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   Course Title    Social and Cultural Anthropology
Lecturer    Anastasia Tcheshkova
Institution    Novosibirsk State University
Country    Russia

The main aim of the course is to introduce the general idea of anthropological approach in social sciences. The central concept of culture will be observed as a subject of scientific investigation. Students will look at different aspects of culture as a structure facilitating or confronting human in-group relations and as a functionally integrated system of symbols fostering social cohesion or tension. Students will contrast material and idealist cultural outlooks, they will examine culture as a historically conditioned process illustrating the basic theories in anthropology. The cultural change as a result of human and technological development will be observed. The study of dualist and multistranded development models will be followed by the analysis of ethnographic cases from around the globe in order to out Russia’s current situation into a cross-cultural perspective.

Course format: lectures and interactive seminars, individual and group tasks.

Evaluation: Attendance and in-class activities – 30%;

Presentation – 15%;

Mid-term test – 15%;

Final essay – 40%.


The topics of the course:

  1. Basic approaches in anthropology. Biological evolution of our species according to physical anthropology and paleontology. Archeology: the study of material remains. Human social behavior: ethnology. Anthropological linguistics. Social anthropology among other social sciences; sociology and social anthropology: opposition and merging.

  2. Culture as a scientific concept. Descriptive and schematic concepts. Synchronic, diachronic and interactionist approaches in theoretical anthropology.

  3. Theoretical concepts in anthropology. Evolution theories: history and present, neo-evolutionism (Morgan, Tylor, White). Diffusion. Structures and functions. Historical and cultural materialism (from Engels to Foucault). Cultural relativism (Boas, Douglas, Mead). Modernism, postmodernism, and the critique of culture. Studies of cognitive structure: structuralism (Levi-Strausse, Levi-Bruhl) and interpretative approach (Geertz).

  4. Culture and communication: communication process as sending and receiving messages. Redundancy and tacit knowledge. Elements of communication: signs and symbols, language and speech. Culture and language mutual influence. Linguistic variation: distinct languages, dialects, jargons, slang. Linguistic policy and literacy.

  5. Ethnicity and social stratification. The concept of race. Ethnic identity, symbols, and relations. Stratification and adaptive strategies. Beliefs supporting stratification. Subcultures within stratification. Conflict vs. Stability. Different systems of stratification.

  6. Family and Kinship. Kinship diagrams and categories. Principles of descent. Kin-based groups. Cultural attitudes about sex: sexual restriction and sex as power. Marriage: as adaptive measure, as alliance formation; number of spouses. The development family cycle. Intergenerational conflict and family in different cultures.

  7. Development paradigms and culture change. European colonial expansion. World system. Modernism vs. Tradition. Societies in transition. From Industrial revolution to Global village. Contemporary adaptation problems: development and underdevelopment; the plight of indigenous people. Improving dialog and understanding by applied anthropology.

  8. Current anthropological debates. Urban anthropology, subcultures, minorities’ groups, and social movements: celebrating diversity. Feminist anthropology. Modern folklore. Organizational anthropology.

  9. Methods of anthropological research: peculiarities and applications. Troubles of fieldwork. Participant observation and "thick" description.

Main Texts:

  1. Barnard A. History and Theory in Anthropology. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  2. Cole J. (ed.) Anthropology for the Nineties. NY: Macmillan, 1998.
  3. Howard M. Contemporary Cultural Anthropology, Harper Collins Publishers, 1989.
  4. Nanda S. Cultural Anthropology, Belmont CA: Wardsworth, 1991.
  5. Spradley J., McCurdy D.(eds.) Conformity and Conflict. L.:Scott, Foresman Publ., 1990.

Additional Readings:

  1. Keesing R. Cultural Anthropology: a contemporary edition. Holt, Rinehart & Wilson, 1981. Ch.4 Culture and People: Some basic concepts.
  2. Kuper A. Anthropology nad Anthropologists: the Moern British School. Routledge, 1983. Ch.6 Leach and Gluckman.
  3. Sperber D. On Anthropological Knowledge: three essays. Cambridge University Press, 1982. Pp. 9-34.

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