People, Parks, & Power Course Syllabus

Note: The header image features Indigenous environmental protectors from different parts of the globe (featured in the course material); center image is Indigenous Climate Activist Artemisa Zakriabá who gained notoriety after her appearance at the 2019 Climate Strike

Course Schedule (links to readings, videos, assignments, etc.)


Greetings & welcome to “People, Parks, & Power”

Also, welcome to Anthropology at Humboldt State University, which resides on Wiyot territory, in Goudi’ni (“among the redwoods”), also known as Arcata, California. Learn more by watching this excellent video produced by my colleagues in the Department of Native American Studies at HSU.

I applaud your decision to advance towards your degree in these tumultuous times and I express gratitude that you have chosen this course. It actually could not be a better time to be thinking anthropologically about pressing socioecological issues we face – not only as humans – but as members of multispecies worlds and different community ecologies.

I’ve created this website for you to be able to access course material without logging into a Learning Management System (our LMS at Humboldt State is the Canvas platform). However, all assignments must be submitted to our course Canvas page (which I’ve linked in the course schedule. 

As part of my ongoing effort to increase my public scholarship, I’ve also decided not to sequester the course syllabus on Canvas so that it is accessible to the general public of self-learners as well as practitioners of environmental protection (e.g.,  non-profit environmental organizations, environmental protectors/activists/advocates, and communities who are contending with environmental issues).

This semester is particularly exciting because it is the first time this course has been offered at Humboldt State University!  ANTH 339 is a special topics course that satisfies either a biological or cultural anthropology elective. This course is a 16 week, fully online course that officially begins on August 25.

About Your Professor

Hello, I am Dr. Gordon Lewis Ulmer, your instructor for ANTH 339. Feel free to look around my website to learn more about me, my pedagogy, and research

Students who have taken my previous courses have participated in fun, collaborative projects such as hosting an art show about anthropology in the anthropocene and producing autoethnographic vignettes and expressive works about the SARS-CoV-2 global pandemic. I’m looking forward to collaborating with you this semester on a new collaborative project that maps out Indigenous-empowered environmental conservation initiatives. More on that below in the syllabus.

But first, I want to be upfront about my ambition for you as a student of my course. When you complete this class and have moved onward in life, I want you to reflect on this semester having felt intellectually engaged and challenged from examining the world around you through a new critical prism. I also want you to feel part of a learning community and recognize me as your accomplice to learning. Always feel encouraged to contact me with questions, comments, interesting links related to our course, or even just your unfettered excitement whenever you feel moved to reach out! To be resilient learners in these challenging times, we must reimagine the multiple contexts in which learning takes place, especially as we are tasked with new challenges foisted upon us by the SARS-CoV-2 global pandemic. This is an intellectual space where we can *and should* anthropologize these times. 

What is this Course About?

This course foregrounds Indigenous Peoples’ experiences with environmental conservation. It critically examines conservation’s entanglements with broader processes such as settler colonialism and Indigenous sovereignty, green capitalism, and militarization. Drawing on works in anthropology and allied fields, students will engage with critical environmental issues to understand how international conservation projects are experienced and perceived locally, as well as how environmental protection measures often exacerbate preexisting inequities and embolden colonial geographies of power. We will examine several themes, including the displacement/dispossession of Indigenous Peoples, neoliberal or market-based approaches to environmental protection, militarization of wildlife conservation, and alternative perspectives of land protection (e.g., Afro-futurist/eco-feminist/non-Western). In short, this course is 

Goals for Your Learning

By the end of this course, students will:

  • Gain an understanding of the human dimensions of conservation and environmental conflicts.
  • Analyze and critique various approaches to protected areas from an anthropological perspective.
  • Recognize the practical applications of anthropological research on parks and peoples.
  • Explain how the functions of the natural world, society, and the economy depend on the resilience, sustainability, and conservation of ecological systems (Sustainability and Environmental Awareness Institutional Learning Outcome).
  • Articulate the relevance of anthropology to present-day social issues and policy such as human rights, health, historical preservation, conservation, economic development, language use, and cultural practices (Anthropology Major learning outcome).

