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Culture and Culture Theory

Culture and Culture Theory

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  • Culture is Shared Culture is Shared
  • Culture is Symbolic Culture is Symbolic
  • Culture and Nature Culture and Nature
  • Culture is All-Encompassing Culture is All-Encompassing
  • Culture is Integrated Culture is Integrated
  • People Use Culture Creatively People Use Culture Creatively
  • Culture is Adaptive and Maladaptive Culture is Adaptive and Maladaptive
  • Ethnocentrism & Cultural Relativism Ethnocentrism & Cultural Relativism
  • Culture: Universal and Particular Culture: Universal and Particular
  • Universality Universality
  • Particularity Particularity
  • Diffusion Diffusion
  • Acculturation Acculturation
  • Independent Invention Independent Invention
  • Convergent Cultural Evolution Convergent Cultural Evolution
  • Participant Observation Participant Observation
  • Conversation and Interviewing Conversation and Interviewing
  • The Genealogical Method The Genealogical Method
  • Emic vs. Etic Emic vs. Etic
  • The Evolution of Ethnography The Evolution of Ethnography
  • Interpretive Anthropology Interpretive Anthropology
  • Experimental Anthropology Experimental Anthropology
  • Ethnographic Present Ethnographic Present
  • Problem-Oriented Ethnography Problem-Oriented Ethnography
  • Longitudinal Research Longitudinal Research
  • Ethics: People and Animals Ethics: People and Animals
  • Ethics: Scholarship and Science Ethics: Scholarship and Science
  • Ethics: Teaching Ethics: Teaching
  • Ethics for Applied Anthropology Ethics for Applied Anthropology
  • Anthropology in Complex Societies Anthropology in Complex Societies

Culture is Learned

Cultural learning is unique to humans.  Cultural learning is the accumulation of knowledge about experiences and information not perceived directly by the organism, but transmitted to it through symbols.   

Symbols are signs that have no necessary or natural connection with the things for which they stand. Geertz defines culture as ideas based on cultural learning and symbols.


© 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Culture is Learned
Culture is learned through both direct instruction and through observation (both conscious and unconscious).  Anthropologists in the 19th century argued for the ³psychic unity of man.´   

This doctrine acknowledges that individuals vary in their emotional and intellectual tendencies and capacities. However, this doctrine asserted that all human populations share the same capacity for culture.


© 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Culture is Shared
Culture is located and transmitted in groups.  The social transmission of culture tends to unify people by providing us with a common experience.  The commonalty of experience in turn tends to generate a common understanding of future events. 


© 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Culture is Symbolic
The human ability to use symbols is the basis of culture (a symbol is something verbal or nonverbal within a particular language or culture that comes to stand for something else).  While human symbol use is overwhelmingly linguistic, a symbol is anything that is used to represent any other thing, when the relationship between the two is arbitrary (e.g. a flag).  Other primates have demonstrated rudimentary ability to use symbols, but only humans have elaborated cultural abilities²to learn, to communicate, to store, to process, and to use symbols. 

© 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Culture and Nature
Humans interact with cultural constructions of nature, rather than directly with nature itself.  Culture converts natural urges and acts into cultural customs. 


© 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

not just wealthy people with an elite education. All rights reserved. . Inc.Culture is All-Encompassing The anthropological concept of culture is a model that includes all aspects of human group behavior.  Everyone is cultured.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Culture is Integrated A culture is a system: changes in one aspect will likely generate changes in other aspects.  Core values are sets of ideas. Inc. and beliefs which are basic in that they provide an organizational logic for the rest of the culture. All rights reserved. . attitudes.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.

 ³Real culture´ refers to ³actual behavior as observed by an anthropologist. .  ³Ideal culture´ refers to normative descriptions of a culture given by its natives. Inc.´  Culture is both public and individual because individuals internalize the meanings of public (cultural) messages. manipulate. and change the ³rules´ and patterns of their own cultures. All rights reserved. subvert.People Use Culture Creatively Humans have the ability to avoid.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.

cultural behavior can be maladaptive. for example). or time frame.  Because cultural behavior is motivated by cultural factors.  Determining whether a cultural practice is adaptive or maladaptive frequently requires viewing the results of that practice from several perspectives (from the point of view of a different culture. species.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. and not by environmental constraints. Inc.Culture is Adaptive and Maladaptive Culture is an adaptive strategy employed by hominids. All rights reserved. .

