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A tool for understanding what
makes people and cultures
different and what makes
them the same.

What is Culture?
Culture is defined as:

A specific set of learned behaviors,

beliefs, attitudes, values, and ideals
that are characteristic of a particular
society or population.

Culture as a Learned

Culture is learned and passed down

from previous generations.
This is also called Enculturation
It is not something an individual is
born with.

Culture as an agent of
Environmental Adaptation

The material objects and customs

produced by a group of people are
influenced by the environment around
For example:
The types of tools and the materials that
they are manufactured out of are
determined by what is available.
No stone? Then your tools will be made
out of wood, bone, or antler.

This is a problem for archaeologists.

Two Components of
Cultural Anthropology


This is the most visible and most widely

used research tool in cultural anthropology.

Two main components of ethnography:

Published results

Excellent example of an ethnography is:

Lewis H. Morgan
League of the Ho-d-no-sau-nee Or Iroquois
Ill post the PDF on the Wiki for anyone who is


Process by which data is gathered

from the study location.
This can be as far away as Australia
or as close as your local delicious
and refreshing Starbucks


Without this part of the

anthropological process the rest of
the research is wasted.
Why do the fieldwork and record the
data if no one will ever even have
the chance to read it?


This is a comparative study and

analysis of the worlds cultures.

Uses the ethnographic accounts

recorded in the field to formulate
broader anthropological theories
that help to explain why cultures are
different or similar.

So whats the difference

between Ethnography and

Detailed description of a culture based

on field work.


Comparing different cultures to try and

discover broader patterns that extend
across many cultural groups.

Methodology in the Field

Participant Observation
Associated with Ethnography
This is an anthropological technique used to
understand groups of people by interacting
with them in their own environment.
An anthropologist will go and live with a
certain group of people for an extended
period of time and this allows for a more
complete view of the culture being studied.

These are individuals who assist the

Ethnographer in interpreting certain aspects of
the culture being observed.

Bronislaw Malinowski

Born 1884
Died 1942
First anthropologist to truly use the
Participant Observation technique.

The Importance of Symbols

in Culture

Symbols are extremely important to

every culture in the world.
Symbols can be defined as:

Signs, emblems, and other things that can

have a meaningful representation of
something else that may or may not be
related to the physical structure of the
symbol itself.

Symbols are given meaning by the

culture that creates them.

Does Culture Change?

Thats what makes it so exciting to study!
For example:

In what ways has American society changed

from, say, the 1940s to the year 2008?

This means that the work is never done for

Each culture that is studied should be
revisited in order to ascertain how it has
changed over a certain period of time.

Not always possible but it is the ideal situation.

Cultural Change

The ways in which cultures provide

for their people and respond to
threats from both outside and within
their society is extremely important
for understanding the culture as a
There is a delicate balance within
every culture

The needs of the many out weigh the

needs of the few, or the one.

Ethnocentric Attitudes

This is related to the topic of Cultural Relativity

that was previously discussed.
This is a common problem among both the
general population and anthropologists as well.
Ethnocentrism is the idea that one persons
culture is superior to other cultures.
Everyone, anthropologists included, must
constantly try to keep this in check and ensure
that attitudes such as this do not pollute the
interpretations of any culture being studied.
Eliminating these attitudes is one of the primary
goals of anthropology in general

Wrap It Up!

Any questions about anthropology in


About possible careers or opportunities?

Other questions about the course?

Anything at all? The weather? Brett
Favre playing for the Jets?