Cultural Anthropology for Beginners - Online Course

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Cultural Anthropology for Beginners is a five-week online course that will introduce you to the concepts, theory and practice of cultural and social anthropology.

From definitions of cultural identity to the complexities of gender, race, religion and kinship, you will explore key concepts in the study of human societies and behaviour, and nurture a deeper appreciation for cultural diversity.

Course description

Drawing from a range of fieldwork case studies, we adopt a comparative cross-cultural perspective that challenges cultural assumptions. Our enquiry-based approach will help us to understand contemporary issues, such as war, conflict, and the interaction between global world systems and indigenous communities.

By introducing, applying and critiquing fundamental theories and methods of anthropological research, we will deepen our understanding of human society and begin to view the world through an anthropological lens.

We’ll discover how anthropological theory complements and informs related disciplines like archaeology, and how anthropologists use research methods such as ethnography to study human behaviour, relationships and cultural practices. We will also find out where cultural anthropologists are working today, and how they are contributing to our understanding of the modern world.

Syllabus overview

The course runs for five weeks and will explore the following topics:

Module 1: What is anthropology? Essential concepts and ideas

Module 2: Doing anthropology: key research methods

Module 3: Marriage, family and kinship

Module 4: Belief systems: ritual and religion

Module 5: Sex, gender and sexuality

Indian woman

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of the course, participants should be able to:

  • Discuss key anthropological terms, concepts and practices;
  • Analyse a range of themes and concepts around marriage and kinship;
  • Compare religious ideas and ritual practices among different cultural groups;
  • Examine ethnographic case studies through the lens of a cultural anthropologist.


This learning opportunity is open to anyone, and no prior knowledge or experience of anthropology is required. The only prerequisite is a healthy curiosity about the richness and diversity of cultures around the world, and a willingness to engage and contribute to course discussions.

The course is delivered completely online in a virtual learning environment (VLE), so you will need access to an internet-connected computer or mobile device, and basic computing skills. Our team will be on hand to give you both academic and technical support as needed.

Please note: to preserve the educational advantages of small-group teaching there are only ten places available on this course. We therefore recommend that you register early to avoid disappointment.

Your tutor

Dr. Mark Anderson will be your tutor and guide on this learning journey. Mark's interests embrace all aspects of cultural heritage, with specialisms in African archaeology, the anthropology of education, ritual and religion, and the formation of complex societies. He teaches archaeology and anthropology at the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, and he is a Teaching Fellow at Imperial College London.

Mark is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, a Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He is the author of Marothodi: The Historical Archaeology of an African Capital.

Dr Mark Anderson

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