course
The Interpretation Of Culture

Apr 2021

prof is the best but goddamn this course was hella boring. I took it because I needed to fill gened reqs but holy I regretted it a month in. you have to read an entire book in a week. if you've never had an interest in anthro then don't take it but the professor is super fun. nothing against him but the class itself was super meh

Apr 2021

It is clear that Prof. Naor is very passionate about the subject. However, I do want to mention that (at least with the online modality) if you do pay close attention to what he is saying, the words don't make much sense. I ended up not paying attention in lectures from around the halfway point in the semester (week 7/8) and honestly my grades got better from there once I devoted my time to focus on the readings and how they applied to the papers. All of Naor's slides consist of quotes from the readings and no new information - except for one lecture about Pirates. The papers are weighted differently - which allows you to absorb and apply feedback without questioning what the prof is looking for on a big assignment.

Jan 2021

Paige is an incredibly gifted professor. Although ultimately the class wasn't really for me, I can see how other students would get a lot out of it. I learned so much information in the first half of the course that really expanded my worldview and helped me better interpret was I was learning in literally all of my other 3 classes this semester. That on its own made it worth taking. Paige is a great lecturer and passionate about what she teaches. In the second half of the course, the content became less concrete and I honestly didn't learn as much. I can see why someone passionate about pursuing anthropology would love the second half of the class, and I think the reason I didn't is just because I figured out this wasn't the discipline for me. Paige also brings in a lot of guest lecturers which is so amazing and takes a lot of effort. However, I found a lot of the value of a guest lecture was lost over zoom- more so than a standard lecture. In addition, Paige devotes a lot of class time to answer questions from students. I love that she cares about student input, but I just didn't find the questions the other students asked to be meaningful, and with 75 students it took up a lot of time. A large part of the reason why this wasn't my favorite class was because I had a terrible TA- they were nice but inexperienced and completely unable to structure a discussion, and never had anything valuable to say about the content. And although the assignments were easy and designed to be fun, they felt like a waste of time to me. Overall, I don't want this review to discount all the glowing reviews on here- they all ring true. It wasn't for me but I can see why people love it.

Dec 2020

I took this class to fulfill a major requirement (not anthro) because the professor and class came highly recommended. While Professor AJ is super sweet and a good lecturer, I personally didn't find the content interesting. The weekly readings were super long and dense. We spent a considerable portion of the semester focusing on the histories of past anthropologists like another reviewer said, which I guess is important to our understanding of the discipline, but I wasn't expecting that going into it. Also, my TA did a bad job of facilitating discussion. The museum essays were fun to write, though!

Nov 2020

I cannot recommend that you take this class highly enough! Especially during virtual classes, this class is an absolute joy. Prof. West is one of the kindest, funny, and brilliant professors on this campus, and her exuberance makes the class a delight each day. Prior to every lecture, she plays a song that never fails to put me in a good mood. Prof. West makes sure that you leave every day with more questions than you came with -- if you're looking to spend a semester changing the way you view the world, this is the class. This is not to say that she imposes a certain view on you, but quite the opposite -- you are encouraged to think for yourself, form an informed opinion, and speak up as a confident academic peer. By the end of this semester, I feel more confident and informed in my world view. If you take this class virtually, she also brings in countless interesting guest speakers from organizations and universities around the world. I also had a WONDERFUL TA and so much fun in my discussion section (which is a rarity). Take this class!

Oct 2020

TAKE THIS CLASS. SERIOUSLY. Professor Paige is by far one of the best teachers I've ever had at Barnard/Columbia. She's brilliant, quirky, so delightfully funny and makes everyone feel at home. Assignments are a breeze (2 pages double spaced? Yes please) and her class is so thoughtful. I don't know if this class would be handled as well by anyone who is not her because it can be a lot to take in. Whether you agree with her politics or not her class will leave you with a million and one questions; you will think about global power dynamics, indigenous rights, orientalism, white supremacy, anti-racism, colonialism - all that good stuff and even though she believes certain things, she's very very open to hear what everyone thinks and is very respectful of all opinions. If she gets mad - which is super rare - it's because you most likely have a problematic opinion. Not only does this class fill in almost every Barnard requirement - which makes sense because it's just such an amazing class, but you'll also actually leave feeling like you've learnt something about the world and being a better human in this class.

Jun 2020

I took this class in spring 2020, when the pandemic was happening, so the contents were not the same as normal. That being said, Prof. West handled this change like a champ. She told us that we would all pass the course no matter what, made all the rest of the semester readings optional, and pulled in guest speakers for all of our Wednesday classes for a change of pace. She's such an amazing teacher that despite essentially making class optional, almost the entire class showed up to her Zoom lectures, and the class was still relatively engaged despite the fact that we had no obligation whatsoever to do so. Paige West is an amazing teacher who ultimately just wants to see her students succeed. She gave us her phone number to contact her if we had any concerns or just needed someone to talk to about the pandemic, and she plays music to dance to at the beginning and end of every class. Her positive energy is contagious. Please take this class with Paige! Workload (pre-pandemic, of course) was pretty reasonable. Pretty reading-heavy class: 30-50 pages usually per class. She didn't have a set predetermined length for papers ("write as much or as little as you need to get your point across"), but told us to shoot for around 4 pages since she said that she knows Columbia students like guidelines. Very enjoyable class, especially when you take it with Paige. Would highly recommend whether you intend to study anthropology or just need to fill a requirement!

Apr 2020

If you're taking this class because you think it will be a fun and interesting one to fulfill your foundations requirements. Don't. Only take this class if you are genuinely interested because there is a huge workload that is not enjoyable if you don't genuinely like cultural anthropology. The class is structured well and the TAs are very nice. Professor AJ is a good lecturer but I personally would not take this class again because of how time consuming it was considering that I have no plans on going into this field at all. This class is a lot of work considering its at the introductory level. The actual content of the class is mainly the history of anthropology. So you just have to read a bunch of work by racist old white dudes for at least a month or two before you actually get into reading modern ethnographies.

Apr 2020

She's amazing.

Mar 2019

Professor AJ is phenomenal for this course. She is thorough in her lectures, and they pair perfectly with all her assigned readings. While she assigns a heavy workload of reading, they are all clearly well thought out and relevant to her lectures. She is engaging to listen to, and thus a great professor for an introductory level course. Highly recommend!

Dec 2018

People! Please Please Please read this post before thinking about taking this course!!!!!! DO NOT TAKE IT DO NOT TAKE IT DO NOT TAKE IT. The only question you have for the lecture is " IS THIS PERSON FUCKING SPEAKING ENGLISH?" All the lectures are super super super confusing that you don't understand a word. The readings are boring, long and dense. The finals and midterms and assignments topics are so fucking vague. You will hate anthropology b/c of it. And professor Larkin is not considerate at all!!! He talks a lot before giving us midterms. which take up a lot of our time!

Nov 2018

DO NOT TAKE IT!!! The lecture is super confusing, long and boring. No one understands what he is saying in class!!!!

Apr 2018

Naor is a very dynamic professor, very engaged with the content he teaches. However, it is really hard to take notes in that class because everything is relatively abstract and discussed in terms of examples. Therefore, the written assignments really depend on whether you have done the readings or not. Listening in class is recommended but to be honest I think you would get away with not even attending from time to time. It's a good introductory course in anthropology, but again if you like to know the content you're learning right away, it might be a little bit frustrating. In that class and with that professor, it's really only when you write essays that you realize that you are learning about new concepts.

Apr 2017

Professor Simpson is great. Really cares about the class, which, by the way, everyone should take. She's funny and engaging, and really unpacks the texts if you don't understand them. Readings are pretty light - we read a couple books that you can skim, but are interesting! She wants to make the course accessible to anyone, and accomplishes this quite well. Assignments are easy, the midterm and final (both take-home!) take you 3 hours tops if you took notes or did the readings. Really great class. The only thing that was somewhat difficult was the discussion section, which kept you on the ball with reading. Great TAs, though! They all understood that it was an intro class and were very very lenient with grades - I'm pretty sure everyone got good grades. Seriously, she should have a gold nugget, because I WANTED to pay attention in class.

Apr 2017

Audra Simpson is clearly a very knowledgeable professor, but unfortunately her class was an absolute bore to take. For every class, she writes down her lecture word for word and then just reads off of it. Sitting through the class felt like a waste of my time. I would suggest taking this class if you are new to anthropology, as I do think it introduces some core concepts in a easy and slow way. If you do the readings, going to lecture is really not necessary.

Dec 2016

I came into this class with a slight interest in Anthropology, but was mostly taking it because it fit well in my schedule and fulfilled a requirement for my (non-Anthro) major. I've left this class with about the same level of interest in Anthropology, so this review may not be as relevant for people who already know they like Anthropology - it's just not really my thing. This class was pretty solid. I didn't really find myself falling asleep in lecture, but there were only about 2-3 times that I felt that what we spoke about was really cool. Unfortunately, the readings were pretty long and we ended up only focusing on small ideas from them. I tried to do the reading at the start of the semester, which was kind of helpful for understanding what we were learning, but ultimately I ended up lightly skimming or just not reading the assigned material since I was busy with other class readings, and I did equally well in the class. It often felt to me like the class was just about assigning key terms to names and trying to remember the jargon used to define the terms each anthropologist uses. The size of the class wasn't conducive to discussion, so lectures often became hour-long blocks where I'd write as much information as I could about the vocabulary for each anthropologist and call it a day. Muir is nice and sometimes funny and the lectures were some of the most organized that I've attended at Columbia, but they are mostly just her talking, and the anthropological vocabulary she used sometimes made the content less meaningful to me since there were a number of terms she often used that I just never really understood and that weren't really explained or were explained using equally confusing terms. The discussion section I was in consisted of some of the least-useful time I've ever spent at Columbia, thanks to my TA (discussion sections definitely have the potential to be interesting and enriching if you have the right instructor, though). The upside is that the class is relatively easy. I came through with an A and really didn't put that much effort in. The readings, as I said, aren't exactly necessary and are often so long that it's just not worth the time to try to read them if the topics aren't exciting to you. There are 3 assignments that aren't super time-intensive, some in-class quizzes that are fairly easy if you payed attention during the past couple of lectures, and a midterm and final which involve a hell of a lot of writing for the time given, but that can be a big grade boost if you just put some time into preparing for them. Attendance is taken at each lecture and discussion section, but if you just show up, take some good notes, and put a little time into your assignments and tests, you'll be totally fine. Overall, I'd say that I kind of wish that I took a different class to fulfill my major requirement. Muir is a really nice professor and you can tell that she cares a lot about the subject, but I left the class kind of confused about the take-away and not really caring any more about Anthropology than I did before. If you're interested in Anthropology and you put time into studying throughout the semester and doing the assigned readings, you'll definitely enjoy the class more than I did. I've heard great feedback about the course from Anthropology majors, so take this review as you will!

Aug 2016

I took this course in the summer session and I will say, the last hour of that block can be rough as the material is a bit dense, especially if you don't have previous Anthropology knowledge. Professor Weisgrau is great though. I know some people in the class were a bit frustrated as she can seem a bit vague at times, but she's incredibly supportive and to be honest, quite a generous grader as well. I won't say it's an easy A, but if you try at all, she notices. She appreciates your interest and your ideas and I found it to be a very supportive environment. I tend to find the students who didn't like her, or didn't like her approach were the egos in the room who thought they were smarter than her. Which is always funny to me coming from undergrads and dealing the PhDs, but that's just me.

