Where's the Culture?

COM 101
Mike McGuire
MV Community College
Where’s the Culture?
stepping in and stepping out
Form a group and do the following…
 Define culture.
 Define subculture.
 Name a subculture you belong to.
For that subculture give an example of its distinguishing
characteristics such as…
shared rules
ritual behaviors
locations where the behaviors usually occur
insider phrases
What Is Culture?
Culture is local and manmade and hugely variable.
It tends also to be integrated. A culture, like an
individual, is more or less consistent pattern of
thought and action.
What Is Culture?
A society’s culture consists of whatever it is one
has to know or believe in order to operate in a
manner acceptable to its members…[I]t does not
consist of things, people, behavior, or emotions. It
is rather an organization of those things.
What Is Culture?
Cultures are, after all, collective untidy
assemblages, authenticated by belief and
What Is Culture?
Man is an animal suspended in webs of
significance which he himself has created. I take
culture to be those webs.
What Is Culture?
An invisible web of behaviors, patterns, rules, and
rituals of a group of people who have contact with
one another and share common languages.
What Is Fieldworking and Ethnography?
 Fieldworking—
the process of talking, listening, recording, observing,
participating, and sometimes even living in a particular
place to do research
 Ethnography—
the written product of your fieldwork: a researched study
that synthesizes information about the life of a people or
group in order to understand the cultures present there; as
ethnographers study the cultures of others, they learn
patterns that connect with their own lives and traditions.
In doing any research, be sure to know the difference
between collecting information and synthesizing it.
Don’t just
Beware of Colonization (and ethnocentrism)
 Colonization is a way of
 It is the judging of people or
cultures different from your own
as less sophisticated
 Colonization is the domination
of one culture by the values of
 It is the projecting of the
fieldworkers’ own assumptions
onto the groups they study
In Rwanda during the late 19th century,
Racist ideas that Belgians as well as
Germans had brought with them made
them think that the Tutsi were a superior
group. Tutsis were more white looking
than other Rwandans.
Unpack Your Cultural Baggage
 Don’t project your own
assumptions or
judgments onto the
groups you study
 Embark on a
collaborative journey
with those you study
Insider and Outsider Perspectives
 Studying culture requires both objectivity and
subjectivity—both an outsider and insider
 This requires stepping in and stepping out
throughout your research
 Objectivity allows us to see things without the
burden of our cultural baggage, but subjectivity
allows us to uncover features of culture that are
not always apparent
A breakfast example of stepping out…
A headhunting example of stepping in…
Asking questions like a fieldworker…
 As a fieldworker, your purpose is to collect and
consider multiple sources of information, not facts
alone, to convey the perspective of the people in
the culture you are studying
 The fieldworker asks big questions such as
“What’s going on here?” and “Where’s the
culture?” as he or she observes, listens, records,
interprets, and analyzes
 Become a participant observer
Your Homework
 make the ordinary
extraordinary in your online
journal entry (due Tuesday)
 complete your topic proposal
(due Thursday)