Assignment Description & General Instructions:
The things left behind or thrown away can hold more information about the people doing the discarding then their cities and monuments. While archaeologists of the early 20th century sought the tombs of kings, modern archaeologists place a greater focus on the homes and middens of the most common socioeconomic classes. The trash of the common member of the culture is far more instructive than the tombs or houses of the economic elite.
For this assignment I want you to record everything your throw away for one week. If you live in the dorms gather data on your roommate’s garbage as well. If you are part of a household or live off campus record what is thrown away at your residence. It is not necessary to take out your trash and go through it, but if you eyeball it and discuss with other people in your residence what they have discarded you should be able to obtain the needed information. Then tell me, in an essay of at least 300 words, what you think your refuse says about you and possible those that you live with.
The interpretation is the tricky part and I often advise students to imagine the garbage belonging to someone else, perhaps a neighbor. Then ask yourself some questions about the garbage and what it tells you. It might also help to break up the information into three categories. What does the garbage tell you about…
- The culture in general.
- Your specific domestic unit.
- What doesn’t the garbage tell you?
Here a series of more detailed questions to help you:
- What does the refuse tell you about the household?
- Can you gauge the socioeconomic class of the household?
- Can you tell how many individuals were part of the household or if the refuse was even from a single household?
- What is the political or economic system of the culture?
Put careful thought into your analysis. I will be expecting you to be able to describe how the items of refuse provides the information you present as well as painting an image of the culture that created the refuse. You should be careful not to overstate your data or give in to cultural bias or “assumed” knowledge. Everything you say about your culture should be tied to specific items in your garbage.
Please include your list of things that were thrown away; though it does not count toward the minimum length requirement, it is necessary for me in order to grade your assignment.
Analysis – 50%
- 25 points: The individual domestic unit and cultural as a whole are discussed using concrete examples from the list of garbage. In addition the student offers information on what the refuse would not tell an investigator.
- 15 points: The student discuses both the domestic unit and the larger culture using concrete examples from the list of garbage.
- 10 points: The individual domestic unit and cultural as a whole are discussed is low detail. Some specific items from the list of garbage are mentioned.
- 5 points: Only one context is mentioned in the essay. Few items from the list of refuse are mentioned.
Essay Quality – 40%
Format: The assignment is written in essay format.
Grammar & Spelling: The essay is clearly written and thus easy to read and comprehend and the words are all correctly spelled. This is often the portion where students loose the most points. I will be subtracting points for each misspelled word and grammatical error.