Apr 2016

It is hard to overstate how awful this class is. Povinelli is a terrible lecturer who while known as being incredibly intelligent, cannot put together a coherent sentence to save her life. This class in general is supposed to be "easy" however she makes it impossible. The readings have no connection to the lectures. The TAs were frustrated with both the students' lack of understanding and the professor's lack of communication. The "mini-terms" were graded completely subjectively and put together specifically to trick the students. The questions on exams often included information that was not discussed, or certainly not in the detail asked for. The identification section on the mini-terms was even more of a joke. Most of the time google had to be consulted to be able to properly study. However, in the last lecture, she bribed us with pizza. If that seems worth enduring soul-crushing lectures, then go ahead and take this class.

May 2015

I've taken three classes with Cassie (1 lecture and 2 seminars) and she is definitely on my top 3 list of favorite professors at Columbia. She is extremely dedicated, understanding, challenging, and accessible. One of the things that I really appreciate about Cassie is that she always urges us and pushes us to articulate our ideas and thoughts with more simplicity and clarity (while at the same time pushing us to make our preliminary thoughts more complete), as opposed to enshrouding them in academic jargon. She considers this a really important skill to have considering that many of us want to climb down the ivy tower that Columbia students often get stuck in, for the sake of helping people. Cassie is also a very positive and encouraging professor and always makes it a point to mark your abilities and groundbreaking thoughts when they present itself. She always takes a minute after class to tell you about how well you did on the individual presentation, which is really sweet. She is not traditional in her teaching style, often allowing students to explore different venues of expression in the final project for her seminars, whether it is an essay, video, podcast, etc. Also, Cassie is not the type of professor to force you to participate all the time or call on you. I always felt comfortable as someone who tends to listen more in class than speak, which is not always the case for some of my other classes. Her presence as a white professor in the ethnicity & race studies department can be somewhat questionable for a department that is primarily intended to comprise faculty of color for students of color, but her openness has put me (and hopefully others with the same concern) at ease. She is not pretentious or self-righteous in the least and is always open to discussing ideas that might challenge which she has to say.

Jan 2015

I would not recommend this class at all. Although I initially thought Professor Muir was an engaging professor and interesting person, my thoughts quickly changed. She requires a lot of weekly reading, which seemed redundant immediately because she would lecture about what we read the next day in class. Unfortunately, Professor Muir does not encourage her students to think by themselves, but rather encourages reiteration and regurgitation of the thoughts of the authors that we read as well as her own. During lecture, she tended to repeat the same sentence four or five times just in a different way, which was not only frustrating but also pointless and made the class seem insignificant and (again) redundant. What I found most irritating about this class and the professor, unfortunately, was the lectures seemed superficial and overwhelmingly pretentious. Since the material of the course is extremely interesting and engaging, I do not discourage anyone from taking this course with another professor, but certainly suggest NOT TAKING THE COURSE WITH PROFESSOR MUIR. You will undoubtedly be disappointed.

Jan 2015

Taussig is bat-sh*t crazy, but it is not hard to get an A. He did indigenous dances, described in detail what it's like to trip on acid in the Amazon, and spoke at length that he believed our classroom was haunted (we consequently moved classrooms multiple times). I had Fernando as my TA, and the grading was relatively generous if you were decent at talking out of your a**. A few unbelievably pretentious hipsters ran the course and were thoroughly beloved by Taussig, almost to an inappropriate level. Overall, a hilarious lesson when a famous drug-addled anthropologist gets tenure at Columbia.

May 2014

This class was a bit scattered for my taste. Stephen Scott lectured straight off of written notes, no PowerPoint slides or real outlines to back him up, so it was often hard to figure out what to take notes on. A lot of times, I just found myself trying to type down literally everything he said, just to be safe (and because this class’ grades were pretty much all for essays, it was helpful later to have as much material to quote as possible). For an intro class, this class used a good bit of technical jargon (that Scott seemed to think was pretty much common knowledge) that I found a little hard to follow at times. But you kind of get used to it, and you can google what you don't understand in class later and figure everything out. The readings were a little long at times and pretty boring, but if you wanted to know vaguely what was going on in lecture and also have something to write about for the midterm and final, you needed to read most of it eventually. Stephen Scott, though, is brilliant and really a genuinely interesting guy. It’s fascinating to hear him talk about the anthropological research he does in South America and some of the Indiana Jones-like adventures he’s had while doing it (no joke). He also totally dresses the part of an anthropology professor (so to revise my earlier statement, he pretty much is Indiana Jones). He was really helpful when I went to his office hours to talk to him about one of the written assignments, helping me to focus my idea for an anthropological interview and to brainstorm questions to ask my interviewee. My TA (Anschaire Aveved), however, was actually awful. I could sit through an entire 50-minute discussion section and come out with no notes because I hadn’t understood a word he said in his thick accent. He also never (never) covered anything that was actually part of the class in his teaching, usually talking about something that had absolutely nothing to do with what was being talked about in lecture. So if you take this class, make sure you get a good TA (one that you don’t have to define English words for because he doesn’t understand what you’re asking him) so that you can get something out of it. I was really surprised when I got an A- in this class. I was convinced that I would get no better than a B in the class, so I was quite pleasantly surprised with my final grade. To be honest, I’m actually not sure what did it for me in the grades department, but I guess if you keep on top of the reading and take good time with the midterm and final, you can come out well in the class.

Jan 2014

Although interesting, I would not recommend taking this course if you have any love for your GPA. According to Professor Scott, the baseline grade is a B, a B+ is very, very good, and an A- is simply amazing. It's just not worth the extreme amount of effort without the guarantee of getting into the A/A- range. Professor Scott also talks extremely quickly and in a very complicated manner, so it is often difficult to synthesize what he is saying into a clear and concise summary for your notes.

Mar 2013

This guy is awesome. He has an amazing way of summarizing all of the readings into great bullet points. In many classes it can be difficult to weave through what is important to take notes on and what isn't, but he routinely reiterates what he wants you to take away from every section. Dr. Scott also has a great sense of humor, which goes a long way when you are dissecting foreign cultures. He is also awesome in office hours if you want to talk about Anthropology in general or go over what has been covered.

Jan 2013

This class was pretty good, but was disappointing to me in that it did not bring Anthropology to life for me as I was deciding whether or not to major in it. Every class is spent by Professor Fennel beating into the students the argument of each reading for the day (which is light and very reasonable, by the way) with little room for interpretation or expansion into other interesting areas not covered into the readings. I found it to be monotonous and not an engaging approach to anthropology - I didn't just want to learn every facet of the author's argument with little expansion on that as she sternly, yet considerately, as she really wanted us to learn, articulates what the author meant. That being said, she is clearly a wonderful person and very committed to teaching. If she fits into your schedule and you want to take this class, it's not a bad choice given the sincerity of the teaching and very reasonable workload.

Apr 2012

Fennell is such a good lecturer - all of these bad reviews are clearly outdated. She is full of energy, her lectures are extremely engaging, she thoroughly goes over the readings (many many many times...), telling you what points to understand, what is important etc. For concepts she even does demonstrations in class - uses students and TA's to demonstrate cultural differences and things of that sort. She seems to be strict on the first day or two, but it doesn't take long to realize she really wants everyone to do well and to understand the material. Take this class with her! the class itself was amazing too - the concepts are very interesting, and the readings (though dry) are made very interesting when Fennell goes over them in class.

Feb 2012

Great class and great professor! Professor Scott's class was a great introduction to anthropology. He almost made me switch my minor from psychology to anthropology because he was such a great lecturer. Although his class wasn't the easiest to take notes in just because sometimes he would diverge from a topic. It was great because he always used real life examples which made the material so much clearer. I also went to his office hours and had a whole hour conversation with him about life. He shared a lot of insight and really made me understand the world better. Plus he is witty and hilarious. I would say he is one of my favorite professors so far in college.

Jan 2012

Fennell is a very good professor. Do take this class with her, it's far easier than this class with the other profs. she is good at lecturing, though she talks a bit fast and can be repetitive. i think this is a good thing though, cuz you really get to know what's important. You don't need to do the readings since she summarizes them in class and they are also gone over in section. but they are all very interesting, so i recommend you read them. Fennell is intelligent and nice, she is thoroughly engaging too. take this class!

Jan 2012

Before taking the class, I had read some negative reviews and was prepared for a bad lecturer. However, I found Professor Fennell an interesting and engaging professor who really cared about her students. She made sure to learn all of our names (there were about 80 of us) and by the second week, could remember who we were and where we usually sat. Her lectures are a must. This class is not really about interpreting culture like I thought it was going to be. Instead, it is a survey of the most important anthropologists in the field (anthropology is only about 100 years old). There is a lot of reading involved and a lot of it, especially in the beginning and a few near the end, is very dense. Going to the lectures means she will tell you exactly what was said in the readings and what was meant by the author. That does not mean you do not have to read yourself because midterms and finals call for quotes from the readings (besides, not reading beforehand will just confuse you when she talks about these readings because they are not easy to understand). If you choose a good TA, going to discussion sections are important too because TA's go over the readings again and for the really dense writers, this is important. It also is a chance to talk and discuss since in a full class, there isn't really a chance to share your opinions about the readings.

Dec 2011

Professor Scott was a quirky and enthusiastic teacher. His lectures, although sometimes a bit scattered, were extremely interesting and entertaining. His anecdotes were relevant examples and usually very funny. This class was a great introduction to the anthropology department. The readings, especially "Travesti" was engaging and controversial. It sparked a lot of discussion and gave me a new perspective on gender roles. Papers were very open ended, and really allowed the students to explore their own interests as far as anthropological studies go. Some thought his lectures were too scattered, I suppose it is a personal preference. I highly recommend this class, especially if you are already interested in anthropology.

