Human Cultures: Introduction to Social Anthropology

Humans are social and cultural beings. This course provides an understanding of human lives. Basic concepts and approaches are covered.

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Course outline

In the contemporary world, including contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand, few problems are as crucial and as pressing as accepting and understanding human cultural diversity. Recognising and understanding the richness of human cultures is not only ethically and politically important, it is also critical for human survival because human beings’ primary mode of adaptation (and maladaptation) to the environment is cultural rather than biological.

Social Anthropology, at its most general, investigates the human condition, and it does this by seeking to understand how people live their daily lives. Fundamental anthropological perspectives include comparison, relativism and contextualisation. This course introduces students to these perspectives and to basic concepts which social anthropologists have developed to understand, interpret and explain the diverse ways of life created by people throughout the world and here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The course will draw on ethnographic examples from many parts of the world and will cover topics such as temporal and spatial orientation, language and symbols, kinship and marriage, gender and sexuality, markets and economic exchange, political relations and power, art, religion and social personhood.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of the course, students are expected to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of basic perspectives, concepts and questions in social anthropology and their relevance to understanding everyday life
  • Show an understanding of the relationship between concepts and ethnographic description in social anthropology
  • Demonstrate an ability to find, evaluate and use sources of information that are relevant to social anthropology and human life
  • Demonstrate that they can write an essay that draws on sources of information that are relevant to social anthropology
  • Demonstrate general reading and writing skills at an appropriate level

Terms & Conditions

This programme gives you the opportunity to attend regular lectures in a selection of courses, alongside enrolled students as an observer. Please note that you are not eligible to attend tutorials, take part in assessments, sit for exams and will not have access to course material online. You will be provided with a course outline to keep you up to date with the topics discussed in class every week. This is a no-stress learning opportunity.


  • 12 weeks, 3 March - 4 June, Tuesday and Thursday, 1-2pm
  • $355.00 incl. GST
  • The University of Auckland, City Campus
  • Presented by Mark Busse

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