As a linguistic and cultural anthropology scholar, I have a passion for bringing my research interests into the classroom. I often draw upon my research as a means to draw in students with little to no prior experience in the subject-matter. I enjoy showing that my discipline provides tangible “keyholes” through which anyone provided the right conceptual tools can unlock great insights into questions concerning communities, both proximate and distant. Part of my pedagogy serves to prompt students’ engagement with anthropological and linguistic theories, but another aim is to show how these theories can be applied to evaluating any interactional and communicative act (including both conversation and performance) based on their socio-cultural, political, and economic contexts.
To achieve these pedagogical aims in my position as a presidential fellow and instructor of record for the Social Advocacy and Ethical Life (SAEL) program at UofSC, I often brought tangible and accessible examples to the classroom as a means for anthropological-based inquiry. For example, I encouraged students to assemble questions and cases, or “hot topics” as I called them, so that we could collectively debate and apply course content. I used this activity as a pathway to explore how the makings of ‘evidence’ and situating ‘appropriateness’ – in terms of argumentation – are socially and culturally constructed concepts. I found the best teaching moments occurred when we discussed various artifacts (e.g., commercials, political cartoons, speeches, and even art) in order to observe media’s impact on our culture and vice versa.
Furthermore, given my commitments to diversity (or rather inclusivity), I always construct my course curriculum to reflect an array of voices – including works by LatinX, LGBTQ+, immigrants, and female authors. I use these diverse perspectives and social theories as a means to discuss the ways in which symbolic or economic capital, identity, and culture work in tandem. To assist this process, I used games/enactments that model systems of oppression (e.g., the privilege walk) so students could embody disenfranchisement and/or privilege in order to comprehend its role in larger society. I also did not shy away from using my own experiences (i.e., being a 1st generation recipient of a higher education and middle-class black African American female in the academy) to complicate monolithic understanding of identity categories and address privilege as a spectrum. My balance of theory and application not only encourages students of all backgrounds to observe institutional bureaucracies of access in relation to various identity categories but also consciously consider these subjects in conversations with their intersubjectivity and communal ties.
Lastly, accounting for a broad range of learning styles and linguistic backgrounds, I include graded and non-graded assignments (e.g., blogs, journals, and fieldnotes), which are used for epistemic and heuristic purposes. I seek to provide opportunities to convey individual experiences as well as make sense of scholarly texts. Such work not only gives them practice with ethnographic methods of data collection but also aids students with limited knowledge of complex theories or advanced analytical method. I thrive on introducing our discipline to undergraduates, to those outside of the humanities, or to those with little to no knowledge of anthropology. Hence, my focus is on providing digestible content as well as creating a non-threatening learning environment that generates active learning yet challenges their perspectives. Even so, I eagerly anticipate working with students who will specifically focus on language, race and the political economy or urban anthropology. This training will include introducing them to various tools of data collection (e.g., interviews and visual products) and analyses (e.g., discourse, narrative, and conversation). In addition, I plan to address the often under-emphasized mental and emotional impact of such work as well as the ethical implications of our roles as researchers. My goal is to prepare these students for their own research and fieldwork, and I do so with the upmost pride and appreciation for what I do.