Inc.  Scientific Laws are Predictive not Prescriptive  Because we can make general predictions about the way in which people will respond under certain conditions.Generalization and Laws in Social Science: Most ³Laws´ in the natural sciences only apply in very specific. we can conduct a scientific study of culture. All rights reserved.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. . limited conditions.

 Cultural Relativism asserts that cultural values are arbitrary. McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. and mores from one¶s own culture to judge the behavior of someone from another culture. Ethnocentrism contributes to social solidarity.   Ethnocentrism is a cultural universal. All rights reserved.Ethnocentrism & Cultural Relativism  Ethnocentrism is the use of values. and therefore the values of one culture should not be used as standards to evaluate the behavior of persons from outside that culture. Inc. . ideals.

or religion. .  Manny Anthropologists argue that cultural relativism does not preclude an anthropologist from respecting ³international standards of justice and morality. All rights reserved.  Cultural rights are vested in groups and include a group¶s ability to preserve its cultural tradition. culture.Human Rights The idea of universal. Inc. unalienable. individual human rights challenges cultural relativism by invoking a moral and ethical code that is superior to any country.´  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Inc.Human Rights This is an example of the study of ethnomedicine in Papua New Guinea. All rights reserved. which may have commercial value. . McGraw-Hill © 2002 by Credit: Ripoll/Association Kutubu/ Gamma Liaison Photo The McGraw-Hill Companies. The notion of Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights has emerged to help preserve each societies cultural base.

 Cultural generalities include features that are common to several.Culture: Universal and Particular Cultural universals are features that are found in every culture. but not all human groups. All rights reserved.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.  Cultural particularities are features that are unique to certain cultural traditions. Inc. .

 Some biological universals include: a long period of infant dependency. and tools.Universality Cultural universals are those traits that distinguish Homo sapiens from other species. and a complex brain that enables us to use symbols. Inc. feel. All rights reserved. and process information.  Some psychological universals include the common ways in which humans think. .  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. year-round sexuality. families (of some kind). life in groups.  Some social universals include: incest taboos. and food sharing. languages.

. All rights reserved. Inc.McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.

´  That these particulars may be of fundamental importance to the population is indicative of the need to study the sources of cultural diversity. All rights reserved. Inc.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.Particularity Cultural practices that are unique to any one culture are ³cultural particulars. .

 Diffusion can be direct (between to adjacent cultures) or indirect (across one or more intervening cultures or through some long distance medium). colonization.. and the like).g.Diffusion Diffusion²defined as the spread of culture traits through borrowing from one culture to another²has been a source of culture change throughout human history. or some other kind of domination) or unforced (e. trade.  Diffusion can be forced (through warfare. intermarriage. All rights reserved. .  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. Inc.

Acculturation Acculturation is the exchange of features that results when groups come into continuous. Inc.  Acculturation may occur in any or all groups engaged in such contact.  A pidgin is an example of acculturation. All rights reserved.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. firsthand contact. because it is a language form that develops by borrowing language elements from two linguistically different populations in order to facilitate communication between the two. .

.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved.  The independent invention of agriculture in both the Middle East and Mexico is cited as an example. Inc.  Cultural generalities are partly explained by the independent invention of similar responses to similar cultural and environmental circumstances.Independent Invention Independent invention is defined as the creative innovation of new solutions to old and new problems.

Inc. institutions.Convergent Cultural Evolution Cultural convergence is the development of similar traits.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. . and behavior patterns by separate groups as a result of adaptation to similar environments.  Julian Steward pointed to instances of cultural convergence to support the hypothesis that cultural change is governed by scientific laws. All rights reserved.

accommodation. and survival that occur in response to same.Globalization     Globalization encompasses a series of processes that work to make modern nations and people increasingly interlinked and mutually dependent. Economic and political forces take advantage of modern systems of communication and transportation to promote globalization. Globalization allows for the domination of local peoples by larger economic and political systems (these may be based regionally. and worldwide). All rights reserved. Recognizing the breadth and nature of changes wrought through globalization carries the concomitant need to recognize practices of resistance. Inc. . McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. nationally.

