Culture, Meaning and Communication

Undergraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

Central to social anthropology is the understanding of social actions and events in light of the specific meanings people attach to them. Culture is a central concept in the discipline, and the course accounts for different social anthropological perspectives on cultural meaning, both on a personal level and as a collective, social dimension. The course contains a number of thematic areas where the dimensions of meaning are especially visible, such as the cultural arrangements of reality (classification), fundamental worldly perceptions (cosmology), symbols and communication, knowledge management, representations of faith (religion) and constructions of time and history (social memory). Emphasis is given to the understanding of meaning as social practice, in other words how orientations of reality are generated, maintained and shaped through social life, and how the production of meaning is well established in social relations, economic transactions and displays of power. Practices weighed with meaning, such as rituals, ceremonies, witchcraft, magic, and spirit possession, are therefore central in the course, but the course also focuses on meaning aspects of aesthetics and relations between humans and nonhumans.

Learning Outcomes

A candidate who has completed the course should have the following learning outcomes defined in terms of knowledge, skills and general competence:


  • provide an overview of the history of key debates in anthropological studies of culture, meaning and communication
  • provide an overview of key thinkers and ethnographies that have developed the anthropological study of symbol, ritual, and religion


  • apply key concepts and perspectives in the anthropological study of culture, meaning and communication
  • discuss how meanings relate to social relationships and is expressed through various cultural mediums

General competence

  • discuss the ways in which meanings produce social life and the worlds that human beings inhabit
  • ability to think analytically, and apply key anthropological concepts and perspectives in order to understand local and global social processes
  • be familiar with and discuss the main features of qualitative research method
  • read and write academic texts in the specific academic genre

Level of Study

Bachelor level

Semester of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge
Recommended Previous Knowledge
Access to the Course
This course is open to students at UiB
Teaching and learning methods


  • 3-4 hours per week
  • 7-8 weeks
  • Approx. 26 hours in total

Work groups, 2 hours per week.

Compulsory Assignments and Attendance

The course has the following compulsory activities:

  • Submission of essay of 1000-1500 words (+/-10%)
  • Oral feedback on essay to co-student in workshop
  • Compulsory attendance in workshop when feedback is presented in groups

Only with approved compulsory activities will students be allowed to take the exam. Approved compulsory activities are valid for 4 semesters. 

Forms of Assessment

8 hours written exam

The exam will be given in the language in which the course is taught.
The exam can be submitted in English, Norwegian, Swedish or Danish.

Grading Scale
Grading A-F
Assessment Semester

Exam is offered in the teaching semester and the following semester (ordinary exam for students with valid approved compulsory assignment)


Regular exams are offered in both semesters for this course.

Students who meet the requirements for a re-sit exam (according to UiB regulations § 5-6) are referred to the next regular exam.

Course Evaluation
All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.