Small Things: Intimate Inquiries into Everyday Life


Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 quarters

Taught by

cultural anthropology
social psychology, gender and women's studies

This two-quarter introductory program considers how small things—personal affections and distastes, allegiances and exclusions, possessions and wastes—make up our daily worlds and contribute to broader, systemic patterns of order in societies. Grounding our studies in anthropology, social psychology and sociology, we will consider the implications of personal choices and actions on society at large, in the U.S. and in a range of cultural and historical settings. What is the relationship between our identities and the small things we do, think, feel, say, desire, choose, wear or own? How do routine actions contribute to social hierarchies, differences and inequalities? What can looking closely at the micro-social world teach us about power? 

We will examine a range of minutia: words uttered in routine conversations, facial expressions, bodily adornments, grooming habits, tweets posted and things collected and consumed. Focusing on the key domains of everyday life—work, school and home—we will engage in micro investigations: slowing down, paying close attention, observing systematically and deriving meaning from the details. Program activities, including lectures, workshops, field trips, films and book seminars, will build skills in empirical observation, documentation, asking questions, analysis, interpretation and writing. Students will read anthropological and sociological ethnographies and social psychological studies that inquire into small things and help us develop methodological approaches for studying closely. We will also engage in close readings of challenging theoretical texts that critically explore modes of power. Through these practices, students will learn the foundations of the interpretive social sciences.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

anthropology, psychology and sociology.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$100 in fall for an overnight field trip, $20 in winter for entrance fees.


Date Revision
November 24th, 2014 This program will accept new enrollment winter quarter without signature. Students should contact the faculty and complete some preparatory reading.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Freshmen–Sophomore; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 40


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10154
So (16 credits): 10155
Fr - So (1-16 credits): 10532

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Accepting New Students


Students should visit the faculty during the Academic Fair (December 3, 2014 4-6pm) to discuss the program and read the following texts in preparation for winter quarter: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman, The Managed Heart by Arlie Russell Hochschild, and Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault.

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20086
So (16 credits): 20087
Fr - So (1-16 credits): 20278

Go to to register for this program.

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