Culture
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The Nature of Culture
Culture
A “personality”
customized
to a physical
environment
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Cultural Universals
• confronting common problems
– Eating/food
– Shelter
– Raising children
– Common problems associated with daily living
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Two Sides of a Coin
• Culture
– the way of life for a group
of people
• Society
– the interaction of a group
of people who share a
particular culture
– self-sufficient
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Culture is Lens
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Culture is taken-for-granted
• Cultural shock
• Ethnocentrism
• Cultural Relativism
• Culture provides the answers
• Culture, a survival guide
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Defining Culture
Culture – all of the shared products of human group
Includes both physical objects and the
beliefs, values, and behaviors shared by a
group
• The “language, beliefs, values, norms,
behaviors, and even material objects that
are passed from one generation to the
next” (Henslin 2007a:36).
– A social heritage
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Composition of culture
– Material cultural products
– Nonmaterial cultural products
Material Culture – Formed by the physical objects that people create
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Cars, clothing, books, buildings, computers
Archeologists refer to these items as artifacts
Nonmaterial Culture – Abstract human creations (can’t touch it)
– Language, family patterns, work practices, political and economic systems
In Summary, so far…
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Characteristics of Culture
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Culture is shared
Culture if learned
Culture is taken-for-granted
Culture is symbolic
Culture varies across time & place
Culture is relative
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Components of Culture
• 1. Physical Objects
• 2. Symbols
• 3. Language
• 4. Values
• 5. Norms
Components of Culture
Physical Objects
Physical Objects
• Not only the “Physical” objects, but also the
RULES for using those objects
• Technology: The combination of objects AND
rules.
• *Also, tools used to manipulate the environment
• Ex. Computer= Physical
• Surfing the Web= Rules and skills related to
COMPUTER
Components of Culture
SYMBOLS:
• Anything that stands for (or shared meaning attached
to it) something else
• “something to which people attach meaning and that they
then use to communicate with one another” (Henslin 2007a:39)
• Any word, gesture, image, sound, physical object,
event can serve as a symbol as long as people recognize
that it carries a particular meaning
• Ex. Class ring, word hello, handshake = all
symbols
• Symbols vary from culture to culture
Components of Culture
Symbols
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Components of Culture
Language
– a complex system of symbols that can
be combined any number of ways that
represent not only material cultural
products, but for communicating our
nonmaterial cultural products as well
– Organization of written or spoken
symbols into a standardized system
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
• Language shapes perceptions
• Language leads people to think in
particular ways
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Components of Culture
Beliefs&Values
• Beliefs
– The statements that people of a culture believe to be
true
• Values
– Abstract concepts about the way society should be
– Standards of judgment
• Shared beliefs about what is good or bad, right or wrong, desirable or
undesirable
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Values
Differ from culture to culture
• Ex. Yanomamo: Brazil :Napoleon Chagnon… “Fierce
People”
• Warlike; Highly competitive
• 30% of people die from war wounds
• Communities usually break apart because of
competition and never get larger than 200 people
• Ex. San: Highly cooperative. Each family owns territory
and does not “trespass” on each others soil
• Most members share various vital roles in society
Types of values held by a group determine the character of its people
– A society that values war and displays of physical strength will be
different from one that places more emphasis on sharing and
cooperation
Components of Culture
Norms
• Shared rules of conduct that tell people how to act in specific
situations
• Behavioral boundaries regulating social interactions
• Norms are expectations, not actual behavior – doesn’t mean that
actions of all individuals will be in line with norms.
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Ex. Norm is to be financially responsible – some don’t pay bills
• Lots of norms in society: unimportant (cover mouth when yawning)
to very important (don’t kill anyone)
• Some apply to everyone while some are specific
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Ex. Nobody in US is allowed to marry more than one person.
Selected groups (some clergy and children) are not allowed to marry at 21
all
Components of Culture
Types of Norms
Types of Norms
Folkways
Mores
Laws
Informal rules
guiding everyday
behavior
Behaviors
essential for
society
Formal rules
guiding behavior
Ex. Eating salad with a
spoon “Abnormal; not
illegal”
Has the potential to become
a dysfunction of society
Are usually enforced by
Laws
Written rule of conduct
enacted and enforced for
good of society
Ex. Killing someone
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Building Blocks of Culture and Society
beliefs
norms
values
STATUSES
Social Interaction
ROLES
Symbols
LANAGUAGE
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Heredity –transmission of genetic characteristics from parents to children.
Environment –social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or
community
Role – behavior – the rights and obligations – expected of someone occupying a particular
status
Assimilation – blending of culturally distinct groups into a single group with a common culture
and identity
Stereotype – oversimplified, exaggerated, or unfavorable generalization about a category of
people
Prejudice – unsupported generalization about a category of people
Discrimination – denial of equal treatment to individuals based on their group membership
‘Discriminations prevents someone from sharing their ‘gifts’ with another person.’
Nature vs. Nurture
Culture - Terms
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Heredity –transmission of genetic characteristics from parents to children.
Environment –social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or
community
Role – behavior – the rights and obligations – expected of someone occupying a
particular status
Assimilation – blending of culturally distinct groups into a single group with a common
culture and identity
Stereotype – oversimplified, exaggerated, or unfavorable generalization about a
category of people
Prejudice – unsupported generalization about a category of people
Discrimination – denial of equal treatment to individuals based on their group
membership
‘Discriminations prevents someone from sharing their ‘gifts’ with another person.’
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Three Levels of Culture
• Culture Trait: Individual tool, act, or belief that is
related to a certain situation (Spoon,
Baseball..etc)
• Culture Complex: Cluster of interrelated traits
(Silverware, Baseball Equipment…etc)
• Culture Pattern: Combination of culture
complexes (Sports…not just baseball…etc)
Cultural Diversity
• A “social mosaic of people from
different racial and ethnic
backgrounds, nationalities, religions,
and cultures” (Thompson and Hickey 2005:6)
• The “spice” of society (instructor’s
view)
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Cultural Diversity con’t
Cultural Diffusion
Cultural Leveling
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Cultural Diversity con’t
• Subcultures
• Countercultures
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Cultural Diversity con’t
• “Ideal” verses
“Real” Culture
– Cultural Lag
– Technology
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Theoretical Perspectives on
Culture
• Functionalism
– Cultural ecological approach
– Durkheim’s collective consciousness
• Conflict
– Stresses the importance of power and coercion in cultural
evolution (Inciardi and Rothman 1990:77)
– Focus on social tension created by competing cultures, and
subcultures
• Symbolic Interactionism
– Micro level aspect of culture
– How culture is generated, sustained, and changed in a society by
people and not social institutions (Renzetti and Curran 1998:75)
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Theoretical Perspectives on
Culture con’t
• In summary…
– Functionalism & Conflict—culture
constrains human behavior
– Symbolic Interactionism—culture is a
human creation
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