Fall Course Syllabus


Anthropology/Sociology 67-68

Course meets: Thursday evening, 7-10 PM, 14 Davis House

Professor: Howard L. Sacks, Department of Anthropology/Sociology,106 Palme House

Office Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10-11 AM; Tuesday 1-3 PM; and by appointment (ext. 5850; e-mail SACKSH)

Research Room: 15 Davis House, ext. 5507


This course provides an introduction to fieldwork techniques and to the ethical and political issues raised by our purposeful involvement in other people's lives: What is my responsibility to the community under study? How might my research affect the lives of the people I observe? Far more than casual scrutiny, fieldwork involves precise methods for the planning, collection, and analysis of material obtained in the field. Whether the subject is a Tibetan religious rite, homelessness in New York, or a Knox County family reunion, fieldwork provides insight into the human condition through direct observation of and participation in everyday life. Commonly used by anthropologists, folklorists, sociologists, and historians, fieldwork is valuable to anyone with a desire to explore human activity in context.

Students will conduct original field research in the surrounding county for public presentation as the central component of their coursework. Our fieldwork will revolve around the family farm. "The family farm" resonates as a key image of traditional American culture, but today that institution faces perils that threaten rural community life. Recent scholarship on subject emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach that stresses the relationships between the farm economy and its cultural context. As a general theme, the family farm offers a wide variety of potential topics for investigation: the changing role of women and children on the farm, land-use aesthetics, agribusiness and the home economy, the significance of religion in Amish farming, contracted labor, family folklore, and farm values. Background readings will be drawn from a variety of sources in the arts, humanities, and sciences. Students may receive full credit in anthropology or sociology, or they may arrange partial credit in other departments and programs. This course satisfies the senior seminar requirement in American studies. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. This course is cross-listed as both anthropology and sociology.


Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1986)

Family Farm Project, Rural Delivery: Family Farming in Knox County, Ohio (Gambier, OH: The Family Farm Project, 1995)

Bruce Jackson, Fieldwork (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987)

Ronald Jager, Eighty Acres: Elegy for a Family Farm (Boston: Beacon Press, 1990)

Marty Strange, Family Farming: A New Economic Vision (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990)


This course emphasizes collaborative learning involving students as active participants in the creation of knowledge, and our activities reflect this approach. I will provide detailed handouts describing each assignment in class.

Research Assignments. Students will conduct original research, including both focused assignments and self-directed work toward completion of a course project.

Course Project. Students will develop and implement a significant project for public presentation in the spring.

Journal. Each student will maintain a journal including research documentation, responses to course readings, and discussions of class activities.

Class Participation. Students are expected to contribute actively to class meetings through both formal presentations and general discussion.

Tentative mid-year grades will be based on my evaluation of your journal entries, research assignments, and class participation--each weighted equally. I will continue to evaluate your work in these areas throughout the year. As the culmination of your work, the course project will be the most significant determinant of your final grade.


[NOTE: Dates listed in bold are special events at times other than our regularly scheduled meetings.]

8/31 Introduction to the Course

course syllabus

Ruth D. Fitzgerald and Yvonne R. Lockwood, eds., 1994 Festival of Michigan Folklife (East Lansing: Michigan State University Museum)

Assignment: Mount Vernon News

9/7 Fieldwork: Issues and Approaches

Bruce Jackson, Fieldwork, pp. 1-78, 244-279


Colin Bell and Howard Newby, Community Studies: An Introduction to the Sociology of the Local Community (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974)

Michael Chibnik, ed., Farmwork and Fieldwork: American Agriculture in Anthropological Perspective (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987)

James Clifford and George E. Marcus, eds., Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986)

Robert M. Emerson, ed., Contemporary Field Research: A Collection of Readings (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1988)

Kamyar Enshayan, Dr. Twisted Visits a Farm (Cedar Falls, IA: Privately printed, 1994)

Don D. Fowler and Donald L. Hardesty, Others Knowing Others: Perspectives on Ethnographic Careers (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994)

Charles C. Ragin and Howard S. Becker, What is a Case?: Exploring the Foundations of Sociological Inquiry (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992)

Research assignment: Gambier farmers market

9/14 The Family Farm and Community Life

Family Farm Project, Rural Delivery


Eleanor Arnold, ed., Voices of American Homemakers (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985)

Jane Brox, Here and Nowhere Else: Late Seasons of a Farm and Its Family (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995)

