Cultural Anth Theory

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Cultural Anthropology Theories

There are a number of theoretical approaches used in cultural anthropology. In this introductory course, we will be covering just a few of them. So, why learn theory? I generally don't recommend students use Wikipedia as a source, but they have a good explanation of just why theory is useful: "Theories are analytical tools for understanding, explaining, and making predictions about a given subject matter" ( Theories help to direct our thinking and provide a common framework from which people can work. Oftentimes through the process of using a theoretical framework, we discover that it lacks explanatory abilities. When that happens, it is modified or even abandoned.

Not all of the theories listed below are in use any more. Nineteenth-century evolutionism was abandoned early on in cultural anthropology. Culture and Personality, Neoevolutionism and Materialism have all been jumping off points for more modern theoretical perspectives.

19th-century Evolutionism (Unilineal Evolution)

Historical Particularism

Functionalism Culture and Personality

Culture and Personality

Neoevolutionism Materialism

Materialism and NeoMaterialism


Symbolic Anthropology