Textbook/Course Materials

  • Internet: You will need a computer and access to the Internet for this online course (you are enrolled in an online course, duh!). I try to embed everything here, or link things that are paywalled to our Canvas page. Reach out to HSU Help Desk for any technical needs: 826-4357, Whether you need WIFI, software, hardware, signal boosters, etc. – there are free resources that can be mailed to students. The Library also has loaner laptops that can be mailed (with paid return postage/packaging). There are resources to help you succeed in this course- do not be ashamed to ask for help. 
  • Canvas (> myHumboldt> Canvas) is the main informational site for this course after this nifty webpage of mine 🙂 There are no required books for this course— all readings are freely available on Canvas or online embedded in the course schedule. Check Canvas for assignments, readings, and schedule updates. Check out this helpful link to a Canvas setup infographic.
  • Several of the course readings come from a wonderful reading list entitled “Decolonizing Conservation,”  compiled by Sara Cannon. 

Course Structure/Format

This course is offered in an online format and uses Canvas for accessing course materials, assignment submissions, and online discussions. Please follow the course schedule in the last section of this document. This is an upper division, 4-unit course, meaning that the university standard is that you will spend at least 180 hours on this course over the semester, which equates to approximately 12 hours per week. This course is organized as follows, with the goal of building theoretical knowledge and practical skills, actively participating in your own learning, and welcoming intellectually challenging material:

  1. There will be brief assessments/reflections on most weeks– they are designed to check that you read/watched/listened to the material and understand basic concepts.
  2. The format of this course is dependent upon student participation either synchronously through our scheduled Zoom seminars or asynchronously through on our Canvas discussion page.
  3. Because many topics covered in this course are sensitive, it is important to remember to be respectful of one another in any discussion format.
  4. It is likely that students will be at different skill levels – please do not be shy about asking for clarification or help. In fact, this class promotes social learning i.e. learning from your peers and collaboratively synthesizing course material. Let’s reimagine this online! Do not be afraid to offer help to your classmates, or to seek help from those around you—consider our class a “learning community” or “learning cooperative.”

Grading & Assignments

I assess student learning based on four equally-weighted categories of tasks to complete for course credit:

Grade Breakdown:     

25% – Learning community contributions (Zoom/Canvas/Google)

25% – Reflections/Assessments of Course Materials

25% – Decolonized Conservation Project Map

25% – Artifact Assignment  (final semester project)

Grading Scale (no curve): A = 93% or above; A- = 92.9-90%; B+ = 89.9-87%; B = 86.9-83%; B- = 82.9-80%; C+ = 79.9-77%; C = 76.9-73%; C- = 72.9-70%; D+ = 69.9-67%; D = 66.9-60%; F = <60%. Course must be taken for a letter grade and passed with a D (60%) or higher to be used to fulfill Anthropology major/minor requirements. If taking CR/NC, the course must be passed with 70% or higher for CR, and will not count towards Anthropology major/minor requirements. 

1) Learning Community Contributions – 25% You will be assessed based on your contributions to the learning community of our course. This will take the form of attendance and contributions to at least 10 separate online discussions (worth 2.5 points each). To create the most equitable and flexible course platform, students can participate in multiple ways. Each time a learning community contribution activity is due on the course schedule, you must participate in at least TWO of the following:

  • synchronously attending the Zoom meetings and participating in real-time discussion
  • asynchronously posting in the Canvas discussion forum, “The Weekly Banter,” following the directions as posted. 
  • asynchronously sharing your reading notes/adding to existing notes/posting questions for future Zoom discussions, etc. in our course shared Google Doc “PPP Reading Lab 2020

2) Reflections/Assessments of Course Material – 25% Students will complete a total of 10 reflections (worth 2.5 points each), which are designed to:

  • Help you demonstrate your understanding of course material
  • Motivate you to prepare for class discussions
  • Assess your understanding of specific case studies discussed in the readings and other course material
  • Evaluate your comprehension of anthropological perspectives

3) Decolonized Conservation Map – 25% Each student will contribute a short case study focusing on a decolonized/indigenized conservation project that breaks the colonial mold we explore throughout the semester. Case studies should be at least 1000 words in length and include citations (and other specific information outlined on Canvas). All student entries will be combined to create a map of alternative forms of environmental conservation worldwide, which will be a resource to offer the public alternative ways to think about protecting Indigenous sovereignties and the ecologies in which they are situated.

