CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION 63 CHAPTER 4 CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION I Activity 1 How do you greet another person inINTRODUCTION your ‘culture’? Do you greet different‘Culture’, like ‘society’, is a term used kinds of persons (friends, olderfrequently and sometimes vaguely. relatives, the other gender, peopleThis chapter is meant to help us define from other groups) differently?it more precisely and to appreciateits different aspects. In everyday Discuss any awkward experienceconversation, culture is confined to the you may have had when you did notarts, or alludes to the way of life of know how you should greet acertain classes or even countries. person? Is that because you did notSociologists and anthropologists study share a common ‘culture’? But nextthe social contexts within which culture time round you will know what toexists. They take culture apart to try do. Your cultural knowledge therebyand understand the relations between expands and rearranges itself.its various aspects. Just like you need a map tonavigate over unknown space or constantly being added, deleted,territory, you need culture to conduct expanded, shrunk and rearranged.or behave yourself in society. Culture This makes cultures dynamic asis the common understanding, which functioning units.is learnt and developed through social The capacity of individuals tointeraction with others in society. A develop a common understanding withcommon understanding within a group others and to draw the same meaningsdemarcates it from others and gives it from signs and symbols is whatan identity. But cultures are never distinguishes humans from otherfinished products. They are always animals. Creating meaning is a socialchanging and evolving. Elements are virtue as we learn it in the company of
64 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGYothers in families, groups and social densities like in villages, townscommunities. We learn the use of tools and cities. In different environments,and techniques as well as the non- people adapt different strategies to copematerial signs and symbols through with the natural and social conditions.interaction with family members, This leads to the emergence of diversefriends and colleagues in different ways of life or cultures.social settings. Much of this knowledge Disparities in coping mechanismsis systematically described and were evident during the devastatingconveyed either orally or through tsunami of 26 December 2004, whichbooks. affected some parts of the Tamil Nadu For example, notice the interaction and Kerala coast as well as the Andamanbelow. Notice how words and facial and Nicobar Islands in India. People onexpressions convey meaning in a the mainland and islands are integratedconversation. into a relatively modern way of life. The Commuter asks autodriver: “Indiranagar?” The verb that conveys the question — “Bartheera?” or “Will you come?” — is implied in the arch of the eyebrow. Driver 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 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. This learning prepares us for fisherfolk and the service personnel in thecarrying out our roles and islands were caught unawares andresponsibilities in society. You have suffered large scale devastation andalready dealt with status and roles. much loss of life. On the other hand, theWhat we learn in the family is primary ‘primitive’ tribal communities in thesocialisation, while that which happens islands like the Onges, Jarawas, Greatin school and other institutions are Andamanese or Shompens who had nosecondary socialisation. We shall access to modern science and technology,discuss this in greater detail later in this foresaw the calamity based on theirchapter. experiential knowledge and saved themselves by moving on to higher II ground. This shows that having access to modern science and technology doesDIVERSE SETTINGS, DIFFERENT CULTURES not make modern cultures superior toHumans 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 beplains, in forests and cleared lands, in judged adequate or inadequate indeserts and river valleys, in islands and terms of their ability to cope with themain lands. They also inhabit different strains imposed by nature.
