5 Ways to Create Fantastical Beasts and Peoples!: Cultural Anthropology

TajMahal from Agra Uttar Pradesh, INDIA
TajMahal from Agra Uttar Pradesh, INDIA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cultural anthropology is just one of four branches of anthropology. Cultural anthropology only studies humans because in the real world, only humans appear to have “culture”. Every intelligent race you create will naturally have their own culture. I assume that the race you create 1) is intelligent and 2) interact sometimes (they have to reproduce somehow, right?). If these two elements are in place, the rest will follow…

  • Religion: who is the god(s) of this race? Is the religion(s) organized? How are teachings passed down? Is there an afterlife? Are there religious laws, rules, or customs? Religious observances? Special people?

  • History and Mythology: where did the race come from? Do they have their own country or countries? What are the significant racial events?

  • Government: what type? How controlling is it? How do people feel about it? How long has it been in place? What type of government preceded it? What factions are there? How does it get the resources to run? Where does it get the power to govern?

  • Social structures: What are the social classes and how do they look and act differently? What do the different social classes think about one another? How mobile is social class or caste? What jobs belong to which social class?

  • Family: What are family dynamics (father to child, mother to mother-in-law)?, What is the structure (core, extended)? Is it traced from the father or mother’s side? Do they form clans? What is required to become member (adoption, marriage, tests)? What is expected of different family roles (children, wife, husband, unmarried aunt)?

  • Tradition: What does everyone believe or expect (from Outlanders, children, elderly, gods, etc)? What are customary clothing styles, salutations, activities, roles? How would someone break from tradition?

  • Economy: How do people get things they can’t make (barter, currency, communal, theft)? Who enforces trade standards? How do they trade with other races or countries? How does this differ from trade among themselves? What products are they known for?

As a brief reminder, just like humans your race may have multiple cultures and even cultures-within-cultures. I’ve listed some of the basics from cultural anthropology but you can find more if the idea excites you. The subjects that anthropology studies are human (or in our case, nonhuman) origins, development, and biology.

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