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Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology is the study of cultural diversity in local and global settings.

Cultural anthropologists seek to discover how cultural beliefs and practices shape social life and to offer new insights into what it means to be human. Students of Cultural Anthropology study a wide range of cultural communities throughout the world – from small-scale tribal communities to urban neighbourhoods, from subsistence farmers to stockbrokers, scientists and refugees.

Understanding how other communities organise and give meaning to their lives challenges our own cultural assumptions and increases our understanding of human diversity. Through research that is people-centred, focusing on the experiences and perspectives of those we study, cultural anthropologists have a strong tradition of advocacy and social engagement. By exploring culturally diverse practices across time and in different places, anthropologists often challenge mainstream cultural norms and critique social practices that underpin relations of inequality and domination.

Our courses

Begin your study of Cultural Anthropology at 100-level with a choice of two courses which will give you an understanding of the social and cultural differences among societies of different scales and explore culture and its role in our lives.

Moving up to our 200- and 300-level courses you will be able to choose from a variety of topics that will allow you to gain a deeper and more specialised understanding of issues through an anthropological lens, such as gender and sexuality, conflict, the environment, capitalism, medicine, science and technology and emancipation from oppression and exploitation.

For more detailed information have a browse through all our Cultural Anthropology courses on course finder.

Staff, students and research

Cultural anthropology staff at Victoria University of Wellington have a wide variety of expertise and interests which is reflected in their teaching and research. Some of the topics being explored by our staff include: the ways that robot engineers in Japan understand humanity; how migration and food intersect; the ways that politics and concrete intertwine in Bangkok; music education and community development; how migration impacts on the lives of academics; questions of ethics in rural Andean economies; and the cultural significance of toheroa for Māori and the traditional and contemporary resource management practices associated with kaimoana.

Our postgraduate students are also working on some exciting and original projects ranging from mushrooms to robots to queer mothers.


The Anthropology programme hosts a regular seminar series offering opportunities to hear from leading international scholars and learn about the latest anthropological research. Our seminars are posted on our School events page or email us if you would like to be added to our seminar mailing list.

Anthropologists in the news

Check the Association of Social Anthropologists of Aotearoa New Zealand’s website to find out what anthropologists are doing in New Zealand and worldwide.