Inc. Photo Credit: Barry Iverson . Egypt are using a laptop computer and smoking traditional hookahs (pipes). McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.Globalization These men in a coffee shop in Cairo. All rights reserved.

beliefs. The nuclear family is a cultural generality since it is present in most. and the like may be held commonly by more than one culture. but not be universal.´ Diffusion and independent invention are two main sources of cultural generalities. these are called ³generalities. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. Inc. but not all societies. Ethnology: The comparative study of cultures Generality Certain practices. Ethnographers observe.     McGraw-Hill . record. and interpret aspects of particular cultures. All rights reserved.The Relationship between Ethnological Theory and Ethnographic Fact  Ethnography: The observational study of cultures.

 McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. relatively isolated societies.  In pursuit of this holistic goal. the economy). All rights reserved.  The early ethnographers conducted research almost exclusively among small-scale. not just fragments (e.g. Inc. . with simple technologies and economics.Ethnography Ethnography is the firsthand personal study of a local cultural setting.  Ethnographers try to understand the whole of a particular culture. ethnographers usually spend an extended period of time living with the group they are studying and employ a series of techniques to gather information.

the significance of which may not be apparent until much later.  ³Participant observation. ethnographers do not isolate variables or attempt to manipulate the outcome of events they are observing. .Participant Observation Ethnographers are trained to be aware of and record details from daily events.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.´ as practiced by ethnographers. involves the researcher taking part in the activities being observed. Inc. All rights reserved.  Unlike laboratory research.

ethnographer Nadine Peacock works among the Efe of Congo. All rights reserved. . McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.DeVore / Anthro-Photo Photo Credit: Irven Inc.Ethnography Here.

All rights reserved. more than one of these methods are used to accomplish complementary ends on a single ethnographic research project. .  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. to open-ended interviews focusing on specific topics. to formal interviews using a predetermined schedule of questions.  Increasingly. Inc.Conversation and Interviewing Ethnographic interviews range in formality from undirected conversation.

The Genealogical Method Early anthropologists identified types of relatedness.  The genealogical method of diagramming such kin relations was developed as a formalized means of comparing kinbased societies. Inc.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. and marriage. . as being the fundamental organizing principals of nonindustrial societies. All rights reserved. such as kinship. descent.

Since life histories are focused on how different people interpret and deal with similar issues. react to. and contribute to changes that affect their lives. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. McGraw-Hill .Ethnographic Techniques Key Cultural Consultants are particularly well-informed members of the culture being studied that can provide the ethnographer with some of the most useful or complete information.  Life histories are intimate and personal collections of a lifetime of experiences from certain members of the community being studied.    Life histories reveal how specific people perceive. Inc. they can be used to illustrate the diversity within a given community. All rights reserved.

Ethnographic Techniques Anthropologists such as Christie Kiefer typically form personal relationships with cultural consultants. Photo Credit: Peggy / Yoran Kahana All rights reserved. / Peter Arnold. McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. such as this Guatemalan weaver. Inc. . Inc.

Inc. Etic  An emic (native-oriented) approach investigates how natives think.   Emic means the ³native viewpoint´ Key cultural consultants are essential for understanding the emic perspective. express thoughts. . All rights reserved.  An etic (science-oriented) approach emphasizes the categories. McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. interpretations. and features that the anthropologist considers important.Emic vs. categorize the world. and interpret stimuli.

© 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. objective. All rights reserved.  Ethnographic realism   McGraw-Hill . The writer¶s goal was to produce an accurate.The Evolution of Ethnography  Bronislaw Malinowski is generally considered the father of ethnography. Inc. recording cultural diversity that was threatened by westernization. scientific account of the study community.   He did salvage ethnography. His ethnographies were scientific accounts of unknown people and places. The writer¶s authority was rooted in his or her personal research experience with that community.

the native¶s point of view.  Malinowski argued that understanding the emic perspective. was the primary goal of ethnography. making it impossible to write about just one cultural feature without discussing how it relates to others. . Inc.Bronislaw Malinowski Malinowski believed that all aspects of culture were linked and intertwined.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved.

