Lecture 2 What Is Culture


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Lecture 2 What Is Culture

  1. 1. ANTH45 Summer 2008 Section 101 What is Culture?
  2. 2. vs.
  3. 3. In Pursuit of Culture (Goodenough) <ul><li>How people become anthropologists </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Early interest in culture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No previous knowledge about the field </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Influence of and relationship with other fields: linguistics, psychology, biology, sociology </li></ul><ul><li>Introduction to several themes of the course: language and communication, property systems, marriage rules, etc. </li></ul>
  4. 5. The Concept of Culture <ul><li>Concept used by all social sciences </li></ul><ul><li>Central to ethnology, archaeology, and biological anthropology </li></ul><ul><li>Anthropology has done more than any other discipline to refine our understanding of the concept of culture </li></ul>
  5. 6. Defining Culture <ul><li>Over 160 definitions have been identified </li></ul><ul><li>Tylor’s definition (1871) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>That complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Goodenough’s definition </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The product of learning in society </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>As opposed to simply patterns of recurring events </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on the content of culture (observed from behavior) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Criteria for: categorizing phenomena; deciding what can be; preferences and values; what to do about things; how to do those things; skills needed to perform </li></ul></ul>
  6. 7. A better definition… <ul><li>Focuses on what culture is , but also on what it does </li></ul><ul><li>Culture is the only thing that separates us from all other animals (not social behavior) </li></ul>
  7. 8. When Do We First See Culture? <ul><li>Anatomically Modern Peoples and the Upper Paleolithic (100,000 years ago) </li></ul><ul><li>Culture </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Emerges as a ‘more </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>potent’ force than </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>biology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Symbolic behavior </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Art </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Decoration </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sculpture </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Pendants </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Cave painting </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 9. When Do We First See Culture? <ul><li>More Symbolic Behavior </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ritual </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Burial </li></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 10. Culture is … <ul><li>A major adaptive tool for humans </li></ul><ul><ul><li>can be direct and can rapidly change </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Learned through enculturation </li></ul><ul><li>Transmitted </li></ul><ul><li>Universal and specific </li></ul><ul><li>Shared and integrated </li></ul><ul><li>Constantly changing </li></ul><ul><li>Based on human ability to create symbols </li></ul><ul><li>Exchanged between societies through a process called acculturation </li></ul>
  10. 11. Culture is Adaptive <ul><ul><li>Humans have adapted by manipulating environments through cultural means. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Humans have come to depend more and more on cultural adaptation. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Because it works and fast!! </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Polar bear vs. Inuit </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is adaptive in one context may be seriously maladaptive in another </li></ul></ul>
  11. 12. Culture is Adaptive <ul><li>Not every aspect of culture is adaptive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some are neutral </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some are maladaptive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sex in Papua New Guinean tribe </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>American energy policy </li></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 13. Culture is Generally Integrated <ul><li>Integration </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The tendency for all aspects of a culture to function as an interrelated whole. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>System: a set of connected elements such that if you change one of them, you change the others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Concept of holism in anthropology </li></ul></ul>
  13. 14. Individual Cultures <ul><li>Core values </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unique to each culture </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Constantly changing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Language evolves, customs change, beliefs and behaviors change </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ideal culture vs. real culture </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What people say should do and what they say they do vs. what the anthropologist observes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anthropological use of emic vs. etic perspective </li></ul></ul>
  14. 15. Emic vs. Etic: why cows are sacred in India <ul><li>Emic idea: cows are sacred because our religion tells us so </li></ul><ul><li>Emic behavior: we don’t eat cows </li></ul><ul><li>Etic idea: cows are crucial for farm labor. It is maladaptive to eat a cow because it produces more on a farm </li></ul><ul><li>Etic behavior: people sometimes eat old cows </li></ul>
  15. 16. Culture is Symbolic <ul><li>The most fundamental aspect of culture is the capacity to symbolize </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Culture is dependent upon symbols </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Symbol: something that represents something else with which it is not intrinsically related </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Symbols are powerful </li></ul></ul>
  16. 17. Culture is Shared <ul><li>For a thing, idea, or behavior pattern to qualify as being cultural, it must have a meaning shared by most people in a society </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Society: a group of people who have a common homeland, are interdependent, and share a common culture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More to come: how people in States have shared culture and the institutions that help give common sense of identity </li></ul></ul>
  17. 18. Culture is Differentially Shared <ul><li>Degree with which traits are shared varies between cultures </li></ul><ul><li>Sources of variation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sex and Gender </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Age </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Class </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Religion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Etc. </li></ul></ul>
  18. 19. <ul><li>Differences exist in different sections of society </li></ul><ul><li>Subcultures </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Subsets of a wider culture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Share traits with mainstream </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>But still unique </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Subcultures can be threatening to the mainstream </li></ul>
  19. 20. Culture is Learned <ul><li>Enculturation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The process of acquiring culture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning or interacting with one’s cultural environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Observation, direct learning, experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not all learned behavior is cultural </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Conditioning by repeated training is not enculturation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Brain-washing” </li></ul></ul></ul>
  20. 21. <ul><li>Ward Goodenough: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Because culture is learned, it’s in your head </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No two people have the exact same criteria </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>As long as differences don’t affect the ability to interact with each other, you have a sense of shared culture </li></ul></ul><ul><li>… but sometimes they do! </li></ul><ul><li>… that’s why we squash them </li></ul><ul><li>… who’s we? Mainstream, powerful groups, lobbies, governments… </li></ul>
  21. 22. Culture’s Influence on Biology <ul><li>Functions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Eating </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sleeping </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work/exercise </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Body types and images </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Attitudes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Modification </li></ul></ul>
  22. 23. Culture and Change <ul><li>All cultures change over time for one reason or another </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Meeting environmental crises </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Responding to intrusions by outsiders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evolving internal behavior and values </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Results may be beneficial or disastrous </li></ul>
  23. 24. Mechanisms of Cultural Change <ul><li>Internal Changes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Innovations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ultimate source of all culture change </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>External changes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Diffusion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Spreading of a cultural element from one culture to another </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Responsible for the greatest amount of change in any given society </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Because people have never been isolated </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 25. <ul><li>Acculturation: process of adopting foreign cultural elements (beliefs, customs, behaviors) </li></ul>
  25. 26. Cultural Universals <ul><li>Despite variation in many aspects there are basic similarities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>System(s) of production </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Marriage and family </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Education </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social control </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supernatural beliefs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul></ul>
  26. 27. As Individuals… <ul><li>Culture influences our behavior, but… </li></ul><ul><li>It does not determine our behavior </li></ul><ul><li>Deviance from cultural norms exists in all societies </li></ul>
  27. 28. Short Exercise <ul><li>Describe American culture to a foreigner: food, religion, education, political system, values </li></ul><ul><li>Which aspects of American culture are a result of innovation? </li></ul><ul><li>Which resulted from diffusion from another culture? </li></ul><ul><li>List 2 American symbols besides the flag: what do they represent? </li></ul><ul><li>List and describe 2 American subcultures. How does the mainstream view these subcultures? Are they respected, feared, ignored? </li></ul>