Introduction to anthropology

Offer semester
2nd semester

Lecture time
Thursday 16:30 - 18:20

Lecture venue

Course description

This course is an introduction to a variety of topical areas in the history, methodology, theory, and critiques of sociocultural anthropology. The discipline aims to observe and understand a variety of cultures from around the world, from hunter-gatherers to online gamers. Areas of current debate within sociocultural anthropology that we will explore include culture and cultural knowledge, globalization and diaspora, religion, media, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, power and inequality, and anthropology’s hallmark method of ethnography to study groups and cultures.

Anthropology strives “to make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange”. In doing so, some of our long-held beliefs and experiences may be challenged. Anthropology thus provides a critical lens onto many phenomena and issues which we encounter.

Course learning outcomes

  • Examine central themes and theories of cultural anthropology.

  • Assess ethnographic research and apply anthropological concepts to cultural practices that you encounter.

  • Interact with current debates within anthropology.

  • Describe how the anthropological view of cultural differences and inequalities can generate solutions to problems of contemporary human existence.


Tutorial Participation10%
Tutorial Presentation10%
Final Paper60%

Required reading

Konopinski, Natalie. 2014. Doing Anthropological Research: A Practical Guide. Selections

Farrer, James and Chuanfei Wang. 2020. “Who Owns a Cuisine? The Grassroots Politics of Japanese Food in Europe.” Asian Anthropology.

Weiner, Annette. 1988. The Trobrianders of Papua New Guinea. Selections.

Mauss, Marcel. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. Routledge, 2002[1950]. Selections.

Kondo, Dorinne. 1987. “Creating an Ideal Self: Theories of Selfhood and Pedagogy at a Japanese Ethics Retreat.” Ethos 5(3):241-272.

Kimura, Shuhei. 2013. “Lessons From the Great East Japan Earthquake: The Public Use of Anthropological Knowledge.” Asian Anthropology 11(1).

Rosaldo, Renato. Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage.

Recommended reading

Study Guide for “N!ai, The Story of a !Kung Woman: The San in Transition”.

Rabinow, Paul. Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco. 2007. University of California Press. Selections.

Course co-ordinator and teachers

Student view

Introduction to anthropology is a story-telling course. With each story told, you enter a different culture and acquire a new perspective. As exotic and magical as these cultures might seem, you come to appreciate that they are all diverse ways of being human.

– Owen Leung, year 3 undergraduate student, Sociology Major