What is culture?


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Credits to MJC EL department (General Paper)

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  • Nice presentation, very colourful and impressive. What I like the most about it is bright pictures. The material which was used is very interesting, it's not just dates or definitions from the book. I think the author did really great job gathering those facts about the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.
    I understood that culture is the different activities that group of people practice, such as language. I became more interesting in Material and Social culture because of these slides.
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What is culture?

  1. 1. What is Culture ? MJC JC1 GP (2005)
  2. 2. What is culture <ul><li>Distinguishes man from beast, one human group from another. </li></ul><ul><li>Patterns of behaviour & thinking that people living in social groups learn, create & share. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Symbolic , learned , shared & adaptive . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>People who share a common culture - especially common rules of behaviour & social organisation – can constitutes a society . </li></ul>
  3. 3. Categorising culture <ul><li>Edward B. Tylor (1871): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Culture includes socially acquired knowledge, beliefs, art, law, morals, customs & habits. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>George P. Murdock (1930): </li></ul><ul><ul><li>637 major subdivisions of culture. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Human Relation Area Files to identify & sort distinctive cultural variations. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Later anthropologists: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>3 broad categories: material , social & ideological . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>4 th category: the arts (has characteristics of material & ideological culture) </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Material culture <ul><li>Products of human manufacture. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Raise your own examples. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The economy . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Methods by which people obtain or produce food (pattern of subsistence) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technologies & objects people make and use. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ways in which people exchange goods & services </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Effects of economic activities & products on natural environment. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Social culture <ul><li>Forms of social interaction & organization . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bonds by kinship and marriage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work duties and economic position </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Political position. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Important factors include age & gender </li></ul></ul><ul><li>You consider : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How is S’pore society organised? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How is your family structured? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How is your social network structured? </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Ideological culture <ul><li>Beliefs : understanding of how world works & how to respond to others’ actions of others & their environments. Often tie in closely with the daily concerns. </li></ul><ul><li>Values : differentiate right from wrong or good and bad. </li></ul><ul><li>Ideals : models for what people hope to achieve in life. Could be based on religious &/or secular beliefs & values </li></ul>
  7. 7. The arts <ul><li>Material arts : painting, pottery, sculpture, textiles and clothing & cookery. </li></ul><ul><li>Performing arts : music, dance, drama and dramatic arts, storytelling & written narratives. </li></ul><ul><li>Can be incorporated into material production. Such utilitarian items can have varying levels of artistic qualities. </li></ul><ul><li>Other forms serve no real functional purpose but are created as pure expression of the artiste’s or the society’s thoughts and actions. </li></ul>
  8. 8. High vs. Popular/Mass Culture <ul><li>High culture used to be the realm of the wealthy and educated classes. </li></ul><ul><li>“ high art” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Opera, historic art, classical music, traditional theater or literature. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Widely perceived as the work of professional artists, serious in intent & valuable. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Intellectual input & introspection needed. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. High vs. Popular/Mass Culture <ul><li>Popular culture used to be considered commercial entertainment for the lower classes. </li></ul><ul><li>“ low art”/mass culture </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Opposite of high cultural art forms. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many forms of cultural communication including newspapers, television, advertising, comics, pop music, radio, cheap novels & movies. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Often linked to commercial or mass production & perceived as having little or no serious aesthetic, intellectual or economic value </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Inspiration drawn from daily experiences </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Pop Culture is part of our lives
  11. 11. High vs. Popular/Mass Culture <ul><li>Gulf closed with rise of Pop Art in 1950s/60s. </li></ul><ul><li>Artists incorporated i mages borrowed from mass culture into their works, such as: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Beer bottles, soup cans, comic strips, & road signs. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Images of themselves, sometimes in startlingly modified form. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Material manufactured using modern technology (e.g. PVC) figured prominently. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Influenced subsequent artists & commercial, graphic & fashion design. </li></ul><ul><li>Popular culture continues to develop, adapt & evolve over the last few decades. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Pop Culture Evolves
  13. 13. High vs. Popular/Mass Culture <ul><li>Much of pop culture is dumbed down, low-brow entertainment, but there is intellectually stimulating content. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Elements from high culture . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Light-hearted commentary/critique of life & even popular culture itself. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develops new genres </li></ul></ul><ul><li>However, not everyone is privy to the benefits. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Many people lack the ability & knowledge to “get it”. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They are not interested or have not come into contact with such content. </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Pop Culture invents , borrows & modifies <ul><li>From mass culture </li></ul>From high culture From life