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION 65 Discuss how natural settings affect culture
66 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGY habits acquired by man as a member Activity 2 of society” (Tylor 1871 I:1). Find out from at least one region other than your own how the natural environment affects food habits, patterns of dwelling, clothing and the ways in which God or gods are worshipped.Defining CultureOften the term ‘culture’ is used to referto the acquiring of refined taste inclassical music, dance forms, painting.This refined taste was thought todistinguish people from the ‘uncul-tured’ masses, even concerning Discuss how the visual capture a way of lifesomething we would today see asindividual, like the preference for coffee Two generations later, the founderover tea! of the “functional school” of anthro- By contrast, the sociologist looks at pology, Bronislaw Malinowski ofculture not as something that Poland (1884-1942) wrote: “Culturedistinguishes 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 takeparticipate. Every social organisation culture to be those webs…”.The searchdevelops a culture of its own. One early is not for a causal explanation, but foranthropological definition of culture an interpretative one, that is in searchcomes from the British scholar Edward for meaning (Geertz 1973: 5). LikewiseTylor: “Culture or civilisation taken in Leslie White had placed a comparableits wide ethnographic sense, is that emphasis on culture as a means ofcomplex whole which includes adding meaning to objective reality,knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, using the example of people regardingcustom 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 comprehensivethings listed by Tylor are non-material. survey entitled Culture: A CriticalThis is not because Tylor himself never Review of Concepts and Definitions inlooked at material culture. He was in 1952. A sample of the variousfact a museum curator, and most of his definitions is presented below.anthropological writing was based on ´ Try comparing these definitions tothe examination of artifacts and tools see which of these or whichfrom societies across the world, which combination of these you find mosthe had never visited. We can now see satisfactory.his definition of culture as an attempt You may first find yourself noticingto take into account its intangible and words which recur–‘way’, ‘learn’ andabstract dimensions, so as to acquire a ‘behaviour’. However, if you then lookcomprehensive understanding of the at how each is used, you may be strucksocieties he was studying. Malinowski by the shifts in emphasis. The firsthappened to be stranded on an island phrase refers to mental ways but thein 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 onvalue of remaining for an extended culture as what is shared and passedperiod with the society one was on among a group and down thestudying. This led to the establishment generations. The last two phrases areof the tradition of “field work” you will the first to refer to culture as a meansread 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 thatheard containing the word ‘culture’. our understanding of material culture,Ask your friends and family what they especially art, is incomplete withoutmean by culture? What criteria do they knowledge acquired from the cognitiveuse 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 the cognitive skill of literacy, it in fact these) you find most satisfactory. 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 see below, to focus on each of these culture of eighteenth century areas separately provides many Lucknow, the culture of hospitality important insights. or the much used term ‘Western culture’...) Which of the definitions Cognitive Aspects of Culture best capture the impressions conveyed by each? The cognitive aspects of one’s own culture are harder to recognise than its material aspects (which are tangible orDimensions of Culture visible or audible) and its normativeThree 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 pre- as ours, recognising the cartoon of served in libraries, instititutions or a politician). archives. But in non-literate societies (ii) Normative: This refers to rules of legend or lore is committed to memory 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 69existing languages possess a different contexts. We most often followliterature. Ong suggests that material social norms because we are used tothat is not written down has certain doing it, as a result of socialisation. Allspecific characteristics. There is a lot social norms are accompanied byof repetition of words, to make it sanctions that promote conformity. Wesimpler to remember. The audience of have already discussed social controlan 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. Pierrean unfamiliar culture. Texts become Bourdieu, the French sociologist hasmore elaborate when they are written. reminded us that when we try to In societies like ours historically understand another culture’s norms,literacy has been made available only we must remember that there areto the more privileged. Sociological certain implicit understandings. Forstudies are often concerned with example, if a person wants to showinvestigating how literacy can be made gratitude for something s/he has beenrelevant to the lives of people whose given, s/he should not offer a return-families have never gone to school. This gift too quickly, or it seems