January 17, 2013
Culture: Part 1
1. Course Goals and Learning Objectives
2. Sociological Definition of Culture vs. Commonsense Notions of
Course Goals and Learning Objectives
- “Differentiate between a commonsense perspective and a sociological
- Put in 4 different theories/perspectives
Sociological Definition of Culture
- Culture: refers to the symbolic and learned aspects of human society.
The sum of traditions, practices, languages, symbols, beliefs, values,
ideologies, and material objects that create a sense of similarity
amongst a group of people. (Brym and Lie 2012: 31).
Commonsense notions of culture in North America
- Two ways to differentiate/culture is „used‟:
“High Culture”: the sum of traditions, practices, languages,
symbols, values, ideologies, and material objects that are
associated with the upper class. Judged in relation to the
Upper class is judged according to and distinguished
from the popular culture.
It denotes someone has social distinction, it‟s an
evaluation (to say someone has “high culture” evaluates
them and says they have a high „value‟)
“High Culture” can only be possessed by a small group
If many people had it, it wouldn‟t be „high‟.
It‟s a possession.
Two social practices applied to one social class.
It‟s a value that one class has that distinguishes them from one
“Ethnic Culture”: the sum
A person is part of a cultural minority
A product of a social process that leads us to identify
people with a specific ethnic culture January 17, 2013
People‟s ethnic culture acts as a demarcation that
indicates who they are.
Identifies someone from a social group
Defines an individual by their ethnicity.
Ethnicity: outsider (how Greeks divided groups of
Positive Evaluation: description of someone that micro
sizes them to a certain ethnicity
To call someone as cultural is really a short version of
saying “someone is a part of a certain culture”
Part of ethnocentrism
Ethnocentrism: judging someone from the basis of one‟s
own culture: majority culture
In Canada and anywhere across the world, majority
culture often forgets they have a culture; they see other
places and don‟t really acknowledge that those places
also have a culture.
- In both ways culture is used, there are 3 biases
3 Biases in Commonsense of culture
1) Culture is an exclusive sphere
Limited to a group of people
Majority way used, still exclusive to a particular group
High cultures especially, seen as „cultural‟
Starts to exclude people
2) Culture is relational
Co-determined in relation to other cultures
Low culture in relation to high culture
Different cultural ethnicities are defined in relation to other
When you act in that culture it‟s not different, only when you
step outside of it
Example: Going to the States makes you realize how Canadian
you really are
3) Culture represents differences
The way we think of culture in society we live in is that cult