Seven Powerful Research Paper Topics in Cultural Anthropology
Cultural anthropology is a sub-area of anthropology that focuses primarily on the cultural differences in humans. This sub-area of study has been around for a little over a century, with the earliest indication of it appearing in 1897. Because the discipline is fairly new, there a number of unique and exciting topics to write a research paper on. Here are seven great ideas for you to consider:
- Marriage and family in a specific cultural group or a comparison across two or more societies. How does history and community play into how the marriage and family structure evolve through the decades? Are certain societies better off following a set structure or would they benefit from adapting different views?
- Different types of economic or financial systems across society and how communities are affected. Consider how many societies are patriarchal and will only allow males to run businesses or manage familiar finances. How do these societies do in comparison to others which promote gender equality in economic and financial systems?
- Examine the role of females in a particular society of your choosing. This topic is considerably open but allows a lot of room for creativity. Consider things like family or community affairs. What similarities or differences exist with your chosen society and the one you are most familiar with through your own upbringing?
- Examining the effects of culture shock and the best methods to work through it. Culture shock greatly affects immigrants in a foreign land. Not only are they experiencing new things but are expected to blend in and adapt to a certain degree? What are the best ways to work through this without causing stress?
- Determining innovative field practices in cultural anthropology. As this area of study is relatively new there are a number of new methods of gathering information and researching in the field. Which have been the most effective in gathering accurate data and in what ways can they be improved or expanded upon?
- A discussion of the major points of a particular culture of your choosing. Provide a brief ethnography. There are a number of societies that do not have complete ethnographies. Can you add to the discipline by starting to map this out?
- The influence of language on culture and language acquisition. How does language and its acquisition affect the way a culture forms or develops over time? Does language have the same influence in other societies?
When you are in search of great anthropology topics that you can use for your next paper, there are many items from which to choose.
The list below should serve as a bank of potential research essay topics that might be useful for your next writing assignment:
- Why Ethnographic Studies Are a Primary Method for Gathering Research Used Prevalently since 1928
- How Religious Diversity in Middle Eastern Villages Differs from African Villages
- How Gender Differences in Middle Eastern Villages Differ from African Villages
- How Ethnographies Are Viable Teaching Tools Designed to Integrate People in Another Community
- The Comparison of Cross Cultural Concepts between Two Cultures of Your Choice
- The Similarities between South Korean and American Hip Hop
- The Immigration Patterns in South American from Cities
- What Role Agriculture Has Played on Social Relationships between Different Towns in Egypt
- Non-Conformist Sub-Cultures such as Star Trek Fans or Porn Stars
- Work Completed by Non-Field Workers and Whether Their Ethnographic Contributions Are Valid Scientific Studies
- How Alternative Women’s Roles and Gender Rights Can Be Historical in One Culture, a Thing of Ancient Past, But Current and Well-Accepted in Another
- Human Rights in America versus China and How They Differ
- How People View Other Cultures through a Lens of Their Own Culture and What Problems This Can Cause
- How Anger or Pity toward “Others” Is an Easier Emotion than Empathy
- Cultural Shifts Which Have Happened since President Obama Was Elected
- The Trends That Take Place after Key Historical Moments, such as How When Famous Television Shows End, People Will Become Depressed and Will Make Emotionally Driven Decisions to Sell Their Stock
- The Cultural Limitations Which Exist between Hmong Patients and Western Doctors
- The Anthropological Issues between Eastern Healers and Western Biomedicine
- The Ethical Problems Which Arise When Parents Refuse to Consent to Necessary Medical Interventions or Surgeries for Their Child Because of Cultural Limitations, Without Which the Child Will Likely Die
- The Power of Hand Gestures and Facial Expressions in Overcoming Cultural Barriers and Language Differences
These topics are designed to direct you in the right sphere if you want to write a great paper. However, you can make it even better by using various facts on applied anthropology or checking your work according writing guidelines for research essays. With those topics in mind, below you can also find an example on the cultural limitations which exist between Hmong patients and western medicine:
Sample Research Essay on Newborn Hmong Children
The Hmong people are proud and stubborn. They have defended their culture against invasion from many nations including France and China. Having succeeded in never submitting to foreign rule, the Hmong people have always fought hard against their enemies and succeeded in being left alone to farm for themselves among the hills of Laos. After helping the CIA in a covert mission against Vietnam, the Hmong people were driven from their homes, making their way on foot to refugee camps in Thailand before being sent to the United States as migrants without a place to call “home”. In spite of being placed in cities completely foreign to them, and given items that were of no use to them (such as stove tops they had never seen), these Hmong people maintained a strong tie to and defense of their culture. They continued to practice traditional healing by growing medicinal herbs in any patch of dirt they could find including the small patches of dirt in parking lot medians and to make animal sacrifices with their official medicinal healer.
