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Understanding Culture The anthropological perspective Chapter Objectives Understand the defining attributes of culture. In particular, you need to understand what it means that culture is learned, shared, symbolic, all-encompassing, and integrated.

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understanding culture

Understanding Culture

The anthropological perspective

chapter objectives
Chapter Objectives
  • Understand the defining attributes of culture. In particular, you need to understand what it means that culture is learned, shared, symbolic, all-encompassing, and integrated.
  • Identify the different levels of culture and why it is important to distinguish between them.

3. Understand the mechanisms of cultural change.

4. Distinguish between culture and race

defining culture
Defining Culture
  • E.B.Tylor's: “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.”
  • Culture is:

learned

shared

ideas

patterns of behavior

genealogy of culture
Genealogy of Culture

Raymond Williams

  • Culture - associated with crops
  • Culture - the ‘process of. . .’
  • Culture and civilization once were synonymous

Popular Conceptions

  • culture - elitist
  • pop culture - low brow

http://www.wsu.edu/gened/learn-modules/lmindex.html

notable definitions of culture
Notable Definitions of Culture

a. Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture (1871).

"Culture... is that Complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society."

b. Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (1973).

”It denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.”

c. Marvin Harris, Cultural Materialism (1979)

"Culture...refers to the learned repertory of thoughts and actions exhibited by the members of social groups--repertories transmissible independently of genetic heredity from one generation to the next.

d. Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (1977)

"Are we to understand 'culture' as 'the arts', as 'system of meanings and values', or as a 'whole way of life', and how are these to be related to 'society' and 'the economy'?"

culture is learned
Culture is Learned
  • Cultural learning is unique to humans.
  • Cultural learning is the accumulation of knowledge about experiences and information not perceived directly by the organism, but transmitted to it through symbols.
  • Enculturation
culture is learned7
Culture is Learned
  • Culture is learned through both direct instruction and observation (both conscious and unconscious).
  • Anthropologists in the 19th century argued for the “psychic unity of man.”
    • This doctrine acknowledges that individuals vary in their emotional and intellectual tendencies and capacities.
    • However, this doctrine asserted that all human populations share the same capacity for culture.
culture is shared
Culture is Shared
  • Culture is located and transmitted in groups.
  • The social transmission of culture tends to unify people by providing us with a common experience.
  • The commonalty of experience in turn tends to generate a common understanding of future events.
culture is ideas
Culture is Ideas

Schema

Culture as Symbol:

    • Symbols are signs that have no necessary or natural connection with the things for which they stand.
  • Breakfast Examples:

N. American

Bali

Maya

Image from Varanasi, India

culture is patterns of behavior
Culture is Patterns of Behavior
  • A culture is a system: changes in one aspect will likely generate changes in other aspects.
  • Core values are sets of ideas, attitudes, and beliefs that are basic in that they provide an organizational logic for the rest of the culture.
  • Connection between act and ideas

Reprimanding in Honduras

culture internally consistent inconsistent
Culture: Internally consistent & inconsistent
  • Individual versus group behavior
  • Ideal versus real practices

Examples in anthropological debate:

Margaret Mead and Derrick Freeman

Robert Redfield and Oscar Lewis

Examples in everyday life

Religion & …

Politics & …

culture internally consistent inconsistent12
Culture: Internally consistent & inconsistent
  • A culture is a system: changes in one aspect will likely generate changes in other aspects.
  • Core values are sets of ideas, attitudes, and beliefs that are basic in that they provide an organizational logic for the rest of the culture.
culture society ethnicity
Culture, Society, Ethnicity
  • Society: organized group of people.

http://www.relst.uiuc.edu/durkheim/

http://www.marxists.org/

http://www.faculty.rsu.edu/~felwell/Theorists/Weber/Whome.htm

ethnicity
Ethnicity
  • Ethnic groups are formed around virtually the same features as cultures: common beliefs, values, customs, history, and the like.
  • Ethnicity entails identification with a given ethnic group, but it also involves the maintenance of a distinction from other groups.
  • Status refers to any position in a society that can be filled by an individual.
    • Ascribed status is status into which people enter automatically without choice, usually at birth or through some other universal event in the life cycle.
    • Achieved status is status that people acquire through their own actions.
levels of culture
Levels of Culture
  • National culture refers to the experiences, beliefs, learned behavior patterns, and values shared by citizens of the same nation.

Bunzel - Japan

  • International culture refers to cultural practices that are common to an identifiable group extending beyond the boundaries of one culture.

Appadurai - Indian transnationals

  • Subcultures are identifiable cultural patterns existing within a larger culture.
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Race

A sociocultural construct

culture and biology

Culture and Biology

Political Ecology

Easter Island

Egypt

Mayas