like ancan lead to unexpected responses, like attempt to get rid of a debt, not aa vegetable-seller who asked why he friendly gesture.needed to know the alphabet when he A law is a formal sanction definedcould mentally calculate what his by government as a rule or principlecustomers owed him? that its citizens must follow. Laws are The contemporary world allows us explicit. They are applicable to theto rely far more on written, audio and whole society. And a violation of thevisual records. Yet students of Indian law attracts penalties and punishment.classical music are still discouraged If in your home children are notfrom writing down what they learn allowed to stay outdoors afterrather than carrying it in their memory. sundown, that is a norm. It is specificWe still do not know enough about the to your family and may not beimpact of the electronic media, of applicable to all families. However, ifmultiple channels, of instant accessing you are caught stealing a gold necklaceand surfing. Do you think these new from someone else’s home, you haveforms impact our attention span and violated the universally accepted lawcognitive culture? of private property and can be sent to jail after trial as punishment.Normative Aspects of Culture Laws, which derive from theThe normative dimension consists of authority of the State are the mostfolkways, mores, customs, conven- formal definitions of acceptabletions and laws. These are values or behaviour. While different schools mayrules that guide social behaviour in establish different norms for students,
70 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGYlaws would apply to all those accepting norms. This can give rise to a situationthe authority of the State. Unlike laws, of culture lag when the non-materialnorms can vary according to status. dimensions are unable to match theDominant sections of society apply advances of technology.dominant norms. Often these norms arediscriminating. For example norms that Culture and Identitydid not allow dalits from drinking water Identities are not inherited butfrom the same vessel or even source. Or fashioned both by the individual andwomen from moving freely in the public the group through their relationshipsphere. with others. For the individual the social roles that s/he plays impartsMaterial Aspects of Culture identity. Every person in modernThe material aspect refers to tools, society plays multiple roles. Fortechnologies, machines, buildings and instance within the family s/he may bemodes of transportation, as well as a parent or a child but for each of theinstruments of production and specific roles there are particularcommunication. In urban areas the responsibilities and powers.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(automated teller machines), refri- acknowledged. This can often be donegerators and computers in everyday life through the recognition of theindicates the dependence on particular language that is used amongtechnology. Even in rural areas the use role players. Students in schools haveof transistor radios or electric motor their own way of referring to theirpumps for lifting water from below the teachers, other students, classsurface for irrigation demonstrate the performances. By creating thisadoption 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 aredimensions of culture: material and also known to create their ownnon-material. While the cognitive and language and through it their ownnormative aspects are non-material, the private space beyond the control of menmaterial dimension is crucial to especially when they congregate at theincrease production and enhance pond to bathe in rural areas or acrossthe quality of life. For integrated washing lines on rooftops in urbanfunctioning 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 andor technological dimensions change working class youth. Sub-cultures arerapidly, 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 71by their speech, dress codes, preference cultural values projected as thefor particular kind of music or the standard or norm are consideredmanner in which they interact with their superior to that of the beliefs and valuesgroup members. of other cultures. We have seen in Sub-cultural groups can also Chapter 1 and in Chapter 3 (particularlyfunction as cohesive units which in the discussion on religion) howimparts an identity to all group sociology is an empirical and not amembers. Within such groups there normative discipline.can be leaders and followers but group Underlying ethnocentric compari-members are bound by the purpose of sons is a sense of cultural superioritythe group and work together to achieve clearly demonstrated in colonialtheir objectives. For instance young situations. Thomas Babbingtonmembers of a neighbourhood can form Macaulay’s famous Minute ona club to engage themselves in sports Education (1835) to the East Indiaand other constructive activities. Such Company in India exemplifiesactivities create a positive image of the ethnocentrism when he says, ‘We mustmembers in the locality and this gives at present do our best to form a classthe members not only a positive self- who may be interpreters between us andimage but also inspires them to perform the millions whom we govern, a class ofbetter in their activities. The orientation persons Indian in blood and colour butof their identity as a group undergoes English in tastes, in opinions, moralsa transformation. The group is able to and intellect’ (quoted in Mukherji 1948/differentiate itself from other groups 1979: 87), (emphasis added).and thereby create its own identity Ethnocentrism is the opposite ofthrough the acceptance and cosmopolitanism, which values otherrecognition 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 asIt is only when cultures come into a leading vehicle of internationalcontact with one another that the communication through its constantquestion of ethnocentrism arises. inclusion of foreign words into itsEthnocentrism is the application of vocabulary. Again the popularity ofone’s own cultural values in evaluating Hindi film music can be attributed tothe behaviour and beliefs of people from its borrowings from western pop musicother cultures. This means that the as well as from different traditions of
