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Cultural Anthropology Course Information


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Cultural Anthropology:
Our Diverse World

(2008, DVD 1793, 2 Discs)

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Video Lesson 1:
The Essence of Anthropology 

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

Anthropology is the study of human beings, but to phrase the definition in these simple terms is to diminish the grand scope of this discipline overall.

Anthropology delves deeply into every aspect of humankind from its beginnings millions of years ago to the present day, and its subject matter ranges from the exotic to the ordinary, from faraway tribes to the structure of the human foot.

The video for this lesson explains the four-fields of anthropology, defines the concept of holism, and describes how anthropologists approach their subject matter from a holistic and comparative cross-cultural perspective in order to reach the broadest and most inclusive conclusions possible on their subject of interest.

Each field, cultural, physical (biological), linguistic anthropology, and archaeology, are described and situational material is included to illustrate how each field functions and interconnects with the others.

Subfields to the four major fields, such as forensics and paleoanthropology, are introduced and discussed, and the concept that humans are biocultural beings because of the simultaneous adaptations of our biology with culture, is illustrated.

The video also introduces the student to the way anthropologists carry out their analyses through rigorous fieldwork and participant observation in order to create the ethnographies that describe humans cross-culturally.

Applied anthropology, sometimes referred to as the fifth subfield of anthropology, is introduced.

Video Lesson 2:
Characteristics of Culture

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

The state of Oaxaca, Mexico, is the backdrop of this film, which explores the nature of culture and how cultures are studied.

The Oaxacan society is used to illustrate the basic characteristics of culture: an integrated, dynamic system of beliefs, values, and behaviors that are shared by the members of a society; wholly learned and based on symbolic systems; and constituting humankind's most important method of adaptation.

Jayne Howell's work in Oaxaca aims to determine how this society in transition is adapting to the pressures imposed by outside forces, and illustrates some of the methods of research that ethnographers employ in a biocultural approach to discovering how the world's diverse cultures function.

Video Lesson 3:
Becoming Human

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

Beginnings of Human Culture Humans are first a biological species, Homo sapiens, but they are unique among all species in their capacity for cultural adaptations.

This lesson first compares humans to modern primates, especially the great apes, in terms of biology, genetics, and behaviors.

Next, it surveys the evolution of the line of pre-human ancestors from the first bipedal species that emerged about six million years ago up to anatomically modern humans and their increasingly sophisticated cultural innovations.

Finally, the concept of race is discussed as a social construct that has no biological validity.

Video Lesson 4:
Communication & Culture

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

This program focuses on the efforts of the Serrano tribe of Native American to revitalize their dying cultural traditions and language.

The features and structures of human language in general are discussed, showing some examples from the Serrano language, and the role played by descriptive linguist assisting them is examined.

A discussion of deaf sign languages reveals that they are in every way like all other human languages except that they are based on gestures instead of sounds. Nonverbal human communication systems are explored, as are various aspects of the fields of ethnolinguistics and sociolinguistics.

African-American Vernacular English is discussed as an example of a social dialect that marks membership in a group.

The film closes with a focus on the Serrano children, who it is hoped will carry on the tribal language and traditions.

Video Lesson 5:
Social Identity, Personality & Culture

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

One of the universal questions that people ask is "Who am I?

The answer is complex and begins with enculturation. Enculturation influences how you think, feel, and behave and it starts at birth.

It begins with being given a name. Naming ceremonies vary from culture to culture, but what you are called is an important device for self definition and it also allows individuals to take their place within their group's culture.

As children develop physically, they also develop emotionally and psychologically.

One aspect of this maturation is the development of self-awareness. This is important for the individual and also for the entire community. Not only does everyone have a name, but individuals have their own personalities.

It is now recognized that one's personality is the product of both enculturation and one's own genetic make-up.

When studying how personality develops, we cannot ignore the role that sex and gender may play nor can we overlook the biological factors that may influence and differentiate male and female behaviors.

Determining whether gender roles influence personality and social identity or vice versa may be difficult, but we know that gender roles vary greatly from culture to culture.

It is also recognized that every culture has individuals who are "transgenders" people who do not fall neatly within the proscribed male and female categories. Western cultures prefer to think exclusively in male and female gender roles, but many other cultures have created a "third gender" or even a "fourth gender" in which to place these individuals.