May 2011

Interpretation of Culture on its own is not a bad class, but I would advise against taking it with Cassie Fennell. The material (via the readings) and the assignments (with the exception of the midterm — more on that later) were generally interesting and engaging and I learned a lot from them. In fact, those were the ONLY ways through which I learned anything from this class — I learned absolutely nothing from Cassie herself. Let me say that she is enthusiastic and clearly harbors aspirations of enriching young minds with the wisdom of the ethnographic method or whatever. I understand that she has good intentions. However, all of this is canceled out by her disorganization and sloppy lecturing. Cassie told us that our section, spring of 2011, was the first time she had taught Interpretation of Culture, and it definitely showed. First and foremost, Cassie is not a good lecturer. I would have stopped coming to class altogether if she hadn't told us at the beginning of the semester that she would take attendance and require a doctor's note if we were sick. I don't think anyone ever did give her a doctor's note and the lecture hall was very obviously less than full on any given day, but it seems absurd to me that she would have these expectations. But I wouldn't have minded so much being absolutely required to be in lecture if it weren't for the fact that, a month or two into the semester, I realized that playing Angry Birds on my phone was a better use of time than listening to her. Cassie's lectures were disorganized and meandering and did very little to actually explicate the text we were reading. Half the time this is because she tries to "engage the class"; now, even aspiring to get 70+ people to feel like they are participating in a lecture is admirable, but Cassie's attempts were poorly executed. For instance, when we were reading Mauss' essay about the societal regulation of bodies, Cassie made about ten people stand at the front of the lecture hall, close their eyes, and then sit on the floor at the count of three; then she made them each explain why they had chosen to sit in the position they had, and tried to use this as an example of how we all learn to sit properly in kindergarten and it sticks with us for the rest of our lives. That in itself is not a terribly difficult point to grasp, and she didn't need to waste twenty minutes of class having people explain why they sat cross-legged instead of another way. Another example of this was when we were reading Mintz' article about the sugar trade, and she started off her lecture by asking the class at large, "What is the difference between me and a box of sugar?" The idea she was trying to get at was that both the labor she performs and the sugar can be traded in markets, but we spent about ten minutes having people yell out stupid things like "you have agency and the sugar doesn't!" It was a useless exercise. Another point I'd like to make about Cassie's lectures was that they were riddled with little inaccuracies. Not inaccuracies about the material itself, but inaccuracies in her speech. I don’t mean to be petty here, but when Cassie wants to talk about synecdoche but can’t spell it properly on the board and doesn't know how to pronounce it, I become exasperated. I don’t want to accuse her of being of inferior learnedness or intelligence, but when she inexplicably pronounces “seafaring argonauts” as “see-far-ing air-oh-nots”… one wonders. And now, onto the infamous midterm. Cassie told us that she decided to make it a take-home midterm so it would be "less stressful" than having to take an in-class one, but this ended up having the opposite effect. The midterm was posted online at 9AM on a Tuesday and we were to hand it in by 5PM on Wednesday, the next day. It consisted of four 500-word essay questions; she told us beforehand that it would take us about five hours. 32 hours to complete a five-hour midterm is a RIDICULOUSLY short amount of time. Not only that, but each of the questions had so many embedded questions within them that they each could have easily been the topic of a 2000-word paper, so cramming an answer into 500 words was a daunting task. Overall, I spent about TEN HOURS finishing the midterm. Ten out of 32 hours to do a midterm is far, far too long. HOWEVER, though the bad things about Interpretation of Culture with Cassie were numerous, as explained above, there were things that made the class as a whole not a complete disaster. For instance, though our final exam was originally supposed to have a format similar to the midterm, Cassie changed it so that we had a week and a half to complete it instead of 32 hours, presumably after hearing back from students — and the final was manageable and doable. Our assignments, besides the midterm, consisted of a short response to a documentary, a five- to six-page “thick description” observational fieldwork assignment, and a three- to four-page essay on kinship diagrams, all of which were quite interesting as Cassie gave us a lot of freedom with them. It was mysterious to me why Cassie could come up with such interesting assignments but then torture us with bad midterms and lectures. IN CONCLUSION: Cassie Fennell is a nice person. However, though I knew that this semester was the first time she’d taught Interpretation of Culture, I was surprised when I found out that she’s been teaching at Columbia for a few years now because she has the air and competence of a completely inexperienced professor. Everything I learned in this class I learned from the readings becuase lectures were useless, and though that worked out fine in terms of getting a good grade, it would have been nicer to have a professor who actually taught me things.

Apr 2011

Cassie Fennell is a great professor and I really liked taking The Interpretation of Culture with her. You will definitely learn a lot if you take this class, and it is especially helpful if you are interested in studying the humanities. Professor Fennell took the time to learn more of our names (there are around 70 people in the class), which is a first I have seen for any professor with a class that size.

Jan 2011

Basically, this course is the LitHum version of anthropology. It's a survey course and introduces you to some broad themes that really help you understand anthropology and modern debates in context, but you never get the chance to "do" anthropology or discuss specific texts in any depth. It's a great course if you're thinking about majoring or concentrating in anthro because it shows you how anthropology has developed as a discipline (it's less than 100 years old) and what that means for anthropology today. You get to read seminal texts and learn a little background on the different "schools" of anthropology, but that's it. If you don't plan to take advanced classes, this is probably not a great course for you to take, because you won't learn much that will matter; you'd be better off in an anthro class with a narrower focus. Povinelli is pretty fun, and she tries not to bore the class with her lectures. Unfortunately, some of her material (especially that relating to early 20th century British social anthropology) is really dry. She'll give you vocabulary during the lectures (sometimes on Powerpoint slides, sometimes on the board) and you better memorize these words' exact definitions, since spitting back exact definitions will be half your grade on the midterm and final. The lectures deal with the ideas that influenced the readings, but they steer clear of actually addressing the readings. You have to do the readings on your own and hope you get a good discussion group. The discussion groups are hit or miss. My TA was great, but our group sucked. We were supposed to discuss the week's reading on our own while Mythri facilitated, but it was clear that hardly anyone did the readings and those who did had no interest in discussing them. So instead, Mythri asked us questions and we BSed or just waited in silence. I've heard other discussion groups went better. All in all, this is a great introduction to anthropology as a discipline and a great course to take as a freshman or sophomore considering an anthro major. But if you want to take a "typical" anthro class, or get a feel for the department, don't (only) take this course. It's unlike any other anthro class, just as LitHum is not like any real English course.

Dec 2010

Professor West is a great lecturer. I feel like I would have hated this class had I not had Professor West. You must go to lecture if you want to do well in this course because most of the material from lecture is not covered in the readings and you will have to know it for the exams. The projects were fun and a nice way to get to know another part of the city. As long as you study your notes, the exams are definitely do-able. Overall a good course to take especially to fulfill a requirement.

May 2010

This class is a great overview of the history of anthropology as a discipline. After you take it you'll understand why it's required for all anthro majors, but it could also be a good class for non-majors looking to learn a little about anthro, or prospective majors looking to see if this is really what they want to study for four years (I can't think of a better class in the department to take as your first anthro class). Povinelli gives extremely clear, organized lectures, and she makes sure to highlight the concepts that you really need to know (like by repeating the important definitions several times so everyone can get them down in their notes). Plus, she's a funny, energetic lecturer who likes to throw in lots of multimedia stuff...you won't get bored. The texts are interesting. The amount of assigned reading becomes unreasonably heavy after the midterm, but you can still do well even if you fall behind on it because you're allowed to choose which books you write on for the final. Povinelli wants everyone to do well and she gives a study guide listing all the terms and concepts you need to know before each exam, so all you have to do is look them up in your class notes. That being said: this is a class where you really need to go to lecture because if you don't you will be screwed on the papers and final. But Povinelli's lectures are fun, so you won't mind.

May 2010

I have mixed feelings about this class. Povinelli is hilarious, and such a character. I enjoyed the lectures most of the time, and they definitely kept me awake. I went to every one, because I actually had fun. However, I also did not miss a class because there was SO much information in each lecture. As previous reviewers have mentioned, the exams are entirely memorization except for one short essay on each. Combined, the midterm and final are worth 70% of the grade for the class, so it is essential to have an excellent memory or insane study skills. The readings got pretty intense sometimes, too. One of the assignments was to read a 498-page book in a week and a half. While a fast reader might be able to handle this with only a little strain, those who need a little more time to read cannot. I ended up only skimming a bunch of the books. A few of the ethnographies assigned seemed unsuitable for the class. I guess this class is a requirement for Anthro majors, so if you have to take it and you are interested in the subject it might not be so bad. I took this just to see if I could be interested in Anthro, and now that I have completed it, I know that I am not. If you are like me, just testing the waters, I would advise taking a different anthro intro course, not this one. But if you have to take Interpretation of Culture, take it with Povinelli. She makes it pretty fun.

Feb 2010

I had Sonia as a TA my first semester at Columbia, and have been comparing my other TAs to her since. Her passion for the field, her fascinating research, and her devotion to making sure every one of her students understands and does as well in the class as possible makes her the best TA I could imagine. Extremely helpful, understanding, compassionate, and will do anything possible to make sure that you succeed. The lecture was confusing, and seemed less helpful than the weekly discussion sections. Her help and assistance made my first experience with Anthro invaluable, and made me have a passion for the field. Because of her, I will definitely take more Anthro classes in the future. Especially if she's TAing them.

Jan 2010

I thought this class was really badly organized. I could not tell you after an entire semester what Anthropology is or what the significance was of any of the readings we did. The first half of the class focused on the history of ethnography which was interesting but the second half was reading contemporary texts that seemed to have no relationship to eachother beyond that fact that Gregory happened to ahve read them. Gregory is not very insightful and doesn't really know how to engage the students in the class. I thought his lectures were pretty shallow and he seemed uncomfortable with the process of teaching and being in front of the class which was awkward. He made us break up into groups and talk with the TA's during class which was uncomfortable and a waste of time. As an intro class the discussions were pretty useless since no one knew what they were supposed to get out of the books. If you went to lectures it was really easy to get an A though, but not really worth it. You don't really learn anything.

Jan 2010

Professor Gregory is probably one of the more "down to earth" professors at Columbia. Professor Gregory has a warm manner and truly loves his work, which he tries hard to impart on his students. The other reviews are accurate concerning the TA's involvement and importance in both grading and conceptual clarifications. If also found the TA's to be excellent and informative for the most part. One piece of advice; Make sure that you participate in discussions in class by conveying your interest or at minimum your knowledge concerning the assigned readings. Although this is an introductory course, Professor Gregory takes his material seriously and quickly becomes noticeably withdrawn and disenchanted with an unresponsive class. Professor Gregory is a lecturer that seems to opt for a more interactive setting.

Sep 2009

Angie Heo is extremely nice and sort of endearing, but she does a horrible job of explaining things. The only way I managed to understand anything in this course was by looking up concepts on Wikipedia (and being surprised at the clear and succinct explanations I could find, in contrast to her rather jumbled and extended ones). Additionally, she wanted the class of about 50 to "feel like a discussion" and so a lot of class time was wasted sitting around awkwardly until someone made an attempt at responding to her obtuse questions and prompts. That said, the exams were not very difficult, especially if you do a little research while studying (...Wikipedia) and a lot of the reading assignments were fascinating. There was a rather difficult final paper--we had to read one of two ethnographies and then write 10 or so pages about it in relation to the course ("analytic summary"). Perhaps the ethnography I chose was just the more difficult one (A Space on The Side of the Road, if she continues using the same two books), but I felt that her class did very little to prepare me for the ideas and vocabulary presented in the book and thus the paper was difficult to write (but I ended up with an A in the course, so maybe she wasn't expecting much or maybe everyone else had similar issues). All in all, I would suggest taking this course, but with a different professor if possible.

Aug 2009

This has to be one of the worst classes I have yet to take at Columbia. If it had not been for the AMAZING TA i had, i wuld not have done well. Panourgia was always late for class, takes role EVERDAY taking up even more time, and MAYBE talks about the reading for 20 min. She tries to get people to speak up in class but soimetimes you dont even know what she is asking beacuse of her thick accent. I do not recommend this class at all

Aug 2009

Professor Heo attempts to teach some of the more complex points of anthro and fails miserably at achieving clarity despite tedious repetition. Interpretation of Culture focused mostly on the history of the discipline and didn't give a sense of what the field is currently like. I left the class feeling as though I had a loose sense of what some of the obscure anthro jargon means, but nothing much else. Heo is well-meaning and quite nice, but really doesn't make the lectures understandable. That said, however, if you repeat back on exams exactly what she said in lecture even though you don't understand what she is talking about, you will get an A.

May 2009

Angie Heo is a great, enthusiastic professor who really feels passionate about anthropology. Although her lectures might get a little disorganized at times, she does try to present the material clearly and thoroughly. She does try to provoke class discussion, and is truly interested in what the class has to say. Most of the readings are very thought-provoking, and interesting. The books on the syllabus are great reads. She always encourages students to come to her office hours to talk about anything about anthropology.

Apr 2009

Prof. Povinelli is an amazing lecturer. Her lectures are clear, engaging, entertaining, and highly informative. She presents the information in a way that makes it easy to follow along and take notes but without being boring or dry. She ties her research on aboriginal Australians into the material and has some really fascinating stories. She has a great sense of humor and gets the class laughing a couple of times each class at least. The material of the lectures is interesting. You need to know the material very well for the midterm (I haven't taken the final yet so I cannot comment). The books span the development of anthropology. Some are interesting, and some are not. I would definitely recommend taking a course with her.

