Course description

Understanding Cultures and Markets


Cultural and ethnic diversity have become part of people’s everyday experience in most parts of the world. While transnational communication is increasing, physical distance also becomes less important in many spheres of life. A constantly changing global business world, increasingly affected by distant markets and emerging economies such as China, brings about new social, cultural, economic and political challenges. This demands a heightened sense of self-reflection and critical understanding of key anthropological issues including culture, social relations, and identity-formation.

The course offers important anthropological and sociological perspectives, as well as practical training, for understanding and analyzing culture, identity and social relationships. The course focuses on how social practices including economic exchange, media images, consumption and shopping contribute to form, confirm and re-shape identity, cultural meaning and social relations in a globalizing world marked by cultural diversity. Through anthropological theory and practice, including fieldwork and participant observation, students will gain insights into how cultural ideas, values and practices affect how people interact, communicate and relate to one another, as well as what roles products may play in human relations. Students will also acquire deepened understanding of how people identify and understand themselves and others in different societies, many of which are increasingly influenced by marketing and consumption. This is important since success as well as ethical behavior depend on marketers' skills and abilities to understand their target groups' cultural values, ideas and practices.

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

Course content

  • The concept of culture in social anthropology
  • Ethnicity, nationalism and imagined cultural difference
  • Ethnocentrism, cultural relativism and ethics
  • Identity and identification in shifting social contexts
  • Qualitative research methods, fieldwork and participant observation
  • Exchange, reciprocity and social integration
  • Globalization, the glocal, branding and identity-politics
  • Media, advertising and visual culture, and the role of this in a booming tourist industry
  • Shopping, social relations and meaning making in an expanding consumer culture 
  • Culture and social relations in Scandinavia and China

Learning outcome knowledge

  • Be familiar with anthropological understandings of culture
  • Be familiar with an anthropological understanding of identity, identification, and identity politics in a globalizing world.
  • Be familiar with anthropological theories of integration and economic exchange
  • Understand how people are affected by their cultural backgrounds, and how people's cultural background also influences their understanding of other local and distant groups
  • Understand how media images can shape and affect culture, identity and social relations
  • Be familiar with different approaches to understanding people from other cultures, such as cultural relativism and ethnocentrism.
  • Understand qualitative anthropological research methods, and develop practical skills and understanding of how cultural meanings and practices can be studied by means of fieldwork and participant observation.
  • Be familiar with central social and cultural differences between Scandinavia and China, and thereby develop a comparative perspective for understanding other cultures and markets.

Exam organisation

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