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Ethnographic Field School in Tanzania:

Understanding Nutrition and Subsistence in an Interconnected World

June 2-July 14, 2008

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Program Overview

The six-week Ethnographic Field School in Tanzania offers students a thorough understanding of nutrition and subsistence challenges faced by people in East Africa.  The program offers this understanding through practical training in field research that specifically examines interactions between cultural traditions and practices, regional environments, changing political landscapes, and international economic transformations.

The Setting

The field school covers four locations in Tanzania:  Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, and the Rungew and Kyela districts in rural southwest Tanzania.  Dar es Salaam, the nation’s historic Indian Ocean capitol, is a center of economic, medical, and social activity and home to the University of Dar es Salaam.  Zanzibar is a historic center connecting mainland Africa with the wider Indian Ocean World, important for the history of Islam in eastern Africa and the development of Swahili language and culture.  In the rural southwest areas of Rungwe and Kyela, most people are small-scale farmers who grow a diverse variety of crops for both subsistence and sale.  Despite favorable conditions for agriculture, many families are susceptible to malnutrition.



ANTHR-396: Field School in Cultural Anthropology

Students who successfully complete this program will earn one course credit (the equivalent of four semester hours).  For anthropology and sociology majors, this program fulfills the qualitative research requirement.  For anthropology majors, this program will provide opportunities for the required original research.  The program also counts towards the Division II requirement.  Students will receive a letter grade for the course. 

This program offers an ethnographic field study of selected topics in Tanzania.  Ethnographic skills will be taught, including participant observation, interviewing and use of surveys and questionnaires, GPS technology to understand the spatial distribution of cultural practices, and nutritional and health measures.  Included in the program are pre-departure workshops, research exercises in all locations, guided independent research projects in rural Tanzania, presentations, and a post-fieldwork write-up.


Please note that there is no language prerequisite for the program.  Students will receive basic Swahili language training that will help them learn greetings and simple vocabulary.  It is recommended that students complete an introductory course in anthropology, preferably a course on the anthropology of Africa.


Program Activities

Program activities focus on the themes of nutrition, culture, environment, and health; and how academics, professionals, and the wider Tanzanian population address such issues.  Students will tour sites and visit people who have direct involvement with these topics in order to consider connections between scholarship, fieldwork, and practical knowledge.  Research exercises will teach a variety of ethnographic methods, and in the final weeks, students will design and conduct guided independent research projects relating to the themes of the program.  Each student will work with a Tanzanian translator, hired by the directors, to conduct his or her project.  A typical pre-fieldwork day will have morning meeting sessions and afternoons for lectures, discussions, research exercises, and visits/tours.  The program will periodically hold fieldwork workshops to develop strategies to further student research goals.  Students will present their findings before leaving Tanzania, and submit a final written research paper to the directors after returning to the US.  


In all locations, students will be staying in university or guest house/lodge facilities.  All meals will be arranged for students.

On-Site Administration

The course will be administered by Professors Karen Weinstein and James Ellison of the Anthropology Department, with guest lecturers and interactions with various Tanzania specialists from the University of Dar es Salaam and other institutions.  The directors are professional anthropologists with specializations in eastern Africa, cultural anthropology, history, and biological anthropology. Professor Ellison’s research includes changes to ethnicity and responses to famine and illness in twentieth-century Tanzania.  He has worked in Tanzania since 1993 and speaks Swahili and Nyakyusa languages.  Professor Weinstein’s research involves anatomical evolution in human and non-human primates and human biological responses to environmental stress including poor nutrition.

Program Cost

The estimated comprehensive program fee will be approximately $5,100.  The program fee covers tuition, room and board, and transportation in Tanzania.  Not included in the program fee are primary medical and accident insurance purchased in the U.S., travel costs to/from Tanzania, and all other incidental expenses.

For more information, contact

Assistant Professor Karen Weinstein

Department of Anthropology, Dickinson College       

Tel.: 717-245-1281



Assistant Professor James Ellison

Department of Anthropology, Dickinson College

Tel: 717-245-1902


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