Cultural Anthropology: An Introduction
Fall Semester 2007
Bob Jones, Instructor
Course Description:
Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human. It is the study of the variety
of human cultures in different environmental, political and historical contexts. It is all
too common to experience instances of shock, puzzlement, confusion, or disapproval
when confronted by different customs and practices of people who do not share our
own culture. Curiosity is often the result of that experience, and anthropology is the
means by which we can explore that curiosity. Each culture has a different pattern to
deal with the basic events and challenges of life. This pattern includes things like
language, economic system, family and kinship, religion, and social institutions.
Cultures, however, are not static and change with time and through borrowing from
other cultures. Cultural anthropologists have developed theories of culture and
research methodologies to study different cultures, and through these we become
aware of our own unique cultural patterns and those of others, how our own patterns
shape our experiences and world view, and help us to understand and interact with
other cultures. This course surveys basic concepts and research methods in the context
of world cultures, and allows us to consider the increasingly multicultural,
transnational and globally connected mode3rn world. The course consists of lectures,
group activities, field trips and ethnographic projects, films and slide presentations,
readings and discussions.
Required Texts:
John Monaghan and Peter Just. Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short
Introduction. Oxford: 2000.
Marvin Harris. Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches: The Riddle of Cultures. Vintage: 1989.
Other required texts and articles will be assigned during the semester.
Additional Anthropological Readings
“Coping with Culture Clash” AE 04/05
“Lessons from the Field” AE 07/08
Excerpt from The Unredeemed Captive, pp. 140-166.
Narrative Ethnography
Excerpt, The House of Lim, Chapter 1.
“Among the Kazakhs of Xinjiang” The Silk Road, pp.49-53.
Marriage and Kinship
“The Visit” AE 04/05
Religious Belief
“Baseball Magic” AE 07/08
Ethnographic Project
The ethnographic project will give you a chance for hands-on experience in
anthropology. The general objective is to apply tools anthropologists typically use
when gathering research materials (interviews, participant observation, background
reading) to develop your own anthropological insights. There will be one of these
assignments, worth 20% of your grade. The grading will be based on how well you
meet assignment objectives, which will ask you to examine elements of your own
culture, as well as those of others.
What is ethnography? It is “the documenting and analysis of a particular culture
through field research.” By the end of the semester, each student will have completed a
short ethnographic project, based upon field research in the community. The final
product will be in the form of a written “narrative ethnography”, a video film, or other
visual presentation.
As we learn about the ethnographic process, we will begin to focus on possible subject
matter, which may include the material culture, social life, festivals, holidays, religion,
or other cultural phenomenon of native or emigrant groups in the Louisville
community. An emigrant family, the culture of a fellow student, the community center
for a local ethnic or cultural group, or other group that represents a culture that is
different than your own.
Field work consists of interviewing, listening to and observing people in their cultural
and social settings, as well as doing background reading and research. The end product
should be a narrative description of the target group, with some analysis of how their
culture functions in the context of their community.
As we learn more about anthropology, you should become more focused on individual
field work topics, and how to go about gaining ethnographic information. Among the
topics which we will spend much of our time studying are:
 Family and Kinship
 Descent systems
 Belief systems
 Identity
 Arts and crafts
Grading Scale
Final Exam
Group project
Individual project
Monthly Course Schedule
August and September: What is “anthropology” and “ethnography”? What do we
mean by “culture” and “society”?
Marriage and kinship. Caste, class, tribe, nation. The “stuff” of culture.
Gods, ghosts and ancestors. Cultural, social and personal identity.
Ethnographic project work due. Final Exam.