72 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGYIndian folk and semi-classical forms Cultural Changelike the bhangra and ghazal. Cultural change is the way in which A modern society is appreciative of societies change their patterns ofcultural difference and does not close culture. The impetus for change can beits doors to cultural influences from internal or external. In regard toabroad. But such influences are internal causes, for instance, newalways incorporated in a distinctive methods of farming or agriculture canway, which can combine with elements boost agricultural production, whichof indigenous culture. The English can transform the nature of foodlanguage despite its foreign inclusions consumption and quality of life of andoes not become a separate language, agrarian community. On the othernor does Hindi film music lose its hand external intervention in the formcharacter through borrowings. The of conquest or colonisation can alsoabsorption of diverse styles, forms, effect deep seated changes in thesounds and artifacts provides an cultural practices and behaviour of aidentity to a cosmopolitan culture. In society.a global world where modern means of Cultural change can occur throughcommunication are shrinking changes in the natural environment,distances between cultures, a contact with other cultures or pro-cosmopolitan outlook allows diverse cesses of adaptation. Changes in theinfluences to enrich one’s own culture. natural environment or ecology can Notice the words in the box. Have you heard or used these words in your conversations? 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 73drastically alter the way of life of a IIIpeople. When forest dwellingcommunities are deprived of access to SOCIALISATIONthe forest and its produce either I believe that a complete life isbecause of legal restrictions or due to inclusive of everything around us :its decimation, it can have disastrous plants, cattle, guests, feasts,effects on the dwellers and their way of festivals, quarrels, friendship, companionship, discrimination,life. Tribal communities in North East scorn. All these and more wereIndia as well as in middle India have present in one single place, mybeen the worst affected by the loss of home. Although life sometimesforest resources. appeared complicated then, I now Along with evolutionary change understand how consummate itthere can also be revolutionary change. was. It is thanks to such a childhood, perhaps, that if I get justWhen a culture is transformed rapidly a glimpse of someone’s suffering, Iand its values and meaning systems feel I can comprehend the whole ofundergo a radical change then it (Vaidehi 1945).revolutionary change takes place.Revolutionary change can be initiated At the time of birth, the human infantthrough political intervention, knows nothing about we call society ortechnological innovation or ecological social behaviour. Yet as the child growstransformation. The French Revolution up, s/he keeps learning not just about(1789) transformed French society by the physical world. But about what itdestroying the estate system of means to be a good or bad girl/boy.ranking, abolishing the monarchy, and S/he knows what kind of behaviour willinculcating the values of liberty, be applauded and, what kind will beequality and fraternity among its disapproved. Socialisation can becitizens. When a different under- defined as the process whereby thestanding comes to prevail, culture helpless infant gradually becomes a self-aware, knowledgeable person,change occurs. Recent years have seen skilled in the ways of the culture intoan amazing expansion of the media, which s/he is born. Indeed withoutboth electronic and print. Do you think socialisation an individual would notthe media has brought about an behave like a human being. Many ofevolutionary or revolutionary change? you will be familiar with the story of theWe are familiar with the various ‘Wolf-children of Midnapore’. Two smalldimensions of culture now. To return girls were reportedly found in a wolfto the point we started with in Chapter den in Bengal in 1920. They walked on1 about the interplay between the all four like animals, preferred a diet ofindividual and society, we now move on raw meat, howled like wolves andto the concept of socialisation. lacked any form of speech. Interestingly
