Department of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences The University of Alabama


Dr. M.D. Murphy
19B ten Hoor
Office Hrs: by appointment



Anthropology 641
Spring 2012
Wed. 3:30-6:00 pm
23 ten Hoor


COURSE DESCRIPTION  This course of seminars and lectures reviews past and contemporary theories and approaches adopted by cultural anthropologists.

COURSE PREREQUISITES Graduate standing or permission of the instructor.

COURSE OBJECTIVES At the end of this course, the diligent student will be able to...


BAMA ACCOUNT EMAILER  Students are required to use their "bama" email account for this course in order to communicate with the professor.  Bama email accounts are created near the beginning of each semester for all students who do not already have one. Once your account is created, you should receive an account information sheet in the mail.  If you forget it, you can access it online at  

If you prefer to use a different emailer (Yahoo or MSN, for example), all you need to do is automatically forward all of your "bama" mail to your preferred email address.  Directions for doing so are to be found at:

eLEARNING & COURSE NOTES  By all means take advantage of the eLearning site I have constructed for  this course.  Among other resources, it provides you with easily downloadable pdf  files of the notes and hand-outs used in class.   Access eLearning through your MyBama webpage.

PDF files present you with material very similar to that of the Power Point Presentations used in class, but in a format that is relatively quick and easy to print out. To take advantage of this feature you must have a copy of Acrobat Reader on the computer you are using.  Most, if not all, University Computer Labs will have this software installed. You can download a free copy for your own machine at 

EXAMINATIONS There are no examinations for this course.

PROMPTNESS AND PUNCTUALITY All class assignments must be completed on schedule or the grade will suffer.

ATTENDANCE POLICY Attendance at every class meeting is a nonnegotiable requirement. More than two unexcused absences will lower the grade for the course at the rate of 5% per absence.

GRADING POLICY The final grade for the course will be based on the following formula:

ESSAYS All students must write THREE short essays based on readings and seminar discussions. Each essay must be a minimum of 5 pages and a maximum of 6 pages (1,250 to 1,500 words) on topics assigned by the professor. Essays will be graded for comprehension of assigned readings, ideas, organization, writing mechanics and stylistic quality of prose.   All written assignments must be submitted as Word documents sent as attachments through email to

The file names for your essays should follow this formula: "641" + "Last name" + "First name initial" + "Number of paper assignment". For example, John Smith's third paper should have the following file name:  "641SmithJ3". Name is something else and you lose points.

First Essay due on February 10
Second Essay due on March 10
Third Essay due on April 14

WEB ASSIGNMENTS Each student will edit, revise and update one of a number of web pages on Anthropological Theories currently located at, but currently undergoing a format transformation and relocation this semester to Each student will be assigned principal responsibility for uipgrading a single page, but will be paired withanother student in producing a first draft of the revision (due on March 24) and a final draft (due on May 3 at noon). Details to be explained in class.

CLASS PARTICIPATION & STUDY GROUPS For administrative purposes, students will be assigned to one of two study groups (A&B). Every other week (with several exceptions) each student will meet with his/her study group to discuss the readings in advance of the seminar and in preparation for leading the seminar discussion. Both this task and general student participation in seminar discussions will be evaluated. The evaluation of the quality of class participation is separate from deductions for poor attendance. Details will be explained in class.


Writing Tips

Seminar Schedule & Assigned Readings





Items in black are required readings
Items in blue are supplemental resources

Week 1

Jan 13


Introduction to the Seminar

RHAT=Readings for a History of Anthropological Theory
RES= Articles on Reserve in Reserve Book Room of Main Library

Week 2

Jan 20



Definitions & Theories of Culture

  • Alan Barnard & Jonathan Spencer "Culture" RES
  • Roy D'Andrade "Culture " RES
  • Pascal Boyer "Science, Erudition, & Relevant Connections" RES

Salzman, Ch. 1 "Introduction to Theory" pp. 1-12
What is Culture?
Some Definitions of "Culture"

Some Definitions of "Society"

Week 3

Jan 27



Nineteenth Century Evolutionism

  • Herbert Spencer "The Organic Analogy Reconsidered" RHAT
  • E.B. Tylor "The Science of Culture" RHAT
  • Lewis Henry Morgan "Ethnical Periods" RHAT
  • Peter Peregrine, Carol Ember, & Melvin Ember "Universal Patterns in Cultural Evolution" RES

Salzman, Ch. 6 "Transformation Through Time" pp. 87-95
Social Evolutionism

Week 4

Feb 3


Diffusionism & Historicism


  • Franz Boas "The Methods of Ethnology" RHAT
  • Robert Lowie "Conclusion: Primitive Society" RHAT
  • Clark Wissler "The Influence of the Horse in the Development of Plains Culture" RES
  • Arjun Appadurai "Disjuncture & Difference in the Global Cultural Economy" RES


