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									CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                               63

                                     CHAPTER 4

                   CULTURE         AND      SOCIALISATION

                                                                               h             e
                   I  T li
                     R b                                    Activity 1       s
                    E u
                                               How do you greet another person in

                   C p
                                               your ‘culture’? Do you greet different
‘Culture’, like ‘society’, is a term used
                                               kinds of persons (friends, older
frequently and sometimes vaguely.
                                               relatives, the other gender, people

                 N re
This chapter is meant to help us define
                                               from other groups) differently?
it more precisely and to appreciate
its different aspects. In everyday             Discuss any awkward experience

              © e
conversation, culture is confined to the       you may have had when you did not
arts, or alludes to the way of life of         know how you should greet a
certain classes or even countries.             person. Is that because you did not

Sociologists and anthropologists study         share a common ‘culture’? But next
the social contexts within which culture       time round you will know what to
exists. They take culture apart to try

                                               do. Your cultural knowledge thereby
and understand the relations between           expands and rearranges itself.
its various aspects.
     Just like you need a map to

navigate over unknown space or               constantly being added, deleted,
                                             expanded, shrunk and rearranged.

territory, you need culture to conduct
or behave yourself in society. Culture       This makes cultures dynamic as
                                             functioning units.

is the common understanding, which
is learnt and developed through social           The capacity of individuals to
interaction with others in society. A        develop a common understanding with
common understanding within a group          others and to draw the same meanings
demarcates it from others and gives it       from signs and symbols is what
an identity. But cultures are never          distinguishes humans from other
finished products. They are always           animals. Creating meaning is a social
changing and evolving. Elements are          virtue as we learn it in the company of
64                                                                 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

others in families, groups and                    social set up like in villages, towns and
communities. We learn the use of tools            cities. In different environments, people
and techniques as well as the non-                adapt different strategies to cope with
material signs and symbols through                the natural and social conditions. This
interaction with family members,                  leads to the emergence of diverse ways
friends and colleagues in different               of life or cultures.

social settings. Much of this knowledge                Disparities in coping mechanisms

is systematically described and                   were evident during the devastating
conveyed either orally or through                 tsunami of 26 December 2004, which

books.                                            affected some parts of the Tamil Nadu
    For example, notice the interaction           and Kerala coast as well as the Andaman

                         T li                                                      s
below. Notice how words and facial                and Nicobar Islands in India. People on
expressions convey meaning in a                   the mainland and islands are integrated

                        R b
conversation.                                     into a relatively modern way of life. The

                       E u
     Commuter asks autodriver: “Indiranagar?” The verb that conveys the question —
     “Bartheera?” or “Will you come?” — is implied in the arch of the eyebrow. Driver

                      C p
     jerks his head in the direction of the back seat if the answer is “Yes”. If it is “No”
     (which is more likely the case as every true blue Bangalorean knows) he might

                    N re
     just drive away or grimace as if he has heard a bad word or shake his head with
     a smile that seems to suggest a “Sorry”, all depending on the mood of the moment.

                 © e
    This learning prepares us for                 fisherfolk and the service personnel in the
carrying out our roles and                        islands were caught unaware and
responsibilities in society. You have             suffered large scale devastation and

already dealt with status and roles.              much loss of life. On the other hand, the
What we learn in the family is primary            ‘primitive’ tribal communities in the

socialisation, while that which happens           islands like the Onges, Jarawas, Great
in school and other institutions are              Andamanese or Shompens who had no
secondary socialisation. We shall                 access to modern science and technology,

discuss this in greater detail later in this      foresaw the calamity based on their
chapter.                                          experiential knowledge and saved

                                                  themselves by moving on to higher
                      II                          ground. This shows that having access

                                                  to modern science and technology does
DIVERSE SETTINGS, DIFFERENT CULTURES              not make modern cultures superior to
Humans live in a variety of natural               the tribal cultures of the islands. Hence,
settings like in the mountains and                cultures cannot be ranked but can be
plains, in forests and clear lands, in            judged adequate or inadequate in
deserts and river valleys, in islands and         terms of their ability to cope with the
main lands. They also inhabit different           strains imposed by nature.
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                          65

                                                                        e d
                    T li                                          s h
                   R b
                  E u
                 C p
               N re
            © e
          t to
                    Discuss how natural settings affect culture
66                                                          INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

                                             habits acquired by man as a member
                Activity 2                   of society” (Tylor 1871).
     Find out from at least one region
     other than your own how natural
     environment affects food habits,

     patterns of dwelling, clothing and

     the ways in which God or gods are

Defining Culture

                        T li
Often the term ‘culture’ is used to refer

                                                                                s h
                       R b
to the acquiring of refined taste in
classical music, dance forms, painting.

