«The Unofficial Guide for Graduate Students in Anthropology at Boston University Produced by the B.U. Anthropology Graduate Students Association ...»
The Unofficial Guide for Graduate Students in Anthropology
at Boston University
Produced by the B.U. Anthropology Graduate Students Association (AGSA)
Welcome to the Boston University Department of Anthropology, and congratulations!
We, the graduate students, are excited about the department. In the last few years, we've
seen the expansion of the faculty in sociocultural anthropology, as well as the beginning
of a new graduate program in biological anthropology. We've also seen rising numbers of graduate students entering the department and fewer leaving. We've prepared this guide to give you a students' eye view on what to expect during your pre-fieldwork years in Boston.
AGSA was established in 1995 to provide a forum for Boston University anthropology graduate students to present works in progress, to represent graduate students' interests to the department and to facilitate the sharing of practical information among students in the department. We meet as needed through the semester. In past meetings, students have presented proposals, conference papers, and dissertation chapters. Faculty have also presented their work and discussed their current projects in a less formal setting than the classroom.
Contents Surviving Your First Year 3 Prosem 3 Field Methods 3 Resources 4 Contemporary Ethnography 4 Grant Applications 4 Language Study 5 FLAS 5 Other Options 6 Libraries 6 Mugar 7 Science and Engineering Library 7 Anthropology Department Library 7 Resources at other Schools and Universities 7 Staying Healthy 8 Dental Care 8 Immunizations and Health while Traveling 8 Dealing with Money 9 Direct Deposit 9 Benefits of Being a T.A. and/or Presidential Fellow 9 Photocopying 10 Some Other Student Discounts & Cheap Ways to Live 10 Bookstores 10 Taxes 11 Computing Information 12 University Resources 12 Using your BU Account for Backups 13 Useful Web Addresses 14 Your Second and Third Years 14 Degree Requirements 14 Comprehensive Exams 14 Teaching Opportunities 16 Getting Funded 17 Fieldwork Grants 18 Write-Up Money 21 Preparing to Go To the Field 21 Methods 21 Logistics 22 Giving Papers 23 Resources 24 Appendix I Common Books for the General Theory Section of Comps. 24 General Reference Works 25 Appendix II Students in the Department 29 I. Surviving Your First Year Your first year at B.U. will be exhausting. The Proseminar (henceforth "prosem") and Prof. Shipton's Social Anthropology (if you take it in your first year) are enough to keep anyone maniacally busy, but you'll need to take two other courses at the same time. Some
pieces of advice from those who've survived:
"As early as possible in your first semester, resolve to dedicate your life to school work. It is impossible to maintain much of a life outside of school (at least for the first two semesters)."
"Professor Weller gave me this advice, and it really helped: graduate school helps to prepare you for the real world, in which there is never enough time to produce the ambitious papers you dream of writing. The best thing is to learn how to do the best you can in a relatively short amount of time."
"It really helps to talk to people, because only then do you realize that everyone is experiencing pretty much the same feelings, and you are not alone."
"It is common to feel that you really don't know as much as you thought you did, or you don't write as well as you thought you did. It helps to know that most people experience the sense that they're not good enough at first, but it will fade because it is probably not true. It's just a beginning student syndrome, I think."
Prosem In the first seminar of prosem, you will read two or three ethnographies a week, write a paper every weekend, and prepare presentations on back issues of journals for class. In class, you'll be asked about the tiniest details of the ethnographies. You'll see much of the conventional wisdom and typical criticisms of anthropological schools of thought held up to fierce scrutiny. You won't need to read every page of every book, but you probably can't get away with skipping any altogether. When you're taking the course, prosem will overwhelm you and make you miserable. It will also transform the way you approach anthropology.
"Above all, prosem--the seminars and the way Peter commented on my papers--forced me to read ethnographies carefully and critically enough that I could reinterpret the authors' field data. It gave me an unexpected respect for the richly detailed ethnographies of the early twentieth century. It also trained me to analyze other authors' material in a way that I think is essential for any kind of comparative or theoretical work in anthropology."
Field Methods Although not a mandatory part of this required course, practicing fieldwork skills among immigrants/refugees/international students from your intended field site is a great idea.
The basic insights you gain will make your future proposal writing not only much easier, but more convincing of your ability and commitment. Final research papers in other courses related to your theoretical or ethnographic area are also great opportunities to try a small-scale ethnographic project.
Resources For students interested in religion, the department library has a copy of the Boston Church Directory, published by the Emmanuel Gospel Center at 2 San Juan Street, P.O.
Box 18245, Boston, MA 02118, (617) 262-4567 (in the South End) can be a useful starting point. The directory lists hundreds of churches, with indexes by denomination, neighborhood, languages spoken, and ethnic groups represented. Even if you're not interested in religion, browsing the directory gives an idea of where different groups in the city live and congregate, and makes you wonder what the Zion Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God of the Americas, the Eglise Haitienne du Nazaréen Amis de la Sagesse, and the Preachers-N-Concert Christian Center are up to. How did Boston end up with an Arabic-speaking Southern Baptist congregation?
Contemporary Ethnography If you are feeling the need for more exposure to current thinking about ethnographic writing, here are some suggestions taken from a course on "Contemporary Classics in Ethnographic Writing," taught by Graham McFarlane at Queen's University, Belfast, in 1999:
Barth, F., Cosmologies in the Making: A Generative Approach to Cultural Variations in Inner New Guinea (Cambridge UP 1987).
Bloch, M., From Blessing to Violence: History and Ideology in the Circumcision Ritual of the Merina of Madagascar (Cambridge UP 1986).
