In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Anthropology and Education

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Communities and Contexts

Anthropology Anthropology and Education
Teresa McCarty, Frederick Erickson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0280


The field of anthropology and education, also referred to as educational anthropology, was formally organized in the mid-twentieth century, with primary research interests at the time in infant and childhood socialization as this took place in everyday life in families in non-Western, smaller-scale societies. This focus on early enculturation was informed by the cultural relativist perspective of Franz Boas in American anthropology and its assumption that everyone learns to be human, and by the psychodynamic perspective of Sigmund Freud and its assumption that early childhood learning is what is most consequential for later development. The key contribution of anthropology was the notion that education, broadly conceived, is culturally shaped, and that parallels and differences exist in educative processes across cultural, linguistic, and geographic contexts. In subsequent years, research interests broadened to consider teaching and learning of cultural practices across the life span and in myriad societies, including socialization in and across global immigrant flows and in a wide array of interactional environments in and out of schools. Educational anthropology is characterized by its interdisciplinarity and the diversity of topics, sociocultural settings, and education processes it investigates. To capture this complexity and the trajectory of scholarship over more than one hundred years of its development, some sections of this article are divided into Early Works—publications prior to the mid-1990s—and Contemporary Works that have shaped the field from the late twentieth century to the present. As a consequence, the entire bibliography presents a history of the field as it has evolved across disciplines, topics, and research settings, particularly in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the countries of the European Union. In selecting entries, emphasis is given to books and monographs, but seminal book chapters and journal articles that are particularly useful for research and course readings are also included. While entries are divided into categories based on their salience to particular strands of scholarship, a great deal of overlap is found among the categories. Finally, entries are limited to those published in English, which, as noted in Anderson-Levitt 2012 (cited under General Overviews: Contemporary Works), disguises the “voluminous but less visible” educational-anthropological scholarship published in other languages. Readers are referred to the global guide in Anderson-Levitt’s 2012 for publications in languages representative of the diverse regions of the world in which educational anthropologists conduct research.

General Overviews

This section provides state of the field entries from the field’s beginnings at a key conference in 1954 (Spindler 1955 [cited under General Overviews: Early Works]) to its current state (Henze 2020 [cited under General Overviews: Contemporary Works]). More than overviews, these sources may be considered benchmarks in the development of the field over time, including its disciplinary, conceptual, topical, and methodological orientations.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.