Although books, journal articles, documentaries, and other resources about different world cultures can be found in the library catalog and in many of our databases, one database in particular focuses on cultural information.
The eHRAF World Cultures provides summaries for hundreds of cultural and ethnic groups, from Abipón to Zuni, in addition to the full-text of recent and historical ethnographies.
The Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) organization was originally established in 1949 at Yale University to collaborate with other academic institutions to promote the “cross-cultural study of human behavior, society and culture” (HRAF website). The organization developed an extensive classification system, Outline of World Cultures and Outline of World Materials, that was used to index ethnographic material to the paragraph level in order to facilitate comparisons between particular aspects of select cultures.
The online eHRAF World Cultures database enables you to use this detailed indexing to find information from the source documents about particular subjects, such as those related to labor, arts, social stratification, religious beliefs, gender roles and issues, and education, either for a single culture or to compare subjects between selected cultural or ethnic groups. The search interface permits searching by keyword in the text of the documents or by specific cultures and Outline of World Materials codes.
One valuable feature of the database is the cultural summaries, which are offered for each cultural group. These summaries include information spanning from demography, linguistic affiliation, economy, and kinship to marriage and family, religion and expressive culture, and sociopolitical organization, in addition to indexing notes and a bibliography. Each culture overview also provides a description of and links to the full-text source documents. The cultures can be browsed by region, country, or alphabetically by name.
Although the database doesn’t cover every culture and ethnic group, there are many available from all regions of the world and new cultures are added every year. Forthcoming cultures include Albanians, Chachi, Eastern Apache, Goajiro, Kachin, Lesu, Manchu, Northern Paiute, Rural Irish, Timbira, and Turks, among several others.
Next time you need individual culture or cross-cultural information, give the eHRAF World Cultures a try.