Week 5
First Paper

Week 6

Feb 17





  • Bronislaw Malinowski selection from "Argonauts" RHAT
  • A.R. Radcliffe-Brown "The Mother's Brother in South Africa" RHAT
  • Meyer Fortes & E.E. Evans-Pritchard "Introduction: African Political Systems." RHAT

Salzman, Ch. 2 "Interdependence in Human Life" pp. 13-30
Salzman Ch. 3 "Agency in Human Action" pp. 31-48
Manchester School

Week 7

Feb 24



Culture & Personality

  • Sigumund Freud selection from "Civilization & Its Discontents" RHAT
  • Ruth Benedict "The Individual and the Pattern of Culture" RHAT
  • Melford Spiro "Ghosts, Ifaluk, and Teleological Functionalism" RES

Culture & Personality

Week 8

Mar 3




American Materialism



  • Leslie White "Energy and Tools" RHAT
  • Julian Steward "The Concept and Method of Cultural Ecology" RES
  • Marvin Harris "The Cultural Ecology of India's Sacred Cattle" RHAT
  • Eric Wolf "Introduction to Europe and the People Without History RHAT

American Materialism
Cultural Materialism
Ecological Anthropology
Marxist Anthropology

Week 9
Mar 10
Second Paper


Week 10

Mar 24



Culture and Cognition

1st Draft of Web Assignment Due

  • A.F.C. Wallace "On Being Just Complicated Enough" RES
  • Edward Sapir "The Unconscious Patterning of Behavior in Society" RES
  • Justin Barrett "Exploring the Natural Foundations of Religion"

Cognitive Anthropology

Week 11

Mar 31



Cross-Cultural Comparison

  • George Peter Murdock "The Common Denominator of Cultures" RES
  • Marc J. Swartz "Cultural Sharing and Cultural Theory: Some Findings of a Five-Society Study"  RES
  • Joseph Tobin "HRAF as Radical Text?" RES

Cross-Cultural Analysis




Week 12

Apr 14



The Depths of Culture: Psychoanalytic and Structuralist Anthropologies

  • Claude Levi-Strauss "The Structural Study of Myth" RES
  • Edmund Leach "Structuralism in Social Anthropology" RHAT
  • Robert A. Paul "Psychoanalytic Anthropology" RES
  • Michael Carroll "The Virgin Mary at La Salette and Lourdes" RES

Salzman, Ch. 5 "Coherence in Culture" pp. 67-86
Elements of Structuralism
About Psychoanalysis

Week 15

Apr 21



Symbolic & Interpretive Anthropologies

  • Clifford Geertz "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture" RHAT
  • Victor Turner "Symbols in Ndembu Ritual" RHAT
  • Roger Keesing "Anthropology as Interpretive Quest" RES

Symbolic & Interpretive Anthropologies

Week 16

April 28





Postmodernist Anthropology: Politics & the Future of Cultural Anthropology

  • George Marcus & Michael Fisher "A Crisis of Representation in the Human Sciences" RHAT
  • Stephen A. Tyler "Post-Modern Ethnography: From Documents of the Occult to Occult Document." RES
  • Melford Spiro "Postmodernist Anthropology, Subjectivity, and Science" RES
  • Roy D'Andrade " Moral Models in Anthropology" RES

Salzman, Ch. 7 "Critical Advocacy" pp. 113-126
Salzman, Ch. 8 "Reflections on Anthropological Theory" pp. 127-142
Postmodernism and Its Critics

May 5
The Draft of the Web Assignment is due on Monday, May 3, at noon

RHAT = Readings for a History of Anthropology
RES= Articles on E- Reserve of UA Library


Social Evolutionism
Diffusionism and Acculturation
Manchester School
Culture & Personality
American Materialism
Cultural Materialism
Ecological Anthropology
Cross-Cultural Analysis
Cognitive Anthropology
Marxist Anthropology
Feminist Anthropology
Symbolic & Interpretive Anthropologies
Postmodernism & Its Critics

Disability Statement

If you are registered with the Office of Disability Services, please make an appointment with Prof. Murphy as soon as possible to discuss any course accommodations that may be necessary.  If you have a disability but have not contacted the Office of Disability Services, please call 354-5175 to register for services.

Dishonesty Statement

All acts of dishonesty in any work constitute academic misconduct.  This includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, fabrication of information, misrepresentations, and abetting of any of the above.  The Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Policy will be followed in the event that academic misconduct occurs.  Students should refer to the Student Affairs Handbook, which can be obtained in the Office of Student Life and Services in the Ferguson Center.

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