76.122 Cultural Anthropology

Module I Introductory Overview:
Concepts, Methods, and Theories

Notice: The material in this module is under development for a course to be offered in Sept. 1997.
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Contemporary world conditions are bringing us into direct contact with peoples of many regions with vastly different values and ways of life. We are, accordingly, faced with the challenge of tolerating and appreciating other culture systems in order to avoid the terrible alternative of increased ethnic nationalism and hostility. In this course you will be introduced to the basic concepts and findings of cultural anthropology, the systematic and comparative study of human institutions and behaviour and will acheive an understanding of the cultural diversity with which we are increasingly confronted and the common humanity that lies beneath it.

This introductory module will discuss the main tools that anthropologists use to collect and analyze information about cultural institutions and cultural variatation throughout the world. We will be considering the concept of culture, methods of ethnographic data collection, and principles of ethnological theory.


  1. Define and discuss the central unifying concepts and principles of cultural anthropology.
  2. Demonstrate the cultural character of human experience, behaviour, and thought as conditioned by the use of symbols to interpret and interact with the real world.
  3. Emphasize the importance of learning and social milieu for cultural transmission.
  4. Discuss the interrelatedness of cultural elements within total cultures.
  5. Describe and evaluate the techniques and processes of ethnographic data collection and representation.
  6. Identify and compare the main ethnological (theoretical) orientations within cultural anthropology in relation to basic assumptions about the causes and origins of cultural phenomena.

Outline of Topics

  1. The Culture Concept
    1. A Brief History of the Culture Concept
    2. A Definition of Culture
    3. Emphases in the Culture Concept
      1. symbolic composition,
      2. systematic patterning,
      3. learned transmission,
      4. societal grounding.
  2. Method and Theory in Cultural Anthropology
    1. Ethnographic Methods
    2. Objectivity in Ethnography
    3. Ethnology
      1. Dimensions of Theoretical Difference
      2. Ethnological Schools
      3. The Case of Dani Warfare
  3. Unit Summary
  4. Glossary of Terms
  5. References


Bates & Plog, Cultural Anthropology

  • Part I. The Anthropological Perspective, pp. 2-71

    Heider, Grand Valley Dani

  • Chapter 1. Studying the Dani, pp. 1-23.
    Brian Schwimmer
    Department of Anthropology
    University of Mantioba

    Begin Instruction