74 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGYsuch incidents have been reported from how the process of socialisation takesother 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 asocialisation 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 oflives of those who are responsible for brothers, sisters and other relatives ofits upbringing. They too undergo new the parents. The family into whichlearning experiences. Becoming s/he is born may be a nuclear orgrandparents and parenting involves a extended family. It is also a member ofwhole 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 biradri, a religious andthey become grandparents, of course, linguistic group. Membership of thesethus forging another set of relationships groups and institutions imposes certainconnecting different generations with behavioural norms and values on eacheach other. Likewise the life of a young member. Corresponding to these memberships there are roles that arechild changes with the birth of a sibling. performed, e.g. that of a son, aSocialisation is a life long process even daughter, a grandchild or a student.though the most critical process These are multiple roles, which arehappens in the early years, the stage of performed simultaneously. The processprimary socialisation. Secondary of learning the norms, attitudes, valuessocialisation as we saw extends over the or behavioural patterns of these groupsentire life of a person. begins early in life and continues While socialisation has an imp- throughout one’s life.ortant impact on individuals it is not a The norms and values may differkind of ‘cultural programming’, in within a society in different familieswhich the child absorbs passively the belonging to different castes, regions orinfluences with which he or she comes social classes or religious groupsinto contact. Even the most recent new- according to whether one lives in aborn can assert her/his will. S/he will village or a city or one belongs to a tribecry when hungry. And keep crying until and if to a tribe, to which tribe. Indeedthose responsible for the infant’s care the very language that one speaksrespond. You may have seen how depends on the region one comes from.normal, everyday schedules of the Whether the language is closer to afamily get completely reorganised with spoken dialect or to a standardisedthe birth of a child. written form depends on the family and You have already been introduced the socio-economic and cultural profileto the concepts of status/role, of social of the family.control, of groups and social strati-fication. You are also acquainted with Agencies of Socialisationwhat culture, norms and values are. All The child is socialised by severalthese concepts will help us understand agencies and institutions in which
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION 75s/he participates, viz. family, school, Families have varying ‘locations’peer group, the neighbourhood, the within the overall institutions of aoccupational group and by social society. In most traditional societies, theclass/caste, by region, by religion. family into which a person is born largely determines the individual’sFamily social position for the rest of his or herSince family systems vary widely, the life. Even when social position is notinfants’ experiences are by no means inherited at birth in this way the regionstandard across cultures. While many and social class of the family intoof you may be living in what is termed which an individual is born affecta nuclear family with your parents and patterns of socialisation quite sharply.siblings, others may be living with Children pick up ways of behaviourextended family members. In the first characteristic of their parents or otherscase parents may be key socialising in their neighbourhood or community.agents but in the others, grandparents, Of course, few if any childrenan uncle, a cousin may be more simply take over in an unquestioningsignificant. way the outlook of their parents. This 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 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... 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 SOCIOLOGYis especially true in the contemporaryworld, in which change is so pervasive. Activity 8Moreover, the very existence of a Reflect on your own experience.diversity of socialising agencies leads to Compare your interaction withmany differences between the outlooks friends to that of your parents andof children, adolescents and theparental generation. Can you identify other elders. What is different? Doesany instance where you felt that what the earlier discussion on roles andyou learnt from the family was at status help you understand thevariance from your peer group or maybe difference?media or even school? ages at work, and in other contexts, arePeer Groups usually of enduring importance inAnother socialising agency is the peer shaping individuals’ attitudes andgroup. Peer groups are friendship behaviour.groups of children of a similar age. Insome cultures, particularly small Schoolstraditional societies, peer groups are Schooling is a formal process: there isformalised as age-grades. Even without a definite curriculum of subjectsformal age-grades, children over four studied. Yet schools are agencies ofor five usually spend a great deal of socialisation in more subtle respectstime in the company of friends of the too. Alongside the formal curriculumsame age. The word ‘peer’ means ‘equal’, there is what some sociologistsand friendly relations established have called a hidden curriculumbetween young children do tend to be conditioning children’s learning. Therereasonably egalitarian. A forceful or are schools in both India and Southphysically strong child may to some Africa where girls, but rarely boys, areextent try to dominate others. Yet there expected to sweep their classroom. Inis a greater amount of give and take some schools efforts are made tocompared to the dependence inherent counter this by making boys and girlsin the family situation. Because of their do those tasks that are normally notpower, parents are able (in varying expected of them. Can you think ofdegrees) to enforce codes of conduct examples that reflect both trends?upon their children. In peer groups, bycontrast, a child discovers a different Mass Mediakind of interaction, within which rulesof behaviour can be tested out and The mass media has increasinglyexplored. become an essential part of our Peer relationships often remain everyday lives. While today theimportant throughout a person’s life. electronic media like the television isInformal groups of people of similar expanding, the print media continues
