professor
Sarah Muir

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 2015

Professor Muir is fantastic. She presents what can be very dense, complicated material in a way that is clear and compelling. The course also makes you rethink how the economy or finance even work---especially in non-Western contexts. It's essentially an exploration through the topics of value, money, and risk of economic anthropology, and the whole point is questioning what major economic concepts we throw around everyday actually mean and how they are informed by the society we live in. She's also extremely approachable, and even held our seminar in her office with tea one time. I completely disagree with the review that said her presentation of readings was superficial and that she was pretentious. She's one of the least pretentious professors I've encountered and tries hard to make sure discussion is open and that student concerns are addressed. At the end of the course, she even asked us specific details about how we would improve the course. I strongly recommend this course for anyone looking to see the economy and finance in a more nuanced and different way and to do so with a truly kind and intelligent professor.

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.