Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Susan Greenbaum, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cheryl Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Alvin Wolfe, Ph.D.


Neo-liberalism, Volunteerism, Community, Youth, Tutoring


Service-Learning is a popular teaching method that is increasingly being adopted by institutions of higher learning throughout the nation and is enthusiastically promoted as a progressive method for mediating the alleged decline in civic responsibility and ameliorating subsequent social ills. Servicelearning courses are also seen as an answer to growing student disinterest by connecting students to “real world” experiences while simultaneously providing much needed community support in the face of receding social services in this “Post-Welfare” moment (Goode and Maskovsky 2001a).

Anthropological insights, born out of a liberal humanistic tradition, can be employed to critically examine this popular educational and social project. Critical anthropology theories and methods help articulate disparity between the promises of service-learning and the realities of implementation. Recent calls from within the discipline challenge anthropologists to do more than simply documenting experiences of poverty and violence, but to become politically engaged by exposing how global and state processes shape and create those realities in the local realm (Hyatt and Lyon-Callo 2003).

My internship as a volunteer tutor at a local recreation center provided a unique vantage for critically examining service-learning while simultaneously working to establish a politically engaged anthropology project. “Ethnographizing” (Lyon-Callo and Hyatt 2003:177) service-learning reveals hidden contradictions that act as substantial barriers to the goals of the generally agreeable and beneficial service-learning program. Expressing an explicitly politically engaged service-learning agenda works to ameliorate these dangers for the creation of a potentially powerful vehicle for social change.