About Culture

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Culture
Key Concept in Cultural
Anthropology

Defining Culture
• Everything humans perceive, know, think,
value and feel is learned through
participating in a cultural system
• Human potential can only be realized
within the structure of human culture and
through growing up in close contact with
other humans

Scope of Culture
• Things that strike as “natural” or “normal”
or “common sense” or “human nature” or
“instinctive” are often cultural
• Mother/infant bond “human nature”?
• In Northeastern Brazil where poverty is
predominant, mothers give minimum care
to infants.

Wildboy of Aveyon
• Found and brought into human contact
• Learned some speech
• Could not adjust adequately to human
society after being isolated from it for so
long

Contemporary Anthropologists
• Do not agree on a definition of culture
• Some definitions stress the materialist side
of culture and others stress the idealist
side of culture
• Anthropology is a social science,
humanities and science
• Anthropologists do agree on
characteristics of culture

Characteristics All Cultures Share
• Made up of learned behaviors
• Learning culture is continuous process
• Cultures are learned through the process
of enculturation
• They all involve the use of language and
symbols—things that stand for something
else

Characteristics of Culture
• Elements of culture have some logical
relationship to one another
• In some ways, members of a culture share
values and norms
• The way people learn to interact with one
another is cultural
• Types and expression of emotions is
cultural

Cultures are Adaptive
• Cultures contain information about how to
survive in the world
• UDEL Student Culture Has Ways to
Survive and Handle Stress
• Cultures also contain information about
what is maladaptive
• UDEL Drinking to excess

Culture Change
• Cultural Change may result from internal
dynamics or by outside forces
• The speed in which cultures change may
vary much through outside forces
• Slang words one indication of culture
change
• College dorms used to be for men or
women only. What brought about the
culture change?

Culture Change
• Cultural Ideas about sex and gender
changed

Learning One’s Culture
• Humans depend on learned and taught
behavior more than any other species
• No other species has as lengthy of a
period of childhood learning as humans
• Each society has both formal and informal
means of enculturation or transmitting its
culture
• Tacit and Explicit Cultural Knowledge

Child learning
• Interaction with parents and siblings
• Individual play and group play
• Enculturation patterns are transmitted from
generation to generation—or are they?
• Society is culturally reproduced as well as
biologically reproduced

Human Development is Different
Cross Culturally
• Childhood is not considered as a distinct
stage of life in many non-western cultures
and was only recognized in the West
among wealthy parents in the 17th century
• Early 20th century in US did away with
child labor. Beginning of universal public
school because something had to be done
for the children of working parents

Purpose of Child Rearing Patterns
• Childrearing practices in all cultures are
design for special behaviors
• Designed to pattern children’s attitudes,
beliefs, values, perceptions and behavioral
patterns
• To be in harmony with their society
• Child-rearing is adaptive learning

Inuit Child Adaptation
• Adapt to the conditions of uncertainty in
their environment
• Test the limits of danger
• Test their own individual abilities to cope
with survival and the environment

Inuit Children
• They develop skills for solving problems quickly
and spontaneously

• Children are brought up to constantly test
physical skills to learn their own pain and
endurance capacities
• Initiative for learning skills rests largely
with the child and each is...
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