During Centre College’s CentreTerm, students engage in a three-week intensive course in subjects that interest and intrigue them. First-year students at Centre College had the opportunity to take a new CentreTerm course this year called Anthropologists and Alien Worlds, taught by Robyn Cutright, Charles T. Hazelrigg Associate Professor of Anthropology.
In the past, Cutright has led a course on ancient aliens and archaeology but wanted to try something different this year, while keeping the class alien-focused.
“I am most excited about sharing my professional love of anthropology and my personal love of science fiction with students, as well as seeing what alien worlds they create,” she said.
Cutright explained that the class was designed for first-year students who like to read or write science fiction or are curious about anthropology.
“We’re exploring what it means to be human, and how anthropologists study human biology and culture, through the lens of anthropological science fiction,” she said. “This type of science fiction relies on a good understanding of culture to create a speculative world.”
In science fiction, Cutright also shared how authors can explore different possibilities that don’t exist in the real world and ask questions like, “what would it be like to live in a society where no one has a sex or a gender?” or “where intelligent life evolved from carnivores rather than omnivorous primates?.”
“By reading these speculative visions alongside anthropological accounts of gender, social structure and evolution, I hope students will get a better sense of what we share as humans and how culture and biology both shape our experiences,” she added. “Students will also have a chance to create their own alien society and write a short story or an anthropological essay about it.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
January 16, 2017