Detailed Textbook Notes Chapter 3

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6 Jan 2011

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Chapter 3: Culture
What is Culture?
Culture: Ways of thinking & acting, & the material objects that together shape a
peoples way of life
Nonmaterial Culture: Ideas created by members of a society
Material Culture: Physical things created by members of a society
Culture Shock: Personal disorientation when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life
Culture, Nation, State, & Society
Nation commonly used to refer to a political entity state or country; it also refers to a
people who share a culture, ancestry, & history
State is a political entity in a territory with designated borders
Society refers to organized interaction of people within a nation, state, or other
boundary who share a culture
How many cultures?
Documented 7,000 languages, suggesting the existence of @ least that many distinct
# of languages in world is declining; roughly half are now each spoken by fewer than
10,000 people
Likely causes:
1.Electronic communication
2. Increasing international migration
3.Expanding global economy
Elements of Culture
Symbols: Anything that carries a particular meaning recognized by people who share
Some settings, some actions conveys interest; in others, understanding; in still
others, insult
We feel lost & isolated, unsure of how to act, & sometimes frightened a
consequence of being outside of symbolic web of culture
Culture shock 2-way process:
1.Traveller experiences when encountering people whose way of life is
2.Traveller inflicts on others by acting in ways that might offend them
Symbolic meaning vary within a single society
Cultural symbols also change over time
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Manipulating symbols correctly allows us to engage others within our own
cultural system
1. Ie.
North Americans consider dogs to be beloved household pets,
travellers to northern regions of China may be appalled to find ppl
roasting dogs for dinner
Fur coat, prized by 1 person as luxurious symbol of success, may
represent to another the inhumane treatment of animals
Language: System of symbols that allows people to communicate with one another
Cultural Transmission: Process by which 1 generation passes culture to the next
Humans invented writing 5,000 years ago, even then, just a favoured few ever
learned to read & write
Does Language Shape Reality?
Edward Sapir & Benjamin Whorf anthropologists specializes in linguistic
studies, notes that EACH language has words/expressions with no precise
counterparts in other languages
All languages fuse symbols with distinctive emotions
1.Multilingual people can attest, single idea feels different if spoken in 1
language rather than another
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: People perceive world through cultural lens of language
1.Using different symbolic systems experience distinct worlds, not merely
same world with different labels attached
Values & Beliefs
Values: Culturally defined standards that people use to decide what is desirable,
good, & beautiful, & that serve as broad guidelines for social living
1.Standards that people who share culture use to make choices about how
to live
Beliefs: specific statements that people hold to be true
In other words, values are abstract standards of goodness, & beliefs are
particular matters that individuals consider to be true or false
Cultural values & beliefs colour how we perceive surroundings AND form core of
our personalities
Canada large & diverse few cultural values & beliefs shared by everyone
1.Canada has become a CULTURAL MOSAIC
Values: Inconsistency & Conflict
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