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Cultural anthropology



Based on ethnographic film material about other cultures and original objects from other cultures, the following will be addressed:

  • The main cultural-anthropological basic terms;

  • Insights relating to ecology, economics, technology, affinity, gender, myth, ritual of small-scale, non-Western societies in particular;

  • The main schools of thought in cultural anthropology and several influential anthropologists and their work.

Course objectives

  • Elementary familiarity with cultural-anthropological basic terms;

  • Insights into and familiarity with the main schools of thought and several influential anthropologists and their work;

  • Ability to read ethnographies and the critical use of ethnographical data and insights;

  • Insight into (different visions on) the relationship between ecology, economics, social structure, affinity, myth and ritual in different types of society;

  • Knowledge of how and where relevant ethnographic data and interpretations can be found;

  • Ability to systematically describe and interpret an object in the Museum of Ethnology, in about 400 words, drawing on the knowledge acquired in this course.
    For detailed learning goals, see the reader on Blackboard.


Course schedule details can be found in the propedeuse/first year time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Assignments and discussions about film material relating to other cultures and original objects from other cultures;

  • Visit to the Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, with assignments.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures;

  • 280 pages of literature;

  • Assignment: Systematic description and interpretation of an ethnographic object in about 400 words (4 hours; during a joint visit to the Museum of Ethnology as part of class 7).

Assessment method

  • Written examination; the assignment mentioned above counts as 20% (comparable to 1 exam question);

  • Assignment.

All exam dates (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

  • T.H. Eriksen, Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology, 2nd edition. London: Pluto Press (2001 or later);

  • R. Corbey: Snellen om Namen: De Marind Anim van New Guinea door de ogen van de Missionarissen van het Heilig Hart, 1905-1925. Leiden: KITLV Press (2007);

  • P. Richerson & R. Boyd, “Culture is part of human biology: Why the superorganic concept serves the human sciences badly.” in: Probing. Human Origins. Edited by M. Goodman & A. Moffat, New York: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2002, pp. 59-86. Pdf op internet, open access.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.

Registration ‘Contractonderwijs’

All information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudent is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. R.H.A. Corbey.


This course has two versions: one taught in Dutch, the other taught in English.