Lecture 2 20140215
What is Culture?
Nature vs. Culture
• Examples: sleep, evolution, and
• Tree: symbol of Canada, we cheer vigorously for, it is natural but it can also have cultural
• Human Body: expectations around body reproduction and how it varies. Different cultures have
different expectations about ideal body types.
Culture does not reside in the thing itself but rather in the meanings that are ascribed
to it in a particular social context/group and so forth.
• Culture as cultivation: cultivating as the fruits of the land taken from a famous cultural
sociologist Raymond Williams.
Culture as civilization: Williams in the middle of the 18 century, the notion of being cultured
developed particular definition of being civilization.
o Usage of culture examples: government investing money in Canadian musicians and
filmmakers, emphasis on art, film and music.
High culture and low culture/popular culture: culture as civilization particular
ways of acting civilized. Ex. going to the see art is getting culture.
• Culture as a Way of Life
o Canadian culture needs to be protected, if we do not protect it then it can be lost, it is
valued in society and protected from social perspectives.
What is Culture? By Wendy Griswold: Expressive Action
iewpoint : “The best that has been thought and known.”
• Traditional humanities perspective
• Some culture superior to others (best created by society)
• Culture opposes prevailing social norms
• Culture is fragile and can be lost
o Critiques of this viewpoint:
By emphasizing certain cultures like popular culture we may be ignoring other
It ignores and is anthropomorphic, a human perspective ignoring animal views.
Who is designating what culture is superior to others. Predominantly, white
wealthy men emphasizing elitism and ethnocentrism.
iewpoint : “That complex whole”
• Social science perspective: culture as a way of life
• Avoids evaluation in favour of relativism • Close link between culture and society
• Culture is a practice (rather than a fragile possession), and can be studied empirically (study
and know rather than a sacred thing)
Culture is not the way of life and religion maybe the way of life. This
perspective thinks re