SHANE JAMES MACFARLAN

Biosketch

SHANE JAMES MACFARLAN portrait
  • Assistant Professor, Anthropology Department

Teaching

Current Courses

Spring 2018

  • ANTH 6950-020 Individual Study
  • ANTH 6970-017 Thesis Research-Masters
  • ANTH 6980-016 Faculty Consultation
  • ANTH 7910-018 Individual Research
  • ANTH 7920-016 Guided Reading
  • ANTH 7970-018 Thesis Research-PhD
  • ANTH 7980-016 Faculty Consultation

Fall 2017

Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is predicated upon the idea that a healthy and productive learning environment is one where all people are treated with respect and students feel comfortable expressing themselves in the classroom. In all my courses I demonstrate how the scientific method can be used to decipher the natural world, emphasizing that the best research employs multiple lines of evidence and that assumptions must be challenged. I have applied this teaching philosophy at the University of Utah, University of Missouri, Oregon State University, Washington State University, and Portland State University as an instructor for 32 courses at the Lower, Upper, and Graduate level in traditional classroom settings and via online platforms. These courses include: Peoples of the World; Peoples and Cultures of Latin America; Economic Anthropology; Ecological Anthropology; Kinship & Gender in an Anthropological Perspective; Anthropology & World Problems; Statistical Applications in Anthropology; Introduction to Biological Anthropology; Biological & Cultural Constructions of Race; Human Evolution; and Sex, Evolution, & Human Nature. I have an enthusiasm for teaching anthropology that is hard to find.  This enthusiasm creates a learning environment that is engaged, exciting, and informative.

In addition to the above courses, I am interested in teaching: Social Network Analysis; Anthropology of Cooperation; Anthropology of the Baja California Peninsula; and Friendship in an Anthropological Perspective.  In these courses, I will have the opportunity to introduce students to the histories and philosophic assumptions of each topic, as well as to on-going debates and current research.  My lectures will foster student participation and interaction by serving as a forum for students to discuss current issues and primary literature.

Based on my teaching experience, I have found that many students do not understand the philosophy of science, nor do they realize the importance of citizen scientists for creating a more just and sustainable world. I attempt to counter these shortcomings by teaching students how to conduct academic research, deconstruct academic articles, construct logically coherent arguments, collect and analyze data, and prepare written reports. Additionally, I offer students an opportunity to present research to others in a professional manner. Students who understand how knowledge is created, critiqued, and applied are in a better position to act as citizen scientists at local, state, and national levels. I look forward to mentoring them in this capacity.

I believe it is vital to create a populace who understands the value of evidence-based anthropological research to address contemporary world problems.  As such, I use a problems-centered approach to all my classes.  This approach provides students an opportunity to engage anthropological discourse by articulating theory with methods to address social and ecological problems that have global significance.  Additionally, I seek to create collaborations between individuals from local organizations and the classroom so students can apply anthropological knowledge to locally relevant contexts.  This practice enhances students’ cultural literacy by exposing them to communities they may have otherwise neglected and facilitates content retention across a broad range of cognitive styles and academic competencies. Students often suggest this component of the class is the most memorable and meaningful to them.

Exposing students to the unity and diversity of the human condition is the most enjoyable experience I have as an academic. Collaborating with students in the creation of a more just, sustainable, and equitable world through the scientific study of coupled human-environmental systems is the task I find most rewarding.  I look forward to the prospect of sharing my enthusiasm for anthropology with the students at the University of Utah.

Courses I Teach

  • ANTH 1010 - Culture & the Human Experience.
    This course introduces students to the concept of culture as a framework for understanding similarities and differences in behavior and values in human societies from all parts of the world. The intersections and complexity of historical, social, political, economic and religious structures and forces in cultures are examined. Most case studies are from non-Western cultures in South America, Africa and Oceania, but examples and links to cultural and social-economic diversity within the United States are also integral to the course. Emphasis is placed on understanding how culture patterns human thought and feelings about the natural environment, social relations, history and “others”. An underlying theme is that anthropological knowledge can be used to solve contemporary local and global issues.
  • ANTH 2110 - Friendship & Networks.
    What makes a good friend? Why do we become friends with some people but not others? Do people in all societies make friends in the same way? Will the Internet change how friendships function? Despite the importance of friendships in human social life (it is equally important as kinship and gender for structuring relationships), the concept has received little attention from anthropologists. This course introduces students to the diversity and similarities of friendship styles found throughout the world. We will begin by reviewing the form and function of friendships found throughout the ethnographic record. Following, we will examine how friendships develop over the life-course and the affect of friendship quality/quantity in health and reproduction. Then we will review different theoretical approaches to friendship. Finally, we will examine students’ own friendships through the lens of social network analysis. Readings, lectures, presentations, films, and class discussion will provide both formal and informal avenues for exploring issues that arise in the cross-cultural study of friendships.
  • ANTH 3140 - Peoples and Cultures of Latin America.
    Latin America is a fascinating world region that is home to tremendous cultural, linguistic, and biological diversity. Despite its great diversity, the peoples and cultures of Latin America have been shaped by the unifying experiences of colonialism and globalization. This class is an introduction to the peoples and cultures of Latin America, including Mexico, Central and South America, and portions of the US and Caribbean. The course will examine early settlement, population history, cultural adaptations, family and gender roles, religious ideology, political and economic systems, modern social changes, and contemporary Latin American issues. Emphasis is placed on dispelling stereotypic images, both past and present. Textbooks, supplemental readings, videos, interviews, and class discussion will shed light on local movements, sustainable development, poverty, gender inequality, health, and migration. An underlying theme is anthropological knowledge can be used to address contemporary Latin American issues. The course will be taught in Standard American English and no previous knowledge of Spanish, Portuguese, French, or other Latin American languages are required.
  • ANTH 4186 - Human Ecology.
    Anthropology is the discipline concerned with the scientific analysis of the human experience. Ecology is the scientific study of organisms’ webs of interaction with each other and their environment. As such, a course on Human Ecology concerns how the human experience both shapes and is shaped by one’s ecology. Historically there have been longstanding debates about where and how humans fit within the living world and their environment. How do we relate with nature? How do environmental changes affect both our biology and culture? How do our beliefs and actions impact natural resources and alter ecological systems? And of course, how does access to or contests over natural resources affect how human populations interact with each other? These are just a few of the major questions that we will examine throughout the semester. This course provides an anthropological perspective on the relationship between culture and the environment (the biotic, a-biotic, and social worlds). Theories of ecological anthropology will be evaluated in light of varying biotic, a-biotic, and social conditions and through ethnographic case studies. We will focus on current problems facing the developing world and home.

Teaching Projects

  • Expanding and Integrating Global Learning in Anthropology. Project Lead: Shane J Macfarlan. Collaborators: Brian Codding, Adrian Bell. Office of Global Engagement - University of Utah 11/21/2016 - 07/2017. Total Budget: $9,500.00.
  • Mining Impacts: Andean Nation Development of Environmental/Economic Solutions. Project Lead: Bill Johnson. Collaborators: Shane J Macfarlan, Jim VanDerslice, Ken Jameson, Diego Fernandez. Office of Global Engagement - University of Utah 05/2015 - 11/2015. Total Budget: $10,000.00.
  • Human Ecology of Arid Environments. Project Lead: Shane J Macfarlan. Rio Mesa Center - Global Climate & Sustainability Center - University of Utah 03/2015 - 04/2015. Total Budget: $1,000.00.