Cultural Anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures. Cultural anthropologists describe, analyze, interpret, and explain social and cultural similarities and differences around the world. Cultural anthropology is a broad field that includes the study of religion, language, folklore and mythology, art and creativity, kinship and other social relations, the ways in which people accumulate and wield wealth and power, the ways in which they formulate complex and multiple identities, ethnic or racialized conflict, cultural change, and more.
Cultural anthropologists may study cultural life far from home or in their own back yard. Wherever they work, in-depth fieldwork is the hallmark of cultural anthropology. Anthropologists live among the people they study, learn their languages, and share their everyday lives. This provides anthropologists with specialized knowledge which they can use to compare human societies and to explore the nature of human cultural diversity.
The cultural anthropology program at CSULA offers undergraduate and graduate students the flexibility to develop an individually-tailored program of study, to explore their individual interests, and to develop a broad range of research skills.
Applied Anthropology is the application of the knowledge gained from anthropological research to address contemporary social problems. Many students choose fields in applied anthropology, including working in nonprofit agencies at home and abroad, working in economic development, conflict resolution, human rights, health, and education. The Department of Anthropology at CSULA actively fosters opportunities for our students to learn about and engage in applied anthropology.
Linguistic anthropology focuses on the study of language. When studying language, anthropologists look at the structure of specific languages, often to figure out the grammar of spoken non-standardized languages. Linguists focus on how native speakers of languages actually use the language, as opposed to hard fastened rules as to how they should be used. Great emphasis is placed on linguistic variation due to age, gender, region of origin, and cultural identity. Language usage is often a badge of identity, particularly in situations where multiple dialects of a single language or multiple languages are used.
Sociolinguistics is a broad field that examines social relations as they are expressed through language. Geographic differences, hierarchies of rank and class, as well as cultural identities are reflected and expressed through language. In fact there is a dynamic interplay between language and social structure. Language perpetuates as well as expresses the complex relations between people, yet it is also one of the cultural arenas where social relations are negotiated and transformed. Relations of power are often negotiated and reproduced through language.
Ethnolinguistics focuses on a comparative use of language in its creative aspects, such as songs, poetry, ritual, and religion.
The anthropological gaze has expanded to include mesmerizing and provocative social changes in communicative practices and technologies, as these proliferating activities transform the world around us. Media Anthropology at CSULA includes several foci, mass media, social media, online blogs, online communities, the politics and technologies of representation and cultural production, the production of identities, subaltern uses of media, and the role of media in assertions of rights. In the Anthropology Media Lab, students learn ethnographic field methods and digital video filmmaking, while planning and carrying out original ethnographic research projects. Student film projects have been shown at the College Spring Honors Convocation (2006 and 2007), used for outreach and educational purposes, and shown at the Annual Student Symposium on Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity. Students from the Anthropology Media Lab have been entering their films in the CSULA Golden Eagle Film Festival since 2008, as well as entering other film contests. Check out some of our award winning films in the slideshow!
Urban Anthropology in Los Angeles and Beyond
The cultural anthropology program at CSULA seeks to promote a broader appreciation and understanding of ethnic diversity in Southern California and around the world. The Los Angeles area is one of the most culturally diverse regions in the country, and we work to engage our students in local and regional research on contemporary social issues. We offer fieldtrips to explore ethnic and cultural diversity in Los Angeles and provide opportunities for our students to work with community organizations and do fieldwork.
Many of our students also do fieldwork abroad. The Department of Anthropology encourages students to do original research and to publish the results of that research at professional meetings and in professional journals. With an abundance of faculty support, our students have been very successful. Click below to see what some have been doing.