As individuals, we not only need to know who we are but also how we fit in and belong to the culture we were born into. Sometimes it gets complicated.

And how are things changing? . . .

Video Lesson 6:
"Subsistence Systems"

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

Regardless of the language, the geographic location or the culture the question being asked is the same . . .

What are we going to eat today?

The difference comes in the answer and the response depends upon the subsistence system used by those asking the question. This film focuses on three types of subsistence patterns:

horticultural / agricultural

The Ju?/hoansi live in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. They are a prime example of the hunter / gatherer / foraging subsistence system. Their understanding of the ecosystem in which they live and their ability to adapt have led to their survival both as foragers and now as a more sedentary group.

!Kung San Hunters
!Kung San Hunters

While foragers have little control over the availability of natural resources, they can ensure the survival yield of the land by living within the carrying capacity of the environment.

In contrast, people in food-producing societies control the production of either plants or animals.

Food-producing societies tend to be sedentary;
they live in larger groups than foragers and have more complex social and political structures.

The most common form of horticulture is slash-and-burn cultivation, which relies on human power and has limited productivity yield.

Another subsistence system is pastoralism, the managing of herds of animals. Many pastoralist societies live at such high altitudes that little agricultural activity can occur.

The Yolmo of Nepal, who are featured in the video, have crossbred cows with male yaks to produce zomo, a hybrid cattle species that is biologically adapted to live at high altitudes. Since life is so precarious, the Yolmo must exploit the seasonal environments and supplement their diet and economy by practicing horticulture at the lower altitudes.

Nepal girl with yak_100.

Girl with baby yak

Many pastoral groups practice transhumance, the seasonal migration of herds and people in order to maximize grazing opportunities.

What all subsistence systems have in common is the need for water. Who controls the water is at the heart of human survival.

In the postindustrial era, traditional subsistence activities have been relegated to hobbies, such as hunting, fishing, and berry picking.

And how are things changing? . . .

Video Lesson 7: 
Economic Systems

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

Economic systems are the means by which a society produces, distributes and consumes resources, and are intimately integrated with the other elements of the culture.

In this lesson the economic systems of several societies are examined as examples of how reciprocity, redistribution, and market exchange play a central role in the distribution of goods.

The Ju?/hoansi of southern Africa exemplify foraging cultures in which food is not produced but rather collected as it is needed and distributed immediately according to the process known as generalized reciprocity.

The Yolmo of Nepal traditionally practiced pastoralism and subsistence farming, using an exchange system of balanced reciprocity combined with redistribution.

A Ghanian market run by women illustrates a traditional form of market exchange, and a Japanese fish market exemplifies the wholesale commercial market with international participants but face-to-face transactions according to Japanese cultural practices.

Video Lesson 8:
Sex & Marriage

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

The video opens with a wedding in Long Bow Village, in China, and effectively shows the diverse nature of weddings from one culture to another emphasizing that weddings are rites of passage, full of ritual and symbols that convey and emphasize the values of that society.

It defines marriage and suggests that this is one way that societies regulate sexual relations between men and women.

It points out that all cultures include rules on who can marry whom because of the general concern regarding marriage between close family members, or incest.

The incest taboo is discussed, and the narrator and expert anthropologists explain it provides a structuring mechanism for marriage rules, endogamy and exogamy.

Arranged marriages are discussed, how they benefit specific societies, and the attitudes toward them as opposed to the western ideals of romantic love.

Video Lesson 9:
Marriage & Family

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

The video for Lesson 9 begins with Helen Mendoza and Pam Privett explaining that families can take many forms today. They are partners in a same-sex marriage, raising children of their own.

Lesson 8 explained why some cultures find polygamy a preferred marriage arrangement, and the video for Lesson 9 highlights the familial and household benefits of the polygynous system.

However, the video points out that not all such marriages are cooperative. Under some circumstances, competition among wives can cause serious tensions.

The terms consanguinal family, conjugal family, and fictive kin are defined and varying family forms such as nuclear family, extended family, and blended family are illustrated.

The Yolmo, pastoralists of east-central Nepal, are featured to illustrate how monogamy within a nuclear family organization functions within this group.

