Course Info

WHEN: Monday/Wednesday   3 – 4:15 p.m.

WHERE:  Eaton Hall 204

WHOCathy Stanton / / 978-249-8299

OFFICE HOURS:   Monday 4:30 – 5:50 p.m. or by appt.  / Eaton Hall 311A

WHAT: One of the most radically influential technologies of the 20th century, the automobile continues to shape places, policies, and everyday life in the 21st.  This course will take an anthropological approach to the spaces, images, and practices of driving, drawing on an emerging multi-disciplinary scholarship on cars and car culture.   We will focus on the important links between modernity and automobility, and will explore the history of how the U.S. and other industrialized countries became so car-centric,  as well as inquiring into the meanings and uses of cars in a range of cultures and times.  Students will also work in teams to develop syllabus segments around topics of particular interest to them;  these might include environmental and health aspects of car culture, commodification and advertising, car design and materiality, the gendered car, anti-car politics, efforts to “green” the car, etc.  Through field trips and guest speakers, the class will also connect with two ongoing place-making projects near Tufts that involve creating urban spaces for and against the automobile:  traffic redesign efforts in Somerville’s Union Square and development of the Battle Road Scenic Byway in Arlington.

READINGS:  All the readings for the course are in digital form, linked to the Syllabus page in this blog.

WEB:  In addition to this blog, which serves as our main digital space for the course, we have a Blackboard site that we’ll use only for submitting assignments (except for the newspaper assignments, which will be posted here in the blog) and receiving grades.  Please treat this blog as an open space that you can add to as you feel inspired, by posting, commenting, adding links, etc.  Participation is a substantial part of the grade for this course, and one of the ways you can strengthen your participation grade is to contribute regularly and substantively to the blog! (You’ll need a Blackboard-specific log-in to access that site;  choose “Cars, Culture, & Place” from the menu there, or let Cathy know if the course is not appearing on your listed courses.

OBJECTIVES:  Everybody comes to a course with different expectations and objectives.  Just so you know, here are the professor’s objectives for this course:

  • To encourage critical reflection about a taken-for-granted technology and experience that shapes and reflects the modern world more than most of us realize.
  • To introduce recent concepts and theories in the study of mobilities and automobility, with a focus on how both culture and place (including places near Tufts) can be constituted by movement.
  • To provide opportunities to use ethnographic methods in the study of automobility.
  • To foster discussion and participation in a range of ways, including some student-led class sessions and involvement in structuring parts of the syllabus, and to encourage students to think critically about the range of decisions and materials that contribute to a successful class experience.
  • To experiment with the use of a blog as a digital portal for the course.

ASSIGNMENTS & GRADING:  This course will ask you to write well in several different styles:  reflective/personal, academic, journalistic, and ethnographic.  In all cases, though, the basic criteria for grading will be the same:  you should put forward some kind of idea, point, or argument;   you should make clear connections with relevant ideas or materials from the course;  and your writing should demonstrate skill in both structure and language use.  More specific grading criteria for each assignment will be posted in the blog shortly before each due date.

  • Participation40% This class is envisioned as an active, discussion-based experience with considerable student input into various aspects of the course.  To that end, participation  is weighted very heavily in the final grade.  Your participation grade will be based on several factors:
    • Your proposal (due by class time on Wednesday, Sept. 22), quality of reading/resource choices, and leadership for your individually- or team-led class session.
    • Your input during the early sessions of the class, when we collectively decide how to structure the parts of the course not yet set out in the syllabus.
    • Any contributions to the blog, including links, reflections, comments, etc.
    • Discussion during class or outside class with the professor.
  • Auto-ethnography15% A 3-5 page reflective paper that examines some aspect of your relationship to cars and car culture.  Due date:  Wednesday, September 15 by class time (submit in Blackboard)
  • Critical review of a car ad of your choice:  15% A 3-5 page scholarly paper that analyzes the overt and implicit meanings of a car ad (from any medium)  using theory and ideas encountered in the class to date. Due date:  t.b.d. (submit in Blackboard)
  • Two blog entries, each critically summarizing and discussing the front page of the most recent auto section of any major newspaper, with links as appropriate:  10% (5% each)  Due date:  Will vary – everyone will take two turns at this, with dates t.b.d. at the start of the course (post directly in blog)
  • Final paper based on fieldnotes and observations from the Arlington/Union Square field trip20% Due date:  Wednesday, December 8 by class time (submit in Blackboard)

SUBMITTING ASSIGNMENTS: To submit assignments in Blackboard, click on “Assignments” in the menu bar on the left.  Don’t use the Digital Dropbox – the “Assignments” route lets us be more flexible about exchanging files in the site.  Click on “View/Complete Assignment” to access a page where you can attach files.  When your work has been graded, it will be returned via this same route, and the grades will be posted in the Grade Center, where you’ll be able to see them.  Email Cathy if you encounter any problems submitting materials via Blackboard.

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