Cohen, A.P., Whalsay: Symbol, Segment and Boundary in a Shetland Island Community (Manchester UP 1987).
Gudeman, S., and Rivera, A., Conversations in Colombia. The Domestic Economy in Life and Text (Cambridge UP 1990).
Herzfeld, M., The Poetics of Manhood: Contest and Identity in a Cretan Mountain Village (Princeton UP 1985).
Panougia, N., Fragments of Death, Fables of Identity: an Athenian Anthropography (U Wisconsin Press 1995).
Taussig, M., The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (UNC Press 1980).
de Castro, E.V., From the Enemy's Point of View: Humanity and Divinity in an Amazonian Society (U Chicago Press 1992).
Grant Applications (for first year only) All Ph.D. or M.A./Ph.D. students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents should apply to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program during the fall of their first year. This grant offers three years of funding, including fieldwork and language training.
In the past this fellowship was only open to college seniors and first-year graduate students with no other previous graduate work; however, the qualifying criteria have relaxed in the last year and it is recommended that you contact the program directors to see if you may be eligible.
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Oak Ridge Associated Universities P.O. Box 3010 Oak Ridge, TN 37831-3010 (615) 241-4300 http://www.nsf.gov/ Deadline in late October; notification: March-April. The application is only 4 pages single spaced, and examples that won honorable mentions and fellowships are on file with the department. Be sure to have your advisor read over your application.
The Javits Fellowship sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education awards grants similar to those of NSF to students who have not yet finished their first year of graduate study.
http://www.ed.gov/office/OPE/HEP/iegps/javitts.html email for application package: firstname.lastname@example.org The deadline for Javits is in March.
Language Study Almost all graduate students will need to take some language courses prior to their fieldwork. Fortunately, the department lets you use your field language to fulfill the university's foreign language requirement for Ph.D. students, so you won't need to take another scholarly language. If English is second language, your native language will serve to fulfill this requirement. Note that according to the University, the level required is only fourth semester level.
As of Spring, 2000, the departmental policy is for students to take a language proficiency exam. The two-hour exam requires you to translate into English (with the aid of a foreign language-English dictionary) a page or so of a scholarly journal article in your foreign language (either your anticipated fieldwork language or another language of foreign scholarship (e.g. French, German, Spanish). If there is no professor in the department who can administer the exam in your language, you must make arrangements with the Department of Modern Foreign Languages. The Department of Modern Foreign Languages also routinely offers reading courses in Spanish, German and French that are specifically designed to help grad students in all departments pass the language reading exams (e.g. LS 621 is the Spanish reading course). These classes are zero credit courses, and in some cases, the department may allow students to use the final exam as their languange proficiency exam. Advance departmental approval is necessary. A final possibility to explore is that current intermediate level course work in a foreign language may be used to satisfy the language requirement. Again, check with the department.
N.B. Because most language courses are offered as undergraduate courses, you should see the department about getting permission to enroll. Graduate courses in French and German are also offered. Credits earned for language courses do not count toward degree requirements.
Other Resources FLAS The Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Program of the U.S. Department of Education provides tuition and stipends to U.S. citizens or permanent residents for summer and/or full-time language study.
For Africanists, the B.U. African Studies Center offers FLAS fellowships in a number of African languages offered here at B.U. Prof. John Hutchinson and Michelle Brooks at the African Studies Center (353-3673) or the African Studies Center's web site under http://www.bu.edu/afr have B.U. FLAS information and deadlines.
Each summer FLAS sponsors a Summer African Language Institute held at a different university, where 8-10 different African languages at various levels are offered. Besides offering language training, these are a great way to meet grad. students at other universities and in other disciplines who are working in your geographical area. B.U.
offers FLAS money to students to study at other universities, and the universities that host the summer institutes usually have FLAS money available for outside students, but deadlines and availability vary from year to year. If you're interested in summer FLAS study, talk to John or Michelle by January at the latest.
Africanists can also make arrangements to use FLAS funds for full-time individual language study elsewhere, including overseas. This requires pre-approval from the U.S.
Dept. of Education, so details of the proposed program should be submitted to Michelle at least a month before the program begins. FLAS funds will only cover tuition and a living stipend, not travel costs.
For non-Africanists, FLAS money is often available for summer language study at other schools. You'll need to apply directly to the school offering the language, and may be at a disadvantage relative to students from that school. (At Harvard, non-Harvard students are told they basically have no chance.) Some schools in the northeast that have offered summer FLAS funding to outside students in the past are Yale (Swahili, Yoruba, Arabic, Zulu, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese), the University of Virginia Center for South Asian Studies (Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Tibetan and Sanskrit), U. Pennsylvania (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish), Middlebury (Chinese, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Russian) and Cornell (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Quechua, Burmese, Khmer, Cebuano, Indonesian, Javanese, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese, Swedish, and Greek).
Other Options The Boston Language Institute in Kenmore Square (636 Beacon St.; (617) 262-3500;
http://www.boslang.com offers a range of language courses. Thirty-hour courses range in price from $395 for common languages to $695 for less-frequently taught ones, and longer and/or more intensive courses are available. Less expensive courses in common languages are also often available from the Cambridge, Brookline and Boston Centers for Adult Education.
For self-study and course materials, Schoenhof's Foreign Language Bookstore in Cambridge (76 Mt. Auburn St.; (617) 547-8855) has one of the best (but expensive) selections in the U.S.
The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, open to first-year students and covering three years of graduate education, will cover language funding.
Boston is a great place for language study because it attracts international students and immigrants. If you can't find a course in your language at an area school, you can almost always find a native speaker.