Introducing Cultural Anthropology, 2nd Edition

A Christian Perspective


1. The Discipline of Anthropology

Chapter Goals

After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

  1. Describe the four subfields of anthropology and explain how they relate to one another.
  2. Describe the methods and concepts that distinguish cultural anthropology from related disciplines such as sociology, intercultural studies, and missiology.
  3. Explain how Christians contribute to anthropology, and how anthropology contributes to Christian life and service.

Chapter Outline

Finding Cultural Anthropology

What Is Cultural Anthropology?

The Four Subfields of Anthropology

Ethnography and Fieldwork

The Anthropological Perspective

Anthropology and Related Disciplines

Anthropology and Missions

Anthropology and the Christian Witness

Christians and Basic Research in Anthropology

Anthropology in a Globalized World


anthropological perspective


applied anthropology


cultural anthropology

cultural other


ethnographic fieldwork

ethnographic interviews



focus groups


holistic understanding

life history



Mound Builders

participant observation

physical (or biological) anthropology


qualitative research methods

quantitative research methods

rapid ethnographic assessment procedures (REAP)



Discussion Questions

  1. Share about a place you visited or traveled to, where the culture was unfamiliar. If you could revisit that place and do ethnographic fieldwork, what topics would you explore?
  2. What are your impressions of how Christianity and anthropology fit together, or don’t fit together? Choose one point of tension, or one point of collaboration, and generate a strategy for maximizing the collaboration, or for turning the tension into an asset.
  3. If you were going to spend a year doing participant observation at your college or university, what kinds of methods would you use to investigate its culture? Consider methods mentioned in this chapter, such as ethnographic interviews, focus groups, maps, life histories, and surveys. How would ethnographic fieldwork shape your anthropological perspective?