                      E u
This refined taste was thought to
distinguish people from the ‘uncul-

                     C p
tured’ masses, even concerning                        Discuss how the visual
                                                       captures a way of life
something we would today see as

                   N re
individual, like the preference for coffee
                                                 Two generations later, the founder
over tea!
                                             of the “functional school” of anthro-
     By contrast, the sociologist looks at
                                             pology, Bronislaw Malinowski of

                © e
culture not as something that
                                             Poland (1884-1942) wrote: “Culture
distinguishes individuals, but as a way
                                             comprises inherited artifacts, goods,
of life in which all members of society
                                             technical process, ideas, habits and

                                             values” (Malinowski 1931:621-46).
                Activity 3                       Clifford Geertz suggested that we

                                             look at human actions in the same way
     Identify equivalents in Indian
                                             as we look at words in a book, and see
     languages for the word culture.
                                             them as conveying a message. “… Man
     What associations do these carry?

                                             is an animal suspended in webs of
                                             significance he himself has spun. I take

participate. Every social organisation       culture to be those webs…”.The search
develops a culture of its own. One early     is not for a causal explanation, but for

anthropological definition of culture        an interpretative one, that is in search
comes from the British scholar Edward        for meaning (Geertz 1973:5). Likewise
Tylor: “Culture or civilisation taken in     Leslie White had placed a comparable
its wide ethnographic sense, is that         emphasis on culture as a means of
complex whole which includes                 adding meaning to objective reality,
knowledge, belief, art, morals, law,         using the example of people regarding
custom and any other capabilities and        water from a particular source as holy.
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                            67

´   Do you notice anything in                     The multiple definitions of culture
    Malinowski’s definition that is           in anthropological studies led Alfred
    missing in Tylor’s?                       Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn
                                              (anthropologists from the United
    Apart from his mention of art, all the
                                              States) to publish a comprehensive
things listed by Tylor are non-material.      survey entitled Culture: A Critical

This is not because Tylor himself never       Review of Concepts and Definitions in
looked at material culture. He was in

                                              1952. A sample of the various
fact a museum curator, and most of his        definitions is presented below.
anthropological writing was based on

                                              ´ Try comparing these definitions to
the examination of artifacts and tools            see which of these or which

                        T li                                                  s
from societies across the world, which            combination of these you find most
he had never visited. We can now see              satisfactory.

                       R b
his definition of culture as an attempt           You may first find yourself noticing
to take into account its intangible and       words which recur–‘way’, ‘learn’ and

                      E u
abstract dimensions, so as to acquire a       ‘behaviour’. However, if you then look
comprehensive understanding of the            at how each is used, you may be struck

                     C p
societies he was studying. Malinowski         by the shifts in emphasis. The first
happened to be stranded on an island          phrase refers to mental ways but the

                   N re
in the Western Pacific during the First       second to the total way of life.
World War, and discovered thereby the         Definitions (d), (e) and (f) lay stress on
value of remaining for an extended            culture as what is shared and passed
period with the society one was

                © e
                                              on among a group and down the
studying. This led to the establishment       generations. The last two phrases are
of the tradition of “field work” you will     the first to refer to culture as a means

read about it in Chapter 5.                   of directing behaviour.

     Culture is…

        (a)    a way of thinking, feeling, believing.

        (b)    the total way of life of a people.

        (c)    an abstraction from behaviour.

        (d)    learned behaviour.

        (e)    a storehouse of pooled learning.

        (f)    the social legacy the individual acquires from his group.

        (g)    a set of standardised orientations to recurrent problems.

        (h)    a mechanism for the normative regulation of behaviour.
68                                                            INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

   Make a list of phrases you have                It may have occurred to you that
heard containing the word ‘culture’.          our understanding of material culture,
Ask your friends and family what they         especially art, is incomplete without
mean by culture? What criteria do they        knowledge acquired from the cognitive
use to distinguish among cultures?            and normative areas. It is true that our
                                              developing understanding of social

                  Activity 4                  process would draw upon all these

     Compare these definitions to see
                                              areas. But we might find that in a
                                              community where few have acquired

     which of these (or combination of
     these) you find most satisfactory.
                                              the cognitive skill of literacy, it in fact

                         T li                                                  s
                                              becomes the norm for private letters to
     You could do this by listing familiar
                                              be read out by a third party. But as we
     uses of the word ‘culture’ (the

                        R b
                                              see below, to focus on each of these
     culture of eighteenth century
                                              areas separately provides many
     Lucknow, the culture of hospitality

                       E u
                                              important insights.
     or the much used term ‘Western
     culture’...). Which of the definitions   Cognitive Aspects of Culture

                      C p
     best captures the impressions
     conveyed by each?                        The cognitive aspects of one’s own

                    N re
                                              culture are harder to recognise than its
                                              material aspects (which are tangible or
Dimensions of Culture
                                              visible or audible) and its normative

