Regna Darnell, Ph. D.

University of Western Ontario

Professor, Department of Anthropology

Director, First Nations Studies Program

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First Nations Studies


First Nations Studies 020E: Introduction to First Nations Studies 2003/2004

Anthropology 400E: Anthropological Thought (How to Think Like an Anthropologist) 2003/2004



Introduction to First Nations Studies

An interdisciplinary survey of First Nations issues, from academic and community perspectives including indigenous knowledge, historical background, oral history, socio-political context, arts, language and culture. Specific practical examples will be explored by researchers and community members actually engaged in their contemporary documentation and resolution.

This course is based on guest lectures, readings, discussion, and written commentaries.

In the first term, the guests will be members of the UWO faculty.  Research and teaching involving First Nations issues is found across the departments, faculties and professional schools of the university.  Students will become familiar with the range of possibilities.  Those who continue in FNS will have a baseline for focusing their particular interests.  Interdisciplinarity is the key to First Nations Studies as a discipline and program.

In the second term, the guests will be members of the local Aboriginal community (London and Southwestern Ontario).  They will discuss issues of contemporary concern, again crossing traditional disciplinary lines, and drawing upon the resources of the society outside the university.  Students who continue in FNS may have the opportunity to design research projects in collaboration with local communities and organizations.

This course is the first stage of UWO's new First Nations Studies Program.  The Minor, Major and Honors programs will be phased in over the next three years.  Both Native and non-Native students are welcome.

The program is coordinated in consultation with the UWO Education and Employment Council (majority Aboriginal representatives).  Students will be kept informed of events in the community and region that might be of interest.

The First Nations Studies offices (SSC 3254 and 3255) include a library and conference room.  Students are encouraged to drop in and use the resources available there.

First Term Scheduled Guest Lectures

Sept 8       Introduction (cross-cultural mis-communication), Regna Darnell

Sept 15     Jerry White, Sociology

Sept 22     Carol Farber, Information and Media Studies

Sept 29     Michael Coyle, Law

Oct 6        Chris Ellis/Neil Ferris, Archaeology

Oct 13       Thanksgiving

Oct 27       Julia Emberle, English and Women's Studies

Nov 3        Ian Steele, History

Nov 10      Patrick Mahon, Visual Arts

Nov 17     Stewart Harris, Medicine

Nov 24     Kiera Ladner, Political Science

Dec 1        Rebecca Coulter, Education

Second Term Scheduled Guest Lectures

Jan 5     Glen MacDougal

Jan 12    Mary Joy Elijah

Jan 19    Belanger Brown

Jan 26    Film on RCAP, Bernard Perley

Feb 2     Dean Jacobs

Feb 9     Dan and Mary Lou Smoke

Feb 16    David Kanatawakhon-Maracle

Feb 23    --Reading Week--

Mar 1     Atanarjuat

Mar 8     Dolleen Manning

Mar 15   John Mohawk and Yvonne Buffalo

Mar 22   Susan Hill

Mar 29   Karl Hele

Apr 5     Henry Ford


Course Work

Students will read a brief (average 20 pages) article in preparation for guest lectures in the First Term.  In the Second Term there will be a textbook.  The lectures will be discussed with TA's and the instructor in the tutorial hour on Tuesdays.

Each student will write a one page commentary due Thursday afternoon at 4p.m. (FNS office or Anthro. office to Regna Darnell).  These essays will be returned on the following week.

Each student will submit 8 one-page commentaries in each Term (out of 13 lectures in the First Term and 12 in the Second Term).  The highest 6 marks in each term will count 5% each (total 30% + 30%).

10% of the mark will be based on class participation (with attendance as the first priority).  Those who are uncomfortable talking may want to communicate by e-mail or unofficially during office hours of the instructor or TA's.

The final exam (short essay and identification) will be worth 30%.  Students will be given detailed study guides for the exam.

Marks Breakdown

30% First Term writing assignments

30% Second Term Writing assignments

10% Participation

30% Final Exam


Instructor and TA's - Office Hours

Instructor: Regna Darnell

Office: Social Science Centre 3254/3255 or 3329

Hours: Tuesday 2-3, Wed 1-3 or any time door is open or by appointment.

Phone: 661-2111, x85087





Dolleen Manning

Office: Social Science Centre 3254/3255



K. Jack Conley

Office: Social Science Centre 3254/3255





September 2003

INSTRUCTOR: Regna Darnell

OFFICE: Social Science Centre 3329

OFFICE HOURS: Tuesday 2-3, Wednesday 1-3

(Any time office door is open or by appointment)

PHONE: 661-2111-85087


TIME/PLACE: Tuesday 3-6, SSC 3102

T.A.: Cynthia Leighton



I have ordered the following texts:

  • Johannes Fabian, Anthropology with an Attitude (Stanford 2001)

  • Kirsten Hastrup, A Passage to Anthropology (Routledge 1995)

  • Regna Darnell, Invisible Genealogies (Nebraska 2001)

  • Tzvetan Todorov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other (Harper and Row 1984)

  • E. Valentine Daniel, Charred Lullabies (Princeton 1998)

  • Cynthia Mahmoud, Fighting for Faith and Nation (Pennsylvania 1997)

  • Robert Desjarlais, Shelter Blues: Sanity and Selfhood among the Homeless (Pennsylvania 1997)

  • Various shorter readings may be made available as we proceed.


This is a heavy reading load, particularly in the first semester, both in quantity and density of argument. These are all magnificent books and articles with which you should be familiar. You should develop expertise in figuring out what the author is up to, not processing every fact or detail. To "read" a book is to extract from it what you need to know for your own purposes. The book is then available to you for your own critical thinking. N.B., critique is not necessarily negative, although it is usually addressed to changing the way things are done or thought about, whether in the academy or in the world outside it. One of the things that is FUN about contemporary theory, in anthropology and across the humanities and social sciences, is its often playful use of unconventional and nonliteral forms of representation. Anthropologists have had to learn how to read such material. And we all have the pleasure of learning how to write more lucidly and playfully.

We will develop these skills of critical thinking, in both reading and writing, through class discussion and short papers (5-8 pages) based on the readings during the first semester. Each ethnography will be discussed for two class sessions. Students will write three short papers. The first two will deal with ONE of a consecutive pair of readings (Desjarlais and Mahmoud on qualitative ethnography, Daniel and Todorov on violence and terror). The third paper will consider the nature of the ethnographic enterprise and its foundational status in anthropology (Fabian, Hastrup, Darnell). These texts will set up the second term work of integrating interdisciplinary theory with anthropological thought by means of the ethnographic method at the core of our discipline. We will consider how to write ethnography as well as how to write the history of anthropology and what it includes (national traditions, theoretical paradigms, individuals and their social networks, institutional frameworks). Papers will be due one class after the completion of discussion on the readings. You are not expected to read additional materials for these papers, although you may incorporate anything else you deem relevant to your argument.

We will be concerned with reading skills, textual analysis, and coherent argumentation from your own critical standpoint (which the course is designed to develop). There are no right or wrong answers. This may be frustrating initially, but it is the only way to empower your own critical voice. (I will, of course, try to persuade you of my own point of view, but you are encouraged to resist. I have been known to change my mind, and I respect well-made arguments, even those with which I disagree – exclusive of such anthropologically unacceptable positions as racism, sexism and homophobia.)

The works covered in the first semester are ethnographic, i.e., they are descriptions of particular cultures as an anthropologist came to know them through participant-observation fieldwork (albeit some of it is archival). We then turn to the standpoint and identity of the ethnographer to highlight the reflexive intersections of theory and ethnography, interpretation and description. Experimental ethnographies abound these days, with unconventional forms of writing exploring the nature of representation, the situated subjectivity of the ethnography, and the storied narratives whereby cultural knowledge is articulated and conveyed. This particularity of subjects and contexts, this instance of the particular case as a component of generalization, is one of the most important things distinguishing anthropologists from our colleagues in other disciplines.

In the second semester, each student will present a seminar as part of a panel dealing with one or more interdisciplinary theorists, with each disciplinary direction examined by a team. Obviously, there are inherent assumptions about the interdisciplinarity of anthropology itself. After the class presentation, each student will write a 20-25 page paper based on her/his research (due at the last meeting of the class). Students will divide the work so that everyone reads something different. You will be expected to become familiar with the oeuvre of at least one of these theorists and to use primary sources as well as critical commentary on these thinkers. Related thinkers may be added by individual students (with approval in advance).

The majority of these theorists are not, in the narrow sense, anthropologists. Indeed, many of them could benefit from more sophisticated cross-cultural perspective. Disciplinary boundaries are breaking down these days – yet, anthropologists potentially bring a unique standpoint to the human and cultural sciences. The anthropological approach has been profoundly misinterpreted by literary critics, philosophers, and even other social scientists. In order to counter these critiques, we will have to clarify for ourselves what it means to think like an anthropologist – and what the real-world consequences might be.

You will receive a combined mark of 30% for the oral presentation and written paper. The percentage allotted to each is not set because the scheduling of presentations affects the relationship between the two parts of the assignment. Weighting, therefore, legitimately varies from one student to another. I will use this weighting giving benefit of doubt to the student. More polished presentation is expected later in the semester. It may be to your advantage to present early, leaving time for revision of the written version. The two versions may differ considerably (although they need not).

Each panel will prepare a biographical sketch, basic bibliography and glossary of terms for each theorist to be discussed. This will be presented to the class (xerox sufficient copies and note that you will receive comparable materials from your classmates) one week in advance of the presentation. The team may recommend BRIEF readings, three copies of which will be available in the department library (with a copy provided to the instructor in case they disappear) one week in advance along with a copy of the background material. Each student should make a file or binder of this material. It is an invaluable resource – in addition to usefulness for studying for the final, it will provide you with an intensive guide to material you could not possibly read yourself within a single course.

