Many contributors to an important cultural anthropology reader are graduates of the Macalester department.

Macalester’s Department of Anthropology is a significant producer of academics. That fact becomes especially clear while reviewing a popular cultural anthropology textbook’s table of contents.

Six contributors to the 15th edition of Conformity and Conflict Readings in Cultural Anthropology—edited by anthropology professors Dave McCurdy and Dianna Shandy—are Mac alumni.

Shandy credits her department’s longtime style of “teaching anthropology by doing it—really digging in and talking to people” for producing so many successful graduates.  Most colleges, she says, don’t teach field methods to undergrads, but she and her fellow faculty are “proud to train students that way.”

That training proves useful regardless of a student’s career path, she points out, helping future doctors and teachers as well as future anthropologists.

Conformity and Conflict, first published in 1971 by McCurdy and the late Jim Spradley, is among the most popular undergraduate anthropology textbooks in the country. The noted—and now retired—Professor Jack Weatherford told the authors he came to teach at Macalester because of the book.

“Students like it because it’s readable and memorable,” says Shandy. “We seek out anthropologists who can write for the public.” In doing so, she and McCurdy continue a tradition initiated by Spradley, who “wanted anthropology to make a difference to people,” says McCurdy. “He saw it as a way to help people, but to do that anthropologists needed to learn to write clearly.”

Those writing and fieldwork skills, regularly taught to anthropology majors at Mac, have led to the college’s graduates having a national reputation for doing good work. Mac students’ applications to graduate school are readily accepted, says Shandy, and once there are often known to coach their fellows graduate students in ethnographic methods.

As for the alumni writers represented in this edition of Conformity and Conflict, their work covers topics as diverse as lover boyfriend spirits in Senegal to women working in Wyoming mines . Says McCurdy, “I’m really proud of this crew. The kind of work they’ve produced is so good.”

Alumni contributors

Richard Reed ’76, anthropology professor at Trinity University

Rachael Stryker ’94, assistant professor, California State University–East Bay

Susanna Fioratta ’02, assistant professor, Bryn Mawr College

Mikaela Rogozen-Soltar  ’03, assistant professor, University of Nevada–Reno

Jessica Smith Rolston ’03, Hennebach Assistant Professor, Colorado School of Mines

Rachel Mueller ’13, winner of national prize from American Anthropological Association for her honors thesis

September 1 2014

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