Anthropology Courses

Anthropology Course Textbooks

For anthropology courses, the pages and posts of Living Anthropologically can be integrated with traditional four-fields textbooks to create an Introduction to Anthropology. See also What is Anthropology? and the Anthropology Blogs for useful anthropology course resources. The category of Living Anthropologically titled “Anthropology Courses” features related blog posts.

Introduction to Anthropology Courses

Anthropology: What Does It Mean to Be Human?, Robert H. Lavenda and Emily A. Schultz

Lavenda & Schultz, Anthropology: What Does it Mean to be Human? is my preferred textbook in four field Introduction to Anthropology courses. See Introduction to Anthropology 2018 for a course outline. I previously taught Anthropology 2017 and Anthropology 2016 using the 3rd edition of Lavenda & Schultz. I prefer this text because of its academic sophistication, manageable length, and reasonable price. I’ve also written a review of the 2nd edition and earlier links from the second edition to the sections on Biological Anthropology. For those who might still have or use the first edition, I previously wrote 1st edition cross-referenced links.

Cultural Anthropology Courses

Although many anthropologists teach cultural anthropology as a standalone anthropology course that can function as an introduction to anthropology, I prefer to teach it as a follow-up on a more general anthropology course. My Cultural Anthropology 2016 course used Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Global Transformations. In 2018, I am planning to try using Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for a Global Age by Kenneth Guest.

Other Textbooks for Introduction to Anthropology Courses

Applying Anthropology, Podolefsky, Brown, & Lacy, editors.

Applying Anthropology continues to be the only four field reader for Introduction to Anthropology, and I’ve used it through the 10th edition. See the Applying Anthropology cross references. For those who are still using the 9th edition, or articles from it, please see the cross-references at Applying Anthropology 9th Edition.

Anthropology, Ember, Ember, and Peregrine.

Ember Anthropology has some of the best references, and in some places comes closest to the perspective of Living Anthropologically. Ember Anthropology also has some of the worst sections, along with some idiosyncracies.

Anthropology: The Human Challenge, Haviland, Prins, Walrath, McBride

Haviland is a conceptual favorite for treatment of evolution, human nature, and race. However, this is a very long, encyclopedic, and expensive textbook. Moreover, the Haviland series seems to occasion vitriol as “preachy liberal anthropologists.”

Essence of Anthropology 3rd Edition, Haviland, Prins, Walrath, McBride

The condensed Haviland Essence of Anthropology could be an ideal four-field textbook, shorter than the encyclopedic Haviland. However, it’s difficult to find this textbook for less than $90, making it more expensive than some of the comprehensive textbooks.

Anthropology: Appreciating Human Diversity, Conrad Kottak

Kottak’s textbook is usually dependable and includes contemporary references. The 14th Edition of the four-field Anthropology: Appreciating Human Diversity seems to show signs of wear, as shuffling chapters and inserting pop culture references has its limits.

Window on Humanity 5th Edition, Conrad Kottak

Window on Humanity is the condensed version of Kottak’s Anthropology: Appreciating Human Diversity. As of 2012-2013, this condensed version was more updated than the comprehensive textbook, much easier to read, and less expensive. However, this version is still expensive, with no color photographs.

Anthropology, Barbara Miller

Barbara Miller’s four-field anthropology textbook went into second edition for 2008, but there have not been more updates. Miller may be headed back to cultural anthropology course textbooks. This textbook has some very interesting sections, but is uneven.

Introducing Anthropology, Michael Alan Park

Park’s 5th Edition of Introducing Anthropology has a well-written conversational style. For a four-field text it is short and relatively inexpensive. However, this textbook comes close to biological determinism, or portraying culture as an overlay on biology. It also shows little updating for the 5th edition.

Anthropology: A Global Perspective, Scupin and DeCorse

The 7th Edition of Scupin and DeCorse is a major upgrade from previous editions. The authors have admirable four-field experience and a particularly strong focus on political economy–they see themselves working in the tradition of Eric Wolf. There are some troubling references to human universals and evolutionary psychology. The text is still relatively expensive, but it is worth considering.

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  • Christopher DeCorse

    So what is anthropology?

    Hi Jason, we follow Living Anthropologically and we appreciate your comments on
    the 7th Edition our four field anthropology text, “Anthropology: A Global
    Perspective” (Pearson 2012). We have incorporated your feedback into the
    revisions for the new 8th Edition due out in Fall 2015.

    But I have a question for you. How do we decide what are the key discoveries and interpretations that need to be in an introductory anthropology text book? How do we decide “what is anthropology” when writing for a broad audience that includes faculty with varying perspectives and students who may only take one anthropology course? In the process of writing and revising our textbooks, we typically get feedback from between eight and twenty reviewers–and I include you here! Comments include varying perspectives of new discoveries, the areas to be covered, and differing theoretical or conceptual perspectives. There are always suggestions on more things to add-or to exclude, suggestions that often are dramatically opposed. For example, one reviewer of a particular chapter in the 7th Edition said: This “carefully chapter” is “a powerful demonstration of the use of anthropological knowledge.” While with regard to the same chapter another reviewer opined “This is the most disappointing chapter of the entire book. The rationale for the amount of space given to one thing over another is a mystery.” These comments are paraphrased, but as presented the statements are actually less dramatically conflicting than some of the reviews that we have received.

    So in writing a general anthropology text book how do we decide what to
    include? Our view is to try and present the breath of the field; offer a basis
    for discussion of the major themes and ideas, in order to provide instructors
    with a foundation that allows them to explore varied discoveries, areas, or
    themes on their own. We also believe that critical thinking is fundamental to
    anthropology. Hence, we pointedly include some discussion of discarded
    perspectives, and present opposing interpretations, exploring how these have
    been critiqued and evaluated. Our feeling is that this allows students to get a
    sense of how data are evaluated and how different theoretical perspectives are
    assessed. Some texts, however, take a more specific view that runs through the
    entire work. This has the advantage of providing a strong unifying perspective.
    A good example is “Culture, People, and Nature: An Introduction to General
    Anthropology” the four-field textbook of the late Marvin Harris. Harris
    had a very cohesive theoretical perspective and many professors appreciated
    this in using his four-field textbook. Some anthropologists, however, do not
    share this perspective. Pedagogically, the problem is that instructors simply don’t have the time (or desire) to develop a particular theoretical perspective in an introductory anthropology course – especially a course introducing all of the subfields of anthropology.

    Indeed, the background to all of the above comments is the constraints of time
    and space, with regard to classroom time and space in the text. One of the more
    regular comments from both reviewers and adopters alike is that the content of
    introductory texts covers more than they can typically address in the span of a
    single course. In writing a textbook, we also have to make hard decisions about
    what we put in – covering DNA in a single paragraph or all of “The Paleolithic”
    in twenty odd pages is a bit daunting. There is always too little time and to
    little space.

    So my question to you is how do you decide what to put in a textbook? Would
    you, for example, prefer that the views of early, 19th century anthropologists
    were excluded, or have discussion of hominin evolution focus on a single
    predominant view of hominin phylogeny?

    Chris DeCorse

  • Caroline Epp

    I am going to be teaching a 4 field anthro class at a public high school next year. Which of these books would work best for that level of a reader?

    Thanks, C. Epp

    • Hi Caroline, thank you for the question and great that you are getting anthropology into the high schools. As far as I know for a high-school level audience you may want to try the Annual Editions: Anthropology reader. You might be able to pick up used copies of earlier editions as well.

      I’m not sure about the textbook! My feeling is that maybe the condensed Kottak “Windows on Humanity” would be a possibility, and could hopefully get used copies of a previous edition.

      Good luck, thank you!