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Social Sci LibreTexts

I: Anthropology & Culture

Skills to Develop

  • 1.1: What is Anthropology?
    Anthropology is the study of what makes us human. Anthropologists take a broad approach to understanding the many different aspects of the human experience, which we call holism. They consider the past, through archaeology, to see how human groups lived hundreds or thousands of years ago and what was important to them. They consider what makes up our biological bodies and genetics, as well as our bones, diet, and health.
  • 1.2: The Culture Perspectives
    A general definition of culture that can be applied to all cultures is patterns of behavior that are common within a particular population of people. One way to think about culture is to break down the concept into two distinct categories: the Big C and the little c. The Big C is an overarching general concept that can be applied to all culture groups; it is the anthropological perspective. The little c is the particulars of a specific culture group.
  • 1.3: Language
    Language and communication are key components of the human experience. Language can be one of the easiest ways to make connections with other people. It helps us quickly identify the groups to which we belong. It is how we convey information from one generation to the next. But language is only one way that humans communicate with one another. Non-verbal forms of communication are as important if not more so.
  • 1.4: Identity
    Identity is constructed and influenced by many things, including gender, sex, norms, etc.
  • 1.5: Cultural Anthropology Methodology and Theory
    Ethnography is a research strategy where the approach is to get as much information as possible about a particular culture. The ethnographer, or cultural anthropologist, tries to get information from many angles to see whole picture--again, striving for that holistic view.
  • 1.6: Cultural Anthropology Theory
    Why learn theory? "Theories are analytical tools for understanding, explaining, and making predictions about a given subject matter". Theories help to direct our thinking and provide a common framework from which people can work. Oftentimes through the process of using a theoretical framework, we discover that it lacks explanatory abilities. When that happens, it is modified or even abandoned.
  • 1.7: More Theories
    The roots of functionalism are found in the work of sociologists Herbert Spencer and Émile Durkheim. Functionalism considers a culture as an interrelated whole, not a collection of isolated traits. Like a human being has various organs that are interconnected and necessary for the body to function correctly, so society is a system of interconnected parts that make the whole function efficiently.

Thumbnail: Maori warriors perform a Haka, meaning dance of welcome, for Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta during a Powhiri ceremony while visiting Auckland, New Zealand Sept. 21, 2012. The ceremony is an ancient Maori tradition used to determine if visitors came in peace or with hostile intent. Image used with permission (Publc Domain; Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo).