Course description

Understanding Cultures and Markets


Cultural and ethnic diversity have entered people's everyday experience in most parts of the world. Transnational communication is on the increase, and digitalization processes renders physical distance less important in many spheres of life. A constantly changing world of global business, now increasingly affected by distant markets and new emerging economies, brings about new social, cultural, economic and political challenges. This demands a more attentive global mind-set, involving a heightened sense of self-reflection and critical understanding of key anthropological subjects including culture, social relationships and identity-formation.

This course offers important anthropological and sociological insights, methods and practical training for understanding and analyzing culture, identity and social relations. The course focuses on how social practice, such as economic exchange, production and circulation of media images, travel, consumption and shopping, contribute to form, confirm and re-shape identity, cultural meaning and social relations in a globalizing world. Through anthropological theory, methods and practical training involving ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation, students learn how cultural ideas, values and practices affect how people interact, communicate and relate to one another. Students will understand how commodities and marketing affect culture, and play decisive roles in human relations. Students acquire deepened understanding of how people identify and understand themselves and others in societies increasingly influenced by marketing, consumption and cultural diversity. For marketers, this is important because creative thinking, successful decision-making, responsible ethical behavior, and sensitivity and contribution to sustainable development rest on training, skills and abilities to understand the social and cultural realities of their partners and target groups. That is to say, their cultural values, ideas and practices.

In terms of geography, the course has an empirical focus on culture in China and Scandinavia, but includes also cases and examples from many other parts of the world.

Course content

  • The concept of culture in social anthropology
  • Identity and identification in shifting social contexts
  • Ethnocentrism, cultural relativism and ethics
  • Qualitative research methods, fieldwork and participant observation
  • Reciprocity, economic and symbolic exchange, and social integration
  • Globalization, the glocal, branding and identity-politics
  • Media, advertising and visual culture,
  • Intercultural encounters, signs and images in tourism
  • Digital communication and context collapse
  • Shopping, social relations and cultural meaning in an expanding consumer culture 
  • Culture and social relations in Scandinavia and China

Learning outcome knowledge

Upon completion of this course, the candidate

  • has extensive knowledge of anthropological theory about social processes related to culture in a globalized world, including cultural meaning, glocalization and cultural change, cultural diversity, stereotypes and cultural boundaries, the role and importance of culture in advertising and the impacts of advertising on culture.  
  • has extensive knowledge of sociological and anthropological approaches to identity and identification in a global framework, including multiple identities, relational and context-dependent identification, identity politics, consumer based identification and the role and construction of identity in and through marketing.
  • has extensive theoretical knowledge of the formation of social relationships, integration and disintegration of groups, trust-based networks, partnerships and wider communities through economic and symbolic exchange.
  • has basic knowledge about qualitative anthropological research methods, including fieldwork and participant observation, and understands the value and complications of such methods for collecting empirical data.
  • has basic knowledge about central aspects of culture in China and Scandinavia, and knows how to understand culture in a comparative perspective
  • knows how people are affected by their cultural backgrounds, and how people’s cultural background also influences their understanding of other groups
  • knows different approaches to understanding people from other cultures, such as cultural relativism and ethnocentrism.
  • Has basic knowledge of visual literacy, and knows how media and images shape and affect culture, identity and social relations through ads and international tourism
  • Has basic knowledge of globalization processes, online interaction, consumer culture, theories of shopping and tourism.

Exam organisation

  • Written assignment: 40%
  • Written exam: 60%