Residence patterns and marriage customs, such as bride-price and bride service, are discussed and the reasons for their practice are illustrated.

The final segment of the video comments on newer adaptations of the family made possible because of advances in reproductive technology and changes in adoption laws within the United States.

Video Lesson 10:
Kinship & Descent

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

The video opens with pictures of Chinese immigrants of the 1850s to the 1900s and explains that the immigrants of that time faced enormous challenges when they moved from their country to the United States.

They faced discrimination and a sense of isolation because they lacked assistance that had been provided through strong kinship ties in China.

The video explains that kinships, or the strong familial networks within which individuals function on a daily basis, are made up of groups of family members and that they provide the essentials for survival.

The video explains descent groups and lineages and points out that not all lineages trace descent the same way. Several different kinds of descent groups are illustrated and Chinese patrilineal descent is featured.

Particular attention is given to explaining this complex system; that a lineage in this system goes back only four to six generations because households become very large over time and conflicts arise, that brothers splinter off and begin lineages of their own.

The concept of clan (tsu) is defined and discussed at length.

Different systems of kinship are illustrated, and that each group establishes varying methods of defining relatives. The video explains the Eskimo system, the Iroquois System, and the Hawaiian system.

Video Lesson 11:
Grouping by Gender, Age,
Common Interest & Class

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

This program explores concepts related to non-kin based social groupings by focusing on the culture of the Black Indians of New Orleans.

They are a common interest group that celebrates their own art and culture, culminating in their annual celebration of Mardi Gras separately from the better known White Carnival.

Divisions within the group based on age and gender are discussed, as is its origins and history as an oppressed minority social class excluded from the white Mardi Gras.

Finally the show examines the effects of hurricane Katrina on the culture of the Mardi Gras Black Indians and on the recovery of the city in general.


Video Lesson 12:
Politics, Power & Violence

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

This video explores the anthropological concepts of political organization and social control as practiced cross-culturally. It opens with anthropologists Victoria Bernal and Laura Nader discussing the concepts of political organization, in terms of power, authority, functions, and its four main forms:


Nader and William Ury then explore the various methods of maintaining social order across cultures, including interior and externalized controls, sanctions and laws.

Methods of dispute resolution are described by Nader and Ury, and the two then debate the merits of the use of alternative dispute resolution methods (ADR) in the United States.

China's control over citizen use of the internet is used as an example of the interrelationships between social control, ideology, legitimacy, and the potential for the use of force by ruling powers.

Nader and human rights activist Xiao Qiang then describe, in parallel fashion for comparison and contrast, their personal experiences with peaceful student protests at the University of California in Berkeley in the mid-1960s and in Tiananmen Square in China in 1989, both of which brought violent reactions from their respective governments.

Video Lesson 13:
Religion & Spirituality

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

The program opens with a general discussion of the anthropological definition of religion contrasted with spirituality.

This is followed by a close up view of some of the history, beliefs, and practices of Islam and Tibetan Buddhism, through the eyes of several experts and practitioners.

Discussions of anthropological concepts of religion cross-culturally are offered with examples of the basic forms of religion, its specialists, and its rituals, as well as magic and witchcraft.

The exploration of some of the social and psychological functions of religious practices and belief systems, especially focusing on Islam, conclude the show.

Video Lesson 14:
The Arts

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

This video lesson focuses on visual, verbal and musical art forms.

Since art is created in response to social, religious, political, economic, and aesthetic stimuli, anthropologists use it as a guide to understanding the values and ideals of culture.

Being able to put art within a cultural context enables anthropologists to observe cultural dynamics.

That is why tattoos, hip hop and hula provide insight into past and present cultures.

You will also be reintroduced to the Pacific Northwest Potlatch ceremony.

This once again will highlight the integrated nature of all aspects of culture.

Video Lesson 15:
Processes of Change

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

At the beginning of the video for Lesson 15, anthropologist Leo Chavez comments that culture "is always transforming itself, always changing. It is always in the process of becoming something else."

Throughout history, cultures have changed because of environmental conditions, internal pressures, or external forces.

Change comes quickly, or it may occur slowly. In any event, anthropologists chronicle cultural change and offer explanations as to why it happens.

