New summer class connects anthropology and pop culture

Will Baggett

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Pop culture and anthropology go hand in hand in a new class coming to UA this summer.

Anthropology in Movies and Fiction is a three-credit hour course taught by Jason DeCaro. It’s available during the interim between spring and summer semesters.

“Anthropology is the study of people in the present and the past,” DeCaro said. “When I designed this class, I intended it as a way to introduce students to basic principles from anthropology across a range of different topics that anthropologists deal with, which is pretty broad.”

The idea of this course is to study anthropology through the lens of something students see in their everyday lives: movies and fiction. Each day, students watch clips of Sci-Fi films and also different television shows, and then Dr. DeCaro opens up class to discussion to try and link the clips to anthropology as a whole.

An alumnus of UA and DeCaro’s Anthropology in Movies and Fiction class, Denise Gonzalez, spoke about her experience in DeCaro’s course.

“For me, this class is about taking two seemingly unrelated areas and finding the relationship linking them,” said Gonzalez. “Dr. DeCaro took Sci-Fi Films/TV Shows and short stories and asked us to find the Anthropology, which at first, seems difficult. But then, you slowly begin to see the relationship with everything in everything around you. You begin to look at the world through a different lens.”

Gonzalez graduated with her BA in 2010 and her MA in Anthropology from UA in 2013, and to this day remembers taking this class with DeCaro. She recalls his connection with the material and his excitement creating an environment that led to a great course.

“If you want to take a class that you will remember for the rest of your life, take this one. I remember this class so fondly for so many different reasons, but honestly, DeCaro’s passion and enthusiasm are what made this class special,” said Gonzalez. “I rarely saw a professor as excited as he was to teach and that excitement was contagious.”

The class will meet from May 9th to May 27th, Monday through Friday, from noon to 3pm.

During the class, students’ grades are split into three categories: student reflections, in-class participation, and the final exam. Due to the pace of the summer interim semester, students are expected to come to class each day having read the readings and completed their personal reflections.

“I ask the students to write a brief reflection about each of the readings, and come to class with ideas for what stood out to them and what they would like to discuss in relation to the topic of the day,” DeCaro said. “What that means is that every time, the class is a little different.”

DeCaro first began this course in 2008, and since then, it has evolved every year. The limit of students the class has is 30, in order to keep the discussion atmosphere. DeCaro likes to keep the class small enough that it creates a space where discussion is encouraged, so that the students are able to personally understand each topic well enough.

“I would say if you are looking for a summer class that gives you a chance to think about serious topics that affect the daily lives of people around the world, but in a new and very accessible way that this can be both a lot of fun and also really intellectually engaging,” he said.