School of Social and Cultural Studies

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Cultural Anthropology

Please note: Information on this page relates to the 2016 academic year unless otherwise specified.

This subject is taught by the School of Social and Cultural Studies.


Why are human groups and their ways of life so different around the world? Why, for example, do many New Zealanders believe it is disgusting and cruel to eat dog, while Muslims don't eat pork, and Hindus think cows are sacred? Why do most New Zealanders think marriage should only involve two partners, while the President of South Africa, following a Zulu custom, has three wives? Why do so many young people in New Zealand decide to get tattoos while many youths in Papua New Guinea willingly undergo painful scarification rituals? Why do such cultural differences develop and how might we understand them better?

Anthropology literally means 'the study of human beings', while cultures are patterns of human behaviour and knowledge that every human learns as a member of a society. Cultural Anthropology focuses on how these cultural patterns shape our experiences. Anthropologists carry out research using the unique method of participant observation; they often live with the people they study for over a year, learn their language, and adopt their daily habits, gaining in-depth and firsthand insights into their way of life. This leads them to produce ethnographies: richly detailed texts describing the life and experiences of a cultural group.

Students majoring in Cultural Anthropology towards a Bachelor of Arts (BA), will explore how culture is expressed in areas such as ritual, symbolism, language, personality, religion, inequality, gender, family, art and politics. We compare life in New Zealand to the way people live in a range of diverse locations around the world. Understanding how other societies organise their lives and give meaning to their existence also increases our understanding of our own cultural worlds.

Cultural Anthropology lecturers at Victoria have research expertise in such fields as: ritual, migration, inequality, ethnicity, psychological anthropology, historical anthropology, colonisation, indigenous peoples, and charity and development. They have carried out research in countries such as Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands.

Undergraduate information

Cultural Anthropology major requirements

  1. ANTH 101 and 102
  2. 40 points from ANTH 200-299
  3. 40 points from ANTH 300-399

Postgraduate information

Postgraduate qualifications in Cultural Anthropology

For information specific to Cultural Anthropology, please see our Postgraduate Study page. For information about the postgraduate qualifications, please click on the Faculty links below.

How to find out more

Want to find out more about studying at Victoria? Register now to find out more about your study options and keep updated on application and enrolment information, open days and events.

If you need help deciding what degree might be right for you, or what courses to take, talk with a liaison officer or book a course planning session with us, call 0800 VICTORIA (842 867) or email

If you’re a returning or transferring student, contact the Faculty Student and Academic Services Office, for help with degree planning and for information on admission requirements and transfer credit from other institutions.

Related subjects and careers

Career paths in Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology graduates from Victoria have gone into a wide variety of careers. Cultural Anthropology provides you with a broad range of skills important in today's world. At a general level, these include critical and creative thinking, research, writing and analysis, and the effective communication of ideas. More specifically, the study of cultural anthropology will teach you to understand cultural diversity and the role of culture in all areas of life, and to apply anthropological knowledge to current social issues.

Careers and Employment are available to assist with a wide range of queries—from the general exploration of career ideas and career implications of subject choices, to details of specific jobs, employers, or postgraduate courses. 

The latest Career View publication on Cultural Anthropology is downloadable from the Careers and Employment website. Also of relevance to this subject area is Anthropologists in the News.

Related subjects Careers

Asian Studies
Māori Studies
Pacific Studies
Political Science
Religious Studies

Community work
Consumer research and advertising
Cross-cultural relations consultancy
Cultural heritage management
Documentary filmmaking
English language teaching abroad
Immigration and refugee services
International development
International marketing
Local and international journalism
Museum curating
NGO and humanitarian work
Public health
Public relations
Public sector research and policy analysis
Travel and tourism work
Urban planning

List of courses

For a complete course listing, see the list of all Cultural Anthropology courses.

100 Level Courses

ANTH 101 – Foundations of Society and Culture

ANTH 102 – Social and Cultural Diversity

200 Level Courses

ANTH 201 – Kin, Class and Caste

ANTH 204 – Modern Anthropological Thought

ANTH 208 – Culture and Experience

ANTH 209 – Conflict and Reconciliation

ANTH 213 – Ritual in the Modern World

ANTH 215 – Special Topic: Culture and the Material World

300 Level Courses

ANTH 307 – Medical Anthropology

ANTH 308 – Anthropology in Oceania

ANTH 312 – Representing Others: The Challenges of Ethnography

ANTH 314 – Special Topic: New Approaches to Kinship

ANTH 315 – Selected Topic: Psychological Anthropology

ANTH 316 – Visual Anthropology

ANTH 317 – Migration, Culture and Identity

400 Level Courses

ANTH 406 – Special Topic: Culture through an Ethnographic Lens

ANTH 407 – Ideas and Approaches

ANTH 408 – Ethnographic Research

ANTH 410 – Current Directions in Anthropological Thought

ANTH 411 – Topics in Social and Cultural Anthropology: Inequality and Identity

ANTH 412 – Anthropological Perspectives on Development

ANTH 489 – Research Project

SACS 428 – Internship