Dr. Ramona Pérez :: Department of Anthropology :: San Diego State University
Field Schools


The following are courses Professor Perez teaches at SDSU. Check the schedule to see when they are being offered.

ANTH 600: Anthropology of the U.S.: Theory and Methods

Goals and Objectives: The primary goal of this seminar is to engage in and critically analyze the multiple ways in which anthropology is being used within the United States in order to: address social problems, uncover and explicate prevalent subcultures, and modify existing perceptions of these issues and groups in the hopes of affecting public policy. We will accomplish this through the reading, analysis, and review of six ethnographies, each of which engages in different theoretical paradigms, methodological processes, and desired outcomes.

Secondary goals include the development of your skills as academics and scholars. This will be accomplished through exercises that will require you to flush out the theoretical paradigms of the ethnographers, extrapolate methodological frameworks where they are not explicit, write review essays, investigate and scrutinize reviews of other scholars in relation to your own understandings and opinions, and lead discussions, hold debates, and defend your opinions with and against others.

ANTH 540: Contemporary Cultures of Mesoamerica

This course explores the contemporary cultures of México, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, and by association in their histories and politics, Honduras and Costa Rica. We will begin with an overview of the precontact cultures of the region, up to the Spanish invasion, whereby the region became distinct nation-states. Each of the subsequent ethnographies assigned for the class will review the histories of each nation, demonstrating how these histories have produced the contemporary cultures that exist today. The course delves more deeply into contemporary México, providing a diverse analysis of the politics and popular culture of our nearest and most intimate neighbor. We will end with an analysis of the effects of a major shift in culture for the entire region, that of Protestantism.

The goals of the course are to (1) provide you with an in-depth understanding of how the discipline of anthropology produces studies of the region known as Mesoamerica, (2) demonstrate how the similar and yet unique histories of the region have produced contemporary cultures, (3) provide a deeper knowledge of the politics of the region and how US intervention and economics have affected and continue to affect our neighbors, (4) demonstrate the limitations of western categories of analysis on indigenous populations and yet question how globalization may be reshaping the region into less discrete and more pan-identities, and (5) demonstrate the significance of indigenous cultures and population on contemporary global economies and politics.

ANTH 520: Ethnographic Field Methods

"The biggest problem in conducting a science of human behavior is not selecting the right sample size or making the right measurement. It's doing those things ethically" (Bernard p.22).

Goals and Objectives of course in San Diego: The primary goals of this course are to introduce you to the various methods used in ethnographic research; prompt you to reflect on the effective implementation of these methods in research; and to provide you the opportunity to develop a research project that can serve as a foundation for thesis research. This course expands on your existing knowledge of theory, case studies, methodologies and practice in anthropology and assumes you possess these understandings.

Goals and Objectives of course in Oaxaca: The primary goal of this course is to introduce you to the various methods used in qualitative research design and implementation through the actual field experience. We work in various communities to include Santa María Atzompa, Zimatlán de Alvarez, Sola de Vega, and San Pablo Huixtepec.

ANTH: 536 Gender and Human Sexuality

Course Description and Goals: The course explores the multiple constructions of gender and the very human side of sexuality. It is not my intent to take you on a voyeuristic journey through sex, sex acts, or erotica, nor is it my intent to debate the development and enforcement of religious-based ideas, mores and values of sexuality. It is my intent to allow you to develop an understanding of the social constructions of the body, gender, sexuality, sexual norms, deviance, and the medicalization of these issues by demonstrating the historical and culturally specific nature of such constructions. The course is not designed to address the biological body nor reproduction but does look at the sociobiological arguments that affect gender and sexuality. As with many upper division courses in anthropology, the course is intended to provoke and challenge classic assumptions about the naturalness of our cultural constructions, in this case gender and sexuality. 

ANTH: 600 Seminar in Teaching Anthropology 

The ever increasing erroneous use of science to justify race, cultural constructs, and social narratives as biological or naturally produced phenomenon that is static, homogenous, and deeply historic makes the teaching of anthropology across the four fields a continuing imperative. This seminar is designed to provide graduate students in anthropology with the resources necessary to develop both the basic teaching skills and the disciplinary framework for teaching introductory and lower division undergraduate courses in anthropology today.

Goals and Objectives of Course: Engage you in conversations on the significance of the discipline in addressing social and scientific issues today; develop teaching skills as part of your profession; use these teaching skills to address the field of anthropology; and develop specific skills that will allow you to develop a classroom that teaches students how to see our world with an anthropological “eye”. 

ANTH 605: Seminar in Applied Anthropology

Goals and Objectives: The primary goal of this course is to expose you to the multitude of ways in which anthropology becomes an applied science when used as a tool to address, modify, affect policy and sometimes even solve the problems confronting humanity today. Through this exposure, you will come to understand the significance of anthropological theory in guiding methodologies of data gathering and interpretation when confronted with the realities of life that abound in addressing the problems we face throughout the world today. The readings take you on journeys as near as your neighborhood school and as far away as the child exposed to starvation, massacres, and torture on the other side of the globe. Objectives to be drawn from this goal include your ability to: use this data as a foundation for understanding applied work, construct paradigms of interpretation for the work of others as well as yourself, and develop the ability to critically analyze the appropriate genres and discourses of social problems, development policies, disease and healing, life and death, illiteracy and education, human rights, rights of ownership and tenure, and much, much more. You will come away from this seminar far more humble in your beliefs of change and yet more skilled and conscious of the possibilities for change too.

