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Elmer Beal

Elmer Beal
207-801-5702 |

Elmer Beal

B.A. Bowdoin College, 1965
M.A. Anthropology, University of Texas, 1977

Courses Taught

HS024Contemporary Culture and the Self

This course introduces concepts in anthropology, explores the relationship of the collective aspects of culture to the individual, and examines behavior as a consequence of biology or culture. Half the classes focus on a text (An Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 5th ed. by Marvin Harris) which compares aspects of human culture at different times and in different parts of the world. The other classes focus on three novels: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, and The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston. These novels are read as sources of cultural information about individuals from different societies. Two autobiographical papers examine students' own enculturation. Evaluation is based on participation in class, the two papers, a mid-term and a final exam. Offered every fall. Level: Introductory. Class limit: 20. *HS*

HS033Cultural Ecology of Population Control Practices

This is a research course focusing on methods of (and attitudes toward) controlling population growth rates in different cultures. Participants are expected to examine a set of hypotheses which relate several variables in the biological and cultural ecosystem, including population growth rates, environmental depletion, technological change and intraspecies violence. Each student then researches the literature on a different society and presents the findings to the group. Evaluation is based on class participation and a paper summarizing the project. Level: Intermediate. Prerequisites: Contemporary Culture and the Self or signature of instructor. Offered every other year. *HS*

HS322Culture of Maine Woodworkers

This course presents an integrated view of the environment, both cultural and natural, in which Maine men and women working in the timber industry operate and adapt. Topics covered include: the physical environment as a limiting factor, the resources (their nature and abundance), and the cultural mechanisms which mediate the workers' access to and use of the resources (technology, economy, social organization, belief systems). The course makes use of numerous field trips and visitors. Each student is asked to keep detailed notes in a journal of all classes, field trips, and interviews. There is also a mid-term exam. (Note: this course parallels Cultural Ecology of Maine Fishing in method and theoretical outline, but is not redundant.) The objective is to know what people in the industry think, why they think it, and where the industry is going. Level: Intermediate. Offered every other year. Lab fee: $20. *HS*

HS3017The Contemporary Culture of Maine Organic Farmers

How does organic farming fit into American culture? Who are the people who do it? How did they learn what they need to know? Are they different in any significant way from other Americans? If so, on what is that difference based? What role does culture play in the ecosystems of organic farms? In this course we explore the relationship between culture and ecosystem through field experience. Though the culture of the USA has many shared elements, it also contains distinctive elements, some of which are based on the subsistence activities of sub-cultural groups. We hypothesize that particular subsistence activities and the other ecosystem elements in which those activities take place may make specific demands on the sub-culture in the realm of values, ideology, social organization, kinship and marriage, language, technology, and so on. While most Americans don*t earn their livings from natural resources, there is a growing concern with health of natural systems. And those who do make their livings from natural resouces may possess knowledge and perspectives about nature which are neither understood nor appreciated by the general populace. The assumption is made that many students have not been exposed to the sub-culture of organic farmers, and so these must be contacted in person, a relationship established, questions asked, answers recorded. This entails preparation for field-work - understanding of the basic concepts of culture, enculturation, ethnocentrism, cultural relativism, and some elements of interviewing. Further, many of the ideas, both philosophical and practical, which may seem commonplace to many organic growers will be new to us, and so will be explored in the reading and class discussions. Field trips are organized to meet people with whom the instructor has already established a rapport. Each interview entails a full class session of preparation which is followed on alternate class days by a field trip. Participants will use background reading and discussion to focus their own questions. (Students need to arrange their schedules to allow a half-day minimum for the field trips which will take place in the afternoons). We will attempt to get a complex and holistic view of what it is like to farm organically and to build a lifestyle with it as the basis. Students will be evaluated on class participation and on a journal which will include transcriptions and interpretations of notes from the field trips and readings.

Level: Intermediate. Class limit: 12.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

HS3014World Ethnography in Film

This course is intended to give a view of how different peoples of the world live and what their homes, dress, customs, and work are like, the kinds of technologies employed in various environments and the population levels they support.  The text is Ethnographic Film by Heider.  The class views a sampling of anthropological films made over the last fifty years.  Students are expected to view twenty films and write critiques of fifteen.  Evaluation is based on participation and the fifteen reviews.   

Level: Intermediate.   Prerequisite:  Contemporary Culture and the Self or equivalent.  Offered every year.  Class limit: 20.  Lab fee $20.  Meets the following degree requirements: HS

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