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Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology
A Problem-Based Approach

Eighth Edition

August 2020 | 432 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Now with SAGE Publishing!

In a first-of-its-kind format, Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach is organized by problems and questions rather than topics, creating a natural discussion of traditional anthropological concerns such as kinship, caste, gender roles, and religion. This brief text promotes critical thinking through meaningful exercises, case studies, and simulations. Students will learn how to analyze their own culture and gain the tools to understand the cultures of other societies. The Eighth Edition has been thoroughly updated and reorganized to emphasize contemporary issues around social and economic inequality, gender identity, and more.

Included with this title:

The password-protected Instructor Resource Site (formally known as SAGE Edge)
offers access to all text-specific resources, including a test bank and editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides. Learn more.

About the Authors
Chapter 1. Culture and Meaning
Problem 1: How Can People Begin to Understand Beliefs and Behaviors That Are Different From Their Own?

Introduction: The World Behind Everyday Appearances

Question 1.1: Why Do Human Beings Differ in Their Beliefs and Behaviors?

Question 1.2: How Do People Judge the Beliefs and Behaviors of Others?

Question 1.3: Is It Possible to See the World Through the Eyes of Others?

Question 1.4: How Can the Meanings That Others Find in Experience Be Interpreted and Described?

Question 1.5: What Can Learning About Other Peoples Tell Americans About Themselves?

Case Study in Doing Anthropology #1: Why We Post


References and Suggested Readings

Chapter 2. The Meaning of Progress and Development
Problem 2: How Do We Explain the Transformation of Human Societies Over the Past 10,000 Years From Small-Scale Nomadic Bands of Hunters and Gatherers to Large-Scale Urban-Industrial States?

Introduction: The Death of a Way of Life

Question 2.1: Why Did Hunter-Gatherer Societies Switch to Sedentary Agriculture?

Question 2.2: Why Are Some Societies More Industrially Advanced Than Others?

Question 2.3: Why Do Poor Countries Not Modernize and Develop in the Same Way as Wealthier Countries?

Question 2.4: How Do Modern Standards of Health and Medical Treatment Compare With Those of Traditional Societies?

Question 2.5: Why Are Simpler Societies Disappearing?

Case Study in Doing Anthropology #2: Searching for the Perfect Diet and Doing Development


References and Suggested Readings

Chapter 3. Debt, Globalization, and the Nation-State
Problem 3: How Does Our Economy Affect Our Way of Life?

Introduction: Debt

Question 3.1: How Is Money Created and Why Must Modern Economies Perpetually Grow?

Question 3.2: Where Does the Wealth Needed to Sustain Growth Come From?

Question 3.3: What Kind of Economic System Is Necessary to Sustain Growth?

Question 3.4: What Is the Role of the Nation-State in Sustaining Growth?

Question 3.5: Why Do Economies Collapse?

Case Study in Doing Anthropology #3: Anthropology and Public Policy


References and Suggested Readings

Chapter 4. The Cultural Construction of Social Hierarchy
Problem 4: Why Are Modern Societies Characterized by Growing Economic Inequalities?

Introduction: Plutocracy

Question 4.1: How Unequal Are We?

Question 4.2: Why Is Social and Economic Inequality Increasing?

Question 4.3: How Do People Come to Accept Social Hierarchies as Natural?

Question 4.4: How Do People Living in Poverty Adapt to Their Condition?

Question 4.5: What Are the Effects of Inequality on Society?

Case Study in Doing Anthropology #4: Health and Human Rights


References and Suggested Readings

Chapter 5. The Social and Cultural Construction of Reality
Problem 5: Why Do People Believe Different Things, and Why Are They So Certain Their View of the World Is Correct and Other Views Are Wrong?

Introduction: The Central Question

Question 5.1: How Does Language Affect the Meanings People Assign to Experience?

Question 5.2: How Does Symbolic Action Reinforce a Particular View of the World?

Question 5.3: How Do People Come to Believe What They Do, and How Do They Continue to Hold to Their Beliefs Even If They Seem Contradictory or Ambiguous?