There have existed many conflicts between Hmong patients in America and Western Medicine. This began in the refugee camps in Thailand where vicious rumors were spread to Hmong refugees about the bad nature of the Western doctors and the deplorable things they would do such as eat the organs of the dead Hmong. It took years before an authority figure was called in to address these rumors. Many adult refugees still refused to visit regular medical facilities, instead relying upon the shamans of their culture to practice rituals and animal slaughtering. The belief of the Hmong is that there are many evil spirits roaming the earth and many acts which can cause or allow an evil spirit to catch someone, or take their spirit from the body. When things such as this take place, the individual becomes ill. Sometimes, when parents do something wrong earlier in their life, they are punished with illness or with a deformed child, something they must bear with dignity. However, there was a prominent rumor in America that if children were not born in an American hospital, they would not receive citizenship.
This rumor led to an extremely high number of Hmong women entering into emergency rooms as soon as labor began. The Hmong have strict rules regarding marriage and as such, they have married from among their own people for hundreds of years. Their strict diets, lifestyle, and marriage traditions have led Hmong women to enjoy very healthy pregnancies and easy birth, given that their hips have been genetically designed to perfectly deliver a Hmong baby who is typically the same size as all others. That being said, no pre-natal care is sought, and in many cases during the 1980’s and 1990’s in America, women would enter with the baby already coming out.
Once the women were admitted, the doctors would attempt to aid labor in whatever fashion the situation demanded. But surgeries were not always approved of by the women. Without proper interpreters, many times the women were unaware of what medical treatment they were receiving or why, and thought the worst of their medical doctors. The doctors felt that the patients were not listening to their advice, instead opting to sacrifice a pig or cow and to drink herbal teas. The biggest point of contention was the afterbirth. The Hmong believe that the afterbirth must be buried in a unique location with a proper ritual so that when the person dies later on, their spirit can make its way back to the afterbirth, whose name translates to “first coat” and from their wander the afterlife. But the doctors were often under the misguided view that the patients wanted to eat it, or did not care why the patients wanted it and instead would throw away the afterbirth. This is a representative of the culture viewpoints that each had about the other. The western doctors were under the personal belief that western medicine was the best and there was no reason to keep the afterbirth. The Hmong had been horrified that the doctors were noncompliant, an act that would force their child’s spirit to wander naked and confused in the afterlife.
Chambers, Erve. Applied anthropology: A practical guide. Prentice Hall, 1985.
Eddy, Elizabeth M., and William L. Partridge. Applied anthropology in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978.
Ervin, Alexander M. Applied anthropology: tools and perspectives for contemporary practice. Allyn & Bacon, 2005.
Foster, George McClelland. Applied anthropology. Boston: Little, Brown, 1969.
Pfeifer, Mark E., and Serge Lee. “Hmong population, demographic, socioeconomic, and educational trends in the 2000 census.” Hmong (2000): 3-11.
Purcell, Trevor. “Indigenous knowledge and applied anthropology: Questions of definition and direction.” Human organization 57.3 (1998): 258-272.
Quincy, Keith. Hmong: History of a people. Eastern Washington Univ Pr, 1988.
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