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Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology Course Outline (4002-3F- Fall 2013)


Course Director: Dr. Kazi Abdur Rouf


Office Hours: 4:00 am-7:00 pm, Saturday (and by appointment)


Course Description

Now a day, many people faced with the challenge of tolerating and appreciating other cultural perspectives in order to avoid the alternatives of increased ethnic hostility, acculturation (cultural superiority) and aggression. In this course students shall be introduced to the basic concepts, themes, ideas, theories and findings of cultural anthropology, the systematic and comparative study of human institutions and behavior and perception. The course emphasis on the comparative study of contemporary cultures in order to learn to understand and appreciate the wide array of cultural differences that have developed throughout the world specially across Canada and to gain new insights into the patterns and dynamics of different cultural traditions and values. The lectures will review and elaborate on topics introduced in the readings and online viewing. The readings and assignments for this course are designed to give students an overview of the cultural anthropology and its related themes and theories.


The Cultural Anthropology course introduces students to the core questions, issues, human diversity and approaches of social-cultural anthropology. Students shall engage in self-reflexive examination of their own worldviews, perceptions and biases in relation to other peoples and culture.  This course is designed to introduce students to the anthropological study of different cultures, including ways of comparing and contrasting the structures of social relationships and belief systems that operate in different cultural settings.
Course Objectives

The main objective of this course is to introduce students to the basic concepts and topics of cultural anthropology. Students will learn about ‘culture’ and how anthropologists work to understand cultural processes and changes. The course will explore ways of trying to understand the world views and belief systems of other peoples by situating them in their particular contexts.

The basic aims of the course are to:


  • Provide students with a fundamental understanding of the  development and contemporary  practices in the field of  socio-cultural anthropology;
  • A commitment to holism in understanding human behavior of other people, other societies and other ways of life- critical self–reflection and comparison;
  • Understand human life by being part of the everyday context in which it takes place ; and
  • Provide students with a better understanding of the diversity culture and human wellness,   and cultural systems by examining human organization from a cross-cultural perspective.


Course Topics

The course covers the following concepts, ideas, themes and theories:

  • Concepts:  Society, culture, kinship, community, identity, values, norms, traditions, belief, cultural dynamics, cultural diversity, cultural pluralism, cultural symbolism, cultural change, cultural relativism, substance practices, cultural progress, globalization and economic growth. These core concepts lay the foundation for in social and cultural anthropology;
  • Application of social cultural anthropology to contemporary problems solutions;
  • The social and cultural construction of reality;
  • Subsistence systems and culture;
  • Family relations, kinship systems and marriages;
  • Culture, personality and identity;
  • Cultures and social stratifications;
  • Traditions and Indigenous Peoples;
  • Cultural construction of violent conflict; and
  • The construction of power, privileges and the nation state;
  • Globalization and culture.


Learning Outcomes

This course has been designed to introduce students to the discipline of Cultural Anthropology, what it is, what it does, and why. It provides students the basic concepts of socio-cultural Anthropology, including the study of culture, kinships, family relations, social organizations, social and cultural construction, social hierarchy and power, progress, personality and identity, globalization and cultural hegemony.  It could increase students’ awareness of the human cultural expression, and enhances their ability to recognize and support diversity.


Upon the successful completion of this course, student should be able to:

  1. Describe the main principles of the anthropological analysis of culture and behavior;
  2. Understand and apply anthropological concepts and theories to specific ethnographic case studies;
  3. Be aware of and challenge their own culture, evolution of culture, worldviews, biases and assumptions;
  4. Understand patterns of family relations, relationship between patterns in behavior and cultural influences;
  1. Explore and understand theories and methods in the anthropological study of culture, evaluate cultural anthropological different theoretical approaches and their interpretations;
  1. Familiarize with globalization and social hierarchy of construction;
  2. Understand students own cultural background from a comparative perspective;
  3. Summarize and write a critical view of ethnography; and
  4. Identify, interpret, and solve problems effectively combining cultural anthropological study.



  1. Watch film during the course and write a reflection paper on it:  10% (Due third week of the semester):  Life and Death in assisted living. Frontline (2013.   or
  2. The Merchants of Cool (PBS, 2001) blog. Explores the culture in which today’s American teenager is growing up and how they’ve come to view themselves and their parents.

  1. Critical review of the required reading text book assignment -60% (Last week of the semester)

Make an in-depth critical review of foundational ideas in the development of the practice of Cultural Anthropology.  Topics may include questioning origins and legacies of functionalism, cultural materialism, the social and cultural construction of reality, the culture of construction of identity, the cultural construction of social hierarchy, politics of culture, power and political economy, globalization and post modernism, meaning of progress and economic growth, gender and post-structuralism, the cultural construction of violent conflict.

  1. Seminar on overview of the course materials: 30% (Due before last two weeks of the semester).





90-100 (Outstanding, analytical, consistent, creative, submit assignments on time) A+
85-89 (Excellent, analytical, present all classes, submit assignments on time  ) A
80-84 (Very good, present all classes, submit assignments on time) -A
77-79 (Good, present all classes, submit assignments on time) B+
73-76 (good) B
70-72 (Average) -B
0-69 (concepts not clear, unable to apply the concepts and academic fraud) Fail


Beware of Academic Fraud!

Academic Fraud is neither accepted nor tolerated by the University. Anyone found guilty of academic fraud is liable to severe academic sanctions. For examples, engaging in any form of plagiarism or cheating; presenting falsified research data; and handing in an assignment that was not authored, in whole or in part, by the student. In recent years, the development of the Internet has made it much easier to identify academic plagiarism. The tools available to professors allow them to trace the exact origin of a text on the Web, using just a few words. Persons who have or attempted to commit academic fraud will be penalized « F, Failed) » for the assignment and for the course and he/she will be suspended or expelled from the University.


Required Textbook

Robbins, Richard, H.,  Larkin, Sherri N.,  Cummings, Maggie and McGarry, Karen (2013). Cultural Anthropology-a problem-based approach. Canada: Neilson Education. (The book is available in the OCAD Bookstore behind the adjacent building Ontario Art Gallery (AGO), Toronto).


Additional Readings

Haviland, William A., Fedorak, Shirley A., and Lee, Richard B. Cultural Anthropology. Toronto:  Nelson Publishing 2013, 13th ed.

Miller, Barbara D., Esterik, Penny, V., and Esterik, John V. (2003). Cultural Anthropology. Toronto: Pearson.

Lavenda, Robert H., Schultz, Emily A. (2003). Core Concepts in Cultural Anthropology. New York: Mcgraw Hill.

Schultz, Emily A., Lavenda, Robert H. (2012). Cultural Anthropology- a perspective on the human condition. Toronto: Mayfield Publishing Company.

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