Teori og praksis i sosialantropologi som studiefag
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The concept of knowledge has been used in anthropological analyses referring to something that both provides people with materials for reflection and premises for action. This paper discusses how social anthropology as a subject taught at the university level can be organised in ways that actually give students both new materials for reflection and premises for action. In more concrete terms the paper address the question: How can anthropological theory and practice be communicated to an extremely heterogeneous group of students, such as the one attending the Social Anthropology course at the Agricultural University of Norway? One of the basic assumptions underlying this social anthropology course is that the Agricultural University is not responsible for educating professional anthropologists. The institutional framework of the course is multi- and interdisciplinary. Another basic assumption is that a basic understanding of anthropological knowledge and perspectives will be valuable for the students, independent of the professional specialisation they chose for their future. A concrete course objective is that students after finishing the course shall be able to read anthropological texts, and that they in future study and work situations shall be able to use and relate to relevant anthropological knowledge. In order to reach these objectives it is essential to involve the students in an active learning process, seeking to make the students diverse background and experiences relevant in the learning process. Anthropologists have usually based their teaching on the experiences and models that were directly and indirectly transmitted to them (us) as students of anthropology. Thus, to a great extent one has transmitted – slightly adapted – forms of learning, based on the present generation’s experiences with former generations’ practices. To a lesser extent today’s teaching of social anthropology as a university subject is based on theoretical reflections and explicit discussions on the nature of anthropological knowledge with regard to the objectives of teaching and learning, or the potentials of different methods and forms of learning with regard to this particular subject. Fredrik Barth in a recently published article points to the potentials of knowledge as an analytic concept. How can this analytic concept inform the transmission of anthropological knowledge in teaching and learning situations? As an anthropologist doing fieldwork, in principle you assume the role as a learner. Carrying out fieldwork as a ‘ rite de passage’ for professional anthropologists in fact involves the idea of a constitutive role of experience-based learning in acquiring anthropological knowledge and understanding. On the other hand, we find within the discipline various tensions between theory and practice. These tensions make it, among other things, both demanding and interesting to teach the subject, and even more so faced with the usually heterogeneous group of – often practice-oriented – students who follow the course in social anthropology at the Agricultural University of Norway. How to use this heterogeneity actively in learning situations, while designing a study plan that make it possible for students to acquire the knowledge and understanding that (anthropologists would consider to be) basic anthropology? How to facilitate the necessary linkages between theory and practice in a short introductory course? And how can students’ diverse backgrounds and experiences be made relevant in relation to (what has been established as) anthropological knowledge? Here it becomes necessary to address the question of course ambitions with regard to the level of knowledge and understanding the students can be expected to attain. In the paper, B. Blooms taxonomy of different classes of educational objectives is used to discuss both the definition of course objectives in Social Anthropology, and how these objectives can be realized. Finally the paper presents some experiments with active student participation – ending up with some positive experiences in using ethnographic films!