Culture Is An Integrated And Interrelated Whole, Which Means That

2.1: What is Culture?

Cultural expressions such as a Monet painting, a Mozart symphony, or ballerinas dressed in tutus dancing in a staging of Swan Lake are frequently used while discussing the notion of culture. Culture is frequently used to refer to the arts in popular vernacular; a person who is cultured is knowledgeable about and a supporter of the fine arts. Then there’s pop culture, which includes things like current and hot fashion trends. These items are essentially components of culture in the context of anthropology.

Anthropologists have been debating what constitutes a proper description of culture for decades.

Edward Tylor, a British anthropologist who lived in the nineteenth century, provided the first anthropological definition of culture: As a member of society, man has gained a variety of talents and habits, which he calls culture.

It is, without a doubt, the most enduring definition of culture, despite the fact that it is more focused on the intricacies, or particulars, of particular cultural groupings.

  1. Using the French concept of civilization evolving from a barbarous condition to one of “science, secularism, and logical thought,” Tylor felt that all human culture went through phases of evolution, with the apex being that of nineteenth-century England (Beldo 2010).
  2. Tylor’s method was called into question by Franz Boas, a German-American anthropologist.
  3. Boas believed that civilizations did not grow in a linear fashion, as advocated by cultural evolutionists like as Tylor, but rather developed in a variety of ways depending on historical circumstances.
  4. Cultural studies should be conducted as if they were a functional system and an organic whole, rather than as a collection of symbols, ideas, and values (Kuper 1999).
  5. A useful approach of thinking about culture is to divide it into two separate categories: the Big Cand and the Little Cand.
  6. The particulars of a given cultural group, such as American culture, are represented by the little c.

To put it another way, the term would not be applicable to all cultural groups. Anthropologists began to work on developing a concept that could be used more generally in a variety of situations.

“Culture” vs. “culture”

As previously stated, culture (the small c) refers to the characteristics of a particular cultural group. For example, the pattern of marriage or sustenance of a group of individuals may be observed. Specific customs and practices that many people connect with a certain culture would fall under the purview of the small c, as would Approximately one-third of this book is devoted to analyzing the many forms of social institutions, or some of the characteristics of a specific cultural group. Specifically, the Big C, or culture as an overarching anthropological notion, is the subject of this chapter.

Culture is defined as follows: A system of beliefs, rituals, and symbols that are learnt and passed down from generation to generation.

Beliefs are defined as All of culture’s mental characteristics, such as values, norms, ideologies, worldviews, knowledge, and so on, are taken into consideration.


Despite the fact that there are many different definitions of culture, there are certain basic themes that can be found in all of them. To put it another way, culture is something that is learnt, shared, symbolic, holistic, dynamic, integrated, and adaptable. Detailed explanations of each of these traits are provided below, and we will take a closer look at some of them in greater depth in later parts and chapters of this book.

Culture is learned.

While we are not born with a certain culture, we are born with the ability to learn about every culture we come into contact with. During the process of enculturation, we learn to identify with and become members of our group in two ways: directly, through teaching from our parents and peers, and indirectly, through seeing and copying people in our immediate environment.

Culture is shared.

To suggest that a group of people has a culture does not imply that all members of the group believe and act in the same manner. Individuals’ religious and cultural views and practices might differ within a society based on their age, gender, social standing, and other factors.

Culture is symbolic.

Culture, like art and language, is a symbolic representation of something else. Asymbolis something, whether verbal or nonverbal, that denotes or represents something else, frequently without any clear or natural link between the two. The meanings of symbols are created, interpreted, and communicated by individuals within a group or within a wider culture. The red octagonal sign that indicates “stop” is universally recognized in American society, for instance. In other instances, various groups within American culture have distinct interpretations of the same symbol.

Several individuals consider it to be a sign of southern pride and ancestry.

As a result, flying the Confederate flag might have either good or, more frequently, negative implications.

Symbol is defined as follows: Something, whether verbal or nonverbal, that denotes or represents something else, frequently without any clear or natural link to the other item.

Culture is holistic.

Culture encompasses all aspects of one’s life. It serves as a guide for daily living and instructs us on how to respond in each given scenario. Culture encompasses social and political organizations and institutions, legal and economic systems, family groupings, descent, religion, and language, to name a few elements of the human experience. However, it also encompasses all parts of our daily life, such as the clothing we wear, the food we eat, the television shows we watch, and the music we listen to.

Culture is dynamic.

Culturization is dynamic and evolves on a continual basis in response to both internal and external influences. Aspects of culture change more fast than others, depending on the context. To provide an example, in dominating American culture, technology evolves swiftly, whereas deeply ingrained ideals such as individualism, freedom, and self-determination change very little over time.

Culture is integrated.

When one aspect of culture changes, it is inevitable that other aspects will shift as well. This is due to the fact that almost all aspects of a culture are linked and interconnected. Humans are not necessarily bound by culture, despite the fact that it is extremely strong; they have the ability to adapt to it or modify it.

Culture is adaptive.

We are biological creatures with inherent wants and drives that we share with other animals, such as hunger, thirst, sex, elimination, and so on. While culture has played an important role in our development as humans, we are still biological beings with innate needs and urges. Human culture is an adaptive mechanism that allows us to channel these desires in specific ways that are unique to us. Therefore, cultural behaviors have the potential to influence our biology, growth, and development.