CULTURE AND SOCIALISATION 77to be of great importance. Even in theearly print media in nineteenth century Activity 9India, ‘conduct-books’ instructing You might want to explore howwomen on how to be better house- people relate to serials set inkeepers and more attentive wives surroundings unlike their own. Orwere popular in many languages. The if children are watching televisionmedia can make the access toinformation more democratic. Electronic with their grandparents, arecommunication is something that can there disagreements about whichreach a village not connected by road programmes are worth watching,to other areas and where no literacy and if so, what differences incentres have been set up. viewpoint emerge? Are these There has been much research on differences gradually modified?the influence of television upon childrenand adults. A study in Britain showed Mahabharat was aired after dubbing inthat the time spent by children Tashkent, but even without dubbingwatching television is the equivalent of was watched in London by children whoalmost a hundred school days a year, spoke only English!and that adults are not far behind them.Apart from such quantitative aspects, Other Socialising Agencieswhat emerges from such research is notalways conclusive in its implications. Besides the socialising agenciesThe link between on-screen violence mentioned, there are other groups, orand aggressive behaviour among social contexts, in which individualschildren is still debated. spend large parts of their lives. Work If one cannot predict how the media is in all cultures an important settinginfluences people, what is certain is the within which socialisation processesextent of the influence, in terms both of operate, although it is only in indus-information and of exposure to areas trial societies that large numbers ofof experience distant from one’s own. people “go out to work” — that is, goThere is a sizeable audience for Indian each day to places of work quitetelevision serials and films in countries separate from the home. In traditionallike Nigeria, Afghanistan and among communities many people tilled theémigrés from Tibet. The televised land close to where they live, 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 psychologist.
78 INTRODUCING SOCIOLOGYworkshops in their dwellings (see and come to maturity so influence ourvisuals on page 43). behaviour, it might appear that we are robbed of any individuality or free will.Socialisation and Individual Such a view is fundamentallyFreedom mistaken. The fact that from birth to death we are involved in interactionIt is perhaps evident that socialisation with others certainly conditions ourin normal circumstances can personalities, the values we hold, andnever completely reduce people to the behaviour in which we engage. Yetconformity. Many factors encourage socialisation is also at the origin ofconflict. There may be conflicts our very individuality and freedom.between socialising agencies, between In the course of socialisation each ofschool and home, between home and us develops a sense of self-identity,peer groups. However since the and the capacity for independentcultural settings in which we are born thought and action. How Gendered is Socialisation? 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 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 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 grown-ups. ´ 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 disgust. But, after lunch, she caught them whispering about ‘that horrid English school she goes to,’ which meant that they had heard… 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 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 them, this time... Back again at the house, she had to endure the intensely uncomfortable ritual of hairdressing. Her grandmother soothed her hair with 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 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 GLOSSARY 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 written and widely accepted by the elites of a society who are educated and learned. Little Tradition : It comprises of the cultural traits or traditions which are oral and operates at the village level. 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 social position or status. Socialisation : This is the process by which we learn to become members of society. Subculture : It marks a group of people within a larger culture who borrow from and often distort, exaggerate or invert the symbols, values and beliefs of the larger culture to distinguish themselves. EXERCISES 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?
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