ANTH 603: Seminar in Ethnology

Goals and Objectives:The primary goal of this course is to expose you to the current discussions on theory and theoretical paradigms, genres of writing, comparative frameworks for data that derive from multiple theoretical frames, and the politics of “doing” anthropology that abound in the world of ethnology today.  The course begins with the debates over anthropological, and in general, social theory after the pause of the postmodern moment. We will do this by first provoking the intent of theory and then investigating the notion of the field, a key concept in anthropology.  From here we will move through some of the primary paradigms for not only understanding but also interpreting, describing and even anticipating the movement of peoples, ideologies, objects, and thus their cultures through our current historic moment (and yes, this is up for discussion).

Objectives to be drawn from this goal include your ability to: use this data as a foundation for understanding ethnographic work; construct paradigms of interpretation for the work of others as well as yourself; and develop the ability to critically analyze the appropriate genres and discourses of social phenomenon.

ANTH 523: The Anthropology of Politics and Power

Goals and Objectives: The field of political anthropology has been wrought with the complexities of creating a single, precise definition of what anthropologists are looking for when they speak of the "anthropology of politics". Yet the reality of power as an underlying and primary force in human relations has pushed the discipline to place the study of the institutions, effects, and relationships of power in society as a core area of inquiry. The primary goal of this course is to provide you with a working knowledge of how anthropology investigates, analyzes, and writes about the political machinations of the societies with whom we work so that you too can engage in the anthropology of politics. By the end of the course you will be able to: (1) discuss the early works in the anthropology of politics and their significance to contemporary studies; (2) describe how colonialism and imperialism have created systems of power, inequality, and struggle in contemporary societies; (3) describe how power manifests in and is perpetuated through symbols, ritual, and indirect force; (4) discuss contemporary theorists and their bodies of work as they relate to explorations of power and society; and (5) accomplish the above objectives in writing and in oral presentation.

ANTH 531: Methods in Applied Anthropology

Course Description and Goals: This course is designed to expand on your existing knowledge of theory, methodology, and practice, demonstrating the applicability of these elements to "everyday" issues. We will develop the skill of applying theoretical explanations to human behavior as not only an explanation for existing practices but also as a tool to introduce change, re-interpretation, or new concepts to solve a variety of problems or issues. Throughout the course we will address the many ethical dilemmas that result from intervention; a key question many pose as anthropologists move away from the objective outsider and into the practicing agent (notice I do not imply that we can ever really be an insider to a society other than our own, an issue we will discuss).

The objectives of the course are modest but significant. This course will: (1) provide you with the history of applied anthropology as a legitimate area of anthropological inquiry, (2) provide examples of applied anthropology spanning the entire discipline of anthropology, (3) provide you with an awareness and the basic skills of applied anthropology, and (4) develop your awareness and understanding of the methods and techniques used by applied anthropologists in addressing social problems and issues.

ANTH 533: Race, Ethnicity and Identity

Course Description and Goals: The course explores the theories of race, ethnicity, and identity formation from an anthropological perspective.  It is a course designed to provoke and challenge classic assumptions about who creates and comprises the categories of minority, majority, migrant, citizen, alien, and other such modes of categorization that separate and divide.  The class begins by historicizing race and then provokes the concept of “whiteness” as the category against which other forms of identity – color, language, ethnicity, religion, gender, etc. – are created and maintained.  We will analyze the ways in which national discourses, printed texts, films, mass media, and other forms of communication perpetuate these categories and differences.

ANTH 529: Urban Anthropology

Goals and Objectives: The primary goal of this course is to acquaint you with the histories and theories of urbanization from prehistoric times through contemporary cityscapes. Although the exploration of prehistoric cities plays only an introductory role in the readings, the intent is to develop a baseline for exploring current social effects and spatial uses of an urbanized landscape. The course will move through theoretical discussions of urban life, allowing you to develop a platform for your own interpretations of the ethnographies that follow the first weeks. Issues such as rural to urban migrations, re-creation of community within urban centers, loss of personal relationships and invention of alternative social networks, modified identities, globalized labor, and other such phenomenon will form the basis of our explorations. The course covers specific ethnographies of the major cities of Zambia, India (Bombay), USA (Los Angeles), and Mexico (Guadalajara), and edited volumes of ethnographic work on China and the USA (Las Vegas). The secondary goals of the course are to aid you in the development of your skills as academics and scholars. This will be accomplished through exercises that will require you to flush out the theoretical paradigms of the ethnographers, extrapolate methodological frameworks where they are not explicit, summarize the intended arguments of the ethnographers, and lead discussions, hold debates, and defend your opinions with and against your colleagues.

LATAM 601 : Seminar in the Methods of Latin American Studies 

Course objectives: Latin American Studies 601 is designed to introduce MA students to:  (1) qualitative and quantitative methods for social science research; (2) resources on Latin America; and (3) the process of constructing a valid research question that can be used to create a thesis proposal. 

One of the most important goals for this course is to develop an appreciation for the uses of both quantitative and qualitative research methods.  We do not favor one over the other as we think they both are useful, necessary, and complementary.  This course cannot provide a thorough grounding in any particular method, so we recommend that you take an additional course or courses focused on the techniques and methods of analysis that are most useful for you.  Our intention is to introduce a wide variety of methods and data sources so that you can develop an understanding of what is available for use in writing a thesis about Latin America.  This course will help you discover your interest areas and assist in the development of a thesis topic.