Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology syllabus spring 2019

“This course has changed the way I think about things because I now find myself using [anthropology] in everyday life.”

“I really enjoyed you as a teacher and can’t wait to take more classes with you. I loved how you actually got the class to participate and how much you respected our opinions and took our views on the class into consideration. 10/10 would recommend.”

“I really loved how we each had our own field site this semester. This really helped me better understand what it is like to be an anthropologist.”

“This was by far on the the best professors I have had at SLU. She created an environment that made everyone feel comfortable speaking out loud.”


Cultural anthropology provides tools to understand the diversity of social life and human experience around the world. Cultural anthropologists study meaning making and ways of life in every site imaginable, in order to document and make sense of differences in things like: family life, food and eating, religious practice, artistic performance, politics, violence, globalization, and sickness and healing. Cultural anthropology is a unique in the social sciences because it takes a holistic approach to social life, employs cross-cultural analyses, and relies on immersive, long-term ethnographic research (“fieldwork”).

In this course, students learn about the central insights, analytic tools, and practices of cultural anthropology. Goals include developing a working knowledge of concepts like culture, ethnocentrism, and cultural relativism, and gaining familiarity with anthropological approaches to exchange, production and economics, domestic life, religion, rituals and magic, social inequalities, medicine, and globalization. Students learn about the role of culture in shaping human societies and how to make sense of difference, diversity, and conflict. Students also practice applying anthropological knowledge to a broad range of sites and practices, not only in “exotic” places, but also in their own lives. In addition, students in this course gain exposure to the foundational research methodology of cultural anthropology, ethnographic fieldwork, which is becoming more widely used inside and outside academic settings.

Students in this class complete a semester-long ethnographic research project. Projects from 2019 include:

St. Louis Pride Center: Community through Association

Empowering Women: An Ethnographic Analysis on the Education, Image, and Development of Young Girls in an All-Girls School

The Subliminal Effects of a Dog Park Membership

Video Gaming in Social Settings: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate

The Family of the Filipino Student Association

Individuality of Animals (Ethnographic Study of the World Bird Sanctuary)

How Gender Stereotypes are Still Prevalent in American Society (Ethnographic Study of a Men’s Hair Salon)

ESDM, A Learning Space and a Safe Space (Ethnographic Study of Autism Early Intervention Classroom)

The State of Rock Climbing

Behind the Justice: A Look into the St. Louis City Police

The Nature of Intimacy and Violence in the SLU Karate Club

Family-like Bonds Through the Work of Collegiate A Capella





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