Cultural Anthropology, an introductory course
Study of peoples and their cultures
"It is imperative that I learn the differences in these different sub-cultures if I am
to effectively reach them with the gospel." -- Donald S., Northwest Nazarene University
What is cultural anthropology?
Cultural anthropology is the study of the people groups and cultures of our world. It can
provide tools for more effective intercultural communications as well as give us a mirror through
which to see ourselves more clearly. One key assumption of those who study cultural
anthropology is that we absorb cultural concepts most effectively through exposure to
ethnographic description as well as actual fieldwork.
A course in cultural anthropology will help people:
- Explore the nature and components of human culture.
- Discover the diversity of peoples, places, and cultures that make up the global village that we
call Plant Earth
- Learn about their own culture by studying other cultures.
- Evaluate theories that anthropologists have developed about the whys and hows of human
behavior, including how and why cultures evolve
Of what practical use is cultural anthropology?
Well, it can help you acquire or hone some basic research skills such as observation and
interviewing. Through the study of other cultures, we can better understand our own culture.
Then, cultural anthropology can help us to understand our own individual behavior and thereby
help us gain insight into how to exert influence over our future.
Syllabi (in PDF format)
"I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from
every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the
Lamb" -- Revelation 7:9
This course will use a variety of learning resources, including videos and case studies.
"The musical "Fiddler on the Roof" made much more sense after reading chapter 7 of
our cultural anthropology textbook." — Professional Studies student
Open Educational Resources
This page and the resources linked from it are Open Educational Resources (OER)
Cultural Anthropology FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
- What's the difference between anthropology and ethnology?
Anthropology is the study of the origin, culture, and development
of human beings. It has several branches, including cultural anthropology. Ethnology is a branch
of cultural anthropology. Ethnology deals with the origins and characteristics of individual
ethnic groups with a focus on factors influencing cultural progression and change.
So, an anthropologist who decides to spend an entire career on an in-depth study of a tribal group
in the Amazon rain forest is, in effect, narrowing himself/herself to being an ethnographer. A
Bible translator who spends two decades learning a language, developing or inventing a writing
system for it, and eventually producing a New Testament in that language is a type of
ethnographer. On the other hand, cultural anthropologists hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs
would not be considered ethnographers since they will be dealing with a wide range of tribal
If we were dealing with automobiles, anthropology would be the study of everything about them
(history, mechanics, styling, sales, repair, effect on human beings, and so on). Ethnography
would be the study of Jeeps.
- What tools do anthropologists use in their work?
Their eyes and ears are their main tools. Anthropologists do a lot of fieldwork. If
they are physical anthropologists, they probably spend a lot of time digging up old bones. If they
are archaeological anthropologists, they are intent on unearthing treasures from villages and
towns of the past. If they are cultural anthropologists, they spend a lot of time in observing and
interviewing people. If they are linguistic anthropologists, they spend time working with
- Are there particular resources helpful for thinking about things in the field of
Print and video materials produced by National Geographic are very
user-friendly resources. Museums that focus on cultures are also excellent. Here in Oklahoma,
for instance, we have good Native American tribal museums as well as the National Cowboy
and Western Heritage Museum that details the life of cattle raisers. In Haiti, there are two
small, but good anthropological museums that missionaries have founded and
Most courses at
SNU contain a writing component.
I expect students to produce written work that is
focused, well-developed, organized, and relatively free of grammatical, punctuation, and spelling
Papers falling short of this standard will not be graded. That work will be returned
to the students for further revision and resubmission.
See my writing
How diverse are we?
|Have you played cultural bingo? [
Tempted to cheat on some schoolwork?
Before you do, read Southern Nazarene University's academic
Cultural Anthropology -- Bridge program
"I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every
nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb" --
Case studies for reflecting on issues in Cultural Anthropology
See above list of case studies
In-class worksheets for Cultural Anthropology
bingo -- an in-class game
to illustrate there may be more diversity in our group than we realize
- Gulliver's Travels, McDonald's restaurants and cultural anthropology
of culture: Cultural
anthropology alphabet worksheet
- Bwanda Fusa Challenge — a delightful cross-cultural
simulation game from the British office of Wycliffe Bible Translators | Class discussion guide
Helpful web pages
See above list of resources
See above list
Optional "dig deeper" enrichment readings for Cultural Anthropology
See above list of articles
"And people will come from all over the world from east and west, north and
south to take their places in the Kingdom of God." -- Luke 13:29, New Living
-- Howard Culbertson,
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