Jan 2009

The most endearing quality of Sonia is her willingness to work extremely hard for her students. I missed class 3 times in the semester; once for Yom Kippur and twice because of a doctor's appointment. All 3 times I emailed Sonia for help and she not only emailed me her weekly discussion sheets but in addition to those, she typed out her notes from lecture and emailed me those too, and then even met with me each time to make sure I understood what I had missed. She also gave detailed comments on my midterm and even looked at multiple drafts for the essays and gave substantial comments on each of my drafts. Sonia is really an awesome TA: kind, compassionate, very approachable and extraordinarily nice who always went above and beyond her TA duties. She really helped me understand anthropology. I am a junior and am switching to an anthro. major because of Sonia. She was really a blessing and went above and beyond her TA duties for her students. And the best thing was that she made it seem so easy. I had a great semester with a great TA, professor, and class. Sonia Ahsan is the most memorable TA I have had at Columbia.

Dec 2008

Professor Panourgia's Interpretation of Culture class was great. The readings were fascinating, providing a great survey of anthropological thought over the last century. She was an amazingly engaging professor, asking difficult philosophical and ethical questions that left us confused, which I believe is a good thing, because it meant we were thinking. The lectures involved us responding to her discussion questions, and while she let some people ramble, her overall goal was to promote discussion among the students, rather than merely lecturing on the material. For me this format worked but I know many found it frustrating because we often did not fully cover the readings. However, she usually stayed after class to answer or discuss material with students. My only real problem with Professor Panourgia was her inability to give directions. Simple logistical questions were answered in lengthy complicated ways. If you can get past her complex theoretical vocabulary and her scattered style, this class is wonderful.

Dec 2008

Sonia is the BEST TA I have had at Columbia. She is really amazing in the amount of work and effort that she puts in the class. And if you go to class and have grasped the basic premises of anthropology, you are sure to get an A. What a beautiful person and instructor. Puts tears in my eyes! Definitely try to take a class with her as a TA, especially if you are considering anthropology major.

Dec 2008

She is such a sweet woman and such a knowledgeable professor that I almost feel guilty saying anything negative. However, despite her high status in the world of anthropology, the syncopated rhythm in the way she speaks and the anthropology jargon she uses to fill her lectures makes the class difficult to understand. In fact, I am confident that I would not understand what the class was about had it not been for my fabulous TA. Her lectures were very cryptic. She had a knack for engaging students in lecture but was always too nice to cut them off when they were speaking way too incorrectly for way too long, leaving students scratching their heads saying, "That girl is STILL speaking?" The class is interesting once you figure out what it's trying to say, but that clarity does not come from Professor Panourgia. We spent at least two lectures going over what she meant by "kinship chart" (the one assignment we're given apart from the midterm and the final). Still, we were unable to decipher the aims of the assignment. A lovely and brilliant woman, yes, but a clear lecturer she is not.

Dec 2008

Sonia Ahsan is a goddess amongst TAs. In a class that makes little to no sense most of the time, she manages to clarify everything perfectly. Every week she created question sheets that would address specific themes in the books we had to read and their implications for anthropology as a whole. It would have been near impossible to understand the class if she weren't the best TA ever. She was always accessible and understood that this was not our only class. If we were unable to make it to review sessions, she was more than willing to post notes on CourseWorks, so we could always study from them. She is an incredibly fair grader who genuinely wants to teach in a way that helps her students learn. And we do learn. Students in other TAs sections often ask Sonia's students for notes from section and to help clarify material.

May 2008

paige is pretty cool. i enjoyed the class, and the TAs were good, but i have to say that i think paige's seminar classes are better (although i heard her interpretation section is the best). the lectures were interesting (more so in the second half of the semester). a problem i had, however, was that the readings were never discussed in lecture, or in section by the TA, so i had little ambition to actually do them. and you kind of need them for the midterm and final. i just scrambled during reading week to skim all of them. the assignments, especially the second one, were really fun. it seemed that because they were so open ended, involved traveling and investigation, and actual thinking, not regurgitation, some students had issues with them (sorry, but not everything's spoon fed). the second one was a participant observation and left a lot of room for creativity. being an anthro major, i loved it.

Nov 2007

Val is a very witty guy. He speaks well, and listening to him is a pleasure. Interpretations of Culture is not a good class. Its syllabus is scattered and asks for too much while giving too little. Professor Daniel clearly was not fond of it (and could ot change it, as it is a standard course). Val made the classes very interesting, despite the fact that he didn't really talk about the readings. Every time the class got out, or during discussion sections, people who had obviously never read Durkheim or Bordieu before complained about lack of clarity and whined about Val's lack of focus on the readings. As an anthro major, having Val as a teacher was a much welcome relief, as he knows how to tell a good story while explicating an idea. In any case, I recommend taking a course with him (I've taken two, this one and CC, and the other one was AWESOME). I do NOT recommend taking this course, but if you are an anthro major you will have to, so good luck.

Jun 2007

Caroline was just fantastic. While she regularly came to discussion sessions and class a couple of minutes late, she made up for it with her genuine interest in the students and in the subject. Her discussion session are always related to the class lecture, but not limited to it. Caroline always adds her own little spice and makes the material a bit more relatable. It was also clear that she was dedicated to helping her students as much as possible. The night before the final, she was up all night by her computer waiting for and responding to students' emails. I know this because I emailed her at 1:30 am and she responded at 1:31am. amazing.

May 2007

This class was a disaster. Professor Daniel is clearly brilliant, but he should not have taught an intro-level anthropology course. Besides the occasional joke, most lectures were disjointed and way, way too detailed. he would have been better suited for graduate courses. While neglecting to realize that this was the first anthro course for MOST students, Professor Daniel just skipped over to intense theory. And that's all it was - theory. I was definitely hoping for more ethnography in the survey course. He was also disorganized. The TAs were sweet but they clearly butted heads with him and couldn't do much to stop him. As Val's tangents got longer and longer, our syllabus got shorter and shorter. We were talking about Marx up until the last week, and it was the second thing on the reading list. Though I doubt he'll be teaching this course ever again, hold out for someone else like Pemberton or Povinelli.

Apr 2007

I know alot of people find Professor Weisgrau boring, and I have to admit that when I first read reviews of her class I was nervous to take it. However, I really like Professor Weisgrau and loved her class. I personally liked the subject matter and thought many of the readings were truly interesting. I have to admit that some of the readings in the course packet were too dense and I ended up giving up on them a few pages in. She tends to go on tangents in class, but they are almost always related to the subject material. In general, if you pay attention, you should get alot of out of the class. It is what you put into it that you get out of it.

Apr 2007

Professor Sharp is boring, anal, and wears alot of purple and her class is a serious waste of time. Shes strict about attendance and going to class is usually painful. I usually felt like shoving my pen into my side. It is clear that she belonged to the guilded age of social anthropology and refuses to move forward. She doesnt engage with the test in class and by the looks of her opinions and attitudes never did engage with the texts. Shes a dinosaur when it comes to critical theory but not friendly like Barney. She seems to have a soft spot for flakey spacey girls, and by soft spot I mean...

Mar 2007

I have never been so dissappointed with a professor in my life. Professor Weisgrau is unorganized to say the least. Her lectures lack any semblance of a plan or structure. Her grading seemes completely arbitrary, with frequent -5's for, it seems to me, little reason. She doesn't seem too concerned with knowing anything about her students, and when you go to meet with her she often seems condescending and treats you like a child. She made me never want to take another class at Barnard, which is sad because I know there are plenty of great ones to take. She also made me completely lose interest in a field that otherwise could have been interesting. Also listening to her monotonous voice is almost physically impossible.

Dec 2006

under no circumstances should you take an intro class with this prof. not because of any fault of hers, but because some students will hold the class back, you will learn nothing. take her seminars or something, but poor povinelli doesn't know what to do with low caliber students, and as a result she was totally inconsistent. she changed assignments after they were completed, graded the midterm 3 times, and cancelled papers so we actually did no work in the class at all. if you actually want to learn some anthropology, then don't take this intro class.

Dec 2006

I also have mixed feelings about Professor Povinelli. She as a person is extremely funny and charismatic; she always had us laughing and was especially good at lecturing to large groups (our class was 120+ people). She also has really interesting stories about her field work in Australia and relates these to a lot of the ideas she teaches in class. The readings, however, were often incredibly long and convoluted and nearly impossible to get through. She did do a decent good job breaking them down in class, and the discussion sections made them even more understandable... After long, I learned that there was really no reason to read at all, because she does not expect you to know any more than she goes through in class or than you will go into in your discussion section. Apparently our class did horrendously on the midterm and so she gave us a huge curve and then gave us study guides almost every week with definitions and key points for the final, which made studying much easier. However, I thought the final was incredibly easy and basic and the midterm too wasn't bad at all, even though the class as a whole did pretty poorly. She basically just wants you to memorize definitions, which is pretty straightforward. The essays are graded really easily too, so do well on those, and she even made one of our essays into extra credit points so I would say the class was a very easy A. I probably wouldn't recommend the course; it was at times very hard to get through, but I guess the A is nice.

Dec 2006

if you see "m. weisgrau" listed as your professor do not take the class. even if it sounds interesting. DO NOT SUBMIT YOURSELF TO THIS WASTE OF BRAINTIME. i came into college pumped about anthropology, cultural anthropology specifically. then i had this class. i have no idea how or why this woman is teaching here. she speaks in foggy circles, her lectures are irrelevant to her articles, and the TA's kept correcting her during class. everytime she said "functionalism" and made her little hand-gesture, i wanted to shrink to the size of a chipmunk so i could gnaw at her annoying face. she spent a total of four months in India conducting field research and thinks she is the expert in India and Hindi. she can't even speak hindi. in class once, she tried to explain the four different kinds of t's in Hindi. she went "tuh, tuh, tuh, and tuh" and they all sounded exactly alike. one of the TAs stood up and corrected her and she brushed it off like she knew what she was talking about... which, it seemed to me, she doesn't. after the midterm, i figured out that i didn't need to go to class. so i didn't, and ended up having a much more enjoyable half-semester. the review sessions with the TAs during reading week will be enough preparation for the final. maxine might be a nice person...i don't know. but she's not a good teacher. you're here to learn, so run away from her class. RUN RUN RUN RUN!!!

Dec 2006

Professor Povinelli is a brilliant person. Perhaps the best way of getting my feelings across is through an email I sent her on the last day of class: "I didn't get a chance to talk with you today (the last day of class), so I am writing to thank you for the material you introduced to me and guided me through. This was without doubt my favorite class at this point in my life: I loved the readings, how the lectures connected and questioned the content of those readings, and how you colored these two aspects of the class with personality. In other words, don't change anything." This is not a rhetorical, ass-kissing move but a sincere expression of thanks. Honestly, take this class.