                 © e
Three dimensions of culture have been         aspects (which are explicitly stated).
distinguished :                               Cognition refers to understanding, how
  (i) Cognitive: This refers to how we        we make sense of all the information

      learn to process what we hear or        coming to us from our environment. In
      see, so as to give it meaning           literate societies ideas are transcribed

      (identifying the ring of a cell-phone   in books and documents and
      as ours, recognising the cartoon of     preserved in libraries, instititutions or
      a politician).                          archives. But in non-literate societies
                                              legend or lore is committed to memory

 (ii) Normative: This refers to rules of
      conduct (not opening other              and transmitted orally. There are

      people’s letters, performing rituals    specialist practitioners of oral tradition
      at death).                              who are trained to remember and

(iii) Material: This includes any activity    narrate during ritual or festive occasions.
      made possible by means of                    Let us think about how writing
      materials. Materials also include       may affect the production and
      tools or machines. Examples             consumption of art. In his influential
      include internet ‘chatting’, using      book, Orality and Literacy Walter Ong
      rice-flour paste to design kolam on     cites a study of 1971 that states that
      floors.                                 only 78 of the approximately 3,000
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                          69

existing languages possess a               different contexts. We most often follow
literature. Ong suggests that material     social norms because we are used to
that is not written down has certain       doing it, as a result of socialisation. All
specific characteristics. There is a lot   social norms are accompanied by
of repetition of words, to make it         sanctions that promote conformity. We
simpler to remember. The audience of       have already discussed social control

an oral performance is likely to be        in Chapter 2 .

more receptive and involved than                While norms are implicit rules,
would be readers of a written text from    laws are explicit rules. Pierre

an unfamiliar culture. Texts become        Bourdieu, the French sociologist has
more elaborate when they are written.      reminded us that when we try to

                      T li                                                  s
    In societies like ours historically    understand another culture’s norms,
literacy has been made available only      we must remember that there are

                     R b
to the more privileged. Sociological       certain implicit understandings. For
studies are often concerned with           example, if a person wants to show

                    E u
investigating how literacy can be made     gratitude for something s/he has been
relevant to the lives of people whose      given, s/he should not offer a return-

                   C p
families have never gone to school. This   gift too quickly, or it seems like an
can lead to unexpected responses, like     attempt to get rid of a debt, not a

                 N re
a vegetable-seller who asked why he        friendly gesture.
needed to know the alphabet when he             A law is a formal sanction defined
could mentally calculate what his          by government as a rule or principle

              © e
customers owed him?                        that its citizens must follow. Laws are
    The contemporary world allows us       explicit. They are applicable to the
to rely far more on written, audio and     whole society. And a violation of the

visual records. Yet students of Indian     law attracts penalties and punishment.
classical music are still discouraged      If in your home children are not
from writing down what they learn

                                           allowed to stay outdoors after
rather than carrying it in their memory.   sundown, that is a norm. It is specific
We still do not know enough about the      to your family and may not be
impact of the electronic media, of         applicable to all families. However, if

multiple channels, of instant accessing    you are caught stealing a gold necklace

and surfing. Do you think these new        from someone else’s home, you have
forms impact our attention span and        violated the universally accepted law

cognitive culture?                         of private property and can be sent to
                                           jail after trial as punishment.
Normative Aspects of Culture                    Laws, which derive from the
The normative dimension consists of        authority of the State are the most
folkways, mores, customs, conven-          formal definitions of acceptable
tions and laws. These are values or        behaviour. While different schools may
rules that guide social behaviour in       establish different norms for students,
70                                                        INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

laws would apply to all those accepting    norms. This can give rise to a situation
the authority of the State. Unlike laws,   of culture lag when the non-material
norms can vary according to status.        dimensions are unable to match the
Dominant sections of society apply         advances of technology.
dominant norms. Often these norms are
discriminating. For example norms that     Culture and Identity

did not allow dalits from drinking water   Identities are not inherited but

from the same vessel or even source. Or    fashioned both by the individual and
women from moving freely in the public
                                           the group through their relationship

sphere.                                    with others. For the individual the

                      T li                                               s
                                           social roles that s/he plays imparts
Material Aspects of Culture
                                           identity. Every person in modern

                     R b
The material aspect refers to tools,       society plays multiple roles. For
technologies, machines, buildings and      instance within the family s/he may be

                    E u
modes of transportation, as well as        a parent or a child but for each of the
instruments of production and              specific roles there are particular
communication. In urban areas the          responsibilities and powers.

