Introducing Cultural Anthropology, 2nd Edition

A Christian Perspective


2. Culture

Chapter Goals

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

  1. Define the culture concept and describe its development in the field of anthropology.
  2. Distinguish between three major types of ethnocentrism.
  3. Evaluate common metaphors for culture.
  4. Appreciate culture as a good part of God’s creation.

Chapter Outline


The Ethnic Fair

History of the Culture Concept in Anthropology

Cultural Relativism

Varieties of Ethnocentrism

The Culture Concept Today

Describing Culture

Culture as a Conversation

Christians and Culture


armchair anthropologists

cultural relativism

cultural superiority


epistemological relativism


historical particularism


moral relativism



tacit ethnocentrism

unilinear cultural evolution


Discussion Questions

  1. Name one culture you have visited or studied in depth. Generate an example of a cultural difference that you first interpreted in an ethnocentric way and then learned to view with cultural relativism.
  2. Design an ethnic fair exhibit for your culture (or one of the cultures with which you identify). What items would you choose to represent your culture? Now think critically: In what ways does the ethnic fair accurately represent your culture? How does the ethnic fair approach misrepresent or oversimplify your culture?
  3. Read Genesis 1–2. List elements of culture present before the fall. Consider the total way of life of a group of people that is learned, dynamic, shared, power laden, and integrated. This includes symbols, language, marriage, economy, family, custom, law, and other elements of life. It includes the ways in which these elements are stable, contested, or changing. In your experience, have Christians tended to consider culture as part of God’s good creation, or as part of the fall? How might a view of culture as emerging from creation shape Christians’ cultural engagement?