the course? And if you did, please let me know what grades you received for them as soon as possible. Thank you. E. Valentine Daniel (Professor of Anthropology) (2) Prof. Daniel, As far as I know, for Social and Cultural Theory, there was only one paper required, a midterm, and a final. I submitted the term paper to [the TA], but I do not know the grade. Thanks, Me (3) Dear ____, There were two papers due, not one. And did you present at least one? And what grade did you receive for it? E. Valentine Daniel (Professor of Anthropology) (4) ____, I am sorry, I stand corrected. But do tell me what grades you received for your paper and your mid-term. I don't seem to have a record of it and [the TA] has taken off for the holidays, it seems. Val Daniel

Sep 2003

Val Daniel is probably one of the more odd albeit entertaining teachers I have ever had. His lectures follow no path and he never knows what the assigned readings were for the week or even what AUTHORS he included in his syllabus. Even if you can find the books he assigns (no store seems to carry them and the reader took two weeks to be ready) you won't read them so don't waste your money. The material is interesting if you want an independent study course masked as an INTRODUCTORY anthropology section. The funniest part of Val's lectures is when he starts talking about Indian weddings in New Jersey and when little kids run around naked on beaches. The man is a nut. His class was totally worth sitting through as long as he didn't expect much of you as far as being able to regurgitate his incoherent blabbler. The only problem is....by the time the final comes around Val realizes he hasn't taught anything all semester and so wants to make right by grading your final like it was supposed to be written by the grad student TAing your class. Completely ridiculous. You don't do anything all semester....then you take an impossible final that leaves your hand aching for days, because the test is about 30 short essays on authors you haven't even heard him mention once in class. A sample question from the final (I remember it to this day) was: "Describe meaning for Marx." WHAT?!....nuff said