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Culture and Comparison


Admission requirements

This course is open to the following categories of students:

  • Bachelor’s CA-DS,

  • Minor CA-DS,

  • Pre-Master’s CA-DS admitted for this specific course during their application procedure,

  • Exchange students admitted for this specific course during their application procedure,

  • Contract students registered in accordance with the procedure set out on this page of the faculty website.

Language of Instruction

Lectures are taught in English.
Tutorials: First years bachelor students of CA-DS have chosen the preferred language of instruction for tutorials during their application. Minor, Pre-master and Exchange students follow the course entirely in English.
Contract students may indicate the preferred language of instruction for tutorials during their application.
Exams are in the same language as tutorials.


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.


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Mode of instruction

This is a 5 EC course, which means 140 hours of study (1 EC is equivalent to 28 study hours or sbu's)
These study hours are composed from the following components:

  • Lectures: 14 x 2 hours = 28 hours x 1,5 = 42 sbu.

  • Tutorials: 3 x 2 hours = 6 hours x 2 = 12 sbu (tutorials start in the second week of the course)

  • Literature: 516 pages (6 pages per hour for reading, learning and assessment) = 86 sbu

Assessment method

  • Interim tests: first interim test 30% and second interim test 70% of final mark.

Only the final mark is registered in Usis. A passing final mark is 6,0 and higher; inadequate final mark is 5,0 or lower. Final marks are never between 5,0 and 6,0. Only if the final mark is inadequate, the final exam may be re-taken during the re-take test. N.B. There is no re-take option for the first Interim test.

  • The lectures form an integral part of the course, which means that there will be exam questions on the lectures.

  • Mandatory tutorials form an integral part of the course. Failure to attend a tutorial means that the next interim test or re-examination will not be graded, unless an additional assignment is done (submitted to and evaluated by the tutor). Only one missed tutorial can be compensated.

Exemptions can be requested to the Examination Board in a motivated e-mail.

Registering for examinations

First years students, Exchange students and Pre-Master students are not required to register.
Other students are required to register in uSis for every examination and may do so up to 11 calendar days before the examination. Read more

Registration in uSis

  • First-year CA-OS students, Exchange students and pre-Master students: registration for lectures, tutorials, exams is NOT necessary as students will be registered by the Student Services Centre (SSC).

  • Other students must register for all lectures and examinations (see above), but not for tutorials:

  • Division and enrolment in mandatory tutorials will be done by the student administration and announced via Usis in the first week of lectures.

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


Brightspace will be the digital learning environment of Leiden University as of the 2020/2021 academic year. This means Brightspace will replace the current system Blackboard.

Students attending the first year of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology or resitting courses, will be the first working with Brightspace as their learning management system as of the academic year 2019-2020. Through Brightspace you can access news messages, retrieve study material and hand in assignments. You will need to visit Brightspace on a regular basis to be sure to have the latest information. Lecturers will assume that all students read the information provided in Brightspace.

How to login:
The homepage for Brightspace is:
Please log in with your ULCN-account and personal password. On the left you will see an overview of My Courses.

To get access to your courses in Brightspace you need to be registered in uSis for these courses.

Leiden University app
In this app, you can find most of your personal study information in one place. The Blackboard app will be replaced by the Brightspace app over time. Until then you have to use them both.

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 Dr. Anouk de Koning