Class discussion will constitute 10% of your mark. This is not a correspondence course and you cannot remain a passive learner. You are unlikely to do well without regular class attendance and participation. Students are responsible for knowing anything said in class (not factual details, but lines of argument and theorists, works and concepts discussed). You are expected to learn from your fellow students as well as from the instructor and T.A.

The final exam will explore issues of critical theory in anthropology and related disciplines in the social sciences and humanities (based on the edited text and class materials, including your colleagues’ seminar presentations). It will include both essay and short-answer identification questions. These will not be trick questions. Students who have attended class regularly, done the readings, and followed the discussions will be able to identify the theorists, ideas and major works.

This course is intended as the culmination of the Honours Anthropology degree at the University of Western Ontario. It is not supposed to be easy, though I hope it will be fun. It is designed to pull together things you have learned over four (or more) years, thereby increasing your confidence in your own control over the discipline of anthropology. Professional socialization is integral to continuing study beyond the undergraduate level. For those of you who move directly to employment or switch disciplines, this is your chance to try out the role of the critical social science scholar. Our society desperately needs an informed intelligentsia, both inside and outside the academy. This is the goal of our education and of my teaching. Its value is not restricted to those who aspire to become academic anthropologists. These will, however, be well prepared to perform as scholars with theoretical breadth and anthropological sophistication.

(Some comments from former theory students" "It is clear that she was interested in this material." "I have to come back to school (despite an excellent job) – there’s no one to talk to about books I’m reading." "I thought this stuff was interesting but irrelevant (from an archaeologist) but all my first year graduate courses cited Foucault and all those guys.")

The course description in the UWO Calendar (for which I take no responsibility) defines "anthropological thought" in terms of "current anthropological debates and contemporary theoretical frameworks as they may be used in the analysis of anthropological problems and thought." Anthropological projects filling this bill include:

reformulating the traditional concept of culture to incorporate factionalism, conflict, violence, internal diversity (e.g., class, gender, race, ethnicity), and individual agency;

the future of anthropology given the ongoing intellectual baggage deriving from its historic roots in colonialism and imperialism;

creating a conceptual space for politics grounded in social science research from the standpoint or situated perspective of the researcher(s), providing a viable balance between cultural relativism and moral nihilism;

qualitative ethnographic methodology based on participant-observation and face-to-face interaction; the nature of the generalizations arising from such particularism;

our ongoing disciplinary commitment to comparative, cross-cultural perspective as essential to adequate social science.

Schedule of Topics and Assignments

September 9 Introduction: Theorizing Ethnography

September 16

September 23 Desjarlais
September 30 Mahmood
October 7  Mahmood
October 14



October 21 Daniel
October 28 Todorov
November 4 Todorov
November 11 Hastrup



Teams will meet for preliminary discussion

November 18 Hastrup
November 25 Fabian
December 2

Fabian, Introduction to Darnell (method and theory)

Class members will choose a Boasian theorist to emphasize, as  preparation for second term assignment

January 6 Darnell

Class members in teams will take Boasian positions

based on chapters in the text; theory from the standpoint of an individual theorist

January 13

Sociological Approaches

(Pierre Bourdieu, FranklinGiddens, Louis Althusser,

Raymond Williams)


January 20

Literary Criticism

Roland Barthes, Paul Ricoeur, Walter Benjamin, Mikhail Bakhtin)

January 27

Linguistic Approaches

(Ludwig Wittgenstein, Charles Pierce, John Searle)

February 3

Historical Approaches

(Hayden White, Frederick Jameson, Marshall Sahlins, Eric Wolf, Louis Dumont)

February 10

Philosophical Approaches: Deconstruction

(Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Giles Deleuze)

February 17

Philosophical Approaches: Radical Deconstruction

(Jean Baudrillard, Francois Lyotard, Richard Rorty)

March 2

Early Activist Approaches: the Frankfurt School

(Hannah Arendt, Adorno, Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Antonio Gramsci, Jurgen Habermas)

March 9

More Activist Approaches

(Stuart Hall, Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, Asis Nandy, Paulo Friere, Vine Deloria)

March 16

Feminist Approaches

(Julia Kristeva, Judith Butler, Donna Haraway,

Simone de Beauvoir)

March 23

Evolutionary Biology

(Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins)

March 30

Complexity and Chaos Approaches

(Richard Lewin, James Gleick, Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers)

April 6 The grand synthesis or anthropological metanarrative???



Final exam as scheduled by the University – 30%

(class participation – 10%)



Regna Darnell, Ph.D., F.R.S.C.    Phone: 661-2111 x85087, 86429 

Social Science Centre: 3329, 3254, 3255