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Instructional Development Award Recipients

Several undergraduate instructors who attended the 2004, 2005, or 2006 SPACE workshops were awarded funds to continue their efforts in integrating spatial analysis into their course curriculums. These pages showcase their achievements. See the full recipient list.

Paulla Ebron and Claudia Engel

Affiliation: Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Stanford University
Workshop Attended: Introducing GIS for Undergraduate Social Science Courses, San Francisco State University
Accomplishment: Introduced GIS-based exercises and spatial perspectives in an introductory seminar course on Anthropology of Globalization - Cities in Fall Quarter 2006.

Notable Achievements in Their Own Words

This collaboration had its beginning at the workshop, which provided the ideal environment for conversations with participants and instructors that revolved around questions like: How do we interpret spatial representations and maps as ethnographers? Where in the ethnographic process can spatial tools and analyses really be helpful, what are good examples? Why should we teach this to anthropologists in the first place?
Paulla Ebron and Claudia Engel

Anthropology of Globalization - Cities is offered as part the Stanford Introductory Seminars that provide opportunities for first- and second-year students to work closely with faculty in an intimate and focused setting, introducing students to the variety and richness of academic topics, methods, and issues that lie at the core of particular disciplines; and fostering a spirit of mentorship between faculty and students. Each class is limited to 16 students and, since applications outnumber available seats, entry is highly competitive. The seminar explored the multifaceted ways cities have inspired and informed social analysis and cultural production. Seminar participants took part in a working group with the aim of developing a profile of a particular city. The cities, included Calcutta, San Paulo, Paris, and Johannesburg. These greatly expanded the geographical reach and allowed these places to fill out the assigned readings through each teams’ explorations.

Questions addressed in the course: What is globalization? Where do our ideas about globalization come from? What are the effects of global processes on the rapid expansion of urban spaces? How do we read and interpret a broad range sources that inform both popular and scholarly opinion? How is evidence mobilized to support a position? How can we make our own informed contributions to the debates?

Spatial issues addressed in the course: GIS and spatial representations in maps are crucial for an ethnographic perspective that seeks to open up questions of globalization. A welcome side effect of this approach was the fact that GIS is driven by numbers. A confrontation with quantitative information and how it plays a role in representing, interpreting, and analyzing space formed an important complement to a qualitatively informed ethnographic analysis.

Context for Seminar

Very early on in our collaboration, we saw the need to contextualize GIS, which taken merely as a tool, does not possess any purpose of its own, and relate it to issues and themes relevant for our discipline. A more in-depth knowledge of the software gained during the workshop allowed us to have a better understanding of how GIS works and how it could be useful. Our discussions around the data examples used in the workshop very clearly showed us how our observations and interpretations generated more and more questions, and how useful this might be in teaching. This, and numerous visits to invaluable pointers to resources provided during the workshop, eventually led to the co-design and co-teaching of this course.

This course was taught previously by different instructors. While the course described here is still ongoing, it is evident that the introduction of GIS has led to several changes. Most importantly, the use of spatial data for cities of the global south supported our concerted effort to deemphasize a US-centric bias in the analysis of global issues. In addition, students acquired basic skills in handling a GIS tool. They gained experience in visualizing spatial data and in critically examining mapping representations. By adding the spatial perspective, we raised an awareness of multiple representations working together in the analysis of culture and phenomena like globalization. Students had ample opportunity to collaborate in groups, and generated and compared alternative parallel representations of different locations.

Course Materials

A listing of modules and exercises illustrates the spatial component of the seminar.
Ebron Engel Modules Exercises.

Future Participation

One of the main challenges of this class was to provide students with spatial data of global non-US cities, which, depending on the location, are hard to come by. We are currently working with the Stanford Libraries to provide/improve access to datasets of global cities located outside the United States. We hope to engage undergraduate students as research assistants to put together a repository of shapefiles for global cities and demographic and economic data to be mapped onto those.

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