• Sociology - both study social relations
  • Political Science - both interested in power relations
  • Economics - both study material conditions of peoples lives
  • History
  • Psychology - both study relationships between people and society

Key Distinguishing Features:

  • A focus on the concept of culture
  • A comparative perspective
  • A holistic perspective - look at culture as an integrated whole (cannot understand any aspect of any culture, without understanding all the aspects of a culture - must consider the whole culture)

- Anthropological curiosity: deals with cultural and biological diversity, within and between populations

Four Subfields of Anthropology:

  • Cultural anthropology
  • Linguistic anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Biological anthropology
  • Applied anthropology (5th added)

Cultural Anthropology:

  • The study of human culture

o Comparative study of living and recent cultures (past hundred years)

  • Ethnology

o Building theories about cultural behaviours and forms

  • Ethnography

o Observing and documenting peoples ways of life

Linguistic Anthropology:

  • Interconnections among language, culture and society
  • Languages of Indigenous peoples
  • Endangered languages (salvage ethnography)
  • Historical linguistics - language change over time


  • The study of material culture
  • Historic and prehistoric societies
  • Methods applied to living cultures

o Ex: Arizona garbage project 1973

■ They would ask people to keep record of what they threw away and compared it to what they found in their garbage

Biological Anthropology:

  • The study of human origins and contemporary biological diversity
  • Paleoanthropolgy

o Human evolution

o Primatology - study of nonhuman primates

  • Human variation (racial differences)
  • Health and disease issues

Applied Anthropology:

  • The application of the techniques and theories of anthropology to solving real-world problems

o Forensic anthropology

  • Cultural resource management (CRM)
  • Contract archaeology
  • Language preservation
  • Consulting and applied research

o Government agencies

o Non-governmental organizations (NGO's)

o First nations land claim settlements

  • Applied medical anthropology
  • Corporate and consumer anthropology

What is Culture?:

  • Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society - Edward Taylor
  • Culture can be broadly divided into:
  • Symbolic culture - ideas and knowledge people have about themselves, others and the world and the way that people express these ideas
  • Social culture - rules and practices that regulate membership and participation in social groups and networks
  • Material culture - stuff

** Definition: culture is the values, beliefs, technological knowledge, and rules of conduct acquired by learning

Characteristics of Culture:

  • Culture is shared
  • Culture is learned
  • Culture is adaptive
  • Culture is integrated
  • Culture is based on symbols
  • Culture organized the way people think about the world

Culture is Shared:

  • One person cannot have their own culture, at least 2 people
  • Cultural knowledge
  • Cultural norms
  • Subcultures - group of people whose members and others think of themselves as somehow significantly different than everybody else

Culture is Learned:

  • Socially transmitted (think about language)
  • Enculturation - process of learning ones culture through informal observation and formal instruction
  • Taboos - norms specifying behaviours that are prohibited in a culture

Culture is Adaptive:

  • Behaviours and beliefs respond to environmental constraints and opportunities

Culture is Integrated:

Practices and beliefs form a relatively coherent and consistent system

Culture is Symbolic:

  • Symbol: a word, image, or object that stands for cultural ideas or sentiments
  • Language
  • Religion
  • Art

Culture Organized the Way People Think About the World:

  • Naturalized concepts: ideas and behaviours so deeply embedded in a culture that they are regarded as universally normal or natural
  • Ethnocentrism: a set of misunderstandings and prejudices base on the idea that ones own belief system provides the only accurate and moral view of the world
  • Cultural hegemony: the use of cultural beliefs to justify and support social hierarchy and political domination
  • Counterculture: an alternative cultural model within a society that expresses different views about the way that society should be organized
  • Worldview: culture-based, often ethnocentric, way that people see the world and other peoples

Culture Change:

  • Internal:

o Invention

o Innovation

o Adaptation

  • External:

o Diffusion

o Acculturation

o Assimilation

  • Culture contact: direct interaction between peoples of different cultures through migration, trade, invasion, or conquest (external)
  • Cultural evolution: theory which maintains that societies develop through a series of stages based on their technological development and according to which they can be grouped into categories
  • Marxist theory: theory that analyzes society and culture in terms of class divisions and class conflicts (internal)

Culture Change (external):

  • Diffusion: spread of ideas, material objects, and cultural practices from one society to another through direct and indirect culture contact (external)
  • Acculturation: process by which a group adjusts to the influence of a dominant culture, while at the same time maintaining its original cultural identity
  • Assimilation: wholesale acceptance of the entire value and meaning system and abandonment of ones own values. Often occurs under pressure from the domination of a more powerful group over a subjugated one
  • Global Culture: a constellation of technologies, practices, attitudes, values, and symbols that spread internationally
  • Globalization: the process by which the exchange of products, investment, and people across national and regional boundaries increases
  • Liberalization policies: policies that attempt to eliminate national government controls on investment, imports, currency rates, and many other practices that ere considered to constrain trade
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