Question 5.4: How Can We Account for the Different Meanings People Assign to Experiences?

Question 5.5: How Can People Reorder Their View of the World If It Becomes Unsatisfactory?

Case Study in Doing Anthropology #5: Political Consulting and the Power of Metaphor


References and Suggested Readings

Chapter 6. Patterns of Family Relations
Problem 6: What Do We Need to Know Before We Can Understand the Dynamics of Family Life in Other Societies?

Introduction: Soap Operas and Family Relations

Question 6.1: What Is the Composition of the Typical Family Group?

Question 6.2: How Are Families Formed and Ideal Family Types Maintained?

Question 6.3: What Are the Roles of Sexuality, Love, and Wealth?

Question 6.4: What Threatens to Disrupt the Family Unit?

Case Study in Doing Anthropology #6: Combating HIV/AIDS


References and Suggested Readings

Chapter 7. The Cultural Construction of Identity
Problem 7: How Do People Determine Who They Are, and How Do They Communicate Who They Think They Are to Others?

Introduction: The Importance of Self

Question 7.1: How Does the Concept of Personhood Vary From Society to Society?

Question 7.2: How Do Societies Distinguish Individuals From One Another?

Question 7.3: How Do Individuals Learn Who They Are?

Question 7.4: How Do Individuals Communicate Their Identities to One Another?

Question 7.5: How Do Individuals Defend Their Identities When They Are Threatened?

Case Study in Doing Anthropology #7: Fat Talk


References and Suggested Readings

Chapter 8. The Cultural Construction of Violent Conflict
Problem 8: How Do Societies Give Meaning to and Justify Collective Violence?

Introduction: The Justification of Violent Conflict

Question 8.1: How Do Societies Create a Bias in Favor of Collective Violence?

Question 8.2: How Do Societies Create a Bias Against Violent Conflict?

Question 8.3: What Are the Economic, Political, or Social Differences Between Peaceful and Violent Societies?

Question 8.4: What Are the Effects of War on Societies?

Question 8.5: How Is It Possible to Justify the Creation of Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Case Study in Doing Anthropology #8: The Uses (and Misuses?) of Anthropology for Peace and War


References and Suggested Readings



Instructor Resources

Online resources included with this text

The online resources for your text are available via the password-protected Instructor Resource Site, which offers access to all text-specific resources, including a test bank and editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides.

Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach is comprehensive, very well-written, explains processes accurately, and provides a historical perspective that is missing in many other textbooks…It’s inspiring, challenging, fresh, and interesting.”                                                                                                          

Mia Dvornic
Northwood University

“This is a problem-based cultural anthropology text that focuses on using case studies that are highly engaging and relevant for students…It's a nice way to illustrate anthropology's fundamentally comparative approach.”

Jill Siegel
Kingsborough Community College

Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach is pleasurable to read and to teach…It’s assumption-busting, exciting, questions- and research-based, and well-organized.”

Deborah J. Wickering
Aquinas College
Key features
  • This new edition features a new chapter organization, with Chapter 4 (previously Chapter 7) on social stratification and hierarchy thoroughly updated to emphasize the importance of topics such as social and economic inequality.
  • Information on nutrition patterns, growing economic inequality, and the shift to authoritarian regimes is updated and emphasized throughout the text.
  • Social media’s global impact across a nine-country study in Chapter 1 provides perspective on debates related to platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
  • Research and information about food consumption and production are added to Chapter 2, helping shed light on the nutrition of hunting and gathering societies as they connect to the global rise of obesity.
  • Chapters 3 and 4 are updated and include added material on the emergence of capitalist culture across the globe.
  • Chapter 7 is updated with information on migrants and refugees.


  • Each chapter presents a unique, problem-based approach to social and cultural themes, examined through the lens of anthropology.
  • This text promotes critical thinking skills with chapter-level case studies, exercises, and a series of questions about the core problem presented in that chapter.
  • Locator maps further illustrate the local and global nature of the problems discussed.
  • A Topic–Question Correspondence chart links topics in cultural anthropology to questions considered in the text and can be used in guiding discussions.

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