Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Course Number: ATH 103
Transcript Title: Intro to Cultural Anthropology
Created: September 1, 2012
Updated: August 27, 2019
Total Credits: 4
Lecture Hours: 40
Lecture / Lab Hours: 0
Lab Hours: 0
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement: No
Satisfies General Education requirement: Yes
Grading options: A-F (default), P-NP, audit
Repeats available for credit: 0


MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR 121.

Course Description

Examines modern human cultures through a cross-cultural and comparative approach. Explores language, technology, subsistence, economics, sociopolitical systems, religions, and human expression through ethnographic examples to better understand global diversity and the dynamics of culture change. Prerequisites: MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR 121. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Identify the basic conceptual framework of anthropological study, including the crucial distinction between ethnocentrism and the practice of cultural relativism.
  2. Define the key methodological practices of cultural anthropology with a major focus on the pursuit of ethnographic research via fieldwork.
  3. Analyze how cultural systems operate as adaptive strategies in response to physical and social environments.
  4. Evaluate the diversity of human cultures by comparing ethnographic information from a variety of world societies.
  5. Assess the dynamics of culture change in order to understand the complexity of culturally heterogeneous societies.

Alignment with Institutional Core Learning Outcomes

Major 1. Communicate effectively using appropriate reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. (Communication)


2. Creatively solve problems by using relevant methods of research, personal reflection, reasoning, and evaluation of information. (Critical thinking and Problem-Solving)

Not addressed

3. Extract, interpret, evaluate, communicate, and apply quantitative information and methods to solve problems, evaluate claims, and support decisions in their academic, professional and private lives. (Quantitative Literacy)


4. Use an understanding of cultural differences to constructively address issues that arise in the workplace and community. (Cultural Awareness)


5. Recognize the consequences of human activity upon our social and natural world. (Community and Environmental Responsibility)

To establish an intentional learning environment, Core Learning Outcomes (CLOs) require a clear definition of instructional strategies, evidence of recurrent instruction, and employment of several assessment modes.

Major Designation

  1. The outcome is addressed recurrently in the curriculum, regularly enough to establish a thorough understanding.
  2. Students can demonstrate and are assessed on a thorough understanding of the outcome.
    • The course includes at least one assignment that can be assessed by applying the appropriate CLO rubric.

Minor Designation

  1. The outcome is addressed adequately in the curriculum, establishing fundamental understanding.
  2. Students can demonstrate and are assessed on a fundamental understanding of the outcome.
    • The course includes at least one assignment that can be assessed by applying the appropriate CLO rubric.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Tests, research papers, discussion, quizzes, homework, group projects, and other forms of assessment all may be used for this course at the instructor's discretion.

Course Activities and Design

The determination of teaching strategies used in the delivery of outcomes is generally left to the discretion of the instructor. Here are some strategies that you might consider when designing your course: lecture, small group/forum discussion, flipped classroom, dyads, oral presentation, role play, simulation scenarios, group projects, service learning projects, hands-on lab, peer review/workshops, cooperative learning (jigsaw, fishbowl), inquiry based instruction, differentiated instruction (learning centers), graphic organizers, etc.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Themes, Concepts, and Issues

  1. Development of anthropology as a Western academic discipline.
  2. Ties to national colonial projects.
  3. Contributions and perspectives of women, minorities, subaltern, and non-Western cultural anthropologists.
  4. Basic conceptual framework of an anthropological study.
  5. Identifying ethnocentrism.
  6. Practice of cultural relativism.
  7. Changing theoretical perspectives in anthropology.
  8. Anthropology as a way of thinking.
  9. Distinction between cultural relativism and moral relativism.
  10. Emic and etic approaches to anthropology.
  11. Holistic perspectives in understanding humanity.
  12. Ethnocentrism as a political weapon for discrimination.
  13. Key methodological practices.
  14. Ethnographic research through fieldwork.
  15. Trends in collaborative research.
  16. International political conflicts as it impacts research and fieldwork experiences.
  17. Nature of culture shock.
  18. Importance and limitations of participant-observation and interviewing.
  19. Ethical issues confronting anthropologists.
  20. Dynamics of cultural diversity: foraging, tribes, chiefdoms, states.
  21. Cultural processes: language, technology, economics, social structure, politics, religion, worldview.
  22. Systems theory: economies/populations/ecosystems, kinship/political power/stigma.
  23. Voluntary v. involuntary culture change: invention, diffusion, acculturation, assimilation.
  24. Loss of indigenous knowledge systems.
  25. Loss of language systems on a global scale.
  26. Survival of indigenous cultural systems.
  27. Impact of globalization and first-world powers.
  28. Role of anthropology in medical, education, agribusiness, and corporate settings.
  29. Applied anthropology in response to vital issues and new challenges facing humans.
  30. New forms of cultural aggression such as terrorism and cyber warfare.
  31. Impact of genetic engineering of food and cloning on the future of humanity.

Competencies and Skills

The successful student should be able to: 

  1. Define the three components of the anthropological approach to understanding culture.
  2. Explain the steps in preparing for and undertaking fieldwork.
  3. Contrast two different subsistence-based cultural systems operating in diverse environments.
  4. Provide comparative ethnographic material as examples of cultural diversity.
  5. Identify examples of culture change within a host culture.