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Folk and Popular Culture
Two Features of Material Culture:
1. Survival activities
-food, clothing, shelter
2. Leisure activities
-arts, recreation
Habit—a repetitive act an individual performs
I.e.—wearing jeans to class everyday
Custom—a repetitive act of a group, performed to the extent that it
becomes a characteristic of the group
I.e.—American college students wearing jeans to class every day
Folk and Popular Culture
A custom is a habit that a group of people have widely adopted
A collection of customs produces a groups material culture
A custom refers to a specific element of material culture, whereas
culture refers to a groups entire collection of customs
Two basic categories of material culture:
1. Folk culture:
-traditionally practiced primarily by small, homogeneous groups
living in isolated rural areas
2. Popular culture:
-found in large heterogeneous societies that share certain habits
despite differences in other personal characteristics
Folk and Popular Culture
*folk culture typically covers smaller scales of territory than
popular culture
Two Focus Points of Geographers On Culture:
1. Each cultural activity has a distinct spatial distribution
2. The relationship between culture and the physical
-origin, diffusion, and integration with other social
Each cultural group takes certain elements from the
environment into its culture and creates landscapes
Folk and Popular Culture
Landscapes dominated by a collection of folk customs change
relatively little over time
Groups develop distinctive customs in a place that is isolated from
other groups
-electronic communications systems facilitate frequent
changes in popular customs
Folk culture is more likely to vary from place to place at a given
time, whereas popular culture is more likely to vary from time to
time at a given place
Because of globalization, popular culture is becoming more
dominant, which is threatening the survival of unique folk cultures
Folk and Popular Culture
4 Key Issues of Folk and Popular Culture:
1. Where do folk and popular cultures originate and diffuse?
2. Why is folk culture clustered?
3. Why is popular culture widely distributed?
4. Why does globalization of popular culture cause
Folk and Popular Culture
Where Do Folk and Popular Cultures Originate and Diffuse?
Social customs originate at a hearth (a center of innovation)
Folk cultures often have anonymous hearths, unknown sources,
unidentifiable dates, anonymous originators
-they may also have multiple hearths, in which they
developed independently in isolated locations
Popular culture is most often a product of economically more
developed countries
-North America, Western Europe, Japan
-includes popular music and fast food as examples
-result of a combination of advancements in industrial
technology and increased leisure time
Folk and Popular Culture
*leisure time has increased due to a shift from predominant
agricultural work to predominantly service and manufacturing
Origin of Folk Music
Music is a good example to show the differences in the origins of
folk and popular culture
The earliest known music invented by the Chinese
-according to legend, in the year 2697BC
-Emperor Huang Ti sent Ling Lun to find a piece of bamboo
poles that, when blown into, would produce a sound
matching the call of the phoenix bird
Folk and Popular Culture
Folk songs usually have been composed anonymously and have been
transmitted orally
-they may be modified from one generation to the next
-content usually about events found in daily life familiar to
the majority of the people
Folk and Popular Culture
Common Folk Music Themes:
•Daily activities (farming)
•Lifecycle events (birth, death, marriage…)
•Mysterious events (storms, earthquakes…)
Many folk songs provide advice regarding these events
Geographer George Karney recorded the birth places of country
musicians and found that there were four separate hearth regions of
country music
Southern Appalachia
Central Tennessee and Kentucky
Ozark and Ouachita uplands of western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma
North-central Texas
These independent origins merged together
Folk and Popular Culture
Origins of Popular Music:
Popular music is written by specific individuals for the purpose of
being sold to a large number of people
Originated about 1900 in United Kingdom music halls and United
States vaudevilles
Folk and Popular Culture
Tin Pan Alley—a district found in New York City
-created an industry to provide music to music halls and vaudevilles
-named from the sound of pianos
-home to songwriters, music publishers, orchestrators, and arrangers
-originally tried to sell as many printed song sheets as possible
-after World War II, Tin Pan Alley disappeared as recorded music
became more important than printed song sheets
Folk and Popular Culture
The diffusion of American popular music worldwide began when the
Armed Forces Radio Network broadcast music to American soldiers
and citizens of countries where American forces were stationed
-English became the international language for popular music
-many popular musicians around the world perform in English
-few in their home country may be able to understand the lyrics
Folk and Popular Culture
Hip Hop—originated in South Bronx in late 1970s
-neighborhood quickly changed from mostly middle-class whites of
European origin to predominantly poor African Americans and
Puerto Ricans
-late 1980s—hip hop spread to Oakland (CA) and Atlanta (GA)
-then spread to other large U.S. cities
Hip hop is a return to a very local form of music expression
-yet, it has dispersed all over the world
Folk and Popular Culture
Diffusion of Folk and Popular Culture:
Popular culture typically follows the process of hierarchical
diffusion from hearths (nodes)
Examples of popular culture hearths:
•Film industry (Hollywood, CA)
•Advertising agencies (Madison Ave., New York City)
•Popular music (Tin Pan Alley)
Folk culture diffuses from one location to another, more slowly
-primarily spread through migration rather than electronic
communication (relocation diffusion)
Hip Hop is now considered popular music because of the way it
has diffused
Folk and Popular Culture
The Amish—Relocation Diffusion of Folk
Good example to show relocation diffusion
of folk culture
The Amish have their own distinct clothing,
farming, religious practices, and other
Folk and Popular Culture
The Amish leave unique patterns on the landscape
-they do not use mechanical or electric power
-travel by horse and buggy and use hand tools for farming
Folk and Popular Culture
There are about
70,000 Amish in the
U.S. (.03%)
Amish culture is
found in 17 different
Folk and Popular Culture
Two Main Forms of Amish Migration to the U.S.
