ANT3220EN - Intro to Theories & Methods of Cultural Anthropology

Course description

Introduction to major classical and contemporary theories and research methods of cultural anthropology. Through the analysis of representative works in social sciences and a set of practical exercises in ethnographic writing, students will become familiar with different theoretical approaches to thinking about society, culture, and the nature of anthropological writing.

How this course benefits students

The Bachelor’s level course is intended to introduce students to the ways in which anthropologists organize their knowledge in the form of theoretical pronouncements. Theories are “apparatuses” used for thinking about other cultures, not statements of truth, and as such they provide students with a range of tools to explain different social and cultural phenomena. At this level, the emphasis is given to factual knowledge, thematic organization of ideas, and the basic understanding of anthropological practice (how to prepare for fieldwork, how to collect the material, how to organize it in writing, etc.). The Master’s level course encompasses the same range of theories and methods, but it requires of students more engagement in terms of time devoted to reading, the level of complexity, and the depth of analysis.

Why this course is important

The course provides the basis for cultural anthropology majors to understand anthropology as an academic discipline, a science of human diversity, and exploration of what it means to be a social being. Students in health, justice, and community service learn how social groups interact, exert control, change, or negotiate status in a cross-cultural context.

Credit hours
3 hours
Subject area
Educational level
Learning type
Upcoming terms
* Schedule subject to change. Please contact the Registrar's office with schedule questions.
Dr. Boyd Johnson, Senior Professor of Missional Anthropology

How this course relates to missional core values

Biblically based

Although focused on modern social theory, this course challenges students to think about the contemporary phenomena of power, inequality, feminism, materialism, etc. from a perspective that does not negate the Biblical truths.

Missionally driven

In order to be a part of missio dei, Christians need to understand better the world in which they live. This includes understanding causes and forces of the contemporary social phenomena. This course equips them with such tools.

Contextually informed

Theory in anthropology does not function apart from the concrete, observable social phenomena upon which the theory is built. Theory always operates in social and historical contexts with which students will be familiarized.

Interculturally focused

Anthropological theories emerge to explain human diversity across cultures. They always assume a certain degree of intercultural and comparative perspectives.

Practically minded

This course teaches students to identify, compare, and analyze a variety of approaches to defining culture, its components, and forces. By doing this, students gain the ability to evaluate and manage more effectively their own engagement with particular cultural groups or subcultures. Moreover, students in this course acquire basic skills in utilizing formal social science methods (like the semi-structured interview), natural science methods (such as observation), and methods associated with the humanities (such as textual and visual analysis). This knowledge helps students to develop the ability to critically evaluate diverse social phenomena and processes.

Experientially transformed

Anthropology is a Western discipline that grew out of our (Western) need for a comparative perspective in understanding human diversity. Therefore, it always begins with a question of our experience of someone else's otherness. Teaching anthropological theory relies on evoking students’ experience of difference that constitutes a part of their everyday interaction with other humans. In other words, students learn in this course a skill of giving names to their own experience of difference and its origins. The assignments in this course aim at engaging students in varies types of research activities that simulate actual fieldwork and other techniques of data collection and analysis.