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What is Cultural Anthropology?

Anthropology is the study of humankind and is divided into four major fields: cultural anthropology, concerned with the cultural diversity of contemporary human societies; biological anthropology, concerned with the evolution and physical aspects of humans; archeology, concerned with the materiality of human experiences; and linguistic anthropology, concerned with the context of human languages. Cultural anthropology is an interdisciplinary field of study that embraces both the humanities and social sciences. Cultural anthropologists develop cultural sensitivity and communication skills so that they can comprehend and theorize the diversity and universality of human cultures. Usually a cultural anthropologist resides in his/her site of research for at least one year to conduct fieldwork from a native's point of view

Traditional cultural anthropologists tended to conduct research on small tribes, rural areas, and Third World societies. Seemingly unique lifestyles in such isolated areas attracted anthropologists' attention. However, as globalization rapidly spreads, cultural anthropology covers a wider range of cultural diversity. Complex cultural phenomena and people's transnational lives that traverse the borders of nation-states, prompted by new technology and globalization, have become main areas of research.

Against this backdrop, the Department of Cultural Anthropology was established at the College of Social Sciences, Yonsei University in March of 2008 to engage in deep research of globalized cultural phenomena through the practical approach of applied anthropology. In its sequence of courses, the Department of Cultural Anthropology first emphasizes teaching cultural relativism, the central perspective of cultural anthropology. Then it stresses the education of research methodology so that students can develop their own ability to conduct fieldwork in various types of fields. Lastly, the Department of Cultural Anthropology promotes practical skills for students to engage in current sociocultural issues including health, poverty, development, urban regeneration, migration, and refugees. The Department of Cultural Anthropology nurtures students' creativity by providing various fieldwork and internship opportunities so that they can get training to become professionals in culture-related areas. Through its courses, the Department of Cultural Anthropology produces experts in various fields of culture: culture as a means of representing and practicing identities; culture as a project of creating alternative lifestyles; culture as an image conveyed via movies and the mass media; and culture as a way of life in transnational social spaces.

Careers for Cultural Anthropology Majors

Many graduates from the Department of Cultural Anthropology develop their careers in companies, the media, and academia, while some of them design and produce cultural content as movie directors and writers. Many others enter international organizations and NGOs to engage in sociocultural issues such as poverty, human rights, and development. In the face of today's age of culture, our graduates apply their training in cultural sensitivity and various fieldwork methods as skilled area specialists, cultural designers, and cultural producers in a wide range of fields that require "cultural perspectives". The demand for our graduates is constantly on the rise as culture has become an important source of high-value products today.

Our focus

1) To educate students in the principal theories of cultural anthropology to understand culture in the age of globalization and the information network society
- Moving beyond a nationalism and industry-focused paradigm by teaching anthropological theories for analyzing globalized society in the information age

2) To educate students in the methodologies of cultural anthropology to build a grounded understanding of culture
- Teach qualitative research methods and digital documentation and connect students to internships

3) To nurture creativity to design alternative cultures
- Producing cultural experts in policy making, management, law, welfare, health, journalism, cultural industry, environment, NGOs

Main Teaching Areas

1. Asian Studies
  • Comparing Asian modernities from an anthropological perspective.
  • Understanding contemporary China as it undergoes drastic cultural changes.
  • Comprehending Southeast Asian society and culture in a comparative scope and the development of the ASEAN community.
  • Courses:
    The Defamiliarization of Korean Culture, East Asian Studies, Japanese Cultural Studies, Society and Culture of Contemporary China, Society and Culture of Southeast Asia, Area Studies, Global Issues in Anthropological Perspective
2. Migration and Cultural Diversity
  • Examining global mobility including migration, immigration, and study abroad.
  • Understanding the diversity of Korean society from a multicultural and global viewpoint.
  • Exploring the adaptation and integration of forced migrants including refugees.
  • Courses:
    Globalization and Migration, Cultural Anthropology in a Global Era, Globalization and Multiculturalism, Nationality and Ethnicity, Identities in the Contemporary Society, Symbols and Rituals
3. Gender Studies
  • Understanding various sociocultural phenomena in the process of the deconstruction of modern industrial society deeply associated with the conventional notion of gender differences.
  • Suggesting social agendas to promote gender equality.
  • Courses:
    Family and Culture, Gender and Culture, Anthropology of the Body
4. Popular Culture
  • Analyzing the processes of the production and consumption of popular culture.
  • Understanding cultural imagination promoted by transnational popular culture including the "Korean Wave".
  • Courses:
    Popular Culture and the Cultural Industry, Anthropology and the Visual Media, Cultural Design Practice (Internship)
5. Cultural Ecology
  • Exploring culturally and ecologically sustainable development.
  • Reviewing relations between culture and environment from a critical stance.
  • Courses:
    Culture and Environment, Ecological Anthropology
6. Poverty and Development
  • Understanding the experiences of poverty in various contexts of gender, generation, environment, and area located under the current of global migration and neoliberalism.
  • Reviewing the various practices of poverty eradication and exploring alternative ways.
  • Courses:
    Anthropology of Poverty, Global Issues in Anthropological Perspective, Political Anthropology
7. Applied Anthropology
  • Exploring practical measures to engage in contemporary social problems.
  • Designing alternative life and culture through internship programs.
  • Producing cultural experts in policy-making, management, law, welfare, health, journalism, cultural industry, environment, education and NGOs.
  • Courses:
    Education and Culture, Cultural Design in the Network Age, Special Topics in Anthropology, Culture and Tourism, Anthropology of Science and Technology, Anthropology of Law, Structure of Care and Intimacy in the Contemporary Society, Cultural Conflicts and Global Governance

The Department of Cultural Anthropology at Yonsei University and the Haja Center (an alternative vocational education center for teenagers operated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government) signed an MoU on August 21, 2014 and have since provided the students of the department with vocational training and internship opportunities.

Careers for Cultural Anthropology Majors

Many graduates from the Department of Cultural Anthropology develop their careers in companies, the media, and academia, while some of them design and produce cultural content as movie directors and writers. Many others enter international organizations and NGOs to engage in sociocultural issues such as poverty, human rights, and development. In the face of today's age of culture, our graduates apply their training in cultural sensitivity and various fieldwork methods as skilled area specialists, cultural designers, and cultural producers in a wide range of fields that require "cultural perspectives". The demand for our graduates is on the constant rise as culture has become an important source of high-value products today.