文化人类学的历史可以追溯到19世纪，当时像Lewis Henry Morgan和Edward Tylor这样的早期学者对文化系统的比较研究产生了兴趣。这一代人借鉴了查尔斯达尔文的理论，试图将他的进化观应用于人类文化。他们后来被解雇为所谓的“扶手椅人类学家”，因为他们的观点基于他人收集的数据，并没有亲自与他们声称要研究的团体进行亲身接触。这些观点后来被Franz Boas驳斥，后者被广泛称为美国人类学之父。博阿斯强烈谴责扶手椅人类学家对文化进化的信仰，反而认为所有文化都必须按照自己的条件而不是作为一部分加以考虑。进步模型。作为太平洋西北地区土着文化的专家，他参加了探险，他教过哥伦比亚大学教授的第一代美国人类学家。他的学生包括Margaret Mead，Alfred Kroeber，Zora Neale Hurston和Ruth Benedict。博阿斯的影响继续在文化人类学关注种族，更广泛地说，作为社会建构而非生物学基础的力量的身份。博阿斯坚决反对当时流行的科学种族主义思想，如颅相学和优生学。相反，他将种族和族裔群体之间的差异归因于社会因素。在博阿斯之后，人类学系成为美国大学的常态，文化人类学是研究的核心内容。博阿斯的学生继续在全国各地建立人类学系，包括在西北大学启动该项目的Melville Herskovits和加州大学伯克利分校的第一位人类学教授Alfred Kroeber。玛格丽特米德继续成为国际知名人士，无论是作为人类学家还是学者。该领域在美国和其他地方越来越受欢迎，让位于新一代极具影响力的人类学家如ClaudeLévi-Strauss和Clifford Geertz。
Cultural anthropology’s roots date back to the 1800s, when early scholars like Lewis Henry Morgan and Edward Tylor became interested in the comparative study of cultural systems. This generation drew on the theories of Charles Darwin, attempting to apply his concept of evolution to human culture. They were later dismissed as so-called “armchair anthropologists,” since they based their ideas on data collected by others and did not personally engage first-hand with the groups they claimed to study. These ideas were later refuted by Franz Boas, who is widely hailed as the father of anthropology in the U.S. Boas strongly denounced the armchair anthropologists’ belief in cultural evolution, arguing instead that all cultures had to be considered on their own terms and not as part of a progress model. An expert in the indigenous cultures of the Pacific Northwest, where he participated in expeditions, he taught what would become the first generation of American anthropologists as a professor at Columbia University. His students included Margaret Mead, Alfred Kroeber, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ruth Benedict. Boas’ influence continues in cultural anthropology’s focus on race and, more broadly, identity as forces that are social constructed and not biologically based. Boas fought staunchly against the ideas of scientific racism that were popular in his day, such as phrenology and eugenics. Instead, he attributed differences between racial and ethnic groups to social factors. After Boas, anthropology departments became the norm in U.S. colleges and universities, and cultural anthropology was a central aspect of study. Students of Boas went on to establish anthropology departments across the country, including Melville Herskovits, who launched the program at Northwestern University, and Alfred Kroeber, the first professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. Margaret Mead went on to become internationally famous, both as an anthropologist and scholar. The field grew in popularity in the U.S. and elsewhere, giving way to new generations of highly influential anthropologists like Claude Lévi-Strauss and Clifford Geertz.