Introduction to Cultural Anthropology - 1st year

Introduction to the theories and methods of social or cultural anthropology. This course involves an in-depth exploration of the concept of culture and different approaches to cultural analysis. The methods and theory of fieldwork and ethnology will be studied along with an analysis of both Western and non-Western cultural traditions.


By the end of the course, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of the concept of culture from the perspective of the anthropologist as the adaptive mechanism, which provides for existential needs and survival of the human species;

2. Recognize underlying similarities as well as the wide range and variability of human cultures and social behavior;

3. Make explicit the complexities of the relationship between culture and the individual;

4. Using a broad cross-cultural background, compare and contrast their own culture as well as contemporary social problems;

5. Identify the meanings and significance of basic concepts and terms used by cultural anthropologists.

6. Demonstrate an understanding of the procedures used by cultural anthropologists;

7. Develop attitudes of both objectivity and empathy towards other ways of life;

8. Examine cultural traits in their functional, historical, and cognitive context and to see each culture as a whole adapted to its environment.


Course topics will include the following:

1. Introduction: What is cultural anthropology?

2. Definitions and approaches to the study of culture

3. The practice of fieldwork

4. Patterns of cultural systems

5. Understanding a primitive culture: the problem of objectivity vs. subjectivity

6. The possibility of an internal understanding: The structuralist view

7. Culture as sublimination of desire and aggression: the psychoanalytic view

8. Taboo and morality

9. Sexuality, prisons, and mental illness

10. Economics and kinship

11. Religion, myth, and rituals: a cross-cultural comparison of funerals

Method of Instruction:

1. Lecture

2. Class discussion

3. Small group discussion and group presentation

4. Library researched student presentations

5. Video

Types of Assignments:

1. Research paper based on library and/or field research

2. Student group in-class presentations of a topic selected in consultation with the professor

3. Exams

4. Small group discussion and in-class presentations

Sample Text:

1. Cultural Anthropology (Roger Keesing, Harcourt Brace, Orlando, 1981)

2. Anthropological Studies in Religion (Brian Morris, Cambridge, 1994)