You may have heard other Christians talk
about anthropology as a secular and hostile discipline, but there are many people
of faith who work in anthropology, and
God has shown us so much wisdom in
cultural anthropology that I can’t imagine not exploring it!
Textbooks and Teaching
Anthropology is usually first taught at
the college level, but like history, geography, and other social studies, it can easily be taught earlier. The type of complex
thinking it encourages will be useful for
your teenagers, and wrestling with cultural tensions can be good for homeschool students who have a heart for any
type of cross-cultural situation, whether
in missions, a secular college, or in working with people from other backgrounds.
Because most texts are written for col-
lege students, they are best adapted for
strong middle- and high-school students.
I’m critical of most introductory texts, as
they chop culture into stale categories
such as trade, ritual, and gender—cat-
egories that don’t reflect how unified
our lives actually are! Because of this, I
spend months to years
immersed in another
cultural group . . . .
recommend that you read John Omohundro’s How to Think like an Anthropologist. Omohundro looks at communities holistically and asks broad questions
about who we are as people and how we
differ by context. Other excellent resources include Paul G. Hiebert’s
Cultural Anthropology or Jenell Williams Paris
and Brian Howell’s Introducing Cultural
Anthropology: A Christian Perspective.
Hiebert is more missional but also more
dated, while the latter book is good at
explaining theory and will give students
excellent preparation for college courses.
Reading these resources together with
ethnographies about specific cultures
(see the sidebar) could make a great yearlong course of study.
Another essential part of teaching anthropology is learning by doing. Anthropologists often spend months to years
immersed in another cultural group, living in a strange household, learning local language and beliefs, watching how
families and friends interact, and participating in trade and music and social
events. This is called fieldwork, and it
can involve anything from observation
to drawing maps and taking genealogies
to interviewing others about their lives.
Fieldwork also means writing daily notes
about what you’ve seen and doing library
LEFT: In rural Mongolia, many Kazakh
families milk their sheep and goats daily,
turning the results into cheese and other dairy
LOWER LEFT: Brightly colored cloth and
felt fabrics decorate the interior of this mobile
BELOW: Rural Mongolian Kazakh diets are
heavy in meat and dairy, with multiple types
of cheese, butter, and milk being consumed in
a single sitting. These heavy diets are helpful
in sustaining agricultural workers through
lean and cold winters.