AllPolitical Science . McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill of Economics and rights reserved. Inc. Bronislaw Malinowski is seated with villagers of the Trobriand Islands.Bronislaw Malinowski Here. Photo Credit: British Library of Political & Economic Science London SchoolCompanies.

Interpretive Anthropology Interpretive anthropologist believe that ethnographers should describe and interpret that which is meaningful to the natives. rituals. Inc. . including words.  Meanings in a given culture are carried by public symbolic forms. All rights reserved. and customs.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.  Geertz argues that cultures are texts that natives constantly ³read´ and that ethnographers must decipher.

Experimental Anthropology Experimental anthropologists.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. like Marcus and Fischer. Inc. have begun to question the traditional goals. .  Ethnographies should be viewed as both works of art and works of science. and styles of ethnographic realism and salvage ethnography.  The ethnographer functions as the mediator who communicates information from the natives to the readers. All rights reserved. methods.

 Ethnographers today recognize that cultures constantly change and that this quality must be represented in the ethnography. . a romanticized timelessness before westernization. unchanging quality.  Today.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. Inc. that gave the ethnographies an eternal. All rights reserved.Ethnographic Present The early ethnographies were often written in the ethnographic present. anthropologists understand that this is an unrealistic construct that inaccurately portrayed the natives as isolated and cut off from the rest of the world.

within the context of broader depictions of cultures. Inc. All rights reserved.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.Problem-Oriented Ethnography Ethnographers typically address a specific problem or set of problems. .  Variables with the most significant relationship to the problem being addressed are given priority in the analysis.

related sites. or culture based on a series of repeated visits. as repeat visits to field sites have become easier. or region.  Such studies may also encompass multiple. society.  Team Research involves a series of ethnographers conducting complimentary research in a given community. culture.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. region. Inc.  Longitudinal research has become increasingly common among ethnographic studies.Longitudinal Research Longitudinal Research is the long-term study of a community. . All rights reserved.

Why is theory important in doing Ethnography? It is impossible to describe all aspects of any cultural event at any given moment  Every Researcher is selective in what facts they choose to record and what they think is important  Our views on what we are explaining. make up our theoretical perspective  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. and how. All rights reserved. . Inc.

The Special Problems of Ethnography:   Relativism (Everyone has their own perspective) Important Points:  All observers are biased  Our biases should be made clear  The objectivity of a discipline is cumulative. Inc.  Human events are always historically contingent     Social conditions change There are a lot of conditions to consider Some social conditions are historically unique The patterns of human societies can change very quickly and sometimes in radical ways. it does not exist in the minds of the individual observers but in the consensus of the community of observers. All rights reserved. McGraw-Hill . © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.

what we can tell them)  Many times anthropologists find themselves being asked to investigate phenomena that the larger society finds important. but which anthropologists are not equipped or prepared to investigate. and that it has been shaped by those views.The Special Problems of Ethnography:  Social Issues (What people want to know vs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.  Ideology (What people don¶t want to hear)   McGraw-Hill . are often criticized for views of subjects that are at odds with the culturally accepted norms It is a fact that research operates within the values and views of a culture. Inc. Anthropologists and scientists in general. All rights reserved.

Show Me The Money Anthropologists need funding to support their research in the field. . Inc.  There are a series of agencies that support anthropological research. All rights reserved.      National Science Foundation (NSF) National Institutes of Health (NIH) Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.

where the research will be conducted.  Why this topic/problem?    The grant writer must present the topic or problem that they will address during the proposed research. . McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved. Inc. More importantly.Show Me The Money In order to receive funding from any of these institutions. and how it will be done. anthropologists must write grant proposals that summarize what questions are going to be addressed. the writer needs to convince the agency that the topic is important and worthy of being funded.

previous research experience in the area. All rights reserved.  This section can include a discussion of the techniques and methods as well as the logistics of living in the study community and gaining permission from the study community to perform the research. Why this person?  The grant writer needs to identify the special qualifications that he or she brings to the research topic.  Some locations address certain topics better than others. as specifically as possible.Show Me The Money    Why this place?  The grant writer needs to demonstrate the connection between the research topic and the location where the research will be carried out. How will the study be done?  The grant writer needs to discuss. how this research will be carried out.  Proficiency in the local language. McGraw-Hill . © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. Inc. and strong local contacts are important.

