Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2024

Course Description

The discipline of anthropology in America is most often traced back to its father figure, “Papa Franz” Boas. A German psychologist and geographer by training, Boas was introduced to the Inuit peoples of Baffin Island and became fascinated by their culture. Eventually, he would work for the Field Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Institution, and head the first American Department of Anthropology at Columbia University in 1896. Through Boas, American anthropology would be defined as a field of four unique, but interrelated sub-fields – socio-cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, archaeology, and physical anthropology. During this course, you will explore and learn about the history, theories, methods, ethics and applications of socio-cultural anthropology. While this course specifically addresses the socio-cultural sub-field, you will also be exposed to linguistics, archaeology, and physical anthropology and how these other sub-fields inform socio-cultural anthropological research and understanding. “So…how does this relate to me?” Anthropology is the study of humanity in every aspect across time and space. If people ‘do it,’ ‘think it’ or ‘make it,’ then it is fair game for anthropological study. At one time, anthropology as a discipline was focused on and brought to mind images of the exotic ‘Other’ – societies and cultures in the most remote places on earth with practices and beliefs that both amazed and horrified those living in the modern Western world. And yes, today, research continues in some of the most remote areas of the planet, and with peoples who do have practices and beliefs strikingly different from mainstream Western culture. However, anthropologists are also engaged in research within the Western world, interested in the variety of sub-cultures that exist, and with the range of concerns and problems facing humanity from the local to the global. This course is designed to be an introduction to socio-cultural anthropology, so for those of you who will become anthropology majors this is your introduction to the concepts and methods that you will build upon as you progress in your career. Those of you that go into other fields will benefit from this course as well, because as you will see over the course of the semester the topics and questions of concern for anthropologists are everywhere! My goals for you as a non-anthropology major are to learn about how anthropologists approach and study the immense cultural diversity that exists in the world, to appreciate the uniqueness of specific cultures, to learn about the common threads that bind us all as humans, and to take this with you, applying the concepts, theories and methods to your respective field for a greater understanding.

Student Outcomes

Students will be able to . . .

  • Understand the concept of culture and analytically apply the ideas of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.
  • Engage with cultural differences by developing an awareness of how people with different cultural backgrounds make meaning of the world differently.
  • Identify and analyze structures and institutions that create and sustain inequality and marginalization now and in the past.
  • Develop an ability to appreciate diverse worldwide perspectives through the examination of cultural customs and traditions, all while contemplating their own personal values and traditions.