May 15, 2006

It's actually a pretty good time for a blog post, yeah.

It's over! It's all over! My first semester back in school is over! No more classes, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks! My final today was grievously stressful -- I spent the first fifteen minutes of a 90-minute exam staring at a blank page and trying to remember how to write an essay -- but I'm still alive and I think I did fine. This is the other problem with essay finals, that the grading is so subjective that until you see your semester grades all you have to go on is a feeling that you did well enough or didn't. I did what was asked of me and I can't think of much I'd do differently besides "have three more hours to organize my thoughts", so I'm calling it a success.

Still, I have a dilemna for next semester. I'm signed up for the two archaeology classes that I need and can fill in the rest with anything I like. It'll probably be random upper-division anthropology; the department's offering a ton of classes that look interesting. One of them is taught by the same professor who taught this class, Stanley Brandes, one of my favorite instructors I've had at Berkeley. It's on the anthropology of food, which is something he digresses into in his other classes absolutely as much as he can get away with. Clearly it's something he's interested in, and that makes a huge difference in a class. But can I really subject myself to another of his final exams when his essay questions look like this?

Some scholars believe that there is little difference between pilgrimage and heritage tourism. Relying on course readings, lectures, and film, analyze the similarities and differences between these two phenomena. Begin your essay with your understanding of what pilgrimage and heritage tourism are.

Drawing on a sample of films and slide lectures viewed in this course, discuss the role and effect of visual representation in ethnography. What kinds of information do visual sources convey best or least well? How do ethnographic films modify or confirm information from course readings? In answering this question, be sure to discuss visual images from three different countries in Mediterranean Europe.

Using ethnographic examples from both readings and lectures, show how consumption patterns of food and drink contribute to the formation of group identity. Be sure to specify the kind of group (e.g., gender, class, ethnic, religious) your answer is directed towards. Provide as many ethnographic details as time allows in support of your essay.

These are 30-minute closed-book essays, by the way. Or 25-minute essays once I stopped twitching and picked up my pen. Questions like these always makes me think of Fermat; "I have discovered a truly elegant answer to this essay question which this bluebook is too small to contain."

Posted by dianna at May 15, 2006 02:52 PM


And also: Yeesh. I can see where that would be painful to prepare for. How do you study for that without knowing what the questions will be?

Posted by: Zach S. at May 15, 2006 04:00 PM

You get together in a group and start guessing what you think the professor is going to ask, and for each potential topic you practice coming up with split-second lists of relevant articles and studies. The review session that I went to successfully predicted the topic on food and drink, but only grazed the edges of the others I listed here. There were actually 5 topics -- we were to choose three -- so in addition to these there was a manageable one on collective memory which was handled pretty well at the review, and a terrifying one on anthropologist-informant interactions which nobody saw coming and I suspect very few people answered.

On the bus to school this morning I was cramming with an unlikely crib sheet: a list of readings, films, and lecture topics loosely grouped by general theme. You'd never think that would be as helpful as it actually was.

Posted by: Dianna at May 15, 2006 04:26 PM

i briefly flirted with the idea of getting a master's degree in sustainable tourism. or tourism of some kind. and writing my thesis on the intermingling of pilgrimage and heritage tourism on this one island in japan that has 88 temples. good times. a good, brief, fling of an idea.

Posted by: michele at May 15, 2006 04:57 PM