Caribbean Studies

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Unit 3: Caribbean cultural expressions/ identity

The term culture has been defined in many ways. It is often used by social scientists to include all areas of life and therefore every human society has a culture.

Culture includes a society’s arts, beliefs, customs, institutions, inventions, language, technology and values.

Culture produces similar behaviour and thoughts among most people in a particular society. People are not born with any knowledge of a culture; they generally learn a culture by being in a particular society. Language is the main tool in this learning process. They also learn through watching and imitating various behaviours in the society.

The process by which people learn their society’s culture is called socialisation/enculturation.

Through enculturation, a culture is shaped with members of a society and passes from one generation to the next.


✓ A culture satisfies human needs in a particular way

✓ A culture is acquired through learning

✓ A culture is based on the use of symbols

✓ A culture consist of individual traits called patterns

All cultures serve to meet the basic needs shared by human beings, for example, every culture has methods of obtaining food and shelter. Every culture also has family relations, economic and governmental structures, religious systems and forms of artistic expressions.

Culture is acquired through learning and not through biology.

Cultural learning is based on the ability to use symbols. A symbol is something that stands for something else. The most important type is the works of a language.

All societies use symbols to create and maintain culture. Cultures are made up of individual elements called cultural traits. A group of related traits or elements is a cultural pattern.

Culture and society

A multi cultural society supports the view that many distinct cultures are good and desirable and so they encourage such diversity.

Multi culturalism succeeds best in a society that has many different ethnic groups and a political system that promotes freedom of expression and awareness and understanding of cultural differences.

The multi racial component of the Caribbean is considered a component of its culture.


A value is a belief that something is good or desirable. It defines what is important and worthwhile or worth striving for.

Our cultural value has to do with how we rank the importance of these qualities within our culture.

In western societies individual achievement and materialism are major aspects of our values.

Norms and values are important as they promote an ordered and stable society

Cultural erasure

Loss of culture occur as a result of tension or conflict between traditional ways of doing things or modern or progressive ways. The traditional way when compared to the modern way seems time consuming.

Erasure also occurs because cultural values are not being taught to younger generation and as older folk die so do the practices.

Cultural diffusion or dissemination of another culture can also wipe out a more primitive culture (contact of Europeans with indigenous population in the region: enslavement of Africans by European)

Catastrophic events can also wipe out a culture (wars, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etcetera).

Cultural Renewal

Efforts to salvage parts of our past by fashioning new practices based on the old one is referred to as cultural renewal. This stems from the feeling that there is much value to be learnt from some of the practices we have ignored and or allowed to be almost wiped out.

People are making more effort to preserve cultural heritage while others are becoming more aware of their cultural legacy. To others it is a response to an identity crisis of who we are.

Cultural retention

In an effort to keep traditional practices alive, there has been much cultural retention. This may be as a result of...
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