Teaching with the Collection


Each spring, Assistant Professor of Anthropology Amy Margaris teaches Anthropology 456: Seminar in Culture Contact and Colonialism. This junior/senior seminar explores the dynamics of culture contact from a variety of theoretical perspectives important in anthropology today. It especially highlights the uses of archaeology and the material record, often as they complement ethnohistoric data. The OCEC digital collection, with its high quality object images and growing body of associated photographic and written archival records, will be a rich resource for seminar students as they complete semester-long research for the course.

Previous student research projects for the class have examined physical evidence of religious syncretism, clashing gender ideals in colonial contexts, and the role of trade and exchange in shaping intercultural interactions. With the release of the OCEC digital collection, students now have the opportunity to focus research topics similar to these on a particular set of objects that are tied uniquely to Oberlin, or on objects collected by Oberlin-affiliated missionaries or teachers. “Going local” can help ground seemingly high-minded theory, and excite students to explore how large-scale colonial processes were also undertaken and experienced at more intimate scales: by an individual missionary, for example, or within a particular indigenous community. This use of the OCEC digital collection in the classroom promises to strengthen students’ abilities to work with primary materials, while they perform original research that both highlights and contributes to greater bodies of anthropological theory.