Sep 2006

"I know you guys will rate me down on CULPA, but..." -beginning of every class/explanation of homework assignment with Paige West (sorry Paige) This class is grossly overrated. Paige West's lectures don't do as much to grab your attention as her clothing (her blinding sequined shirts can even be a distraction). After taking this course, I know little more than I did when I started about anthropology. Professor West went through the history of anthropology for about 3/4 of the semester, then crammed a few current topics in at the tail end. As for the readings, not once did she mention them in class and in discussion the TAs struggled to relate them to the lectures. If you do take this class, don't even bother buying any of the books. It's pointless (and Growing Up Global is quite possibly the worst book ever). It was frustrating to hear Professor West being so hypocritical all the time. Although the lectures often centered around being nonjudgmental and recognizing differences within groups of people, Prof West insisted on making sweeping generalizations about the studentes in the class and Columbia U students in general. She often told us that we were all "so stressed out" and over-obsess about grades, or that we all got 1600s on our SATs, which is just... annoying. (And false, from personal experience...) Basically, if you want a supereasy class and you can stand Paige West's cutesy attempts to relate to us young people, take this class. If not... don't?

Jun 2006

Rosalind Morris is as thought-provoking, radical, challenging, generous, poetic, tough, shy, bold, knowledgeable, deeply sensitive, open-minded, and thoughful as it gets! What a beautiful human being, at once bringing you to tears with her intelligence and surprising you with her delightful sarcasm. You'll want to be her. This is what Anthropology should aspire to. You will read a broad range of texts critically, and engage with them in your own writing. Professor Morris' courses provide an opportunity for deep rigor and creativity.

Jun 2006

I have mixed feelings on Professor Povinelli. On the one hand, her stories about working in Australia and hanging out with Radical Faeries are awesome and she seems like a genuinely cool person. On the other hand, I greatly disliked her class. The books we read were great... for curing my insomnia. Class lectures went off on random (though often entertaining) tangents, and by the time the midterm and final rolled around, my notes were full of random facts that were only slightly related to the class material. We had little to no review for either exam, though students did ask for a study guide. Some topics that appeared on the midterm and final had only been briefly brought up in class. Discussion sections were painful due to inexperienced TAs and several students who dominated the class trying to out-pretentious one another; we rarely, if ever, got anything relevant accomplished there. I don't know if Professor Povinelli's teaching is at fault or if she chose books that would be better for other classes, but this was the first intro course she'd taught in a while so I do give her credit for not going over our heads completely. If you have a strong interest in sociology and anthropology, take this course; I would not recommend it to someone just trying to fulfill a requirement.

May 2006

Povinelli is nice and undoubtedly smart. She is a good lecturer and makes lectures interesting. Her TA's are a bit incompetent and sometimes the class is sometimes a bit annoying due to the presence of uptight and condescending students who think they know everything. The class itself is fun and I highly recommend it. Ignore the idiots and listen to Povinelli.

Apr 2006

This is my semester at Columbia, and out of all the courses I have taken, Paige West's class is the best one thus far. I made a fuss about being sent out of class for assignments off campus about 3 times, but now I understand and those times were very important to better understanding her concepts. She doesn't BS you at all and is young, sharp, articulate, super down to earth. She refuses e-mail because of the issues involving human contact , but she has office hours and people do see her. This class requires no previous experience with Anthropology, just an open mind. The stuff that we deal with in this class (Count Chocula, Hipsters, WB shows) would surprise most non-anthropology majors. Even if you're not an anthro major, I would reccomend this class anyway. Courses like this and professors like her are why I applied to this college in the first place.

Jan 2006

I was excited to take this class because most of Larkin's reviews were fairly positive. BUT, though the class started well, by the end of the semester I wanted to kill myself! The readings were long- some were interesting and even complicated, but others were utterly irrelevant and just plain painful to get through. The second half of the semester was all over the place- nothing was tied together, and I didn't really see how any of those books even tied to Anthropology at all. Larkin CLEARLY is obsessed with Africa, which is interesting at times, but REALLY gets out of hand towards the end. He doesn't focus at all on the rest of the world. His interest ends painfully with the final 400 page book about an African prostitute that's more or less written in ebonics. Seriously. The TAs were nice, and meant well, but the sessions were essentially useless and have no direction.

Jan 2006

First of all, I'll start out by saying that both the positive and negative reviews are "right" in a sense. Yes, the man rambles. If he sets a class agenda for the day, he never finishes discussing all that he sets out to. That said, you will read many of the fundamental texts of anthropology (Mauss, Malinowski, etc) and many interesting, but certainly off-beat texts (such as his own books, and others of his choosing such as Toward an Anarchist Theory of Anthropology). Personally, I find his ramblings super-interesting. He is certainly not the kind of guy who lectures according to power-point presentation bullet points. If that's how you learn best, avoid this class. If bullet-point lecturing makes you want to kill yourself, you'll probably love Taussig; he's a storyteller. He has lived on-and-off in Colombia (the country, not Columbia) since the 60's, and his specialty is looking at what the pervasive violence that both the successive governments and the FARC have wrought on the people. He also knows loads about the cross-roads between indigenous, afro-colombian and Spanish cultures and talks a lot about their mingling. So if you are interested in anthropology and Latin America, Taussig is also a good bet. He loves students, so if these subjects, or approaches to anthropology interest you, feel free to drop by his office for a chat.

Jan 2006

This is a VERY easy class if you know how to bs your way through papers, and possess the skills to charm your TA. Just assimilate the post-modern lexicon from a few choice readings, and remember: There is NO such thing as Truth. Don't expect to learn anything about the science of Anthropology: it's no longer a science. (That's why the EEEB department was created.) Past reviewers are right, you don't have to go to lectures to get an A, but if you are thinking about experimenting with drugs, perhaps seeing Taussig once a week will deter you.

Jan 2006

Getting through this class was the most painful experience in my academic career thusfar. The readings were boring and dry, the lectures weren't mindblowingly enlightening, and the TAs, though nice, were not that helpful in conveying information. First of all, Professor Larkin was ALWAYS late for lectures. I can understand if the professor is late one or two times during the semester, but he was late so much that students who arrived 5-10 minutes later would still be in their seats before Larkin was in class. Alas, his lack of punctuality wouldn't have been a big deal had it not affected our final examination. He was LATE 20 MINUTES to our final, and worse, he refused to give us extra time, which really sucked since the final was supposed to be three essays in three hours. There was also a lot of reading for an introductory course, which I thought seemed unnecessary especially since it was extremely boring. Anthropology seems like a field that has a lot of flexibility and is applicable to everyday, modern life, which could be really interesting to learn. However, Larkin really killed the field of interest for me. The old Antropological studies that he had us read, albeit helped shape the field and very important to the understanding of Anthropology, was focused on too much. It would have been better if he focused on older studies in the beginning of the semester and then brought in some modern applications of Anthropology to the latter half. I think what Larkin needs to understand is that Anthropology can be introduced to students as a study that can be applied to every society in every time period, not just the indigenous tribes of wherever today or 50 years ago. It doesn't always have to be applied historically or geographically. It can be applied to modern society. Culture is everywhere, not just in Africa. If there was enlightening information that I may have missed and that would have allowed me to appreciate the readings, it was not revealed to me by the TAs during discussion section. The TAs were nice and tried to help prepare us for the exams, but when it came to discussing the readings, we never finished understanding the major points. Someone would ask a question, and we would go down a spiraling tangent of random facts and anthopological thought. Of the 55 minutes we spent in section, probably only 15-20 were really devoted to undersatnding the readings. If you're going to take this course, definitely take it with a different professor. I've heard of other professors giving much more interesting assignments and readings to introduce the field to students (i.e. Prof. Sharpe). But as long as you understand the major concepts Larkin is trying to get through, you'll do fine on the paper and exams.

Dec 2005

I really enjoyed this class and it made me want to be an anthropology major. Larkin was great - I thought he was well organized, he asked for classroom engagement which can spice up lectures every once in a while and really seemed to do a great job applying what we read in class to the real world in a way that made everything, even the most boring and confusing readings, really interesting. There were also really interesting readings: Boas, Geertz (though probably not enough of him), Evans-Pritchard, etc. THe TAs were really nice and understanding (Caroline and Katie) and each taught one lecture. I highly recommend this class and Larkin.

Dec 2005

At first I was slightly upset that I'd gotten Antonio as a TA -- the discussion sections were 10am Fridays and he talked very slowly and who could make sense of Prof Taussig's lectures ANYWAY? But I soon changed my mind -- Antonio is amazingly intelligent, well-read, and thoughtful. He considers everyone's ideas thoroughly, sometimes even emailing us outside of class to finish a thought, and focuses on connecting all the readings to one another, which is very helpful. He speaks about seven languages and comes at everything from a vastly different -- and more personal and engaging -- perspective than most other CU Anthro students you'll encounter. He's a fair (though somewhat arbitrary) grader and a great guy. Highly recommended!

Dec 2005

A wonderful class taught by a wonderful professor. As other reviewers have said, this course is not a review of "anthropology" - but an introduction to actually studying anthropology. I guess you could call it "meta-anthropology." My only qualm - the lectures took a dive in the middle of the semester, but Taussig is still brilliant. If you get to read any of the full books on the syllabus, make sure you read the ones he himself wrote. They're awesome.

Dec 2005

The man's a genius, no contest. The class, however, is beyond wretched. If you really want to "experience Taussig," I recommend you read some of his books ("Law in a Lawless Land" was good) and spare yourself the pain of this rambling, pointless course. With that said, attending his lectures is kind of like reading "Naked Lunch." So maybe if you like the Beats, you'd fare better than me.

Dec 2005

Caroline was always helpful and responded to e-mails promptly. She always told us what to hone in on for the exams and went over all the books in detail, answering all questions. She was a great compliment to a great professor.

Dec 2005

The first day of class, I was stunned at the brilliance of this man. The points that he was bringing together and relating to each other just blew me away. While some of the lectures can be a bit boring (especially if you're exhausted and haven't had that morning cup of coffee), they were always worth going to-- even for the two sentences that you did make out through his English accent. Make sure you raise your hand a couple of times to show him you've done at least some of the huge amounts of reading and you should be fine. Also, for the first readings for the first exam, ask him what you should be reading for, I wish I had!

Dec 2005

I want my money back! What a horrible excuse of a class. Taussig rambles, and rambles, and rambles, and rambles, and rambles, and rambles, and rambles, and rambles on about God knows what, but certainly NOT about anthropology. The required books are as expensive as they are confusing, and they are plenty expensive. The class breaks into small groups, about 20, in which a TA leads discussion. However, even my TA was confused when confronted with basic questions. Worst of all, the grading is completely subjective. You are at the whim of your TA. You can write an absolutely knock out brilliant essay and get a C, which happened, or write a load of crap and get an A, which likewise happened. I would not recommend this class, or this instructor.

Nov 2005

This was the first class I ever attended in my first semester at Columbia.. I was absolutely terrified that this was what I was paying money for. I went to only a handful of lectures, most of them consisted of him rambling on in short shorts and unbuttoned shirts(this is the last prof you want to see in this state). My notes often only had one or two statements per lecture- i'll admit every now and then he raised interesting questions, but he gave them no context and did not make any attempt to answer them. Section is where the class really is. I liked my T.A.(Kiara if u have the choice), and often had great discussions in section. The papers that were assigned(often), however, were such painful strange topics and graded so subjectively it left me at a complete loss. The course packet is interesting but do not buy the other 10+ books, particularly his. Sit in on one lecture if you want a taste of his madness- he is hysterical and very approachable, but that is NO reason to waste a semester with this man. DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS.

