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Culture and Comparison


This course is taught in Dutch in the academic year 2018-2019

Admission requirements

  • This course is part of the Bachelor’s CA-OS, Minor CA-OS and the Pre-Master’s CA-OS. This course is restricted to students enrolled for the Bachelor’s, Minor or Pre-Master’s CA-OS.

  • Those wishing to take this course as contract students must register in accordance with the procedure set out on this page of the faculty website .


This course introduces students to the meaning, usefulness and history of the concept of "culture" as used by anthropologists and sociologists, and to the primarily historical concept of Philosophy of Science as part of the study of culture. Philosophy of Science emphasizes that anyone wishing to undertake qualitative social science must be aware of how socio-scientific questions–and above all, conceptions of culture–have changed over time, if they are to assess how, why and when we speak of "culture". The emphasis is on the difference in the use of the concept of culture in everyday speech, in terms of "high" and "low" culture; "multiculturalism"; culture and ethnicity; and how cultures may be compared, or not be compared.
The programme consists of three theme blocks, with central developments in thinking about culture discussed in each block. The subject is discussed on the basis of classical cases and ethnographic studies. The course is supervised by means of one discussion group per block, led by an education assistant. In the discussion groups, questions from the literature are discussed so as to prepare students for the examination. The reading list consists mainly of classic and leading texts showing the course of a certain historical development. The subject matter is tested by means of multiple multiple-choice questions.

Course Objectives

  • Knowledge of the main approaches to culture in the history of anthropology;

  • Critical insight into why older views of culture, which still appear in everyday speech, are invalid;

  • Basic insight into the foundations of a historicising science theory for social sciences;

  • Ability to relate arguments from different scientific sources;

  • Acquaintance with group discussion and processing of material learned.


See our website

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures: 28 hours = 42 sbu

  • Working group: 6 hours = 12 sbu (work groups start only in the third week)

  • Literature: 516 p. = 86 sbu
    Total: 140 study hours (sbu) = 5 ECTS

Assessment method

  • Written partial examinations (open book of examinations with open questions)

  • Mandatory attendance at working groups.
    A total of 4 hours will be spent on testing: three tests, and a viewing moment.
    The three partial examinations account for a proportion of the final mark - see syllabus for further information. Only the final mark is registered in Usis and (only) if inadequate it may be re-taken during the re-take test.

Registering for examinations

Students are required to register in uSis for every examination and may do so up to 11 calendar days before the examination. Read more

Log-in to uSis

  • First-year CA-OS students: While registration for lectures and work groups is NOT necessary, students MUST enrol for ALL examinations and any re-sits (see above).

  • Second-year CA-OS students, Minor students, Contract students and Pre-Master’s students must register for all lectures and examinations (see above), but are not required to do so for working groups.
    Classification in working groups for all students will be done by the education coordinator and announced via Blackboard in the second week of lectures.

Registration periods and further information about procedure is given on the website on course registration.


Blackboard will be used during this course to provide programme and other information and to advise of test results.
Participants may register on Blackboard from 2 weeks before the start of the course.

Study material

  • Articles from electronic magazines

  • Jean Briggs (1971), Never in Anger: Portrait of an Eskimo Family. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  • E.E. Evans-Pritchard (1976 [1937]), Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (abridged edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press

  • Barnard, Alan, & Jonathan Spencer (eds., 2010) Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, 2nd edition. London / New York: Routledge.
    The books can be ordered with study association Itiwana.


Dr. Erik Bähre