Cultural anthropology is the study of human society and culture, with an emphasis on describing, analyzing, interpreting, and explaining social and cultural similarities and differences. With the notion of culture as their principle, organizing concept, cultural anthropologists are interested in the whole of the human condition. Topics of study include how people make a living (consumption and exchange), kinship and descent, political systems, gender and sexuality (sex, gender, and power), religion, art, the modern world system (colonialism and postcolonialism), the sociocultural context of disease and illness (medicine, the body, knowledge, and culture), ethnicity, the social context of “race,” and the relation between the self, culture, and society.
While this subfield of anthropology once focused on the ethnographic study of isolated, less-complex societies, cultural anthropologists are more likely to be engaged today in understanding global issues, such as the development of a transnational culture of consumption, development and environmentalism, and the interaction between European nations and the societies they colonized.
Linguistic anthropology is the study of communication and language in their social and cultural context. Since only humans speak, anthropologists are keenly interested in language use, structure, and change, and the relations among language, society, and culture. In general, anthropologists working in this subfield of anthropology are interested in how language is used in social contexts (sociolinguistics), how contemporary languages differ, especially in their construction (formal linguistics), how languages change over time and how they may be related (historical linguistics), and how people communicate nonverbally through facial expressions, bodily stances, gestures, and movements (nonverbal communication). Some anthropologists also study the natural communication systems of nonhuman animals, especially that of monkeys and apes (animal communication).
The 11 full time members of the department (Beeman, Gudeman, Ho, Ingham, Langford, Lipset, McLean, Raheja, Song, Taussig, and Valentine) and 6 affiliate members of the graduate faculty (Albers, Patten, Prell, Westermeyer, Wolbert, and Wolfe) whose specialty is sociocultural anthropology and/or linguistics are involved in research in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, the Pacific Islands, and South and Southeast Asia. Reflecting the diversity of their subfields, these faculty have particular research depth in American Indian culture and history, colonialism and postcolonialism studies, culture and economy, gender and sexuality, medical anthropology, the political economy, sociolinguistics and the semantics of interaction, symbolic and psychoanalytic anthropology, and race and ethnicity, among other fields of study. The faculty page in the People section of this Web site includes research interests, a listing of recent course offerings, and selected publications for the sociocultural anthropologists and linguistics in the department.
The regional and thematic teaching and research interests of the department's sociocultural anthropologists and linguists are supported by a range of interdisciplinary programs at the University of Minnesota that provide language and culture training, speaker series, opportunities to study abroad, and occasional financial support. These programs include:
Department of African American and African Studies
Department of American Indian Studies
Department of American Studies
Asian American Studies Program
Department of Chicano Studies
The China Center
Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature
European Studies Consortium
Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
Center for German and European Studies
Institute for Global Studies
The Language Center
Program in Linguistics
Center for Cognitive Sciences
The Department of Anthropology offers a variety of introductory, intermediate, and advanced overview courses in sociocultural anthropology and linguistics. These include:
Regularly to occasionally offered Intermediate and Advanced courses in method and theory in these subfields include:
Courses offered by area of research and teaching include:
The Middle East:
The Pacific Islands:
South and Southeast Asia:
A sampling of courses offered in the thematic contexts mentioned above include the following by context:
American Indian Culture and History
Colonialism, Postcolonialism and Development Studies
Culture and Economy
Gender and Sexuality
Race and Ethnicity
Sociolinguistics and the Semantics of Interaction
Symbolic and Psychoanalytic Anthropology
Sundry Studies in Anthropology
Besides the courses listed here, the Department of Anthropology offers a variety of topic courses and independent study opportunities each semester in these subfields. Courses are also added and dropped as faculty membership and interest change. Therefore, check the listing of courses offered each semester, and/or check with an undergraduate or graduate adviser.