Special Topics in Social and Cultural Anthropology – Culture and Cognition

Offer semester
1st semester

Lecture time
Tuesday 10:30 – 12:20

Lecture venue

Course description

What is Culture and Cognition? It is a newer but rapidly growing area in sociology and anthropology. It is not simply the sum of its two parts, that is, some Culture and some Cognition. Rather, the area is defined by relatively specific conceptual interests and empirical approaches to the study of culture and cognition as phenomena that are observable in their association at a social level, and that are thus subject to systematic study. Scholars in Culture and Cognition are interested in studying how actors actively use culture through shared cognitive schemas that are embedded in larger social structures. They study the actions, practices, discourses, or patterns through which actors put cognition at work. And they use methods to empirically identify how actors put their cognition at work rather than assume how they do it. BUT, what is culture and cognition is a question that we will explore throughout the term.

Course learning outcomes

  1. To familiarize students with major theories, concepts, and empirical research related to culture and cognition.
  2. To take up major debates in contemporary scholarship on culture and cognition.
  3. To apply ideas from this course to real-world phenomena.


Assignment 1 30%
Test 1 30%
Assignment 2 30%

Required reading

Eviatar Zerubavel, 1997. Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Paul DiMaggio, 1997. “Culture and Cognition,” Annual Review of Sociology 23: 263-287.

Recommended reading

Stephen Vaisey, 2009. “Motivation and Justification: A Dual-Process Model of Culture in Action.” American Journal of Sociology 114: 1675-1715.

Course co-ordinator and teachers