HIP HOP CULTURE | AVT 372.001, AFAM 390.004| Stanley
Anthropology is the scientific study of human beings and their culture. Anthropologists generally
define culture as the totality of ideas, skills, and objects shared by a community or society.
Culture encompasses the entirety of the humanly created world. In a more specific sense,
culture may be defined as one of the varied cultural traditions of specific societies or groups.
According to the British anthropologist Edward Tylor, “culture is that complex whole, which
includes knowledge, belief, arts, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits
acquired by man as a member of society.”
 All culture is learned. The general capacity to have culture may be genetic, but the
specifics of our various cultures are acquired through experience not heredity.
 Culture is symbolic. Most of human culture is mediated by symbolic learning which is
founded in our unique capacity for language.
 Culture is patterned. Certain relationships, values, and other ideas that impact one
aspect of life may be seen in play in seemingly unrelated areas of human activity.
 The human condition is universal – under appropriate circumstances any person could
acquire any culture.
 Enculturation is the social process by which culture is learned and transmitted across
generations. This is the way that people derive their primary culture.
 Cultural Diffusion occurs when cultural patterns spread from one group in one area to
other groups in other places.
 Cultural Assimilation describes the complex set of processes by which minorities
selectively adopt cultural patterns from the majority or dominant culture.
 Where Assimilation may imply cultural movement in one direction, Acculturation
describes the culture changes resulting from contact among various societies over time.
The task of understanding another culture is difficult and made increasingly so as globalization
blurs the boundaries between cultural communities. Generally speaking we arrive at an
understanding of another culture when we are able to function as if we are members of that
cultural community. Yes, this is a circular definition. The famous anthropologist Clifford Geertz
has said that we are nearing understanding of another group’s culture when we begin to
spontaneously laugh at the other group’s jokes. Geertz’s generation of anthropologists also
suggested a couple of strategies or postures that frame the field work in which anthropologists
study the cultures of other groups.
Participant Observation means simply that cultural students involve and invest
themselves in the cultural settings they are studying. (be prepared to give an example)
Geertz talked about Thick Description as a strategy for collecting cultural data. Thick
Description implies a lot of things, but it reminds us that it may not be immediately
apparent which aspects of a culture are actually relevant to understanding so we must
observe with a number of lenses and collect copious data before we can analyze our
observations for patterns.