Culture: Definitions and Dimensions



Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semester 1

Typically offered in

Autumn semester

Course description

The goal of the course is to give an overview of cultural anthropology and its related disciplines; to present current trends and the links between anthropology and other disciplines. The course introduces the basic concepts of cultural anthropology, its history and the work of the most influential anthropologists (Ruth Benedict, Franz Boas, MargaretMead, James Frazer, Claude Levi-Strauss, Bronislaw, Malinowski) as well as the major theoretical trends from the beginnings to the present, focusing on the discussion of the concept of culture. The course discusses the development of the concept of culture and analyzes the importance of its incorporation into the methodology of various disciplines, including sociology, psychology, pedagogy and medicine. It shows how the introduction of cultural points of view and the recognition of their importance have contributed to the development of these disciplines and broadened their perspectives. We will emphasize the importance of the unique anthropological method, fieldwork based on participant observation. Besides this, we will deal with the notion of identity, ethnicity and cultural adaptivity and get an insight on some subfields of cultural anthropology e.g. social anthropology, economic anthropology or the anthropology of religion.

Learning outcome, competences

  • Learning the basic concepts and paradigms of cultural anthropology
  • Learning about the notion of culture
  • Learning methodology for understanding culture
  • Students understand the connections between different aspects of culture


  • Students become open to the different interpretive frameworks in an intercultural context
  • Students strive to understand and be open to different cultural frames and functions
  • Students could accept the legitimacy of cultural differences and the importance of cultural identities


  • Students come to adhere to cultural relativism instead of ethnocentrism

Learning activities, teaching methods
Lecture, discussion, group work, pair work, essay 

Learning requirements, mode of evaluation, criteria of evaluation:

  • Oral exam at the end of the course
  • Essay - either „thick description” or in-depth interview report

Mode of evaluation: oral exam

The grade is calculated the following way:

  • classroom activity: 10%
  • essay / case study : 40%
  • exam results: 50%

Criteria of evaluation:

  • Understanding the course materials and the connection between diffent concepts.
  • Ability to apply knowledge in the essay


  • Eriksen T.H. (2001) Small Places, Large Issues: An Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology (Anthropology, Culture and Society) Pluto Press, London.
  • Appadurai, A. (1996) Modernity at Large:Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
  • Barth, F. (1969) Ethnic Groups and Boudaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference, Scandinavian Universíty Press, Oslo
  • Geertz, C. (1973) The Interpretation of cultures, Basic Books, New York.
  • Helman, Cecil (2007) Culture, Health and Illness. Chapter 1: Introduction: the scope of medical anthropology. Chapter 11: Cultural aspects of stress and suffering.
  • Kluckhohn, Clyde (1942) Myths and Rituals: A general theory. The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 35, No. 1. pp. 45-79.
  • Barth, F. (1994). Introduction In Ethnic groups and boundaries: the social organization of culture difference. Oslo. Scandinavian University Press.