                   C p
widespread use of mobile phones,               It is not sufficient to enact roles.
music systems, cars and buses, ATMs        They also have to be recognised and

                 N re
(automated teller machines), refri-        acknowledged. This can often be done
gerators and computers in everyday life    through the recognition of the
indicates the dependence on                particular language that is used among

              © e
technology. Even in rural areas the use    role players. Students in schools have
of transistor radios or electric motor     their own way of referring to their
pumps for lifting water from below the     teachers, other students, class

surface for irrigation demonstrates the    performances. By creating this
adoption of technological devices for      language which also serves as a code,

increasing production.                     they create their own world of meanings
    In sum there are two principal         and significances. Similarly, women are
dimensions of culture: material and        also known to create their own

non-material. While the cognitive and      language and through it their own
normative aspects are non-material, the    private space beyond the control of men

material dimension is crucial to           especially when they congregate at the
increase production and enhance            pond to bathe in rural areas or across

the quality of life. For integrated        washing lines on rooftops in urban
functioning of a culture the material      areas.
and non-material dimensions must               In a culture there can be many sub-
work together. But when the material       cultures, like that of the elite and
or technological dimensions change         working class youth. Sub-cultures are
rapidly, the non-material aspects can      marked by style, taste and association.
lag behind in terms of values and          Particular sub-cultures are identifiable
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                            71

by their speech, dress codes, preference      cultural values projected as the
for particular kind of music or the           standard or norm are considered
manner in which they interact with their      superior to that of the beliefs and values
group members.                                of other cultures. We have seen in
    Sub-cultural groups can also              Chapter 1 and in Chapter 3 (particularly
function as cohesive units which impart       in the discussion on religion) how

an identity to all group members.             sociology is an empirical and not a

Within such groups there can be leaders       normative discipline.
and followers but group members are                Underlying ethnocentric compari-

bound by the purpose of the group and         sons is a sense of cultural superiority
work together to achieve their                clearly demonstrated in colonial

                      T li                                                    s
objectives. For instance young                situations. Thomas Babbington
members of a neighbourhood can form           Macaulay’s famous Minute on

                     R b
a club to engage themselves in sports         Education (1835) to the East India
and other constructive activities. Such       Company in India exemplifies

                    E u
activities create a positive image of the     ethnocentrism when he says, ‘We must
members in the locality and this gives        at present do our best to form a class

                   C p
the members not only a positive self-         who may be interpreters between us and
image but also inspires them to perform       the millions whom we govern, a class of

                 N re
better in their activities. The orientation   persons Indian in blood and colour but
of their identity as a group undergoes        English in tastes, in opinions, morals
a transformation. The group is able to        and intellect’ (quoted in Mukherji 1948/

              © e
differentiate itself from other groups        1979:87), (emphasis added).
and thereby create its own identity                Ethnocentrism is the opposite of
through the acceptance and                    cosmopolitanism, which values other

recognition of the neighbourhood.             cultures for their difference. A
                                              cosmopolitan outlook does not seek to

               Activity 5                     evaluate the values and beliefs of other
                                              people according to one’s own. It
  Are you aware of any sub-cultural
                                              celebrates and accommodates different
  group in your locality? How are you         cultural propensities within its fold and

  able to identify them?                      promotes cultural exchange and

                                              borrowings to enrich one’s own culture.
Ethnocentrism                                 The English language has emerged as

It is only when cultures come into            a leading vehicle of international
contact with one another that the             communication through its constant
question of ethnocentrism arises.             inclusion of foreign words into its
Ethnocentrism is the application of           vocabulary. Again the popularity of
one’s own cultural values in evaluating       Hindi film music can be attributed to
the behaviour and beliefs of people from      its borrowings from western pop music
other cultures. This means that the           as well as from different traditions of
72                                                              INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

Indian folk and semi-classical forms           Cultural Change
like the bhangra and ghazal.                   Cultural change is the way in which
    A modern society is appreciative of        societies change their patterns of
cultural difference and does not close         culture. The impetus for change can be
its doors to cultural influences from          internal or external. In regard to

abroad. But such influences are                internal causes, for instance, new
always incorporated in a distinctive           methods of farming or agriculture can

way, which can combine with elements           boost agricultural production, which
of indigenous culture. The English             can transform the nature of food

language despite its foreign inclusions        consumption and quality of life of an

                     T li                                                        s
does not become a separate language,           agrarian community. On the other
nor does Hindi film music lose its             hand external intervention in the form

                    R b
character through borrowings. The              of conquest or colonisation can also
absorption of diverse styles, forms,           affect deep seated changes in the

                   E u
sounds and artifacts provides an               cultural practices and behaviour of a
identity to a cosmopolitan culture. In         society.