Nov 2005

Granted, the man has clearly done way too many hallucinagenic drugs and it shows (and not just in the shiny purple shirts!)--his tangents have tangents, he trails off frequently, and he often does this adorable pilsbury dough-boy laugh--BUT those who say he is a fraud in these reviews are clearly lazy students or just not interested in the subject of anthropology. Not that this means anything necessarily, but he is at the forefront of his field (which I know at Columbia doesn't seem like a shocker, but even by this university's standards he's somewhat of an academic celebrity)--those who say he doesn't know what he's talking about obviously don't know what he was talking about. Taussig's class is unique, as is he, and if you love professors who are PASSIONATE about the material, are hilarious because of their quirkiness, and know freakin everything about their subject then check him out. Taussig hates the stereotypical Columbia do-it-for-the-grade-and-to-get-the-right-answer student--he really wants you to read deeply, THINK about the material and get something out of it. Really, the best way to go is to sit in on a class--or even 20 minutes of a class!--and see for yourself.

Aug 2005

Brilliant, interesting. Made the class fun, and lectures were great. However, he expects a lot, so try to be a genius. You have to be able to connect many different things from many different theories.

Jun 2005

Panourgia is a very good teacher. She is kind, interesting, and helpful. She was sick a lot last semester so we ended up missing a bit of class...also because of the strikes. Our TA was horrible and an evil grader. Discussion sections were extremely boring but were only held after we watched videos. Videos were interesting sometimes, but usually not. HOwever, Panourgia would grade the same material and they would discuss the grade given. After Panourgia it would usually be raised. Overall, the class is eye-opening just in terms of the world and what not. But the material is not that interesting. A couple of the books were though, and I'm sure other people would enjoy the class more than I would.

Apr 2005

Jon's really great. He is flexible and willing to help you out until you can understand the material and get somewthing out of it. His discussion sections were lively and interesting even iof sometimes off topic, but htat is part of the charm of that class.

Apr 2005

although i read all the reviews about how disorganized he is, i just didn't see it in the class. He comes very prepared with pages of notes and specific quotations. At times, it seems that he's saying the most brilliant things off the top of his head. He does a very good job of relating the readings to everyday observations that anyone can easily understant. Definitely do the readings, but the discussion sections are mandatory for a reason. They help a great deal. It's true that he doesn't answer his email, but office hours are there for a reason, so he can get to know you, which is definitely does do if you make that effort. Definitely one of my favorite professors.

Apr 2005

Do not take this class. The teachers spent the first 6 classes (after which I could not take it anymore and had to drop it) discussing various ways to think about anthropology while using gigantic probably nonexistent words and not actually getting into the "meat" of things or saying anything interesting about a specific culture. My high school anthropology teacher was better than this. And I'm sorry, but her voice is pretty obnoxious, which does not help the situation.

Mar 2005

No No No!!!! Do not take this class!!! It has nothing to do with anthropology. Taussig just rambles on and on in a "whirlygig" about whatever pleases him. The lengthly and confusing readings are a complete waste. Moreover, the books are darn expensive (thirteen in all), and are as confusing as Taussig himself. It is such a shame, because anthro could be a fantastic course with properly assigned readings. The class is subdivided into discussion groups in which the TA grades your assignments. I did luck out and have a good TA, but that was not the case in all of the sections. Accordingly, the grading is completely subjective, and does not reflect students work on an even playing field. To sum things up, I am no longer an anthropology major because of this class.

Mar 2005

Mick Taussig is one of the gems of Columbia. I'm a Comp Lit major and have no specific interest in anthropology, but I am so glad I took this course. Prof. Taussig is passionate, eccentric, brilliant, and loves students and teaching.

Feb 2005

Don't take this class unless you have a genuine intrest in Anthropology, I took it thinking it sounded easy, but it was both very boring and not as easy as I had hoped. The reading is pretty dry and at times very long, and Brian Larkin is as the other reviewers have said, quite unorganized, which I found obnoxious.

Jan 2005

I have to agree with the previous review. Your grade is determined subjectively by a TA, not by Taussig. There were tons of readings, many of which were never discussed. Furthermore, the cost of purchasing these books is enormous. Although the course had little to do with antrhopology, some of the topics were interesting. Overall, I propbably would not recomend it.

Jan 2005

Yes. I came to barnard and I had no idea what I wanted to major in, and then i took this class and decided that my major would be anthropology. I give credit to professor Sharp. She made the class feel like a really big happy family, and was very clear in all the lectures. There was a lot of reading, but hey, articles about omens and witch babies and rooster fights are worth it. You get to learn about worlds that are not your own - what can be cooler? Professor Sharp is a wonderful lady...go to her office hours and get to know her. If you have an open mind and love exotic people and things, take this course!

Jan 2005

This was the most frustrating and painful class I have ever had the displeasure of taking at Columbia. It was not so much because of the Taussig, but because the course had very little to do with anthropology and much more to do with philosophy. Taussig is truly zanny, but if your ideas don't match his, watch out! His reading assignments were lengthly, and many simply did not make any sense. Furthermore, several of the costly required books were written by Taussig. After dumping a ton of money on them, we just read a few chapters. The worst part of this class, however, relates to the TA's. You are at the complete whim of who you get. Personally, I have never written better papers for any class at Columbia, and I have never received such low grades! I read every single iota, participated in every discussion group, and never missed a lecture or a discussions group. However, this was not reflected in my grades. To add insult to injury, I read some of the papers that received A's. Some of these students constantly missed class, and failed to do readings. This was reflected in mediocre papers, yet they received the hightest grades!! This is astounding to me. As someone who previoulsy had a perfect 4.0 gpa, I am regretful that I took this waste of a class. About 150 people showed up for the first lecture. Many left. Be smart and do the same.

Jan 2005

Mick is the only teacher who's words I thought about outside of class. Understandably, if you're a callow little freshman you will probably be scared at first, but once you move past the all the orthodox crap of what a professor should look, talk, and act like, you will love this guy. Half the time it sounds like he's just pulling stuff out of his ass, the the other half of the time you don't really know where he's going, but like an earlier review so eloquently put it, though Mick never goes quite where you expect, what he does touch upon is far more interesting. Plus, he will make far more sense if you actually read the stuff he assigns before coming to class, which I rarely did. Yes, you certainly don't have to do all the reading to get a decent grade, but the reading is so interesting that you really don't mind it. DEFINITELY take this class, if you don't mind that it's far more philosophy and psychology than anthropology of course.

Jan 2005

Professor Sharp's class is a great one to take if you absolutely must get the requirement out of the way, are great at pulling assignments out of your behind, and if she decides that she likes you. If not, you're screwed. I read every book for that class, worked hard on all the assignments, attended and spoke up in class everyday, and did not get an A. The quality of the class is insulting; you can spend six hours a week reading a 200 page book to only have her actually discuss the material for 20 minutes. The lack of depth with which she approached the material was insulting, as though you had nothing better to do than put your other work on hold to do the reading. Sharp's lectures are unorganized and have absolutely no focus. She plays serious favorites, and if she doesn't like you, forget it. She thinks she's a cultured anthropologist, when in my opinion she is completely insensitive and has little respect for her students. Sharp is condescending, and clearly thinks that her enlightening experience studying in Madagascar makes her opinion superior to yours in every regard. Grading was completely arbitrary, and if you have a terrible TA (as in my case), drop the class. It simply is not worth your time.

Dec 2004

Some parts of the class are extremely interesting while others are extremely tedious. Sharp makes the material connect to you and is an excellent teacher. She is also very picky about what you need to know for tests. The assignments were fun to do but time consuming.

Dec 2004

I really enjoyed this class as an introduction to anthropology. Readings were heavy but generally really interesting, and I looked forward to going to class. There were some really great discussions that I felt welcome to contribute to. Mandatory discussion groups were for the most part unhelpful, but nice for last minute questions around the time papers were due. There's a lot of work involved in this class, but I found it less painful than a lot of the busy work I've done for other classes. It's possible to get a good grade with a reasonable amount of effort, although I will admit she threw in some random info on some of the tests. Overall she's very likable and class time was much more enjoyable than most classes I've been in.

Dec 2004

I feel cheated and angry that I had to take Interpretation of Culture with Prof. Sharp and not with Prof. Taussig. Class, after boring and unnecessay class, Prof. Sharp manages to talk about absolutely nothing. Instead of actually teaching any of the concepts from the reading, Prof. Sharp would rather allow every student in the class give a personal example of something related to the most superficial aspect of the reading. It blew me away how I could sit through an entire hour of class without once hearing Prof. Sharp say anything even tangentially related to the subject of anthropology. After a semester of listening to the life stories of everyone in the class, Prof. Sharp found it appropriate to give a final exam comprised of questions about random and discrete words and phrases from the readings we never discussed. Furthermore, she is extremely antagonistic and picks favorites. In conclusion, take Interpretation of Culture with Taussig if at all possible, and if his class is full.....wait till the next semester.

Dec 2004

What a fantastic, crazy experience this class was! Taussig was the quintessential eccentric professor. His lectures reflect his personality: zany, twisting, full of stories and always interesting. While taking the class it felt like anything but a survey class, but at the end I realized we had covered Mauss, Boas, Hunt, Malinowski, et al. , pretty much the anthro canon. I would recommend this class to anyone without hesitation. Taussig is truly a rock star of social science. From his crazy Australian accent to his crazy purple shirts to his crazy stories of his Colombian fieldwork, Taussig will never disappoint. I still use his works on transgression in other classes, and it's really cool to piece things together using concepts learned in this class. Take this class, you won't regret it.

Dec 2004

Prof MT embodies the most positive elements of the academic experience: endlessly informative, brilliant, funny, engaging/engaged, always curious, passionate about being passionate--in short, he inspires my belief in the power of higher education. If you need a list of "right" answers, do not take this class. Taussig WILL leave you scratching your head...and thinking long into the night.

Dec 2004

Jon is the best TA I've ever had. Hes intelligent, insightful, and creative when it comes to leading recitation and putting out ideas. He can lucidly explain even the most obscure of Taussig's ideas and he puts thought and care into commenting on papers. He is very generous with deadlines and extensions, and would rather you turn in a good paper a few days late than a crappy one on the day its due. You can tell he really cares about his students and wants us to do well and understand the texts and ideas put forth in class. I have absolutely no complaints about Jon: recitation was always fun and interesting, very informal and ran more like a group discussion than a teaching session, yet it was nevertheless always very helpful. He's a fair grader, gives good feedback, and is always available outside class. He's also the head TA for Taussig and section with him will make you want to be an anthro major.

Aug 2004

def. take class. just a caveat: don't buy all the (pretty expensive) books at the beginning of the semester. pick up the coursepack and by book by book as he actually talks about them in class. youll probably get to about a third of the assigned material. and if dean lukic is a ta, be in his section.

Aug 2004

Larkin's class was disorganized, as the other reviewers have said. lectures were a bit rambling, and he would forget what he was talking about when he tried to come back from tangents. But for all that it was one of my favorite classes the semester I took it. The readings were both broad and interesting, ranging from writers who founded various schools of thought in anthropology to contemporary writers who question the assumptions of the anthropological method. Towards the latter part of the semester we began using the methods of anthropology to investigate contemporary issues and modern technologies, such as globalization and amniocentesis. I also found that his tangents were actually some of the most interesting ideas I've heard. If you've already taken a bunch of anthro classes, maybe skip this class, but as an introduction to anthropology it's pretty good. As for the disorganization-quite frankly, the class is easy enough that organization is not actually required.

