Intro to Social and Cultural Theory

Dec 2020

Professor Pemberton is such a nice, interesting, and engaging guy. A couple of things tho: tbh I don't think I was smart enough to really follow everything he was saying in the lecture because he would mention ideas and terms I had no clue what he was talking about. The readings in class (i thought) were challenging and hard to understand. But going to TA office hours helped clear up the general ideas of the texts. Also in the lecture Prof Pemberton definitely emphasizes a lot of key points he wants you to get so even though the entire lecture might be kind of hard to understand, you'll come away knowing the main ideas. tbh I had no clue what the class was about and kind of still don't after completing it, but it's basically just an exploration of THE social and social forces in society exploring important ideas in anthropology related to linguistics, capitalism, and religion. The second half is more geared towards longer texts/books. it's definitely not for everyone, but I say give it a try during the shopping period. and if you like his lecture style the first few classes, stay and if you don't, just leave. but overall, he's really engaging and sooo nice and easy to talk to.

Dec 2014

I found this class to be very interesting. It took me a while to adjust to the lecture as Prof. Pemberton has somewhat of a softer voice and I found myself straining to hear him, even in the front row, at times. His voice also tends to trail off at the end of sentences. By the second half of the semester I was use to this and no longer found it as difficult to follow. I was a bit disenchanted at the beginning because I found it difficult to follow exactly what the broader connection was, between the various readings, until the second half of the class. Once everything began to blur together and the broader concepts emerged, I was completely in love with the lectures and readings. The lectures are somewhat repetitive but in a good way as he does a great job of really cementing in the key points and themes. The reading was altogether challenging. The first half, although less in volume, seemed to me to be a bit more heady and complex and somewhat more technical in ways with excerpts from Saussure's writings on linguistics, Marx's Commodity, Freud's Uncanny, Mauss' The Gift, and readings from Durkheim and Boas. I had a hard time connecting these readings at first and this made it somewhat tedious to get through them at times. The second half we read one book per week. Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, Claude Lévi-Strauss' Tristise Tropiques, Weber's The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism, Foucault's Madness and Civilization and Stewart's Space on the Side of the Road. These readings hooked me and brought everything else together. However, it's a lot of reading. I was a bit disappointed that we did not do many class discussions, at least not during the first half, and we did no graded writing assignments, only two very short, ungraded assignments. I would have enjoyed engaging with the material more via discussions or writing assignments. However, he goes over the key points plenty during lecture for anyone who pays attention and takes notes to be able to do well on the midterm. The final was a take home, three essay question,10 page minimum, which we had a little over a week to complete. It was unlike any I've ever had, it was fun but daunting. He basically asked that the student become one or more of the authors (3 essay questions) and engage with other authors about various concepts that we had discussed- part fiction, part ethnographic, I suppose. Overall I loved this class despite a rocky start and found Professor Pemberton to be a fair grader, a brilliantly profound academic and lecturer and, although he is clearly a busy man, I had no problem catching up with him for office hours. We also had three TA's all were very nice and a pleasure. They conducted two group sessions with refreshments, for the class to come together and ask questions and discuss the material. By the end of this class I began to consider majoring in Anthropology and I was actually a bit sad that the class was ending. I'd recommend this class for students who are interested in Anthropology and/or enjoys reading the works of the great founders of social science / deep thinking, but not to someone who is just trying to find a filler class.

Jan 2014

Professor Chatterjee is brilliant and a fantastic lecturer. The readings could be at times a bit dense, but Prof Chatterjee coherently explains the material in his lectures. He relies heavily on powerpoint in class, which are extremely helpful in writing your weekly response paper. The in-class midterm is very easy if you attend the lectures. The take-home final is 50% of the grade which is a little nerve-racking, but it is pretty straight forward--choose two essay questions (1200words each) out of five. His grading is also a bit deflated (e.g. A+=100-98, A=97-95, A-=94-92, etc.), but staying in the A-range isn't very difficult. TA Guangtian Hs is an angel. He's approachable, coherent, and really wants everyone in the class to do well. His sections before the midterm and final are especially helpful. Overall, great class, great professor, great TA!