Cultural Anthropology, an introductory course

Study of peoples and their cultures

Open Educational Resources

This page and the resources linked from it are Open Educational Resources (OER)

"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 student

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:

Of what practical use is cultural anthropology?

Cultural anthropology can help you acquire or hone some basic research skills such as observation and interviewing. By studying other cultures, we can better understand our own culture. Cultural anthropology can also help us to understand our own individual behavior and thereby 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.

Helpful resources

"The musical "Fiddler on the Roof" made much more sense after reading chapter 7 of our cultural anthropology textbook." — Professional Studies student

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. It deals with the origins and characteristics of individual ethnic groups focusing 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 groups.

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 languages.

Are there particular resources helpful for thinking about things in the field of anthropology?

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 maintain.
Writing Standards

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 errors.
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 checklist.

How diverse are we?

arrow pointing to the rightHave you played cultural bingo? [ more ]

Tempted to cheat on some schoolwork?

Before you do, read Southern Nazarene University's academic integrity policy.

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" -- Revelation 7:9

Course materials

Case studies for reflecting on issues in Cultural Anthropology

See above list of case studies

In-class worksheets for Cultural Anthropology

Helpful web pages

See above list of resources

PowerPoint presentations

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 Translation

    -- Howard Culbertson,

How Useful Would Studying Cultural Anthropology Be?

Studying cultural anthropology can be incredibly beneficial for several reasons:

In short, cultural anthropology can equip you with valuable skills and insights that are increasingly relevant in our diverse and interconnected world. Whether you're interested in understanding human behavior, pursuing a career in a related field, or simply broadening your horizons, studying cultural anthropology can enrich your life in many ways.

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