                  C p
a global world where modern means of               Cultural change can occur through
communication are shrinking                    changes in the natural environment,

                N re
distances between cultures, a                  contact with other cultures or
cosmopolitan outlook allows diverse            processes of adaptation. Changes in
influences to enrich one’s own culture.        the natural environment or ecology can

             © e
                     Notice the words in the box. Have you heard or
                        used these words in your conversations?

                b     ‘Hinglish’ may soon conquer the world

       Some of the Hinglish words in vogue include airdash (travel by air),
       chaddis (underpants), chai (Indian tea), crore (10 million), dacoit (thief),

       desi (local), dicky (boot), gora (white person), jungli (uncouth), lakh
       (100,000), lampat (thug), optical (spectacles), prepone (bring forward),

       stepney (spare tyre) and would-be (fiancé or fiancée). Hinglish contains
       many words and phrases that Britons or Americans may not easily

       understand, according to a report... Some are archaic, relics of the
       Raj, such as ‘pukka’. Others are newly coined, such as ‘time-pass’,
       meaning an activity that helps kill time. India’s success in attracting
       business has recently produced a new verb. Those whose jobs are
       outsourced to India are said to have been ‘Bangalored’.
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                             73

drastically alter the way of life of a                        III
people. When forest dwelling
communities are deprived of access to      SOCIALISATION
the forest and its produce either            I believe that a complete life is
because of legal restrictions or due to      inclusive of everything around us :
                                             plants, cattle, guests, feasts,

its decimation, it can have disastrous
effects on the dwellers and their way of     festivals, quarrels, friendship,

                                             companionship, discrimination,
life. Tribal communities in North East
                                             scorn. All these and more were
India as well as in middle India have

                                             present in one single place, my
been the worst affected by the loss of       home. Although life sometimes

                     T li                                                  s
forest resources.                            appeared complicated then, I now
     Along with evolutionary change          understand how consummate it

                    R b
there can also be revolutionary change.      was. It is thanks to such a
                                             childhood, perhaps, that if I get just
When a culture is transformed rapidly
                                             a glimpse of someone’s suffering, I

                   E u
and its values and meaning systems           feel I can comprehend the whole of
undergo a radical change then                it (Vaidehi 1945).

                  C p
revolutionary change takes place.
Revolutionary change can be initiated      At the time of birth, the human infant

                N re
through political intervention,            knows nothing about what we call
technological innovation or ecological     society or social behaviour. Yet as the
transformation. The French Revolution      child grows up, s/he keeps learning not

             © e
(1789) transformed French society by       just about the physical world, but about
destroying the estate system of ranking,   what it means to be a good or bad
abolishing the monarchy, and               girl/boy. S/he knows what kind of

inculcating the values of liberty,         behaviour will be applauded and, what
equality and fraternity among its          kind will be disapproved. Socialisation
                                           can be defined as the process whereby

citizens. When a different under-
standing comes to prevail, culture         the helpless infant gradually becomes a
change occurs. Recent years have seen      self-aware, knowledgeable person,
                                           skilled in the ways of the culture into

an amazing expansion of the media,
                                           which s/he is born. Indeed without
both electronic and print. Do you think

                                           socialisation an individual would not
the media has brought about an
                                           behave like a human being. Many of you
evolutionary or revolutionary change?

                                           will be familiar with the story of the
We are familiar with the various           ‘Wolf-children of Midnapore’. Two
dimensions of culture now. To return       small girls were reportedly found in a
to the point we started with in Chapter    wolf den in Bengal in 1920. They walked
1 about the interplay between the          on all four like animals, preferred a diet
individual and society, we now move on     of raw meat, howled like wolves and
to the concept of socialisation.           lacked any form of speech. Interestingly
74                                                           INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

such incidents have been reported from       how the process of socialisation takes
other parts of the world too.                place. A child, in the first instance, is a
    We have so far been talking about        member of a family. But s/he is also a
socialisation and the new-born infant.       member of a larger kin-group (biradari,
But the birth of a child also alters the     khaandaan, a clan etc.) consisting of
lives of those who are responsible for       brothers, sisters and other relatives of

its upbringing. They too undergo new         the parents. The family into which

learning experiences. Becoming               s/he is born may be a nuclear or
grandparents and parenting involves a        extended family. It is also a member of

whole set of activities and experiences.     a larger society such as a tribe or sub-
Older people still remain parents when       caste, a clan or a biradari, a religious

                      T li                                                    s
they become grandparents, of course,         and linguistic group. Membership of
thus forging another set of relationships    these groups and institutions imposes

                     R b
connecting different generations with        certain behavioural norms and values
each other. Likewise the life of a young     on each member. Corresponding to

                    E u
                                             these memberships there are roles that
child changes with the birth of a sibling.
Socialisation is a life-long process even    are performed, e.g. that of a son, a

                   C p
                                             daughter, a grandchild or a student.
though the most critical process
                                             These are multiple roles, which are
happens in the early years, the stage of     performed simultaneously. The process

                 N re
primary socialisation. Secondary             of learning the norms, attitudes, values
socialisation as we saw extends over the     or behavioural patterns of these groups
entire life of a person.                     begins early in life and continues