All rights reserved. Anthropologists may gain personally form their work. dignity. McGraw-Hill . Anthropologists who develop close relationships with individuals must adhere to the obligations of openness and informed consent. Researchers should obtain the informed consent of the people to be studied and of those whose interests may be affected by the research. species or materials that he or she studies. or cultural or biological materials. or materials he or she studies.Ethics: People and Animals       The primary ethical obligation of the anthropologist is to the people. but they must not exploit individuals. and privacy of the people. Researchers should determine in advance whether their hosts wish to remain anonymous or receive recognition. Researchers must respect the safety. animals. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. groups. Inc. species.

McGraw-Hill . and of science. All rights reserved. To the extent possible. of scholarship. students. Researchers should do all they can to preserve opportunities for future field work. Anthropologists may move beyond disseminating research results to a position of advocacy. Researchers should make their results available to sponsors. Responsibility to the public. and other non-anthropologists. decision makers. Anthropologists are responsible for the integrity and reputation of their discipline.Ethics: Scholarship and Science         Anthropologists should expect to encounter ethical dilemmas during their work. Inc. Anthropologists should consider reasonable requests for access to their data for purposes of research. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. researchers should disseminate their findings to the scientific and scholarly community.

. All rights reserved. disability. Teachers should impress a concern with ethics on their students. McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. political convictions. and age. ethnic background. Teachers should properly acknowledge student assistance in their research and in the preparation of their work. marital status. national origin. Teachers must avoid sexual liaisons with those for whose education and professional training they are in any way responsible. Inc. religion. social class.Ethics: Teaching      Anthropologists should conduct their programs in ways that preclude discrimination on the basis of sex. Anthropologists should strive to improve their teaching and training techniques. sexual orientation. ³race´.

 Applied anthropologists should be alert to the danger of compromising ethics as a condition for engaging in research or practice. All rights reserved. applied anthropologists should be honest about their qualifications. capabilities.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.Ethics for Applied Anthropology Applied anthropologists should use and disseminate their work appropriately. Inc. and intentions. aims.  With employers. .

and performing statistical analyses on these data. Inc.  Survey researchers call the people who make up their study sample respondents. Survey research is considerably more impersonal than ethnography.  Survey involves drawing a study group or sample from the larger study population.  By studying a properly selected and representative sample. social scientists can make accurate inferences about the larger population.Survey Research   Anthropologists working in large-scale societies are increasingly using survey methodologies to complement more traditional ethnographic techniques. collecting impersonal data. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies.  Respondents answer a series of formally administered questions. McGraw-Hill . All rights reserved.

is established between researcher and informants is generally interested in studying all aspects of a the informants¶ lives (holistic) McGraw-Hill SURVEY RESEARCH is the study a small sample of a larger community is often conducted with little to no personal contact between study subjects and researchers as interviews are frequently conducted by assistants over the phone or in printed form usually focused on a small number of variables. . based on personal contact. All rights reserved. Inc. friendly working relationship. functioning communities is usually based on firsthand fieldwork during which information is collected after a good. rather than on the totality of people¶s lives © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. such as ones that influence voting.Survey Research Comparison between Ethnography and Survey Research ETHNOGRAPHY is the study whole.

All rights reserved. permitting respondents to fill in their own questionnaire is heavily dependent upon statistical analyses in order to make inferences regarding a large and diverse study community. where most people are literate. Inc. based on data collected from a small subset of that community McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. . among communities that do not read or write makes little use of statistics since the societies being investigated tend to be smaller and less diverse SURVEY RESEARCH is normally carried out in modern nations .Survey Research Comparison between Ethnography and Survey Research (continued) ETHNOGRAPHY tends to be conducted outside the First (industrial) World.

longterm. in-depth contact between ethnographer and subjects. All rights reserved.  McGraw-Hill © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies. .Anthropology in Complex Societies Anthropologists rely increasingly on a variety of different field methodologies to accommodate a demand for greater breadth of applicability of results.  Kottak argues that the core contribution of ethnology remains the qualitative data that result from close. Inc.

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