Aug 2004

Maxine isn't entirely bad, esp. not if you really enjoy a lighter work load and missing class. If you go everyday, you're likely to be bored to pieces with her tangents and extremely uncorrelated asides, but if you're like me and traverse to lecture less you'll get to know what you need to without the hassle of some more intense instructor. Remember* anthropology is a very interesting and all-encompassing sort of field- so if you're looking for a really structured, informational type lecture and don't receive it in Maxine's course, it's not her fault. As for the material: fascinating beyond belief - if you read the book, common sensical and unimportant, if you just attend Maxine's lectures without reading. As for the reading, the packet has some great stuff: Said, Ortner, etc. I recommend this course and teacher to people that are interested in gaining a less stressfully attained, yet still informative knowledge about at least the surface of cultural anthropology.

May 2004

Although the material for the class and the readings are interesting, the lectures tended to be somewhat disorganized. Discussions that should have been conducted in sections were conducted in class making the class slower and more confusing. Prof. Larkin is alright but in my opinion he needs more practice in teaching a lecture class.

May 2004

1.) Really cool English accent 2.) He's never taught this class before, so he didn't seem to realize that it was a 1000-level intro class. His expectations were WAY too high 3.) So it was hard. The readings are dense, his lectures are disorganized, and he doesn't answer email (go to his office hours). In general, I hated the class, but it wasn't totally his fault. The subject is hard, and too large in scope to cover in a semester. He needs to lower his expectations a little, but he's a nice person, and maybe with the TAs on strike, he'll read the finals and realize that everything was way over our heads...

Apr 2004

Professor Morris is porbably the best prof i have had in college. she is utterly challenging, and teaches the most difficult theory in a lecturte course. that shows how well she knows her stuff. and she doesnt dumb it down either. she also presents issues that will beome very personal for anyone who takes thi class seriously - issues that have to do with how we live in this world. she asks the hard questions that donb't have answers. she gives you the background to ask. she gives yoiu access to some of the most difficult theorists of the past two centuries. take the class, its a secret beauty of this school.

Jan 2004

this man is amazing. his class is pretty laid back and the workload is not back-breaking at all. considering the size of and how leniant the class is, youd think that no one would show up, but a lot of people did. it just goes to say that people were genuinely intereseted in the class and what he had to say. yes, he went off on random tangents, yes sometimes the class had no idea what he was talking about, and yes sometimes we never got to most of the readings, but he is truly a well-learned, travelled, and interesting man who has interesting and important things to say.

Jan 2004

I read reviews of this class before taking it, and until after the midterm I wasn't quite as excited about the professor or the way class was run as other people were. The beginning texts, although when read again were fantastic, at first read were confusing in combination with her jumbled lectures which never really corresponded with what was being assigned to read. The other thing, everyone in the lecture hall used laptops for about two thirds of the semester, and finally she banned them. She kept saying how we didn't need to take all the notes we were taking, and she was right. Lectures are important to attend, but very little of it will be necessary for the midterm and final. Using a notebook all semester will force you to cut out all the things you will end up studying for no reason. But the woman is incredible, I couldn't have asked for a more eye opening person to begin my undergraduate career with. It's clear that all she wants is for the class to learn what she loves, and it's her enthusiasm that pushes everyone over the edge into loving the material themselves.

Jan 2004

Katie is the best TA I have had at Columbia. I am a senior and have had the whole range (ones who don't speak a word that makes any sense because they are so caught up in trying to sound smart at and ones that are too stupid to live). Katie was articulate, funny, smart as hell, and a great complement to a really great professor (Prof Paige West).

Dec 2003

Katie is a great T.A. Her discussion sections are really helpful in terms of making clearer the readings and class lectures, and she makes herself very available to help all the students. She goes slightly off topic sometimes, but her tangents are usually more interesting than the material we're supposed to be covering.

Dec 2003

I don't care what anyone else says, Professor West is an amazing teacher. Yes, she is openly left-leaning and has very strong convictions that come through in her lectures, but she frequently encourages students to dissent, debate, and disagree with her, to form their own opinions and not just accept hers blindly. The outside reading is not completely relevant as they're not discussed in class, but the T.A.s are really helpful in the discussion sections in terms of forming connections between the readings and broader anthropology. Anyway, I would definitely recommend Professor West, and not just because she plays cool music as people are filing into class, wears great clothing (like a mini-skirt and cowboy boots), and shows "Bladerunner" for two classes. She is smart, funny, interesting, and incredibly passionate about what she does. Definitely take her class.

Dec 2003

This woman is amazing. TAKE THIS CLASS! You wonÂ’t regret it! Not only does it fulfill a number of requirements, but also Professor West makes the class fun to go to. What can I say? Her lectures are enthralling and sometimes I wish I didnÂ’t have to take notes just so I can sit and bask in her speaking. Though for an intro class, there is a whole load of theory, which sometimes gets confusing but donÂ’t worry about it. Professor West and the TAÂ’s make the material highly accessible for those who never had background in anthropology. I feel like sheÂ’s the only professor IÂ’ve had that truly understands her students, telling us once or possibly more times that as Columbia students we should have a little fun and not worry so much. SheÂ’s funny, sheÂ’s hip and sheÂ’s just so cool. Her lectures are clear, organized and yes they do relate to the reading (though sometimes it did not follow the syllabus). I recommend that you take this class or any class Professor West is teaching, though she is on leave next year. This class changed the way I saw the world and itÂ’s really how I imagined a college class to be and more so. Though, there are some students that complain about this class, maybe it is because of the question and answer times, but I say itÂ’s all worth it. The class is easy, but you will have to do the readings (most of them anyway) if you want to do really well. I'm really going to miss this class.

Dec 2003

This is the only class that I have had where after the last lecture of the semester the entire class applauded the professor. West will make you think. West will make you laugh. West will sometimes REALLY make you laugh. West will remind you in about a million different ways why school is cool. West will make you want to go out and read all the crazy theory shit she brings up in class. She makes you want to find out more about social theory - that is huge! The class is all based on the idea that social relationships, social instutions, and "culture" are made (she tells you this the last day of lecture - but you kind of have to be an idiot not to get it from about the second week after the mid term). It is about learning how to disect, disconstruct, understand, and think about - the world. Also, West loves anthropology. Loves it. LOVES IT. She tells great stories about her work in new guinea, gives the dirt on what it is really like to do fieldwork, literally jumps up and down when she is telling you about some stuff, and gives a couple of lectures on consumption that were so good that everyone in the class forgot to take notes - she was so freaking interesting. TAKE THIS CLASS - you will learn and you will walk away wanting to be an anthropologist.

Dec 2003

Taussig is great. He's funny, enthusiastic, and definitely a character. I heard from many before enrolling "you'll never have another professor like him, enjoy it." And he does indeed have a shining personality: most likely a hippie back in the day (frequently starts the class with Doors playing in the background, showed Apocalypse Now the first week of class), definitely opinionated and not afraid to share it, a non-conformist and proud of it, but not at all obnoxious or condescending. His crazy shirts are always a joy. The reading is interesting and the lectures, though sometimes convoluted and requiring close attention to understand, are always interesting and informative. And consequently, Missing a class or three or four is no big deal if you keep up the reading and make sure to attend discussion sections. There is no final or midterm, and the frequent essay topics are interesting and fun.

Nov 2003

What a crazy guy. He is incredibly disorganized and spends class ranting about economics... which in my opinion usually turns into "America is bad." ....You read some interesting stuff, but he will never talk about it in class.

Nov 2003

Paige West is really an amazing woman, and not because of her clothing. The class is all about ideas and theory, but it is masked in a large bombardment of fact. Dont let it fool you! Also, many of the students in the class are laden with internal agendas which make them either love or hate the particular works selected. Remember folks, its just an intro class, not an in-depth study, and no one is expecting any more. If you take it all in and make judgements for yourself, totally worthwhile. this class changed the way I think about the world and made me want to take more anthro classes, and thats exactly the point.

Nov 2003

West is young, beautiful, brilliant and she seems to love anthropology. This class, and this professor, will literally change the way that you see the world.

Oct 2003

Professor West tries to hard tp be hip, and in the end you learn nothing. Her take on anthropology makes it seem like a pseudoscience, a thing that quasi-flowerchildren do because its hip, and generally a supercilious field- all of which is sad because anthropology is exactly what our polarized, ethnocentric campus/tomorrow's society needs. Generally speaking her class is unengaging especially if you want to hear an academic contemporary's (her) take on the reading material. Her lectures are disjoint to the point where I question whether or not SHE thinks what shes saying makes sense and as a result, people also ask stupid quesitons and by the end you just want to scream.

Sep 2003

as i take new courses this semester i feel obligated to review this prof. she completely turned me off to the field. her classes were extremely painful and she, in my experience, wasn't very nice to her students either. it was terrible. don't ever take her classes. and i will bet MONEY that no student of hers ever wrote the positive review below. you can just tell by everything about-->especially the positives.

Aug 2003

I don't think I could stress this more: this woman is a horrible teacher. While the subject material was interesting, it was presented to the class in an unorganized, nonsensical manner. She likes to hear herself talk and will continue at any cost -- whether she goes off on some rant about an unrelated anthropological book or continues discussing what she originally intended. She may be intelligent, but has absolutely no teaching skills. She was my reminder that professors are not necessarily taught how to teach. Take this course from another teacher if at all possible...I know someone who entered the class wanting to be an anthro minor and ended up giving up on anthro entirely.

Aug 2003

This prof knows her stuff but this intro class will put you to sleep. By the end of the semester, no one was coming to class because it is pointless and a waste of time. It seems that she would be a better prof for higher level classes where she was actually interested in what she was teaching.

Jun 2003

Weisgrau is a very boring woman. She has boring speech patterns, boring anecdotes, and boring, slow class plans that become even slower as she gives her stumbling non-answers to student questions. Seriously, anthro folks, this class could be good, there's some great material -- just WAIT FOR A GOOD TEACHER. That's right. Don't take it from some depressing hack.

May 2003

Morris definitely knows what she's doing and the course content is rich and interesting, although a bit dense. As for her voice, it is soft and permanently set in high register, but tolerable as long as her mic is working. Although I must say her rhetoric tends to be overblown. And often you sit there wondering if the sentence she started 15 minutes ago is every going to end. Is there some reason that we must use "religiosity" when religion will do just fine, or why one cannot connect two ideas with a simple "is" rather than "that which is to say"? She's brilliant, but to call her articulate and well-spoken, if you ask me, is to be fooled by a bunch of verbal froth and stutter. Overall, the course is worth taking and Morris is an insightful and more than competent professor. Plenty of great material and a few fascinating lectures.

Apr 2003

Excellent course (if being taught by Morris). Definitely worth it! Lots of heavy reading and difficult ideas, so be prepared to work hard -- as some of the other reviewers were obviously not. Take this course if you want to be challenged to think about life and academia in new ways, not if you are looking for an easy time and grade.

Apr 2003

This lady knows what she's talking about. She knows the material, she knows what she wants to say and how she wants to say it. But that didn't make it terribly interesting for me. Her voice seems to come up in a lot of the reviews, and I have to say it was a problem. She speaks really quietly but likes to have the windows open so the traffic and jack-hammering on Amsterdam drowned her out a lot of the time. As far as the actual class goes, the material was not interesting. I thought I liked anthropology, but clearly no, no I do not. We did read one or two ethnographies that I enjoyed, but a lot of the reading (which is heavy by the way, and expensive) was theory theory theory. Her TAs were alright, but when they decided to grade one of the midterms it was disastrous. When she handles it herself, things are much more fair. She's a nice person and will never tell anyone they're wrong ("Yes, good, that's a relevant thought, now let's exPAND on it...") but she isn't very approachable. Her TAs are her mignons and they actually told us "Anything you want to say to Professor Morris should go through us first. Don't approach her directly." Don't take this class if you want an elective. Take it if you are really interested in anthropology and are willing to keep up with the reading and listen to endless inane comments from overly-enthusiastic GS students who don't actually know what they're talking about and want to tell the class about their life as a white girl in the ghetto who couldn't afford Nikes or their "life" (i.e. ten days) in Indonesia as a dancer. "I'm a dancer. That's what I do." Yeah okay.

