Introduction to Sociology/Culture
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These two avatars illustrate the basic concept of culture. One is simply a reflection of his biology; he is human. The other is a reflection of his biology and his culture; he is human and belongs to a cultural group. Contents [hide] * 1 Introduction * 1.1 'High' Culture * 1.2 The Changing Concept of Culture * 1.2.1 The Origins of Culture * 1.3 Level of Abstraction * 1.4 The Artificiality of Cultural Categorization * 2 Subcultures & Countercultures * 3 Ethnocentrism & Cultural Relativism * 4 Theories of Culture * 4.1 The Function of Culture * 5 Cultural Change * 6 Cultural Sociology: Researching Culture * 7 References * 8 External links
The simplest way to think about culture is to think about the distinction between nature (our biology andgenetics) and nurture (our environment and surroundings that also shape our identities). Because of our biology and genetics, we have a particular form and we have certain abilities. But our biological nature does not exclusively determine who we are. For that, we need culture. Culture is the non-biological or social aspects of human life, basically anything that is learned by humans is part of culture. The two avatars to the right help illustrate this idea. The avatar wearing nothing but shorts comes close to representing nothing but nature. The form of the avatar reveals several things about this person, but they are not necessarily tied to a specific culture. For instance, the fact that he has lighter colored skin suggests he has Caucasian ancestry, but that is biological, not social. Otherwise, there is very little about this avatar that reflects culture (the exceptions are his shorts and hair stylings, which do, in fact, reflect culture). The avatar wearing the colorful vest and pants stands in stark contrast to the other avatar. This second avatar is reflective of a particular culture. The colors of the vest - red, white, and blue - in the specific pattern they are in (stars and stripes) suggests this avatar is in some way associated with the United States of America. The cut of the avatar's top and pants suggest a particular time period - the late 1960s or early 1970s. The backdrop, with the words Rock the Vote scrawled across it, also suggest something about the avatar - perhaps that he is a musician participating in the Rock the Vote movement. Additionally, the avatar's hairstyle, dreadlocks, also suggest something about this second avatar as dreadlocks are prominent only in certain sub-cultures. In short, the first avatar is mostly a-cultural or lacking in culture while the second avatar is heavily enmeshed in culture. Generally speaking, the following elements of social life are considered to be representative of human culture: "stories, beliefs, media, ideas, works of art, religious practices, fashions, rituals, specialized knowledge, and common sense" (p. xvi). Yet, examples of culture do not, in themselves, present a clear understanding of the concept of culture; culture is more than the object or behavior. Culture also includes, …norms, values, beliefs, or expressive symbols. Roughly, norms are the way people behave in a given society, values are what they hold dear, beliefs are how they think the universe operates, and expressive symbols are representations, often representations of social norms, values, and beliefs themselves. (p. 3) To summarize, culture encompasses objects and symbols, the meaning given to those objects and symbols, and the norms, values, and beliefs that pervade social life. "The definition is understood to include two elements - that which differentiates one group or society from others and the concept of acquired or learned behavior". (p. 43) Keep in mind that, in any given society, culture is not necessarily rigid and totally uniform. As is the case with most...
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