Joshua Barker

Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto


ANT 100: Introduction to Anthropology - Socio-Cultural Section

Please note: This course is currently being taught by other instructors.

This section of the course provides an introduction to socio-cultural anthropology. As its name suggests, socio-cultural anthropology is the sub-field of the discipline that focuses on trying to understand and explain similarities and differences between societies and cultures around the world. For the most part, socio-cultural anthropology directs its attention to contemporary societies and cultures, rather than to those that existed in the past. It examines a diverse range of issues, from the anthropology of cities to the anthropology of food, from the study of healing practices in different cultures to the study of systems for maintaining social order and security, to name just a few. Most socio-cultural anthropologists conduct their research by means of an extended period of fieldwork in a locale where they participate in and observe local social and cultural practices. The places they choose to conduct fieldwork vary widely: it might be an urban neighbourhood in Africa, a trailer park in the American south, a first nations community in Canada's north, an advertising agency in Manhattan, a women's shelter in Vancouver, or a police precinct in Indonesia. Whatever the fieldwork site, the socio-cultural anthropologist will spend a great deal of time analyzing the local society and culture in an effort to identify the specific characteristics that distinguish it-or make it comparable to-other societies and cultures around the world. Socio-cultural anthropology is a vast field of knowledge and it would be impossible to do justice to it in just six weeks. The aim of this section of the course is not to provide an exhaustive introduction to the field but to expose students to some of the core concepts and questions that underpin socio-cultural anthropological understandings of contemporary human societies. For that reason, the lectures and readings will be organized around the following series of topics: (1) Society, Culture and Meaning; (2) Progress, Globalization and the Construction of the Nation-State; (3) The Social and Cultural Construction of Reality; (4) Patterns of Family Relations and the Construction of Individual Identity; (5) The Cultural Construction of Social Hierarchy; (6) The Cultural Construction of Violent Conflict.


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