              © e
    While socialisation has an               throughout one’s life.
important impact on individuals it is             The norms and values may differ
not a kind of ‘cultural programming’,        within a society in different families

in which the child absorbs passively the     belonging to different castes, regions or
influences with which he or she comes        social classes or religious groups

into contact. Even the most recent new-      according to whether one lives in a
born can assert her/his will. S/he will      village or a city or one belongs to a tribe
cry when hungry. And keep crying until       and if to a tribe, to which tribe. Indeed

those responsible for the infant’s care      the very language that one speaks
respond. You may have seen how               depends on the region one comes from.

normal, everyday schedules of the            Whether the language is closer to a
family get completely reorganised with       spoken dialect or to a standardised

the birth of a child.                        written form depends on the family and
    You have already been introduced         the socio-economic and cultural profile
to the concepts of status/role, social       of the family.
control, groups and social strati-
fication. You are also acquainted with       Agencies of Socialisation
what culture, norms and values are. All      The child is socialised by several
these concepts will help us understand       agencies and institutions in which
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                                75

s/he participates, viz. family, school, peer       Families have varying ‘locations’
group, neighbourhood, occupational             within the overall institutions of a
group and by social class/caste,               society. In most traditional societies, the
region, religion.                              family into which a person is born
                                               largely determines the individual’s
Family                                         social position for the rest of his/her life.

Since family systems vary widely, the          Even when social position is not

infants’ experiences are by no means           inherited at birth in this way the region
standard across cultures. While many           and social class of the family into

of you may be living in what is termed         which an individual is born affect

                       T li                                                      s
a nuclear family with your parents and         patterns of socialisation quite sharply.
siblings, others may be living with            Children pick up ways of behaviour
                                               characteristic of their parents or others

                      R b
extended family members. In the first
case, parents may be key socialising           in their neighbourhood or community.
                                                   Of course, few children simply

                     E u
agents but in the others grandparents,
an uncle or a cousin may be more               take over in an unquestioning way
significant.                                   the outlook of their parents. This

                    C p
                  N re
                                        Activity 6

  Suggest ways in which the child of a domestic worker would feel herself different
  from the child whose family her mother works for. Also, what are the things they

               © e
  might share or exchange?
  To start with the obvious, one would have more money spent on clothes, the

  other might wear more bangles…
  They might have watched the same serials, heard the same film songs… they
  might pick up different kinds of slang from each other…

  Now you are left to follow up the difficult areas, like the sense of security within
  the family, the neighbourhood and on the street...

 o           t                          Activity 7

  The presence or absence of which of the items below do you think would affect

  you most as an individual?
     (possessions) television set/music system …
     (space) a room of your own…
     (time) having to balance school with household or other work…
     (opportunities) travel, music classes…
     (people around you)
76                                                          INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

is especially true in the contemporary
world, in which change is so pervasive.                    Activity 8
Moreover, the very existence of a
                                               Reflect on your own experience.
diversity of socialising agencies leads to
                                               Compare your interaction with
many differences between the outlooks
of children, adolescents and the               friends to that of your parents and

parental generation. Can you identify          other elders. What is different? Does

any instance where you felt that what          the earlier discussion on roles and
you learnt from the family was at              status help you understand the

variance from your peer group or maybe         difference?
media or even school?

                      T li                                                   s
                                             ages at work, and in other contexts, are
Peer Groups

                     R b
                                             usually of enduring importance in
Another socialising agency is the peer       shaping individuals’ attitudes and

                    E u
group. Peer groups are friendship            behaviour.
groups of children of a similar age. In
some cultures, particularly small            Schools

                   C p
traditional societies, peer groups are
                                             Schooling is a formal process: there is
formalised as age-grades. Even without

                 N re
                                             a definite curriculum of subjects
formal age-grades, children over four
                                             studied. Yet schools are agencies of
or five usually spend a great deal of
                                             socialisation in more subtle respects
time in the company of friends of the

              © e
                                             too. Alongside the formal curriculum
same age. The word ‘peer’ means ‘equal’,
                                             there is what some sociologists
and friendly relations established
                                             have called a hidden curriculum
between young children do tend to be

                                             conditioning children’s learning. There
reasonably egalitarian. A forceful or
                                             are schools in both India and South
physically strong child may to some
                                             Africa where girls, but rarely boys, are

extent try to dominate others. Yet there
                                             expected to sweep their classroom. In
is a greater amount of give and take
                                             some schools efforts are made to
compared to the dependence inherent
                                             counter this by making boys and girls

in the family situation. Because of their
                                             do those tasks that are normally not
power, parents are able (in varying

