May 2009 extended essay reports
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY Overall grade boundaries
Grade: Mark range: E 0-7 D 8 - 15 C 16 - 22 B 23 - 28 A 29 - 36
The range and suitability of the work submitted
As has been true for some years, the majority of essays lacked an explicit anthropological perspective. This can lead to essays receiving significantly lower marks than those with a specific anthropological focus. Despite warnings in the Extended essay guide itself, and past warning from Chief examiners, it remains clear that many schools continue to permit candidates not enrolled in Social and Cultural Anthropology to write essays in the subject. Further, from comments registered by their supervisors, it is often apparent that the latter are not always realistically evaluating their candidates’ work. The most successful candidates presented topics solidly grounded in anthropological theory. There was for example a strong essay critically applying feminist and postmodernist theory to understanding marriage in a particular ethnographic context; another essay examined linguistic classification and gender relations among low income inner-city residents; another insightfully examined the construction of ethnic identity and resistance to assimilation among the Roma of Serbia. As usual, there were a number of essays focused on “social problems,” including human rights issues. There were several successful essays among these, for example, an essay comparing the underground economies of the urban poor in East Harlem, New York. Another well-designed comparative study explored tensions between structure and agency in two urban ethnographies. Most social problem-oriented essays, however, presented little or nothing of an anthropological perspective, as was generally the case of the essays. Most of these essays were marred by prescriptive and usually superficial conclusions. Popular culture as usual drew the attention of some candidates, for example, various genres of music were looked at as “reflections” of society, or as tools of social or cultural change. There were a number of essays misplaced under the subject. In these cases, candidates received no competent guidance or no guidance at all. There were essays which might have been more appropriate for biology, history, politics, psychology, and literary criticism.
© International Baccalaureate Organization 2009
May 2009 extended essay reports
Group 3 social and cultural anthropology
Candidate performance against each criterion
A: research question
As has been the case for many years, most candidates did not fulfil the conditions for full credit here. In a large number of cases, though less than half, the research question or issue was not appropriate to the subject. More commonly, the question might be appropriate, but was too broadly or not clearly stated. A third condition for loss of credit was that, while the research question might be stated in the abstract, it was not presented in the Introduction, as required by the criterion. A few research questions were judged inappropriate because they stated value judgments.
Good practice here included not only demonstrating the significance of the topic chosen, but relating the research question to existing knowledge on the topic, and defining leading concepts. Many candidates simply did not recognize the problematic nature of most anthropological concepts, such as “ethnicity,” “identity,” “gender roles,” “globalization”, etc., and did not define, or only partially defined, these concepts. Poorer essays might introduce personal opinions or introduce polemical arguments in the introduction.
Since many essays did not present an anthropological point of departure, they could not be credited with having provided “a sufficient range of appropriate resources,” hence they did not do well here. Poor organization and lack of clarity with regard to research procedure...
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