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Representations of Culture:




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 100-level and 200-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


Culture and its representation lies at the heart of cultural anthropology (as the name suggests). This course is designed acquaint students with the analytical and representational tools used by anthropologists. It will introduce the students the basic concepts in cultural anthropology (e.g. what exactly is “culture”), some of its most important fields of study (such as kinship, religion, exchange, and communication), and show how anthropology can be used to both understand and represent both one’s own culture and the world “out there.”

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Critically analyze the issues and dimensions involved in representation of cultures

  • Understand the workings of culture both in distant locations and “at home”

  • Use analytical tools to understand and articulate cultural differences and similarities

  • Familiarize themselves with the anthropological ways of knowing, understanding, and explaining culture

  • Be able to articulate a range of theoretical and analytical perspectives that can inform their own research into issues of cultural representation and analysis

  • Begin to analyze the consequences of representations, and the ethical issues involved
    in representing other cultures

Mode of Instruction

The course will be taught primarily in seminar format. In-class time will be divided between short lectures, student group presentations, student discussions of the assigned course material. Visual material will augment the readings when appropriate. Students will prepare for each week’s topic by posting “reader responses” to assigned readings on the course Blackboard site.


Each student will be assessed on the basis of in-class contribution (in-class participation), individual dynamic engagement with the assigned course materials (weekly “reader responses” posted on the web), collaborative work with their peers on presenting on an assigned topic in front of the class (group presentation), and the inclass final exam that will consist of five mini-essays.

Assessment: In-class preparation and participation
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1–7

Assessment: Weekly web-postings (500 words unless specified otherwise)
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1–7

Assessment: Group presentation
Percentage: 20%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1–7

Assessment: Final exam (5 miniessays)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1–7


Students should purchase the textbook “Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology, 14th Edition” (James Spradley and David McCurdy eds.); additional readings and visual materials assigned during some weeks.

Note: Students are not allowed to use laptops in the classroom, with the exception of inclass
presentations. If you take this class, you will be required to print out or copy the
assigned readings, and bring the hard copy with you to class.

Contact Information


Weekly Overview

Week 1: Representing culture through ethnography
Week 2: The medium of representation: language and communication
Week 3: Culture and economic systems
Week 4: Culture and kinship
Week 5: Cultural worldviews, religion and magic
Week 6: Cultural identities and roles
Week 7: Culture in the age of globalization

Preparation for first session