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Introduction to anthropology

Offer semester
2nd semester

Lecture time
Thursday 4.30pm - 6.20pm

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. From hunter-gatherers to online gamers, the discipline aims to observe and understand a variety of cultures. Anthropology’s hallmark method of ethnography, which is used to study groups and cultures, is examined in varying applications.

We will look at areas of current debate within sociocultural anthropology including culture, media representation, globalization, race and ethnicity, gender, religion, power and inequality, and the evolution of field methods. 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 the central themes and theories of cultural anthropology
  • Interact with current debates within anthropology
  • Conduct ethnographic research and apply anthropological concepts to cultural practices that you encounter
  • Describe how the anthropological view of cultural differences and inequalities can generate solutions to problems of contemporary human existence


Observation Report and Analysis 25%

Required reading

Nardi, Bonnie and Justin Harris. “Strangers and Friends: Collaborative Play in World of Warcraft.” Computer Supported Collaborative Work Nov. 2006.

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

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

Boellstorff, Tom. 2010. Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton University Press. Selections.

Bosco, Joseph. 2015. Chinese Popular Religion and Hong Kong Identity. Asian Anthropology 14(1).

Melvyn Goldstein, “When Brothers Share a Wife,” In Natural History, March 1987 pp. 39-48. Natural History Magazine.

Bernal, Victoria. 2006. Diaspora, Cyberspace, and Political Imagination: The Eritrean Diaspora Online. Global Networks 6(2): 161-179.

Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 2004. Parts Unknown: Undercover Ethnography of the Organs-Trafficking Underworld. Ethnography 5, 29.

Bourgois, Philippe. In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El-Barrio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Peoples, James and Garrick Bailey. Humanity: An Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. 8th Edition. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2006. Selections.

Recommended reading

Various 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