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Culture and Culture Change

10/07/2014

Defining Culture
Culture The set of learned behaviors and ideas that are
characteristic of a particular society or other social group
Society A group of people who occupy a particular territory and
speak a common language not generally understood by neighboring species.
Culture is commonly shared
Imagined Communities
- LGBT community, religious communities, etc
Culture is learned
Culture norms have to be learned
-If its innate, its not culture
-Length of childhood roughly reflects degree learned behavior is
needed for survival
-Humans have a unique way of transmitting culture through the use
of spoken, symbolic language (keeps us from having to learn the hard way)
Controversies
Should the concept of culture refer to just the rules or ideas behind
behavior?
-Is it only in our heads?
-Or, should it also include the behaviors or products of behaviors
Culture Norms
mile Durkheim: culture is super-organic and exerts a strong coercive
power on us. How?
Norms are standards or rules about what is acceptable behavior
The power of conformity
- When everyone is free to do as they please they generally imitate
each other

Ethnocentrism
-Judging other cultures solely in terms of your own culture
-The feeling that your own behavior and attitudes are correct and that
people who do not share those patterns are immoral or inferior
Romanticism
Rejecting ones own culture and idealizing another without a clear
understanding of that culture from an anthropological perspective
Cultural Relativism
Boasians
Franz Boa & students
Reacting too early social evolutionist who felt Western society was
superior
-Strong form
All patterns of culture are equally valid, should not be changed or
eliminated
-Weak form
Anthropologists should strive for objectivity and be wary or
superficial or quick judgment in understanding behavior tolerance unless
there is a strong reason to behave otherwise
Does not preclude judgment or changing behavior
Human Rights
-Many cultures say they have a different code of ethics than the West
Can there still be a universal standard of human rights?
Variation & Pattern
-Individual variation versus shared cultural patterns
-Anthropologists focus on identifying shared patterns and observing
the limits of variation
Ideal vs. Actual Cultural Patterns
Ideal cultural patterns refer to a societys ideas about how people
should feel and behave in certain situations

What we say and what we do may be different. BOTH are sources of


information about a culture
-Ideal may reflect past patterns/practices of a society
-Ex: Gender roles and norms
How to Reveal Cultural Patterns
Direct observation/interviews
More variation, members of culture produce pattern unconsciously
need larger # of data points/responses
Culture is integrated
Elements or traits that make up a culture are not just a random
assortment of customs but are mostly adjusted to or consistent with one
another
Adaptations to Environment
Maladaptive Customs
-Diminish the chances of survival and reproduction
Adaptive customs
-Enhance survival and reproductive success
Just because a culture is adaptive at one time does not mean it will
remain so if physical/social environments changes
Culture Change
Discovery and invention
-Unconscious Invention (AKA) accidental juxtaposition
Tiny initiatives over time, not necessarily trying to make a better
mousetrap
Intentional Innovation
-Deliberately creating something to fill a need
-18th century industrial revolution, age of invention, cottage industries to
factories
-Studies found only certain groups innovate

Who adopts innovations?


-Is it always socioeconomic position?
-Speed number of models/teachers
-Peer influence
Costs and Benefits
-Change takes time
-Retraining is costly, benefit may not be there
-Easily copied innovations may not be worth it
Diffusion
Process by which cultural elements are borrowed from another society and
incorporated into the culture of the recipient group
Over time, elements are reshaped and contextualized
Patterns of diffusion
-Direct Contact
Taken up by neighboring societies, geographic/historic/colonials spread
-Intermediate Contact
3rd party, often traders
-Stimulus Diffusion
Selective nature of diffusion
-Not all traits are adopted
-Traits that are repugnant or difficult are not adopted
Acculturation
Changes that occur when different cultural groups come into intensive
contact with one another
Cultures Change and Adaptation
Some conditions that may give rise to rebellion and revolution
-Loss of prestige of established authority
-Threat to recent economic improvement
Indecisiveness of government
Loss of support for the intellectual class
Globalization is the massive flows of goods, people information, and capital
across huge area of the earths surface p. 241
But, the diffusion of a cultural trait does not mean that is incorporated in
exactly the same way. E.g., McDonalds in Japan
Ethnogenesis: The emergence of New Cultures