Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 21, 2021 - July 21, 20216/21 - 7/214 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineYifeng Cai

Course Description

The cultural and social diversity of the world around us is astounding. Anthropology is a discipline that examines different aspects of this diversity and allows one to better understand the complexity of social phenomena. This course introduces students to the most important concepts and approaches used by anthropologists in understanding socio-cultural variation. The course encourages students to learn about different cultures and to apply their knowledge to make sense of their own society.

Studies of different cultures show that notions of gender, race, affluence, kinship, marriage, religion and systems of symbolic expression (language and art) vary significantly from one society to another. This raises questions such as: Is "collectivism vs. individualism" really the reasons why Chinese and the U.S. citizens seem to have drastically different attitudes towards public health measures during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? Why do women in a Malay fishing community perform rituals to "cook" the money earned by men before they spend it, and what roles does gender play in this process? How does the use of social media both facilitate free expressions of identity and put a person's livelihood and reputation at risk in South Korea? This course will survey and explain diversity and variation found in the human condition around the world. Drawing on a range of anthropological theories and concepts, the course aims to understand why people are who they are, and why they do what they do. Through lectures, films, in-class discussions, short essays and a group research project, students will learn to apply critical reasoning to understand a variety of cultural phenomena. Students will learn important anthropological concepts and will apply them towards critical analysis in a research project.

Goals: Students will gain a sophisticated perspective on the complexity of processes that shape cultural and social structuring of societies around the world. Objectives: Students will learn important concepts of Cultural Anthropology (holistic approach, fieldwork, ethnicity, gender, class, race, transnationalism and globalism, kinship, social structure) Students will be introduced to the richness and variety of human life in the past and contemporary worlds Students will be encouraged to understand their own culture in a comparative context Students will develop critical analysis and writing skills

Prerequisites: As an introduction to the discipline, this class does not require previous knowledge of Cultural Anthropology. However, a passion for understanding processes of social change and an open mind are fundamental prerequisites.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEAN0915

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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