1. Early 1700s—settled in Pennsylvania
2. Early 1800s—settled in Illinois, Ohio, and Iowa
Both groups were enticed by cheap land
Migrated to other areas where land was inexpensive
Folk and Popular Culture
Amish lived in rural and frontier settlements
-retained their traditional customs (isolated)
Amish communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Iowa are relatively
isolated from each other but share distinct cultural traditions
Amish folk culture continues to diffuse slowly
Amish are leaving their oldest and at one time largest community in
Lancaster, PA
Folk and Popular Culture
Many are migrating to Christian and Todd counties in SW Kentucky
Amish tradition allows every son to be given a farm when he
becomes an adult
-land is becoming too expensive in Lancaster, PA
The Amish are selling their land in PA and buying more land in
Kentucky to provide adequate land for their families
Folk and Popular Culture
Sports: Hierarchical Diffusion of Popular Culture
Organized sports provide examples of how popular culture is
-many sports originated as isolated folk customs
-organized sports diffusion displays characteristics of popular
Folk and Popular Culture
Folk Culture Origin of Soccer
Soccer originated in 11th century England
English workers began kicking around the head of a dead Danish
soldier following the Danish invasion of England
“Kick the Dane’s Head” was imitated by boys throughout England
-used an inflated cow bladder for a ball
A large number of people from two villages would gather together
-the winning side was the one that was able to kick the ball
to the center of the rival village
The game was later confined to smaller, vacant field areas
Rules became standardized
Folk and Popular Culture
In the year 1154, King Henry II banned the game from England
because it disrupted village life
It was legalized again in 1603 by King James I
At this point in time, soccer was an English folk custom
During the 1800s, football clubs were created throughout Britain
Warrenby Wednesdays Football Team
taken about 1890/95
Folk and Popular Culture
These clubs gave factory workers organized recreation during their
leisure time
More leisure time for the British allowed more people to participate
in these club sports (demographic transition, Guns, Germs, and Steel)
Higher incomes allowed spectators to pay to see first-class sporting
Players became ‘professional’ and began to get paid to play
1863—British football clubs formed an association
This marks the transition of football from folk to popular culture
Folk and Popular Culture
“Association football” was shortened to “assoc” and later changed
to “soc-ker”
This activity was different from rugby football
-rugby was created in 1823 when a football player from
Rugby College picked up and ran with the ball
Folk and Popular Culture
Soccer diffused throughout Europe during the late 1800s
-1870s: game first played in continental Europe by Dutch students
who had been in Britain
-1893: game first played in Bilbao, Spain by English engineers
-the game spread worldwide throughout the British Empire
-1887: an English factory manager in Moscow organized a team
-after the Russian Revolution in 1917, this team became
known as the Soviet Electronic Trade Union
-became the Moscow Dynamo
Folk and Popular Culture
1869: Princeton and Rutgers played the first soccer game in the U.S.
In 1873, college reps met to
adopt rules
Harvard successfully argued
for rugby rules
The colleges also modified
these rules
The result was an entirely new
game, which became American
American football has diffused to
Canada, Australia, and Ireland
Rutgers defeated Princeton 6 goals to 4
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