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Chapter 9

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University of Alberta
Francois Larose

ANTHROPOLOGY CHAPTER 9: CULTURE AND CULTURE CHANGE SOCIETY and CULTURE are not synonymous. SOCIETY refers to a group of people CULTURE refers to the learned and shared behaviours, ideas, and charateristics of those people. CULTURE IS COMMONLY SHARED - not outside of time, but within. culture can change over time. the culture of one people group today may not be the same for the exact same people group in a past or future setting. - if only one person thinks or does a certain thing, that is a personal habit, not a pattern of culture. - but individuals do not necessarily all think and act the same. individual variation is in face at major source of new culture. - when everyone in a society shares these learned traits, we call it culture. when it is a smaller group within a larger society sharing learned traits, it is called a SUB-CULTURE. CULTURE IS LEARNED - although much is learned by trial and error and imitation (like monkeys and apes do), most human ideas are learned from others. - symbolic language aids this immeasurably SO: SOMETHING IS CULTURAL IF IT IS A LEARNED BEHAVIOUR OR IDEA (BELIE, ATTITUDE, VALUE, IDEAL) THAT MEMBERS OF A SOCIETY OR OTHER SOCIAL GROUP GENERALLY SHARE. Both ETHNOCENTRISM and it's opposite, GLORIFICATION, of other cultures, hinder effective anthropological study. CULTURAL RELATIVISM - Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, Melville Herskovits, and Margarent Mead all challendged the attitude that western cultures were obviously superior. Cultural Relativism: society's customs and ideas should be described  objectively and understood in the context of that society's problems and  opportunities. - does not mean that anthropologists should not try to bring about positive change. tolerance should be the basic mode unless there is strong reason to behave otherwise. Judgements should not preclude accurate description and explanation. DESCRIBING A CULTURE understanding what is cultural as opposed to individual involves two parts: 1. separating what is shared from what is very individually variable 2. and understanding whether common behaviours and ideas are learned. INDIVIDUAL VARIATION - although individual variations are theoretically limitless, they tend to fall within easily recognizable limits. - variations of behaviour are confined within socially acceptable limits. - some limitations are practical, some traditional. - anthropologists try to distinguish between actual behaviour and the ideas about how people in particular situations ought to feel and behave. IDEAL CULTURAL TRAITS - differ from actual behaviour because the ideal is based on the way society used to be / or based on what people would like to see as correct behaviour. "equality before the law" "free enterprise" (this is called IDEAL CULTURE in Sociology too) CULTURAL CONSTRAINTS NORMS - importance of a norm can be judged by how members of a sociely respond when the norm is violated. 2 basic types of cultural constraints: 1. DIRECT, the more obvious of the two. mores. 2. INDIRECT, folkways. no less effective. HOW TO DISCOVER CULTURAL PATTERNS - Two ways to discover cultural patterns: 1. Direct observation and interviews. 2. Studying larger sample groups. In studying groups, we seek to determine the MODAL RESPONSE or MODE - a statistical term referring to th emost frequently encountered response. You could count the distance people stand from one another during a conversation and plot the points in what is called a FREQUENCY DISTRIBUTION. The distance with the highest frequency is the MODAL PATTERN. - we suspect that particular behaviours and ideas are largely learned if they vary from society to society. - conversely, when behaviours or ideas are found in all societies, we suspect genetic influences. CULTURE IS PATTERNED - CULTURE IS MOSTLY INTEGRATED, THE ELEMENTS OR TRAITS THAT MAKE UP A CULTURE ARE NOT JUST RANDOM CUSTOMS BUT ARE MOSTLY ADJUSTED TO OR CONSISTENT WITH ONE ANOTHER. THE VARIETY OF CUSTOMS IN ANY ONE CULTURE ARE CONSISTENT WITH ONE ANOTHER WHY? - the tendency towards cognitive consistency in individual human brains lends itself to a wider cultural consistency. - adaptation to the environment. MALADAPTIVE CUSTOMS that diminish chance of survival don't last. ADAPTIVE CUSTOMS that increase the chance of survival persist. *what may be adaptive in one environment may not be adaptive in another. HOW AND WHY CULTURES CHANGE 3 General Questions can be asked about Culture Change: 1. What is the source of a new trait? 2. Why are people motivated (un)consciously to adopt a new trait? 3. And is the new trait adaptive? DISCOVERY AND INVENTION ● may be an object: wheel, plow, computer ● my involve behaviour or ideas: buying and selling, democracy, monogamy UNCONSCIOUS INVENTION - also referred to as ACCIDENTAL JUXTAPOSITION. - some inventions, especially the prehistoric, were probably consequence of dozens of tiny initiatives by unconscious inventors, unintentionally culminating in something like the wheel or axe. INTENTIONAL INVENTION - some invention is consequence of society's setting itself a specific goal - arise out of deliberate attempts to produce a new idea or object - in Ghana, Ashanti artist carvers departed from tradition to produce two new styles of carving. The two groups found most to innovate were the richest and the poorest carvers. Rich can afford the risk, poor aren't doing well with traditional carving anyway. WHO ADOPTS INNOVATIONS? - once something is discovered it still must be adopted. - "early adopters" tend to be educated, high in social status, upwardly mobile - those who most need adaptive improvements, the less well off, are generally last to adopt innovations. - wealthy can take substantial risks COSTS AND BENEFITS - INNOVATIONS THAT TECHNOLOGICALLY SUPERIOR ARE NOT NECESSARLY GOING TO BE ADOPTED. - Think back to QWERTY keyboards. DIFFUSION - the process by which cultural elements are borrowed from another society is called DIFFUSION. THE SELECTIVE NATURE OF DIFFUSION - not all cultural traits are borrowed as readily, nor do they expand in neat, ever-widening cicles like ripples in a pond - diffusion is a selective process - cultures will reject ideas that do not satisfy some psychological, social, or cultural need. ACCULTURATION - process of change called
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