4) Anthropological Artifact– 25% The final assignment is designed to give students more freedom to demonstrate their learning of key areas in the course inscribed in the learning outcomes (in the vein of the ‘unessay’) Students will create an “artifact” that embodies core concepts and ideas covered throughout the course. In previous semesters, students produced videos, wrote poems, assembled collages, wrote reflective auto-ethnographic essays, created digital presentations, recorded podcasts, and one student even programmed a video game! Your artifact must be “digitized” as a standard file type e.g., pptx, pdf, jpeg, docx file etc. and uploaded to Canvas, along with an accompanying written description (Word doc) that details specifically how the artifact addresses the prompts and connects with specific readings, themes, and concepts we have examined this semester. The description should be no less than 1000 words in length. The artifact itself must be thoughtfully designed/planned and carefully put together.

General Class Policies

  • Prepare for Discussions: Complete the readings before attending our Zoom meetings or engaging in Canvas discussions. Make notes, jot down any questions, reflections of course topics, and be prepared to engage.
  • Missed/Make-Up/Late Work: Assignments are due as they are listed on the syllabus and Canvas schedule. Other accommodations are possible in extenuating situations – please contact the instructor if you would like to request additional accommodations for an assignment. Late work is accepted for half credit up to two weeks past the due date.
  • Be Respectful: Always feel free to ask questions, share ideas, and voice opinions. We are here to share ideas and to learn from one another, and participation is key to collaborative learning. Class discussions and polite academic debates are encouraged, but always be respectful.
  • Anti-Racist Curriculum: As your instructor, I am committed to a zero-tolerance policy on white supremacy and other hateful ideologies in our classrooms and online platforms.
  • Inclusivity: Students in my courses are members of learning communities in which people of all backgrounds are welcome and can safely interrogate racism, settler-colonialism, patriarchy, and other interrelated structural violences that shape the human condition. Students in this class are encouraged to speak up and participate online. Each of us must show respect for each other because our class represents a diversity of beliefs, backgrounds, and experiences. I believe that this is what will enrich all of our experiences together. I recognize that our individual differences can deepen our understanding of one another and the world around us, rather than divide us. In this class, people of all genders and gender identities, religions, ages, sexual orientations, disabilities, socioeconomic backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities, ancestries, and nationalities are strongly encouraged to share their rich array of perspectives and experiences. If you feel that you are in some way isolated from our classroom community or if you have a specific need, please speak with me early in the semester so that we can work together to help you become an active and engaged member of our class and community.
  • Accommodations: If you require testing or other accommodations and have documentation from the SDRC, please see the instructor ASAP at the beginning of the semester and provide reminders as relevant.
  • Incompletes: It is the responsibility of the student to arrange an “incomplete” grade if warranted. The Student must submit, in writing, a plan to complete the course if instructor agrees to an incomplete.
  • Academic Integrity: Please familiarize yourself with the University’s policies on academic misconduct (cheating, plagiarism, etc.). Ignorance of these policies or what constitutes academic misconduct is not an acceptable defense. Failure to comply will result in a grade of F (0) on the assignment or on the course, and potential HSU disciplinary actions. See HSU’s academic honesty policy here:
  • Please see your instructor ASAP if you have questions or concerns. An appointment is not needed during office hours, but I encourage you to make one to secure a specific time.
  • Academic resources: While you are always welcome to come to my office for help, I also recommend visiting the HSU Writing Studio for assistance in written assignments. You can call or go online to make an appointment: You might also consider following one of these note-taking techniques to help you with the assigned readings:

University Policies & Resources

Students are responsible for knowing information on campus policies and resources on the website below, such as: Add/Drop Policy, Resources for Students with Disabilities, Academic Honesty, Complaints, Attendance and Disruptive Behavior Policy, Code of Conduct, Financial Aid, Emergency Procedures, Academic/Career Advising, and Counseling & Psychological Services. Monday, September 7th, 2020 is the last Fall ‘20 deadline to Add/Drop classes without a serious & compelling reason.

Emergency Procedures

Please see the emergency evacuation plan for the classroom located on the colored card by the door. Also review the Campus Emergency Procedures at the following website:

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