MABM105 Contemporary American Anthropology


The course is an introduction to the main theoretical topics, intellectual trends and methods of American anthropology. One of its main aims is to present the historical development of American cultural anthropology and some of its major figures. Their main ideas and methods will be presented and analyzed in the context of the development of the discipline as a whole. The appearance and development of anthropology in the US as a system consisting of four elements : physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology and linguistics will be presented and interpreted in comparison with the development of the discipline in other parts of the world. The main accent will be put on American cultural anthropology with its’ main trends: American historical tradition, culture and personality studies, cultural relativism, neo-evolutionism, cognitive anthropology, cultural ecology, interpretative anthropology. Some classical texts such as “Patterns of Culture” (R. Benedict), “Science of Culture: A Study of Man and Civilization” (L. White), “Ritual Process” (V. Turner) and “Writing Culture” (Clifford, Marcus) will be object of discussion. Key issues of American cultural anthropology as concepts of culture, personality, relativism, symbolism will be interpreted. Students will be given individual tasks to be acquainted in detail with classical anthropological texts and to present them in front of their colleagues for discussion.

Course aims:

* to provide students with empirical and theoretical knowledge of main ideas and trends of American anthropology; about the historical and cultural reasons for the original development of the discipline in America as well, thus widening their outlook of USA as a whole

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American and British Studies. Comparative Approaches.


Assoc. Prof. Evgenia Blagoeva, PhD.

Course Description:


At the end of the course students

• will know and will be able to use anthropological ideas and methods

• will be acquainted with main theoretical achievements of American cultural anthropology

• will be acquainted in details with specific features of certain foreign culture according to their individual interest. This will broaden their cultural competences as a whole.

• be able to read, analyze and use an anthropological text

• be able to present an essay based on an anthropological text


Full-time Programmes

Types of Courses:

Language of teaching:


  1. Cultural anthropology as a discipline - main principles and methods
  2. The rise of anthropology in America – cultural evolutionism.
  3. Diffusionism
  4. American historical tradition
  5. culture and personality trend
  6. anthropology of religion
  7. Marxism
  8. Ecological Anthropology
  9. Urban Anthropology
  10. Gender studies
  11. Interpretative Anthropology
  12. “Writing Culture” Criticism and the changes in contemporary American anthropology.
  13. Presenting students essays
  14. Written exam


Main literature:

Harris, M. The rise of anthropological theory: A history of theories of culture. New York.

A. James, J. Hockey, and A. Dawson, eds. After Writing Culture: Epistemology and Praxis in Contemporary Anthropology. London&New York, 1997

Additional literature:

Benedict, R. Patterns of Culture. Boston, 1934.

Boas, F. The Mind of Primitive Man. New York, 1911

Boas, F. Anthropology in Modern Life. New York, 1928

Boas, F. Race, Language and Culture, New York, 1940

Clifford, J. and G. Marcus, eds. Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley, 1986

Geertz, C. Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author. Cambridge, 1996

Geertz, C. Local Knowledge. New York, 1983

Geertz, C. The interpretation of cultures.New York, 1973

Hammond, P., ed. Cultural and Social Anthropology. Selected readings. New York – London, 1964


Harris, M. Cultural materialism. New York, 1979

Herskovits, M. J. Man and his Works. New York, 1941

Herskovits, M. J. The New World Negro. Indiana, 1966

Kardiner, A. Culture and Personality. New York, 1945

Kroeber, A.L. Configurations of Culture Growth. Berkeley, 1944

Mead, M. Coming of Age in Samoa. New York, 1928

Mead, M. Culture and Commitment. New York, 1970

Morgan, L.H. Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity. Washington, DC, 1870

Morgan, L.H. Ancient Society. New York, 1877.

Spradley, J. F. Participant observation. New York, 1980.

Steward, J.H. Theory of Cultural Change. Urbana, 1955.

Turner,V.W. The Ritual Process. 1969

Tyler, S. Cognitive anthropology. New York, 1969

Wallace, A.F.C. Religion: an Anthropological View.1967

White, L. The Science of Culture: A Study of Man and Civilization. New York,1949.