About The Class

Course Description: This course examines anthropological approaches to forms of collective identity and social difference, addressing nationalism, ethnicity, and focusing especially on questions of race and racism. The objective of the course is to introduce students to key concepts in the anthropology of race, identity and difference, including the historical development of nationalism and ideas about race and ethnicity, the cultural politics of identity, subjective experiences of racial and national categories, and social conflict involving such categories. This is not a survey, but instead a selective look at particular historical and geographic situations that illuminate the broader issues on which the course focuses.


Instructor: Rachel Elbin is a PhD student in the department of anthropology at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on how understandings of citizenship, development and statecraft in Tanzania intersect with and inform the growth of the country’s natural gas sector.


Course Developer: Dr. Brandt Peterson designed this course. He is a political anthropologist who studies social and political mobilization, contemporary capitalism, and the politics of identity, race and nationalism.  Dr. Peterson is  broadly trained as a scholar of Latin American politics, history, and culture and received his PhD from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005.


How This Course Works:

  • All of your interaction with this class–the instructional materials (lectures, readings, films, etc.), the instructor, the other students–will happen via this website and its various pages.
  • The principal assignments are blog posts you make, and replies or comments you make on other students’ blog posts.
    • Two blog posts must be posted (published) by 11:59 pm EST each Friday except for the final week, when your blog posts must be made by 11:59 PM EST on Thursday, 7/2.
    • Two comments on other students’ blog posts must be posted by 11:59 pm EST each Sunday, except for the final week.
    • There is a final project for this class, which I recommend you begin in Week 5.
    • See the assignments and grading page for more on blog posts and comments as well as additional assignments, including the final project.
    • No late assignments will be accepted. The pace of summer sessions and the nature of online courses make it impossible to accept late assignments. If you have not posted and published your work by the deadline it does not count. Only in case of truly catastrophic illness or emergency that can be documented by authorities at MSU will exceptions be considered.

WordPress: This class in based in WordPress (where you are now) – this is where all of the course materials (videos, readings, links, etc.) are posted. This is also where you will be posting to the course blog and leaving comments. Most importantly, all course announcements are posted on this site which means you need to log into this site at least once a day. Set it as your homepage, check it in the morning, or before you go to bed. This is an interactive course, so make sure you are interacting!

Course Lecture Videos: A lot of the content of this class is delivered using video. Some of the videos are embedded into the schedule (most course lectures) while others are linked to outside websites (screencast, youtube, etc.)

In order to ensure that you have the best experience with this video material, make sure you are using an up to date version of a modern browser (such as Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Google Chrome) and are accessing the course materials over a high speed Internet connection. While you can access much of the course content over a slower Internet connection, you need a high speed connection for the course video materials.

In order to access the video materials, you may need to login with a password – this is the same for everyone and should have been sent to you in an email. This login is separate from the login/password you use to access this site.

Course Load: You should expect to spend an average of 6 hours a week on this course. This includes reading articles, visiting websites, writing posts/comments, watching videos, completing assignments, etc. Because the type of work varies from week to week, some weeks will seem to fly by, while others may take a bit more time.

You may be excited to learn that there are no multiple choice quizzes or final exams. On the other hand, this course is writing intensive. It requires you to engage and develop your critical thinking skills. Writing is both how you demonstrate those skills and, conveniently, one of the most important ways to develop them. Between the blog posts and comments you will be writing an average of 1,200-1,600 words per week.

Technology: To take this class, all you need is a browser (Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Google Chrome are preferred) and a high speed Internet connection. While you can connect to many of the course materials using a slower Internet connection, there are some things that you simply will not be able to access (such as the course videos or lecture videos). We understand that computers are not infallible. However, it is your responsibility to resolve any technical issues that originate on your end.


This class adheres to the philosophy of open courseware and open access.  As such, course materials are open and accessible to the public.  This includes some of the assignments – specifically the blog posts.  As such, students should think of themselves as not just taking a class, but as contributing to the pool of scholarship on anthropology.  This also means that students need to think about how they want to license your work (aka. how you would like other people to be able to use your work).

When students post to the course website, they will be able to choose a specific Creative Commons license.  Each license (there are 6 to choose from) gives the author a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work.

When you post to the course blog, you will choose the Creative Commons license you want to assign to your post (pictured above)

Be sure to review the Creative Commons licenses – think about which one works best for you.

It is very important to note any student (at any time during or after the semester) can opt not to have their class materials be open access.  Just talk to the course instructor, and they’ll make it happen immediately.  Its equally important to note that any student who chooses to do this will not be penalized in any way at all.  The content students produce for this class belongs to them, and they have total control over how it lives out in the wider world.

Getting Help: If you need help with the class content or technology, please follow these guidelines:

  • For help relating to class content or procedures (assignments, due dates, etc), please contact your course instructor
  • For any technical issues with the course website, please send an email to anthropology [dot] courses [at] matrix [dot] msu [dot] edu.  In your email, please include your full name, your course number,  your student number, and a clear description of the issue you are having..  Help request emails that do not include this info will not be responded to.

Textbooks and Readings: This class does not have an assigned textbook.  Instead, class readings are available on the website in the form of online articles or downloadable PDFs).  All readings are mandatory for the class, and must be completed.  If you don’t keep up with your readings, you won’t do well on the assignments.

Academic Integrity: In accordance with Michigan State University’s policies on “Protection of Scholarship and Grades” and “Integrity of Scholarship and Grades,” students are expected to honor principles of truth and honesty in their academic work. Academic integrity means, amongst other things, not plagiarizing. Plagiarism includes submitting anothers work (words, ideas, etc.) as their own now will the knowingly permit another student to copy and submit their work. Additional discussion of academic integrity is available on the Ombudsperson’s website.

Students With Disabilities: Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Requests for accommodations by persons with disabilities may be made by contacting the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities at 517-884-RCPD or on the web at rcpd.msu.edu. Once your eligibility for an accommodation has been determined, you will be issued a verified individual services accommodation (“VISA”) form. Please present this form to me at the start of the term and/or two weeks prior to the accommodation date (test, project, etc). Requests received after this date will be honored whenever possible.

Limits to Course Confidentiality: Essays, journals, and other materials submitted for this class are generally considered confidential pursuant to the University’s student record policies. However, students should be aware that University employees, including instructors, may not be able to maintain confidentiality when it conflicts with their responsibility to report certain issues to protect the health and safety of MSU community members and others. As the instructor, I must report the following information to other University offices (including the Department of Police and Public Safety) if you share it with me:

  • Suspected child abuse/neglect, even if this maltreatment happened when you were a child,
  • Allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment when they involve MSU students, faculty, or staff, and
  • Credible threats of harm to oneself or to others.

These reports may trigger contact from a campus official who will want to talk with you about the incident that you have shared. In almost all cases, it will be your decision whether you wish to speak with that individual. If you would like to talk about these events in a more confidential setting you are encouraged to make an appointment with the MSU Counseling Center.


Image Attribution

Photo “Portrait of Peruvian man playing a siku (panpipe), Pisac market” by Flickr user Discover Corps/ Creative Commons licensed BY–NC-2.0