Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Comparative Cultural Systems

Instructor: Barbara Michael (michaelb AT uncw DOT edu)

This course addresses a number of problems that are of anthropological, as well as general, concern:

  1. How can people begin to understand beliefs and behaviors that are different from their own?
  2. How do we explain the transformation of human societies over the past 10,000 years from small-scale, nomadic bands of hunters and gatherers to large-scale urban-industrial states?
  3. How do we explain the emergence of the modern nation-state and the methods through which people come to believe they owe their allegiance to their country?
  4. Why do people believe different things, and why are they so certain that their view of the world is correct and others are wrong?
  5. What do we need to know before we can understand the dynamics of family life in other societies?
  6. How do people determine who they are, and how do they communicate who they think they are to others?
  7. Why are modern societies characterized by social, political, and economic inequalities?
  8. How do societies give meaning to and justify collective violence?

Although these questions probably do not have definitive answers, they are the basis of much intellectual inquiry. The course will approach each question using critical thinking and the perspective of anthropology. A variety of readings and other materials will form the content of the course. Some of the material will be case studies designed to illustrate the uses of an anthropological perspective and its applications to various career paths.

Last Update: September 8, 2017