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NAB3021 Understanding Culture

Course description for academic year 2019/2020

Contents and structure

Knowledge about we how humans 

- create meaning, 

- make our lives meaningful and 

- use this meaning to create communities and 

- create strategies to acquire things and experiences that we value. 

As a consequence of the creation of meaning a large number of patterns of meaning are established. Such patterns of established meaning are also called "culture". When humans try to understand what is happening in specific situations they draw on all their cultural knowledge (i.e. they use the established cultural meaning), but also adapt, amend or create new versions of the established meaning in order to make the new situation meaningful. This course is an introduction to understanding how humans always make their present situation meaningful BOTH by drawing on established (cultural) meaning and by creating new meaning that fits with the unique situation that is taking place here and now. The course shows students that in order to understand (interpret) the meaning of what people say and do in specific situations it is necessary to interpret both the cultural and the individual (creative) components of what they say and do. 

Learning Outcome

 - Knowledge:

  • Knowledge about,and ability to explainbasic concepts and theories concerning culture and how culture contributes to the ways people act in specific situations.
  • Knowledge about, andability to explain basic sociological/anthropological concepts and theories concerning human interactions and why people behave the way they do.
  • A basic understanding of "Intercultural communication" and the ability to recognise some of the common reasons why such communication may fail (i.e. stereotyping, "othering", discrimination)
  • Knowledge about basic concepts concerning globalization and the ability to describe how globalizing processes contribute to the creation of new similarities and differences between people.

- Skills:

  • Can apply theory in order to substantiate why people act the way they do.
  • Can apply theory in order to understand how culture influences people's actions.
  • Can consider the cultural challenges of leadership

- General Qualifications:

  • Have the ability to reflect upon their actions, and to identify how their culture contributes to good or bad communication
  • Have the ability to understand strategies for reaching goals, both their own and other peoples'.
  • Have the ability to reevaluate own strategies if these leads to conflict with others.
  • Develop the ability to modify their own cultural preconceptions if and when that may contribute to improved communication.
  • Understands that intercultural communication is very rarely simple and never has set, objectively given answers.
  • Have insight into their own cultural and social identities and how these identities may contribute to good or bad communication.
  • Have the ability to reflect upon their own, and other people's reactions to a wide range of differences between people.

Entry requirements


Recommended previous knowledge

Basic knowledge of social science, equivalent of NAB 1028

Teaching methods

Lectures, group work, discussions and presentations in class.

Compulsory learning activities

Yes (will be specified in the semester plan at the start of the semester).


Portfolio (3 separate assignments), 100%

Student who fail one og more of the portfolio assignments will only be given the opportunity to improve them next time the course runs.

Examination support material


More about examination support material