                                             expected of them. Can you think of
degrees) to enforce codes of conduct
                                             examples that reflect both trends?
upon their children. In peer groups, by

contrast, a child discovers a different
                                             Mass Media
kind of interaction, within which rules
of behaviour can be tested out and           Mass media has increasingly become
explored.                                    an essential part of our everyday life.
    Peer relationships often remain          While today the electronic media like
important throughout a person’s life.        the television is expanding, the print
Informal groups of people of similar         media continues to be of great
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                              77

importance. Even in the early print
media in nineteenth century India,                            Activity 9
‘conduct-books’ instructing women on             You might want to explore how
how to be better house-keepers and
                                                 people relate to serials set in
more attentive wives were popular in
                                                 surroundings unlike their own. Or
many languages. The media can make

                                                 if children are watching television
the access to information more

democratic. Electronic communication             with their grandparents, are
is something that can reach a village            there disagreements about which

not connected by road and where no               programmes are worth watching,
literacy centres have been set up.               and if so, what differences in

                      T li                                                      s
     There has been much research on             viewpoint emerge? Are these
the influence of television upon children        differences gradually modified?

                     R b
and adults. A study in Britain showed
that the time spent by children

                    E u
watching television is the equivalent of      Tashkent, but even without dubbing
almost a hundred school days a year,          was watched in London by children who

                   C p
and that adults are not far behind them.      spoke only English!
Apart from such quantitative aspects,

                 N re
what emerges from such research is not        Other Socialising Agencies
always conclusive in its implications.
The link between on-screen violence           Besides the socialising agencies

              © e
and aggressive behaviour among                mentioned, there are other groups, or
children is still debated.                    social contexts, in which individuals
     If one cannot predict how media          spend large parts of their lives. Work

influences people, what is certain is the     is, in all cultures, an important setting
extent of the influence, in terms of both     within which socialisation processes
                                              operate, although it is only in

information and exposure to areas of
experience distant from one’s own.            industrial societies that large numbers
There is a sizeable audience for Indian       of people “go out to work” — that is,
television serials and films in countries     go each day to places of work quite

like Nigeria, Afghanistan and among           separate from the home. In traditional

émigrés from Tibet. The televised             communities many people tilled the
Mahabharat was aired after dubbing in         land close to where they lived or had

            Look at the report and discuss how mass media influences children

  The Shaktimaan serial telecast a few years ago had children trying to
  dive down buildings resulting in fatal accidents. “Learning by imitation
  is a method followed frequently by people and children are no different,”
  says clinical psycholog ist.
78                                                              INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY

workshops in their dwellings (see              and come to maturity so influence our
visuals on page 43).                           behaviour, it might appear that we are
                                               robbed of any individuality or free will.
Socialisation and Individual                   Such a view is fundamentally
Freedom                                        mistaken. The fact that from birth to
                                               death we are involved in interaction

It is perhaps evident that socialisation       with others certainly conditions our
in normal circumstances can                    personalities, the values we hold, and

never completely reduce people to              the behaviour in which we engage. Yet
conformity. Many factors encourage             socialisation is also at the origin of

conflict. There may be conflicts               our very individuality and freedom.

                        T li                                                    s
between socialising agencies, between          In the course of socialisation each of
school and home, between home and              us develops a sense of self-identity,

                       R b
peer groups. However, since the                and the capacity for independent
cultural settings in which we are born         thought and action.

                      E u
                           How Gendered is Socialisation?

                     C p
  We boys used the streets for so many different things — as a place to stand
  around watching, to run around and play, try out the manoeuvrability of our

                   N re
  bikes. Not so for girls. As we noticed all the time, for girls the street was simply a
  means to get straight home from school. And even for this limited use of the
  street they always went in clusters, perhaps because behind their purposeful

                © e
  demeanour they carried the worst fears of being assaulted (Kumar 1986).

                                      Activity 11

     We have completed four chapters. Read the text of the next page carefully and

     discuss the following themes :

       ´ The relation between individual and society in the girl’s rebellion against

       ´ How the normative dimensions of culture are different in town and village?

       ´ The question of ascribed status in that the priest’s daughter is permitted

         to touch.
       ´ Conflict between socialising agencies for example in the text note: “thankful
         none of her school friends could see her like this”. Can you find any other
         sentence that illustrates this?
       ´ Gendered = combing hair + escort + not playing football
       ´ Punishment = “tight-lipped silence” + conspicuous absence of pappadams
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                                79

  An unusual sense of excitement pervaded her visit to the temple this evening.
  There had been an argument over lunch, between her and the grown-ups, when
  she had announced her decision to ring the bell in front of the sanctuary.
      ‘If Thangam can ring it, so can I,’ she debated hotly.
      They protested in shocked voices. ‘Thangam is the daughter of the temple

  priest, she is permitted to touch the bell.’

      She responded angrily that Thangam came over to play hide-and-seek every
  afternoon and behaved no differently from any of them. ‘Besides,’ she added,

  goading them deliberately, ‘we are equal in the eyes of god.’ She was not quite
  sure whether they had heard this bit, for they had already turned away in

                      T li                                                     s
  disgust. But, after lunch, she caught them whispering about ‘that horrid English
  school she goes to,’ which meant that they had heard…

                     R b
      She was sure they had not taken her seriously. That was the trouble with
  grown-ups: they always presumed that if they told her that she would understand

                    E u
  everything when she was older, she would accept their wisdom and authority
  unquestioningly and not dream of going against them. Oh well, she would show

                   C p
  them, this time... Back again at the house, she had to endure the intensely
  uncomfortable ritual of hairdressing. Her grandmother soothed her hair with

                 N re
  what felt like a whole jar of oil, separated each shining strand till it hung limp
  and straight and lifeless down her back, then tied it up in a tight, skin stretching
  knot on the top of her head. She was thankful none of her school friends could

              © e
  see her like this.…
      Why wouldn’t they understand how ridiculous she felt, being escorted…She
  had reminded her mother many times that she walked alone to school everyday

  when they were back in town… [S]he noticed that the football game had already
  begun on the courtyard beside the temple of Krishna. She enjoyed watching the

  players, particularly since her obvious delight in the vigour of the game, and in
  the raucously voiced comments irritated Kelu Nair profoundly.…
      She came hurriedly upon the crowded main sanctuary... Before she could

  regret her decision or go back upon it, she elbowed herself quickly through the
  circle of women, nearly floundering on the slippery steps. The sight of the big

  bell above her touched her with a heady excitement. She could distinguish Kelu
  Nair’s frantically whispered threats, but she reached up, rang the bell with one

  resounding clang and was down the steps before he realised what was happening.
      Dimly she was aware of dark looks and subdued murmurs pursuing her as
  she permitted Kelu Nair to drag her away... She was in dire disgrace. Their
  tight-lipped silence was infinitely more eloquent than speech, as was the
  conspicuous absence of her favourite tiny pappadams at dinner...
                                              (From The Bell, by Gita Krishnakutty)
80                                                             INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY


     Cultural Evolutionism : It is a theory of culture, which argues that just like
     natural species, culture also evolves through variation and natural selection.
     Estates System : This was a system in feudal Europe of ranking according

     to occupation. The three estates were the nobility, clergy and the ‘third
     estate’. The last were chiefly professional and middle class people. Each

     estate elected its own representatives. Peasants and labourers did not have
     the vote.

     Great Tradition : It comprises of the cultural traits or traditions which are

                       T li                                                    s
     written and widely accepted by the elites of a society who are educated and

                      R b
     Little Tradition : It comprises of the cultural traits or traditions which are
     oral and operates at the village level.

                     E u
     Self Image : An image of a person as reflected in the eyes of others.
     Social Roles : These are rights and responsibilities associated with a person’s

                    C p
     social position or status.
     Socialisation : This is the process by which we learn to become members of

                  N re
     Subculture : It marks a group of people within a larger culture who borrow

               © e
     from and often distort, exaggerate or invert the symbols, values and beliefs
     of the larger culture to distinguish themselves.

                  b                   E XERCISES

     1.   How does the understanding of culture in social science differ from the
          everyday use of the word ‘culture’?

     2.   How can we demonstrate that the different dimensions of culture
          comprise a whole?

     3.   Compare two cultures with which you are familiar. Is it difficult not to

          be ethnocentric?
     4.   Discuss two different approaches to studying cultural change.
     5.   Is cosmopolitanism something you associate with modernity? Observe
          and give examples of ethnocentrism.
     6.   What in your mind is the most effective agent of socialisation for your
          generation? How do you think it was different before?
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION                                                              81


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    G EERTZ, C LIFFORD. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books, New York.

    G IDDENS, ANTHONY. 2001. Sociology. Polity Press, Cambridge.

                     T li                                                     s
    Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU),           Unit 9, Agencies of

                    R b
    Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Unit 8, Nature of

                   E u
    KOTTAK, CONRAD P. 1994. Anthropology : The Exploration of Human Diversity.
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                  C p
    KUMAR, KRISHNA. 1986. ‘Growing up Male’, in Seminar. No. 318, February.

                N re
    L ARKIN, BRIAN . 2002. ‘Indian Films and Nigeria Lovers, Media and the Creation
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             © e
    MALINOWSKI , BRONISLAW . 1931. ‘Culture’, in SELIGMAN . ed. Encyclopedia of the
       Social Sciences. Macmillan, New York.
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    T YLOR, E DWARD B. 1871/1958. Primitive Culture : Researches onto the

        Development of Mythology, Philosophy Religion, Art and Custom. 2 volumes.
        Volume 1: Origins of Culture. Volume 2. Religion in Primitive Culture.
        Gloucester, Mass, Smith.

    V OGT, EVON Z. 1968. ‘Culture Change’, in S ILLS, D AVID. ed. The International
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    WILLIAMS , RAYMOND. 1976. Keywords : A Vocabulary of Culture and Society.

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