What Makes Us Human?

Cultural Anthropology 2021

For Cultural Anthropology 2021, we read the second edition of Introducing Anthropology by Laura Pountney and Tomislav Marić. The subtitle of their text is “What makes us human?” The theme of the course was how we can work toward realizing our own humanity, by recognizing the humanity of others and attempting to radically listen to other perspectives. Here is the YouTube Playlist of lectures:

Part 1: What makes us human?

Human Biology & Culture

  • Chapter 1, “What makes us human?”

Rethink Evolution

  • Agustin Fuentes, “‘The Descent of Man,’ 150 years on”
  • Elizabeth Preston, “Did Dads Evolve?”

Researching Culture

  • Chapter 2, “Research Methods”

Public Space


  • Chapter 3, “The Body”

Body Work


  • Chapter 4, “Ways of Thinking & Communicating”

Part 2: Society, Nature, Identity

Social Relations

  • Chapter 5, “Social Relations”

Science & Sustainability

  • Chapter 6, “Engaging with Nature”


  • Chapter 7, “Personhood”


  • Chapter 8, “Identity”


  • Chapter 9, “Ritual”

Part 3: Boundaries & Beyond


  • Chapter 10 (part 1 of 2), “Gender” (280-296)

Gender Alternatives

  • Chapter 10 (part 2 of 2), “Alternative Gender Identities” (296-307)


  • Chapter 12, “Globalization”


  • Chapter 11, “Boundaries”

Material Culture

  • Chapter 13, “The Role of Material Culture”

Applying Anthro

  • Chapter 14, “Applied Anthropology”

Conclusions: What makes us human?

This was one of those courses that I finally learned what the course might be about at the very end. I hope we all learned a lot as we went along, but things really took shape during the conclusion. This was when the authors wrote: “Anthropology is the only contemporary discipline that approaches human questions from historical, biological, linguistic and cultural perspectives” (421). As is so often the case, that should have been at the beginning! See here for the YouTube lecture from the final class: