CHAPTER 3 CULTURE CHAPTER OUTLINE I. Introduction A. Kottak uses Tylor's definition of “culture,” which can be defined as, “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.” B. Enculturation is the process by which a child learns his or her culture. II. What is Culture? A. Culture is Learned 1. Cultural learning is unique to humans. 2. Cultural learning is the accumulation of knowledge about experiences and information not perceived directly by the organism, but transmitted through symbols. a. Symbols are signs that have no necessary or natural connection with the things for which they stand. b. Geertz defines culture as ideas based on cultural learning and symbols. 3. Culture is learned through both direct instruction and through observation (both conscious and unconscious). 4. Anthropologists in the 19th century argued for the “psychic unity of man.” a. This doctrine acknowledges that individuals vary in their emotional and intellectual tendencies and capacities. b. However, this doctrine asserted that all human populations share the same capacity for culture. B. Culture is Shared 1. Culture is located and transmitted in groups. 2. The social transmission of culture tends to unify people by providing us with a common experience. 3. The commonalty of experience in turn tends to generate a common understanding of future events. C. Interesting Issues: Touching, Affection, Love, and Sex 1. Even such things as apparently “natural” as emotions and sex can be culturally constructed. 2. Americans do not clearly differentiate among physical expressions of affection as opposed to sex, while Brazilians do. 3. Consequently, unspoken dynamics of interactions from representatives of these to cultures might lead to one constructing the other as either “cold” or overbearing. 4. Kottak treats the clearer Brazilian distinction between affection and sex as more realistic. D. Culture is Symbolic 1. The human ability to use symbols is the basis of culture (a symbol is something verbal or nonverbal within a particular language or culture that comes to stand for something else). 2. While human symbol use is overwhelmingly linguistic, a symbol is anything that is used to represent any other thing, when the relationship between the two is arbitrary (e.g. a flag). 3. Other primates have demonstrated rudimentary ability to use symbols, but only humans have elaborated cultural abilities – to learn, to communicate, to store, to process, and to use symbols. E. Culture and Nature 1. Humans interact with cultural constructions of nature, rather than directly with nature itself. 2. Culture converts natural urges and acts into cultural customs. F. Culture is All-Encompassing 1. The anthropological concept of culture is a model that includes all aspects of human group behavior. 2. Everyone is cultured, not just wealthy people with an elite education. G. Culture is Integrated 1. A culture is a system: changes in one aspect will likely generate changes in other aspects. 2. Core values are sets of ideas, attitudes, and beliefs, which are basic in that they provide an organizational logic for the rest of the culture. H. People Use Culture Creatively 1. Humans have the ability to avoid, manipulate, subvert and change the “rules” and patterns of their own cultures. 2. “Ideal culture” refers to normative descriptions of a culture given by its natives. 3. “Real culture” refers to “actual behavior as observed by an anthropologist.” 4. Culture is both public and individual because individuals internalize the meanings of public (cultural) messages. I. Culture is Adaptive and Maladaptive 1. Culture is an adaptive strategy employed by hominids. 2. Because cultural behavior is motivated by cultural factors, and not by environmental constraints, cultural behavior can be maladaptive. 3. Determining whether a cultural practice is adaptive or maladaptive frequently requires viewing the results of that practice from several perspectives (from the point of view of a different culture, species, or time frame, for example). J. Levels of Culture 1. National culture refers to the experiences, beliefs, “learned behavior” patterns, and values shared by citizens of the same nation. 2. International culture refers to cultural practices, which are common to an identifiable group, extending beyond the boundaries of one culture. 3. Subcultures are identifiable cultural patterns existing within a larger culture. 4. Cultural practices and artifacts are transmitted through diffusion. a. Direct diffusion occurs when members of two or more previously distinct cultures interact with each other. b. Indirect diffusion occurs when cultural artifacts or practices are transmitted from one culture to another through an intermediate third (or more) culture. K. Ethnocentrism, Cultural Relativism, and Human Rights 1. Ethnocentrism is the use of values, ideals, and mores from one’s own culture to judge the behavior of someone from another culture. a. Ethnocentrism is a cultural universal. b. Ethnocentrism contributes to social solidarity. 2. Cultural Relativism asserts that cultural values are arbitrary, and therefore the values of one culture should not be used as standards to evaluate the behavior of persons from outside that culture. 3. The idea of universal, unalienable, individual human rights challenges cultural relativism by invoking a moral and ethical code that is superior to any country, culture, or religion. 4. Cultural rights are vested in groups and include a group’s ability to preserve its cultural tradition. 5. Kottak argues that cultural relativism does not preclude an anthropologist from respecting “international standards of justice and morality.” III. Universality, Particularity, and Generality A. Introduction 1. Cultural universals are features that are found in every culture. 2. Cultural generalities include features that are common to several, but not all human groups. 3. Cultural particularities are features that are unique to certain cultural traditions. B. Universality 1. Cultural universals are those traits that distinguish Homo sapiens from other species. 2. Some biological universals include a long period of infant dependency, year-round sexuality, and a complex brain that enables us to use symbols, languages, and tools. 3. Some psychological universals include the common ways in which humans think, feel, and process information. 4. Some social universals include: incest taboos, life in groups, families (of some kind), and food sharing. C. Generality 1. Certain practices, beliefs, and the like may be held commonly by more than one culture, but not be universal; these are called “generalities.” 2. Diffusion and independent invention are two main sources of cultural generalities. 3. The nuclear family is a cultural generality since it is present in most, but not all societies. D. Particularity 1. Cultural practices that are unique to any one culture are “cultural particulars.” 2. That these particulars may be of fundamental importance to the population is indicative of the need to study the sources of cultural diversity. IV. Beyond the Classroom: Folklore Reveals the Ethos of Heating Plant Workers A. Mark Dennis investigated the social and cultural manifestations of folklore among the workers of the University of Calgary’s heating and cooling plant. B. He found that the folklore functioned to create and maintain social cohesion among the plant workers in addition to helping alleviate job-related stress. V. Mechanisms of Cultural Change A. Diffusion 1. Diffusion is defined as the spread of culture traits through borrowing from one culture to another; it has been a source of culture change throughout human history. 2. Diffusion can be direct (between two adjacent cultures) or indirect (across one or more intervening cultures or through some long distance medium). 3. Diffusion can be forced (through warfare, colonization, or some other kind of domination) or unforced (e.g., intermarriage, trade, and the like). B. Acculturation 1. Acculturation is the exchange of features that results when groups come into continuous firsthand contact. 2. Acculturation may occur in any or all groups engaged in such contact. 3. A pidgin is an example of acculturation, because it is a language form that develops by borrowing language elements from two linguistically different populations in order to facilitate communication between the two. C. Independent Invention 1. Independent invention is defined as the creative innovation of new solutions to old and new problems. 2. Cultural generalities are partly explained by the independent invention of similar responses to similar cultural and environmental circumstances. 3. The independent invention of agriculture in both the Middle East and Mexico is cited as an example. D. Cultural Convergence or Convergent Cultural Evolution 1. Cultural convergence is the development of similar traits, institutions, and behavior patterns by separate groups as a result of adaptation to similar environments. 2. Julian Steward pointed to instances of cultural convergence to support the hypothesis that scientific laws govern cultural change. VI. Globalization A. Globalization encompasses a series of processes that work to make modern nations and people increasingly interlinked and mutually dependent. B. Economic and political forces take advantage of modern systems of communication and transportation to promote globalization. C. Globalization allows for the domination of local peoples by larger (these may be based regionally, nationally, and worldwide) economic and political systems. D. Recognizing the breadth and nature of changes wrought through globalization carries the concomitant need to recognize practices of resistance, accommodation, and survival that occur in response.
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