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Chapter 2

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Gregory Bird

SOC100 Chapter 2 Culture – The sums of practices, language, symbols, beliefs, values, ideologies, and material objects that people create to deal with real-life problems. -Tools help people solve the problems of how to plans crops and build houses; Religion helps people give meaning to life and come to terms with death; Tools and Religion are also elements of culture because they help people solve/deal with problems -passed on from one generation to the next -helps people to adapt to, and thrive in, their environments -High Culture – Opera, ballet, art, etc. -Consumed mainly by upper classes -Popular Culture (Mass Culture) – Consumed by all classes Society – A number of people who interact, usually in a defined territory, and share a culture. The Origins & Components of Culture -100,000 years ago, humans lived in harsh conditions having poor physical endowments, being slow runners and weaker fighters than most of the other animals, yet managed to survive and dominate the nature -domination was possible because humans were the smartest creatures around and their brains allowed them to create survival kits of enormous complexity and flexibility -Survival Kits – contained three main tools – each tool was a uniquely human talent 1. Abstraction – the capacity to create general ideas or ways of thinking that are not linked to particular instances -Symbols – one important type of idea -carry particular meanings; alphabets, Mathematical notations, signs are all symbols -Ex. We recognize that we sit on many objects but only one of those objects has four legs, one back, and space for one person; we distinguish it by naming it “chair” 2. Cooperation – the capacity to create a complex social life by sharing resources and working together -this is accomplished by establishing norms -Norms – Generally accepted ways of doing things -Values – Ideas about what is right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful and ugly -Ex. Family members cooperate to raise children, and in the process, they develop and apply norms and values about which child-rearing practices are appropriate and desirable. (Different places have different levels of punishments; from grounding to beating the child) 3. Production – involves making and using tools and techniques that improve our ability to take what we want from nature -Material Culture – tangible tools and objects -Non-Material Culture – intangible such as symbols, norms, values, etc… Three Types of Norms: -Folkways – norms that specify social preferences -Ex. If a man walks down a busy street wearing nothing on the top half of his body; that is violating a folkway -punishment is usually minor (giving looks) -Mores – norms that specify social requirements -Ex. If a man walks down a street wearing nothing on the bottom half of his body, that is violating a more -More is pronounced “Moray” -punishment is moderately harsh (calling the police) -Taboos – strongest and most central norms -Violating a taboo causes revulsion in the community and the punishment is severe -Incest is one of the most widespread taboos Language – one of the most or the most important parts of any culture -a system of symbols strung together to communicate thought -helps us share understandings, pass experience and knowledge from one generation to the next, and make plans for the future -allows culture to develop; sociologists think of language as a cultural invention that distinguishes humans from other animals 1) Experience Sapir-Whorf Thesis – in the 1930s, Edward Sapir & Benjamin Whorf proposed an influential argument about the connection between experience, thought, and language. -we form concepts about things that we experience (path 1 to 2) and develop language to express our concepts (2 to 3). 3) Verbalization 2) Conceptualization Controversially, it holds that language itself then influences how (Language) (Thought) we see the world (3 to 1) -Ex. The Garo of Burma, a rice-growing people, distinguish many types of rice -Ex. Nomadic Arabs have more than 20 different words for camel -Verbal distinction is necessary because these objects are important in their environment… As a matter of necessity, they distinguish many different types of what we may regard as the “same object” -Ex. A committee used to be headed by a “chairman.” When women entered the labour force and some of them became committee heads… the term “chairman” changed to “chairperson” or simply “chair”… In such cases, we clearly see how the environment or our experience influences language -People, even from different cultures speaking different languages, are able to see the full colour spectrum…The Russian language has two different words for the colour blue while English only has one; however, this does not mean that English speakers are handicapped in their abilities to distinguish shades of blue -In the 1980s and 1990s, researchers found that language itself can affect perception… Ex. The word Key is masculine in German and feminine in Spanish; therefore, Germans tend to use words like hard, heavy, and jagged whereas the Spanish speakers use words like lovely, shiny, and shaped… Apparently, the gender of the noun in and of itself influences how people see the thing to which the noun refers Ethnocentrism – The tendency to judge other cultures exclusively by the standards of your own -impairs sociological analysis -Ex. Westerners viewing the Hindu tradition of cow worship and considering it odd while the Hindus believe it to be part of their culture and religion as a cow provides them with milk, giving birth to oxen, the cow dung being useful for crops, etc… -Manifest Functions – Visible and intended effects of social structures -Latent Functions – The invisible and unintended effects of social structures -If you refrain from ethnocentrism, you will have taken an important first step toward developing a sociological understanding of culture Culture as Freedom Culture has two faces: 1. Culture provides us with an opportunity to exercise our freedom 2. Culture constrains us – existing culture puts limits on what we can think and do Symbolic Interactionism & Cultural Production -in the 1960s, many sociologists argued that culture is a “reflection” of the society; therefore considering it a dependent variable and in 1974, Harris believed that the social necessity of protecting cows caused the cultural belief that cows were holy -in recent decades, symbolic interactionists regard culture as an independent variable… which we produce and interpret, creatively fashioning it to suit our diverse and changing needs Cultural Diversity -Historically, Europe was the main source of immigrants coming to Canada -Today, Europe and US supply only 20% of Canadian immigrants while 70% come from Asia and Africa -Top 4 countries with immigrant supply: China, India, Philippines, and Pakistan -Canada is now a more heterogeneous society, racially and ethnically, than it has ever been -Marriage between different ethnic groups is widespread and interracial marriage is increasingly accepted… however, this has become a course of conflict at the political level regarding the curricula in the Canadian educational system Multiculturalism -Policies that reflect Canada’s ethnic and racial diversity in the past and enhances its ethnic and racial diversity today -Canada’s racist immigration policies that sought to preserve Canada’s “English stick” by restricting or denying entry to certain groups -In general, history books were written f
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