Socio-cultural Anthropological Documentaries

So I have FINALLY decided to write my dissertation on socio-cultural anthropological documentaries.

Socio-cultural anthropology studies the rules of being a human and emphasises the concept of culture, with culture being the term we apply to all of the beliefs and customs that we learn as members of society and which bind members of any given society together. It is the sharing of these customs and beliefs that allow people to anticipate and understand what other people are doing.

I want to examine social patterns and practices across cultures, documenting how people live in particular places and how they organise, govern, and create meaning. For this, I will be looking at how we can learn about the study of humans around the world through documentaries, such as how we make a living, how we organise the world, and all of the beliefs that are part of religion, science, and the arts.

Here are a few notes…


  • Anthropology is concerned with the lives of people within different parts of the world, particularly in relation to the discourse of beliefs and practices
  • Anthropologists are concerned with questions such as: –“how are societies organised?,” “the relationship between values and behaviour?” and “why do people do what they do?”


  • Social anthropologis the study of all peoples everywhere – what they make, what they do, what they think and how they organise their social relationships and societies.
  • Social anthropologists seek to understand how people live in societies and how they make their lives meaningful.
  • Topics of interest for social anthropologists have included: customs, economic and political organisation, law and conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and exchange, kinship and family structure, gender relations, childbearing and socialisation, religion. Present day social anthropologists: globalism, ethnic violence, gender studies, transnationalism and local experience, the emerging cultures of cyberspace and when environmental concerns come into conflict with economic developments. 
  • By living with people in different cultures and learning to talk and behave like them (‘fieldwork’), social anthropologists produce in-depth descriptions of their customs and ways of life (‘ethnographies’)
  • They also compare different cultures and societies to explore their similarities and differences, to test the generalisations of historians, social scientists and philosophers, and to produce theories of how best to study and understand human nature.
  • Historians, sociologists, psychologists and philosophers have all drawn inspiration from anthropological writings. The subject has had a major impact on the way we deal with cultural and political issues in the contemporary world.
  • Long term qualitative research, including intensive field studies (emphasising participant observation methods) has been traditionally encouraged in social anthropology rather than quantitative analysis
  • Social anthropology is distinguished from subjects such as economics or political science by its holistic range and the attention it gives to the comparative diversity of societies and cultures across the world. It extends beyond strictly social phenomena to culture, art, individuality and cognition.
  • E.B. Tylor (2 October 1832 – 2 January 1917) and James George Frazer (1 January 1854 – 7 May 1941) are generally considered the antecedents to modern social anthropology in Britain. Tylor formulated one of the early and influential anthropological conceptions of culture as “that complex whole, which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [humans] as [members] of society.”


Abu-Lughod, Lila (1986) Veiled sentiments: honor and poetry in a Bedouin society. Berkeley and
London: University of California Press

Eriksen, T.H. (1996) Small Places Large Issues: an introduction to social and cultural anthropology (Pluto Press)

Hendry, J. (2008) An introduction to social anthropology: sharing our worlds.  Palgrave Macmillan.

Kuper, A. (1983) Anthropology and Anthropologists.  Routledge

Monaghan J. and P. Just  (2000) Social & Cultural Anthropology: a very short introduction. Oxford University Press


  • Cultural anthropology deals with human culture especially with respect to social structure, language, law, politics, religion, art and technology
  • Since humans acquire culture through the learning processes of enculturation and socialization, people living in different places or different circumstances develop different cultures.
  • Anthropologists have also pointed out that through culture people can adapt to their environment in non-genetic ways, so people living in different environments will often have different cultures.
  • Much of anthropological theory has originated in an appreciation of and interest in the tension between the local (particular cultures) and the global (a universal human nature, or the web of connections between people in distinct places/circumstances)

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