Joan M. Jensen, With These Hands: Women Working on the Land (Old Westbury, NY: Feminist Press, 1981)

Wayne D. Rasmussen, Taking the University to the People: Seventy Five Years of Cooperative Extension (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1989)

Rachel Ann Rosenfeld, Farm Women: Work, Farm, and Family in the United States (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987)

Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1991)

Joanna L. Stratton, Pioneer Women: Voices From the Kansas Frontier (New York: Touchstone Books, 1982)

Sherry Thomas, We Didn't Have Much, But We Sure Had Plenty: Rural Women in Their Own Words (New York: Anchor Books, 1989)

William Turner, Ohio Farm Bureau Story, 1919-1979 (Columbus: Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Inc., 1982)

Thomas Wessel and Marilyn Wessel, 4-H: An American Idea, 1900-1980 (Chevy Chase, MD: National 4-H Council, 1982)

Assignment: The family farm in community life

9/16 Visits to Family Farms

Research assignment: Visiting a family farm

9/21 Discussion of Farm Visits

no readings

9/28 Crisis in the Family Farm Economy

Marty Strange, Family Farming


Rand D. Conger and Glen H. Elder, Families in Troubled Times: Adapting to Change in Rural America (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1994).

Osha Gray Davidson, Broken Heartland: The Rise of America's Rural Ghetto (New York: Anchor Books, 1990)

Mark Friedberger, Shake-Out: Iowa Farm Families in the 1980s (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1989)

Mark Friedberger, Farm Families and Change in 20th-Century America (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1988)

Linda M. Lobao, Locality and Inequality: Farm and Industry Structure and Socioeconomic Conditions (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990)

10/5 Family Farm Life in Historical Perspective

Ronald Jager, Eighty Acres


Charles Fish, In Good Hands: The Keeping of a Family Farm (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995)

John Hildebrand, Mapping the Farm: The Chronicle of a Family (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995)

Robert Leslie Jones, History of Agriculture in Ohio to 1880 (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1983)

Archie Lieberman, Neighbors: A Forty Year Portrait of an American Farm Community (San Francisco: Collins Publishers, 1993)

Joe Munroe, Changing Faces on Our Land (Des Moines, IA: Meredith Corporation, 1990)

Research assignment: The family farm in history

10/12 Discussion of Newspaper Research

no reading

10/19 Fieldwork: Interviewing

Bruce Jackson, Fieldwork, pp. 79-193

Research assignment: Interviewing

10/26 Tour of Knox County Agricultural Museum

no reading

11/2 Discussion of Interviews and Farm Themes

no readings

11/9 Preparation for Meeting With Farm Community

no readings

11/12 Community Dinner

11/17 Discussion of Project

no readings

11/18-26 Thanksgiving Vacation

11/30 Farming and the Environment

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America


Alternative Agriculture (Washington: National Academy Press, 1989)

Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community: Eight Essays (New York: Pantheon Press, 1993)

Wendell Berry, Home Economics (New York: North Point Press, 1993)

Wendell Berry, The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982 (New York: North Point Press, 1987)

Robert Chambers, Arnold Pacey, and Lori Ann Thrupp, eds., Farmer First: Farmer Innovation and Agricultural Research (London: Intermediate Technology Publications, 1993)

David Ehrenfeld, Beginning Again: People and Nature in the New Millennium (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993)

Cary Fowler and Pat Mooney, Shattering: Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1990)

Joan Dye Gussow, Chicken Little, Tomato Sauce and Agriculture: Who Will Produce Tomorrow's Food? (New York: Bootstrap Press, 1991)

Wes Jackson, Becoming Native to This Place (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1994)

Wes Jackson, Alters of Unhewn Stone: Science and the Earth (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1987)

David Klein, Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer's Journal (New York: North Point Press, 1990)

Verlyn Klinkenborg, Making Hay (New York: Vintage Books, 1986)

Gene Logsdon, At Nature's Place: Farming and the American Dream (New York: Pantheon Books, 1994)

Catherine Lewallen Marconi, ed., Handspan of Red Earth: An Anthology of Farm Poems (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991)

David Mas Masumoto, Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm (San Francisco: Harper, 1995)

Judith D. Soule and Jon K. Piper, Farming in Nature's Image: An Ecological Approach to Agriculture (Washington: Island Press, 1992)

12/7 Discussion of Project

no readings

E-mail The Family Farm Project