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Chapter 5

SOC101 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Olfaction, Body Language, Doukhobor

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Barry Mc Clinchey

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CHAPTER 5 Culture
- culture complex collection of values, beliefs, behaviours, and material objects shared by a group and
passed on from 1 generation to the next; nothing good or bad about it it is what it is
Origins of Culture
- cannot say WHEN culture began:
1. very little material evidence, things cultures make, survives for long period of time
2. much of culture is non-material, meaning it cannot be preserved for future generations to study
3. developments that enabled ancestors to become cultural were all interconnected and integral for
emergence of culture
- Findings:
1. Social life early hominid ancestors (human ancestors) lived in groups > 4.4 million years ago
2. Parental care birthing needed to occur earlier since brain sizes increased; offspring born at less
advanced developmental stage; change prob. occurred around 1.9 million years ago
3. Pair-bonding attachment of male to female occurred b/w 2.4 and 1.9 million years ago;
offspring became more dependent for longer periods of time so need to secure food/protect
young grew
4. Subsistence stages in acquiring/distributing food took place over a # of periods; tools for
hunting > 2.6 million years ago; organized hunts > 500 000 years ago; fishing > 100 000
years ago; farming > 10 000 years ago
5. Environmental adaptation caves > 800 000 years ago; fire > 450 000 years ago; sewing hides
for clothing > 30 000 years ago
6. Thought, language, art, religion art -> 250 000 years ago; black/red pigments in caves -> 400
000 years ago; cave paintings -> 30 000 years ago; Neanderthal funerals -> 100 000 years ago
Suggest that elements of “human” culture predate modern humans
Homo sapiens modern human beings; 200 000 years ago; emerged from Africa then moved to
Asia b/w 80 000 and 60 000 years ago
5 Defining Features of Culture
1. Culture is LEARNED no one is born with culture; culture influences perceptions, values, perspectives
2. Culture is SHARED develops as ppl interact/share experiences; collective cultural symbols
3. Culture is TRANSMITTED passed from generation to generation in order to survive
4. Culture is CUMULATIVE each generation refines/modifies cultural beliefs to meet changing needs,
building on cultural foundation of ancestors
5. Culture is HUMAN animals can communicate and operate in groups but this is by instinct; culture
defines how, when, why humans communicate w/ each other and w/ whom; animals do not possess
capacity to plan/organize behaviours; since culture is product of human interaction, it is uniquely human
- Material culture tangible artifacts and physical objects found in a given culture
Encompasses physical output of human labour and expression
Helps us to adapt to and prosper in physical environment
- Non-material culture intangible and abstract components of society, incl. values/norms
- Both components are inextricably linked
- values beliefs about ideal goals/behaviours that serve as standards for social life; attitudes about way
world ought to be; define right and wrong or specify cultural preferences; guidelines on what society
deems important
- norms culturally defined rules that outline appropriate behaviours; help ppl know how to act in given
social situation
folkways informal norms that suggest customary ways of behaving; no severe condemnation
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mores norms that carry strong sense of social importance/necessity; strong condemnation
distinction b/w the two is not the act itself, but the social reaction to the act
- law type of norm that is formally defines and enacted in legislation; right to charge w/ crime
- sanction penalty for norm violation OR reward for norm adherence
Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism
- ethnocentrism tendency to view one’s own culture as superior to all others; inconsistent w/
sociological perspective
- cultural relativism appreciation that all cultures have intrinsic worth and should be evaluated and
understood on their own terms; no one should judge other ppl’s customs before trying to understand
- culture shock feeling of disorientation, alienation, depression, and loneliness experienced when
entering a culture very diff. from one’s own
1. Honeymoon admiration/awe regarding new host culture; cordial interactions with locals
2. Crisis diffs. in values, signs, symbols begin to inspire feelings of confusion/disorientation that
lead to feelings of inadequacy, frustration, anger, despair
3. Recovery crisis resolved gradually w/ growing understanding of host culture and recognition
that values are consistent w/ its view of world
4. Adjustment increasing ability to function effectively and enjoy host culture despite occasional
feelings of anxiety/stress
Although time is req’d to adjust, ppl WILL adjust
Language and Culture
- language and culture are intertwined, mutually dependent, and socially constructed
- symbol stands for/represents something else; used by all humans to communicate
- language shared symbol system of rules/meanings that governs production/interpretation of speech;
agreed upon meanings shared by a group of ppl; distinguishes 1 culture from another
- symbolic interactionism society (and culture) is socially constructed; every time we interact, we
interpret interaction according to subjective meanings each of us brings to it
- Language Extinction
Loss of language is a loss of survival mechanism for culture
Lost when dominant language groups are adopted by younger ppl over their parents’ traditional
3 Reasons to Care about Losing Languages
1. loss of language = loss of knowledge (language serves as vast source of info from past)
2. when language dies, so does its related cultural myths, folk songs, legends, poetry, and
belief systems; “cultural amnesia” understanding of cultural diversity decreases
3. loss of language hinders exploration of mysteries of human mind; no longer able to
convey ideas so cannot see world from another’s perspective
- Does Language Define Thought?
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis language influences how we perceive world
Linguistic determinism language DETERMINES how we perceive world (strong
Linguistic relativism language REFLECTS how we perceive world (weak version)
Now there is little support for assertion that language defines how we interpret the world
Ppl who speak diff. languages can perceive the same social reality
- Non-Verbal Communication
Complex system of body language that conveys what we feel is important
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