  15. 15. Culture is symbolic <ul><li>Based on symbols . </li></ul><ul><li>Dependent on man’s ability to communicate with symbols . </li></ul><ul><li>Enables people to create, explain & record new ideas and information . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Human language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sign language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>R ed, white & blue on the American flag </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Green to Muslims </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Culture is learned <ul><li>Culture is captured as knowledge . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Scientific discoveries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Objects such as works of art </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Traditions such as observance of holidays. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Socially inherited from other people in a society, at home and in school. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Taught </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Caught” </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Culture is learned <ul><li>Enculturation / cultural transmission begins in the family & continue throughout a person’s life. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Older members -> younger ones </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Respect for elders because of the knowledge & skills they have accumulated over a lifetime. </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Culture is shared <ul><li>People in a society share common behaviours & ways of thinking. </li></ul><ul><li>Different societies can also exchange & share culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Culture is shared when these take place: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Migration, tourism, trade </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Conquest, change of political &/or religious systems </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Aided by improving information & communication technologies </li></ul>
  19. 19. Culture is shared <ul><li>Cultural exchange led to the rise of an increasingly globalised culture : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>With increasing globalisation, it has become difficult to find culture that is shared within only a single society. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Exchange of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ideas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Manufactured goods </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Natural resources . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Adopted &/or adapted </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop the 4 categories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Correct undesirable aspects </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Culture is shared <ul><li>Drawbacks </li></ul><ul><li>Acculturation - members of one culture adopt features of another - can disrupt original lifestyle. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Problems : Cultural dilution or loss (although there are cases of the cultures being enriched) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Indigenous peoples adopted Spanish language & customs of Spain when South and Central America were colonised in the 1500s. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Culture shock - immersion in a very different culture can cause confusion & disorientation. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can happen when one migrates. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can happen within multicultural societies. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Problems : misunderstandings & intolerance </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Culture is shared <ul><li>Rise of subcultures - groups of people in a larger society share distinct cultural traits. Can co-exist or clash with the mainstream culture . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mennonite communities in the US/Canada </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Drug culture, clubbing culture among the young </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ethnocentrism - members of a society who share culture often share some feelings of notion that one’s culture is more sensible/superior to that of other societies . At its worst: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethnocide: destruction of cultures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Genocide: destruction of entire populations </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Culture is shared <ul><li>Cultural imperialism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Americanisation of the world </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Influx of J-pop & K-pop culture into Asia </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Criticism : much of what is exported reflects questionable morals or is dumbed down, low-brow content. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>You evaluate : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How have YOU been affected? Are you sure you are immune? For better or worse? </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Global Pop Culture <ul><li>American Pop Culture </li></ul>Asian Pop Culture
  24. 24. Culture is adaptive <ul><li>People use culture to flexibly & quickly adjust to changes in to the natural environment & the manmade world . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>End of the last Ice Age in N. America (beginning about 15,000 years ago) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Large game animals disappeared. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Many land areas submerged. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>People developed new technologies </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Learned to subsist on new plant & animal species. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Some settled into permanent villages. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Culture is adaptive <ul><li>Cultural adaptation make mankind one of the most successful species. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>History, major developments in technology, medicine & nutrition have allowed people to reproduce & survive in ever-increasing numbers. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Rise of consumer culture/throwaway society has created devastating problems. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Depletion of natural resources & fossil fuels. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Material & chemical wastes. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Process of burning fuels and producing wastes altering the global climate. </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Summation – what have you learnt? <ul><li>Culture consists of material , social and ideological categories and the Arts . </li></ul><ul><li>It range from high-brow to low-low brow. </li></ul><ul><li>It is not static but evolves by inventing , adopting and adapting . </li></ul><ul><li>Every society has its mainstream culture and subcultures . </li></ul><ul><li>Many societies still retain their distinctive cultures but these are nonetheless being changed by the influx of global popular culture . There is cultural loss or dilution. </li></ul><ul><li>Popular or mass cultural products can differ greatly in terms of quality . Depending on what we absorb, we are more positively or negatively affected . </li></ul><ul><li>Some of us experience high culture and that asserts its influence over us too . </li></ul>High Popular / Mass Low
  27. 27. Preparing for P1 S’pore-based questions / P2 AQs <ul><li>You describe : </li></ul><ul><li>What makes up Singaporean culture? </li></ul><ul><li>What makes up global culture? </li></ul><ul><li>You evaluate : </li></ul><ul><li>Do Singaporeans experience more of high or popular culture? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What are the gains and losses? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Do young people in the world experience more of high or popular culture? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What are the gains and losses? </li></ul></ul>