Chapter 2
Culture
What is the young Chinese
female eating?
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What is Culture?
Culture: The language, beliefs, values,
norms, behaviors, and even material
objects that are passed from one
generation to the next.
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What is Culture?
Material Culture: The material objects that
distinguish a group of people, such as their art,
buildings, weapons, utensils, machines, hairstyles,
clothing, and jewelry.
Non-material Culture: A group’s ways of
thinking (including its beliefs, values, and other
assumptions about the world) and doing (its
common patterns of behavior, including
language, gestures and other forms of
interaction)
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Culture and Taken-for-Granted
Orientations
• What is Normal, Natural, or Usual?
• The Culture Within Us
• Culture as Lens
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Body Ritual of the Nacirema (Horace Miner)
Nacirema: Inhabited the territory
between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui
and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib
and Arawak of the Antilles. See map to
left.
Origins Mythology. Came from the
East. Their nation was originated by a
culture hero, Notgnihsaw, who is
otherwise known for two great feats of
strength— the throwing of a piece of
wampum across the river Pa-To-Mac and
the chopping down of a tree in which the
Spirit of Truth resided.
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Body Ritual of the Nacirema (Cont.)
Daily Rituals: Extreme, exotic customs with focus on body.
Exaggerated concern with health. Body prone to decay. Social relations
centered around mouth. Nacirema homes have special shrines
(wealthier families have more than one). Daily rituals attempt to ward off
decay by rubbing special powders in mouth with magic sticks.
Shrines: Number of significant objects. On wall of each box in which
magic charms and potions kept. Obtained from medicine men with great
magical powers who tell them how to mix and use potions. Below box is
basin in which holy waters mixed. Mysterious altar attached to floor
found in these shrines.
Other Rituals: Men scrape faces with sharp objects; women allow their
heads to be baked in small ovens. Possibility Nacirema are masochists.
Conclusion: Nacirema obsessed with body and physical decay. Devote
time and energy in daily rituals meant to drive off evil spirits that cause
physical decline.
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Body Ritual of the Nacirema (Cont.)
Breaking the
Nacirema Code
Miner’s “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” illustrates that
character of a culture is not evident in the objects
themselves (the material culture) but in the non-material
meanings that underlie their use and value (i.e. their
“symbolic expression” or non-material culture).
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Culture and Taken-for-Granted Orientations
Culture shock: The disorientation that
people experience when they come in
contact with a fundamentally different
culture and can no longer depend on their
taken-for-granted assumptions about life.
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Culture and Taken-for-Granted Orientations
Ethnocentrism: The use of one’s own
culture as a yardstick for judging the ways
of other individuals or societies, generally
leading to a negative evaluation of their
values, norms, and behaviors.
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Culture and Taken-for-Granted Orientations
Cultural relativism: Not judging a
culture, but trying to understand it on its
own.
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Food and Culture: An illustration of
cultural relativism
Can you figure the food items on the
next slide?
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6
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8
Food and Culture (cont.)
What is considered a delicacy in one
culture would be regarded as unfit for
human consumption by members of
another culture.
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Components of Symbolic Culture
Symbolic Culture: Another term for
nonmaterial culture.
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Components of Symbolic Culture
Symbol: Something to which people
attach meaning and then use to
communicate with others. Symbols
include gestures, language, values,
norms, sanctions, folkways, and
mores.
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Components of Symbolic Culture
Gestures: The ways in which people
use their bodies to communicate with
one another.
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Components of Symbolic Culture
Use of Gestures:
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Conveying Messages without Words.
Gestures’ Meaning Differ Among Cultures.
Can Lead to Misunderstandings.
Are there any universal gestures?
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Components of Symbolic Culture
Language: A system of symbols that
can represent not only objects, but can
be combined in an infinite number of
ways for the purpose of communicating
abstract thought.
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Components of Symbolic Culture
Use of Language:
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Allows Cumulative Human Experience.
Provides Social or Shared Past.
Provides Social or Shared Future.
Allows Shared Perspective.
Allows Complex, Shared, GoalDirected Behavior.
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Language and Perception:
Sapir-Whorf
Sapir-Whorf Reverses Common Sense
Rather than objects and events forcing
themselves onto our consciousness,it is
language that determines our consciousness,
& hence our perception of objects and events
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Language and Perception (cont.):
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
• Language precedes thought
• Language is not a given
• Language is culturally determined
• Language may color how we see the
world
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Norms and Sanctions
Norms: Expectations or rules for behavior.
Sanctions: Expressions of approval or
disapproval given to people for upholding or
violating norms.
• Positive Sanctions
• Negative Sanctions
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Norms and Sanctions
Norms and Sanctions
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Folkways and Mores
Folkways: Customs or daily habits. Not
strictly enforced.
Mores: Rules essential to core values. One
group’s folkways may be another group’s
mores.
Taboos: Norms so deeply ingrained that
even the thought of them is greeted with
revulsion.
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Values
Values: The standards by which
people define what is desirable
or undesirable, good or bad,
beautiful or ugly.
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Values in U.S. Society (Williams)
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Achievement and Success
Individualism
Hard Work
Efficiency and Practicality
Science and Technology
Material Comfort
Freedom
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Values in U.S. Society (cont).
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Democracy
Equality
Group Superiority
Education
Religiosity
Romantic Love
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Values listed in bright red
Added to William’s list by
Henslin
Emerging Values (Emergent Value Cluster)
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Leisure.
Self-fulfillment.
Physical Fitness.
Youthfulness.
Concern for the Environment.
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Values and Culture
Culture Wars: When values clash.
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“Ideal” vs. “Real” Culture.
Ideal Culture: The values, norms, and
goals that a group considers ideal, worth
aiming for.
Real Culture: The norms and values that
people actually follow.
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Many Cultural Worlds
Subculture: A world within the dominant
culture.
Countercultures: Groups with norms and
values at odds with the dominant culture.
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Technology and Cultural Lag.
Technology: In its narrow sense, tools; its
broader sense includes the skills or procedures
necessary to make and use those tools.
Cultural Lag: William Ogburn’s term for one
part of a culture changing, with other parts being
left behind.
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Cultural Leveling and Cultural Diffusion.
Cultural Leveling: The process by which cultures
become similar to one another, and especially by
which Western industrial culture is imported and
diffused into industrializing nations.
Cultural Diffusion: Spread of cultural
characteristics from one group to another.
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