Anthropologist Eugene Cooper has tracked cultural change as it is reflected in the craft of Chinese furniture-making during the 1970s and 1980s, and he emphasizes that societies change with the use of new technologies.

The key term, diffusion, is introduced and discussed within the context of the spread of the English language from the anthropologist to the group she/he studies.

The video illuminates some of the benefits and problems that immigration poses for a culture. It focuses on the current migration of Mexicans and Central Americans to the United States.

It illustrates why the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps was founded, and how their goals were formed in response to the perception that too many Mexican citizens were coming across the border into the United States illegally.

In contrast, the human rights organization El Rescate was formed in 1981 in Los Angeles to assist individuals who had escaped the chaos in Central America and who sought refuge here. Both groups offer their own perspective on the impact of immigrants on American culture.

The video also offers contextual information on and post-colonialism, and explains the differences between rebellion and revolution.

Video Lesson 16:
Global Challenges & Anthropology

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

This program explores the phenomenon of globalization, its complex forms, and its impact on the cultures of the world, as well as the contributions that anthropology can make toward a better understanding of it.

Wal-Mart's operations in China are shown as an example of how giant global corporations use structural power to expand business and profit in developing countries.

The collaboration of the Bolivian government with another U.S.-based global corporation, Bechtel, and the World Bank illustrates how such partnerships can act against the best interests of the people.

Finally, a Bangladeshi immigrant to the United States is interviewed, giving a personal perspective on the record high levels of external and internal migration occurring worldwide.

Video Lesson 17:
Applied Anthropology

Source: Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World HomePage
Coast Community Learning Systems
Coastline Community College

The video begins with the anthropological definition of applied anthropology; that this field of study refers to the application of method and theory to the analysis and solution of practical problems and that it can be used, or "applied," within the four subdisciplines of anthropology:

physical (or biological)

The video shows how a cultural anthropologist, Professor Mikel Hogan, practices applied anthropology within a hospital setting to help resolve some of the on-the-job problems that nurses face at this time of crises within the health-care system in the United States.

As the video progresses, viewers also see how linguistic anthropologist Breesha Maddrell works on the Isle of Man to help the culture there preserve and maintain the Celtic language of Manx Gaelic.

Finally, the third segment of the video shows how physical anthropologists Amy Mundorff and Diane Cockle work in the area of forensics.

Mundorff explains the educational qualifications required for a career in forensics, explaining that a strong background in biology or chemistry, plus a strong background in anthropology, particularly archaeology, is ideal.

In general, this video gives very clear and varied examples of where applied anthropology is used in the workforce, how flexible the field is, and how it fits within the subfields of anthropology.

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Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World is now available to replace Faces of Culture, Revised.

This new course takes a cross-cultural approach to diverse subject areas, including subsistence patterns, political organization, the family, social organization, economics, kinship, language, the arts, and religion.

Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World explores the various ways in which the human species has responded to the fundamental challenges of survival, and students will gain a greater appreciation for the ways in which anthropologists works to study the cultural and biological aspects of humankind within the widest possible context--a mix of theoretical perspectives and methodologies.

The instructional designers and academic advisors specified the following learning outcomes for student taking Cultural Anthropology: Our Diverse World.

Students should be able to:

1. Describe the history, subdisciplines, and characteristics of anthropology, including its holistic perspective, comparative view, and focus on culture.

2. Compare and contrast anthropology with the other social and biological sciences.

3. Discuss the concepts of culture and its major characteristics from an anthropological perspective.

4. Identify the underlying similarities as well as the wide range of variability of human cultures as valid approaches to universal human challenges, and relate this to their own personal experience.

5. Describe anthropological fieldwork methodologies, emphasizing participant observation, interviewing strategies, and related ethical issues.

6. Describe the component parts of culture and their integration including: economic systems, modes of subsistence, marriage and kinship, social organization, political systems, language, religion, and art.

7. Describe how anthropological theories and methods can contribute to the development of intercultural understanding and an appreciation of contemporary social issues, and relate this to their personal experience.

8. Critically comment on some of the ethical issues that confront human societies and comment on how anthropology addresses those issues.

9. Describe the process of globalization and the ways they shape, and are shaped by, different aspects of culture in human communities throughout the world.

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