American Culture Writing Work

Franz Boas had a tremendous influence on the emergence of anthropology as a rigorous, systematic study of culture. He profoundly changed the way that scholars approached the study of culture, while avoiding the trap of biological determinism and its claim to a scientific approach. Before Boas, scholars who focused on social groups tended to be armchair academics. That is, they read reports and field notes written by others and sought to find similarities to make broad claims about those groups. Boas argued that the best way to really understand a social group was to learn their language and observe them in the field for extended periods of time. Only by intense immersion in a culture, could you begin to understand and analyze culture.

As the head of Columbia University’s anthropology department, Boas trained many scholars in his methods. Most of the work we read today, what we know about “other” cultures comes from this group and the majority of today’s anthropologists would trace their intellectual genealogy to Boas or one of his students. For this topic, you should chose one of the four famous anthropologists below. Examine their biographies and see what you can learn about their contribution to the study of culture.


Pick at least one of the following links to well-known Boasian trained scholars and read their biography. Pay attention to their biography and the contribution they made to the production of knowledge about culture.

Ruth Benedict

Margaret Mead、

Zora Neale Hurston)

Ella Deloria


Boasian Scholars and Cultural Relativism

Students must submit their individual post about one of the scholars and respond to another’s post about a different scholar.

This discussion can draw from:

Ruth Benedict

Margaret Mead

Zora Neale Hurston

Ella Deloria

Identify the scholar you chose to research and one idea or point of interest that stood out for you from the assigned readings.  Explain why you felt this was important. Cite the reading with proper in-text citations. Discussions are graded pass/fail. Follow all instructions to pass. If you do not include any element, you will fail.