Thomas N. Headland
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Subcultures Studied by Students
in Headland's Anthropology Classes

Compiled by Thomas N. Headland [updated January 1999]

Michelle and Dark Star
Tom's student Michelle, doing "participant observation" with Dark Star, her main informant, of a motorcycle club.


Each semester that I teach Methods in Cultural Anthropology, students do participant observation once a week befriending and interacting with the people of some subculture in Dallas/Ft. Worth of which they are unacquainted. At the end of the semester they turn in an ethnography term paper of those 'natives' for their term project. The method I usually have students follow is that developed by the late James Spradley in his 1980 book titled Participant Observation. Sometimes I instead have students work from the simple handbook titled Field Projects In Anthropology, by Julia Crane and Michael Angrosino. And when I have co-taught with my colleague Tom Woodward we have used parts of Russell Bernard's book, Research Methods In Anthropology.







Below are some brief directions to the students. Following that is a list of the ethnographic studies that have been done by students in my classes.

Directions to the Students

Vitaly at Restaurant
Student Vitaly doing "participant observation" as a waiter-bartender at a Dallas restaurant.

Try to find a 'microculture' or 'cultural scene' to study that is different or unique from what you are used to, and which is cross-culturally different from your background. Ideally, it would be good if the people you study or interview are of a different ethnic background than you, such as Hispanic, Asian, or African-American (if you are a WASP). It is all right if you to choose to study a religious scene, but if it is of a Christian group, we would like it to be 'exotically' different from your norm. A non-Christian religious scene would be better, and we would prefer that over a 'Christian' scene. We also prefer that you choose a scene where you do at least some participant observation. That is, where you have some social interaction with the regular participants and, if possible, where you join in with them in some of their behavior, or at least try to. A study of television soap operas while sitting in your own living room would not impress us, nor would a study where you sit on a bench and watch people buy soft drinks from a vending machine from 50 feet away.






Blood Donor
Student James doing "participant observation" at a Dallas blood bank.




Ideally, we would prefer that each student study a different cultural scene; but this is not always practical. We do ask, however, that no more than two of you study the same scene. In unusual cases, 3 might be okay, but clear it with us first.

IMPORTANT: Please do not choose a scene which brings you into a possibility of physical harm or danger, or which requires you to behave in a way which violates your own ethical-moral code. Finally, in this course I will not allow students to study any scene which involves unlawful activity.





'Cultural Scenes' Studied by Headland's Students

Bars, Businesses, Centers of Activity, Clubs, Restaurants, Educational Places, Government Places, Medical Places, People Doing Things, Religious Scenes, Social Services, Sports Events.

BARS (Scene List)

BUSINESSES (Scene List)

CENTERS OF ACTIVITY (Scene List)

CLUBS/SODALITIES (Scene List)

RESTAURANTS (Scene List)

EDUCATIONAL PLACES (Scene List)

GOVERNMENT PLACES (Scene List)

MEDICAL PLACES (Scene List)

PEOPLE DOING THINGS (Scene List)

RELIGIOUS SCENES (CHRISTIAN) (Scene List)

RELIGIOUS SCENES (NON-CHRISTIAN) (Scene List)