Mar 2003

Morris is obviously very intelligent and highbrow. She knows her stuff and I look up to her for that. She's also great at answering questions. But really could someone tell her to change her teaching style? Her soft mousy voice rattling off theories makes it near impossible to stay awake. And most of what she says I just want to ask her, but what does that mean? What are you talking about lady? How does this theory fit into life?

Feb 2003

The previous reviews and reviewers are insane! West is smart, hilarious, cool, and a fantastic professor. I am majoring in anthropology because of this class. The whole deal with the class is that it is not so much about learning a bunch of useless facts about anthropology but more about how to use theories from anthropology to understand the world. What is cooler than that?

Jan 2003

I would take Organic Chemistry for fun if Paige West taught it. What a terrific professor - brilliant, easygoing, down-to-earth, honest and fresh. Lectures can get a little monotonous, but if you're going to take Interpretations of Culture, this is the best professor to do it with. As long as you take good notes and attend every lecture, you'll be sure to do well on the midterm and final. Prof. West is very accessible and eager to talk to students after class or in her office (you can catch her running laps at Dodge, too). She assigns VERY heavy reading assignments, but there's only 1 course reader and it's not necessary to read it all thoroughly - just GO TO CLASS and her lecture will tell you what you need to know for the exam. (Besides, if you're thinking about majoring in Anthro, you might as well get used to heavy reading!!) I found her grading to be more than fair, especially since she'll let you rewrite a paper for a higher grade if she thinks you can improve on it, plus extra credit. Definitely an A+ in my book.

Jan 2003

I'm really not sure what some other reviewers were saying about this being a "ridiculously" hard class. While there is an impossible amount of reading, I didn't do one page of it and walked away with a B+. Prof. West covers all the points in class that are going to be on the midterm and final. Don't waste your time on the reading, just look over your notes and don't be afraid to ask questions in class. This is a great way to get out of some requirements, but may be better for some less obsessive students. Just enjoy the lectures and remember that its an intro/ survey class, so she won't go into much depth about any one topic-- if you want more detailed information, take a higher level class. Interpretation of Cultures is an easy class and she is a more than fair grader.

Jan 2003

She's definitely a really cool woman. Her flare and style come out in her fashion sense and the way in which she conducts the class. She acts like a real person who you can talk to and relate to, though unlike one of the posters I'm pretty sure i don't want to be her... Just for clarification, the homework was NOT overwhelming. Yes there was reading to do, but some were as short as 20 pages, and others, though longer, could be read easily within a couple of hours. Most of the students were Barnard students. Take that in whatever way you wish... If you put even a shred of thought into the homework and into understanding what she was trying to teach, then you can get an A. She did cover more information than she was going to test on, but she spelled it all out for you. Yes, even dumbed down the class at times, to make sure everybody understood important concepts. (Ex. Unilinear social evolution was discussed almost every other class, and EVERYTHING related to it. If that isn't enough evidence that it will be on the mid-term and on the final then I don't know what is. If you missed that, you have only yourself to blame.)... She did gloss over some very important topics but only because they did not relate to the class. Topics like Marxism were dealt with really briefly in connection with other areas discussed, but weren't tested, so what's the problem?... It's an introductory class, so no surprises that it covers a lot of information, most of which seems really boring. ... I think Prof. West is a perfect example of how hard work can overcome any obstacle. She's not the most brilliant professor I've met, but she obviously knows her stuff and really loves the subject... The class was huge, so her TA's helped her grade. No comments on anything, but everybody i talked to (which was by no means representative of the 100 people in the class) got full credit on all assignments. Yes, one of the TA's did grade much harder than the other, but Paige regraded all work that students thought was unfair. That seems as good a solution as I can think of considering the circumstances.... I think you could do much worse than to have her as a professor.

Jan 2003

Lectures are often pretty superficial, as the last reviewer pointed out, and Gregory has the disconcerting habit of beginning sentences, interrupting himself, and then never finishing them, so make sure you pick a good TA(s), since they will be actually teaching you the material and grading your exams/essay. Mine were wonderful. Discussion sections are optional, but most people go and you should too, at least for the denser readings (also, Gregory assigns up to 300pgs of reading per week). Professor does a great job of answering e-mail right away, and in-class questions on the material--the class did not feel as anonymous as many large lectures do.

Jan 2003

If you are a Columbia student who is interested in an "easy" Barnard class, this IS NOT FOR YOU. This class is ridiculous. The lectures consisted of non-stop power point presentations and tedious descriptions of anthropological "history", all of which West expected the students to record. The copious readings were often unrelated to the class lectures, and although interesting, they were not discussed in conjuction with anything said in class. Furthermore, students were expected to provide detailed answers about these readings on the midterm and the final. Maybe this situation would have been improved with a discussion section, although the TAs were ridiculous in their own right. As for the grading of assignments, Dr. West vaguely defined an ethnographical, 5-page work, making it seem as though she just wanted you to attempt an analysis of a social interaction. She proceeded to grade the papers, without any comments, but rather harshly, especially after such a loose definition of what she wanted. As for the midterms, she had her two TAs do the grading, and one graded much more severely than the other. So, half of the class suffered as a result. Dr. West presents herself in a childish manner, even when conversing with a student during office hours. It is almost difficult to take this woman and her class seriously. Of all the classes I took this semester, this was by far the worst! And it is a Barnard class, none the less. Be prepared for lots and lots of undiscussed reading, and a petty teacher who wears butterfly sequined tops and pink boots, and who asks her students (over 100 in a lecture)to stop hurting her feelings during class.

Dec 2002

Gregory gives occasionally entertaining lectures (depending on the book/excerpt you're reading at the moment), however much of what he says in class tends to be fluff. The TAs do most of the real work in discussion section, while Gregory himself doesn't exactly impart nuggets of wisdom to his students. The later readings are more interesting, so don't lose heart at first. Gregory isn't a total bore, however, he doesn't explain, or "dumb down" concepts to students. Most of what you'll learn depends on whether or not you actually do the readings. While you do need to go to lectures, be sure to pay attention to the texts.

Dec 2002

Paige West is the best! I had her when she taught her first semester here, and besides being probably the only professor to come in wearing a hot pink coat and outrageous vintage clothes to class, she genuinely cares about her students...if you make the effort in class. Lectures are interesting, though sometimes repetitive, and though she's not good with email, you can see you see her around alot and her office hours are flexible...overall, it's a fun class, but beware! you might find out alot more info on papua new guinea than you ever thought possible...

Dec 2002

Ah...Paige West. I had a mild obsession with this woman this semester. Not because she's incredibly brilliant, but because I wanted to be her (men might feel differently, obviously). Despite being an Ivy League professor she wears the coolest vintage clothes, talks about going to Billy Bragg concerts and anti-war protests, calls people she likes "rockstars," admits when she can't teach because she has a hangover, and actually complains that Columbia students work too hard and should have more fun. That being said, as a teacher, she's just alright. She tends to spoonfeed and dumb down (as in, she'll sum up Marx or orientalism in one slide of a powerpoint presentation) really interesting information that could be discussed much further. She also assigns really awesome reading, but never really covers it on the exams let alone in class. And, perhaps out of lazyness, she had a tendency to show movies or to bring in guest lecturers who frankly weren't as interesting as she was and didn't contribute much to the class. All in all, though, this class is a really easy and really awesome introduction to anthropology and you shouldn't miss learning from such an engaging personality. I'm definitely going to try and get into her seminars if only to have the opportunity to really hear what she has to say.

Apr 2002

Paige is awesome! This Southern gal is young, energetic, smart and down to earth...she is more like an older friend you would go out to have drinks with. She is unconventional in her frankness and relaxed attitude. You choose your own project for the etnography and choose a book on your own for your book review (apparently some people could not handle NOT being spoon fed and were complaining about it).She is a great lecturer, pours her heart out for her students, brings in movies, slides from her fieldwork in New Guinea, has great interaction with the TA and invited her to comment all the time, gives out all the dirty scoop about a career in anthropology and academia. Don't be afraid to ask her about anything: from fashion advice (she knows all about vintage clothes) to what to major in.

Feb 2002

I highly disagree with the previous review. Morris may know her stuff, but she is on a major "power trip" regarding her classes. This "melodious voice" that the other reviewer alludes to is actually one of those annoying, snooty, Barbara Walters voices. Her language is so obtuse that it actually takes away from her ability to communicate with students. She does not respond to emails, and likes the sound of her own voice.

Feb 2002

She assigns a lot of reading which is ok since they are kinda interesting anyway. Her, tests, however, are like nothing I've ever seen. She deliberately sets out to confuse students by mispelling words and asking vague questions. Nearly the entire class came close to flunking the midterm. She actually had to add like 15pts. to everyone's grades. The real horrible tragedy was that she repeated this technique on the final. She seems nice, but she lets it all hang out on the exams. Pray for a nice TA!!!

Dec 2001

Rosalind Morris is everything a professor should be. She is elegant, and I mean that not only is she composed, sometimes funny, and always focused on the subject at hand but that every single word that comes out of her mouth sounds like it's been polished with a diamond blade. She has this incredible voice that's impossible to describe, very soft and very clear, which is a pleasure to listen to. Speaking off the cuff she still sounds like she spent hours laboring over the structure of each sentence to make incredibly difficult ideas easy to understand without leaving out all the complexity that makes them so rich. She's like Midas: everything she touches turns to gold.

Sep 2001

The first day of class seemed okay, but after that... I was in for it. The professor is very dry, dull, and speaks in monotone. The material however, was very interesting, and the class had such potential to be great. But I could not stay awake in class, and doodled most of the time. Some people were very talkative, and seemed into the material, but not her. The TA was soo helpful, she held a review session before the exams, and we all wish she taught the course.

Apr 2001

Sharp is serious about the class, but the atmosphere is fun, light, and open. She herself is hysterical. A bit too much reading, although I admit that I have benefitted from it; it was culturally enriching. In testing, Sharp expects a little too much - you have to remember the slightlest, most insignificant details. Papers are graded too harshly, that's for sure. But she's a nice woman who shares her passion with the class in a fun and exciting way.

Apr 2001

If you are looking for a pass/fail class, this is it. While the reading is interesting, there is a lot of it. Her quizzes and tests are based on trivial information that bears no resemblance to anything important. She picks favorites and her paper grades are biased. She is personally antagonistical, but teaches a decent course.

Jan 2000

Bears an uncanny physical resemblence to Margaret Mead -- long hair, short woman -- but that's about it. Her fieldwork on things like medical anthropology and spirit possesion in Madagascar are surprisingly bland. Unbelievably anal about things like paper formatting and footnoting protocol. Grading policy is tough and inexplicable, at least for papers.

Jan 2000

My biggest gripe with the class was that I had no clue as to what the point of it was . . . which is alright, except that I got the distinct impression that she didn't know either (I even took the long walk to her Millbank office hours to ask). This would explain why she keeps asking about this point on the midterm and the final. Yeah, paper grading seemed kinda wacked out. However, it really was an interesting class, despite having no point. Mostly random bits of anthropology theory and case studies. But, where else do you get to read books about Balinese cockfighting AND the people who live in the subway tunnels?