Throughout millions of years, our capacity to adapt to new situations, both culturally and physiologically, has allowed humans to survive and prosper in a variety of contexts.

As you will see throughout this book, the settings in which these events take place are quite different.


Les Beldo is a fictional character created by author Leslie Beldo. A cultural concept is defined as follows: A Reference Handbook for Twenty-First Century Anthropology, pp. 144-152. SAGE Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, California, 2010. Paul Bohannan is the author of this work. Mark Glazer is the author of this article. The Second Edition of High Points in Anthropology. McGraw-Hill, Inc. published the book in 1988 in New York. L. Braff and K. Nelson are two of the most well-known actors in Hollywood.

  • Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology, pp.
  • InPerspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology, pp.
  • The Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges will have its annual conference in 2020.
  • Culture as seen through the eyes of anthropologists.

Harvard University Press, published in the United Kingdom in 1999. Edward B. Tylor’s Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art, and Customs is a book that he wrote in the 1960s. The Cambridge University Press published in London in 1871.

What is Culture?

Culture is defined as the taught and shared patterns of behavior and ideas that are held by a given social, ethnic, or age group. It may also be defined as a complex system of collective human ideas that has progressed through an organized stage of civilization that can be peculiar to a particular nation or period of time. Humans, on the other hand, utilize culture to adapt to and modify the world in which they exist. Take note of the golden seat on the Ashanti flag. This concept of culture may be observed in the way we characterize the Ashanti, an African tribe that lives in central Ghana and is described in the book The Ashanti.

  • The importance of the family and the mother’s clan in Ashanti culture cannot be overstated.
  • This connects them even more closely to the mother’s side of the family.
  • The family is housed in a series of huts or dwellings that have been constructed around a central courtyard.
  • The elders have picked him to be their representative.
  • The anthropological study of culture may be divided into two categories that are constant and fundamental: diversity and change.
  • It is the distinctions that exist across all civilizations and sub-cultures throughout the world’s geographical areas.
  • A culture’s evolution is often attributed to one of two factors: selective transmission or the necessity to adapt to changing circumstances.

When it comes to the culture, this might entail nearly anything, including the probable forced redistribution of, or removal from ancestral regions as a result of external and/or internal factors.

Learning culture is accomplished by active instruction and passive habitus.

Patterned refers to the fact that there is a pool of concepts that are similar.

Individuals can better satisfy their requirements when they are in a variety of locations.

“Culture” as opposed to “culture” At their most fundamental level, the distinction between Culture and culture is found in the manner in which they are described.

The term “culture” refers to a quality shared by all people, but “culture with a lower case c” refers to a specific taught way of life and set of patterns that a single individual has picked up, signifying one variant among many possible cultures.

culture gets more complicated.

However, the overlap of these concepts has had a negative impact over time.

This assumption is incorrect.

If people decide to change, they are frequently attacked by members of their own culture as well as members of other cultures for not respecting ‘authenticity’ and tradition.

culture debate, anthropology’s emphasis on and appreciation of Culture and how it evolves differently in different cultures might be distorted when discussing Cultural relativism or human rights, for example.

Female genital cutting is a good illustration of this since it is a part of little c culture that can be researched and determined to be a violation of human rights.

When it comes to culture, one example of how it has been abused is in apartheid South Africa, where the white supremacist government justified the subjugation of black Africans, or the bantu peoples, by claiming that their goal was to “raise Bantu culture rather than produce black Europeans.” They maintained that “not race, but culture, was the actual source of difference, the determining factor of fate.” Furthermore, cultural distinctions were to be respected.” In such instances, the misuse of the phrase is obvious, since they were using it as a justification for uneven treatment and access to services such as education and other opportunities.

You might be interested:  What Happened In 2015 Pop Culture


  1. “African People’s Culture – Ashanti”
  2. “Japanese Hip Hop and the Globalization of Popular Culture”
  3. “African People’s Culture – Ashanti”
  4. “Japanese Hip Hop and the Globalization of Popular Culture” Jump up Southern California Quarterly”Cinco de Mayo’s First Seventy-Five Years in Alta California: From Spontaneous Behavior to Sedimented Memory, 1862 to 1937″ by Ian Condry
  5. Jump up Southern California Quarterly”Cinco de Mayo’s First Seventy-Five Years in Alta California: From Spontaneous Behavior to Sedimented Memory, 1862 to 1937″ by Ian Condry
  6. Jump Jump up “Health and Human Rights,” World Health Organization, accessed October 30, 2007 (see “American commemoration of Cinco de Mayo began in California,” accessed October 30, 2007)
  7. Jump up “Health and Human Rights,” World Health Organization, accessed October 30, 2007. (pdf) Jump up “Discussion Group 10 Week 2- Marisa Mikelsons”
  8. Jump up “Japanese Hip-Hop and the Globalization of Popular Culture.” Jump up “Discussion Group 10 Week 2- Marisa Mikelsons.” Jump up “Discussion Group 10 Week 2- Marisa Mikelsons.” Urban Life: Readings in the Anthropology of the City is a collection of essays about urban life. Waveland Press, Prospect Heights, IL
  9. Jump up Democracy in Dakar, Nomadic Wax, 2008
  10. Jump up frame=top
  11. Jump up Barton Wright, Democracy in Dakar, Nomadic Wax, 2008
  12. Jump up Emily A. Schultz and Robert H. Lavenda are co-authors of Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.’s Jump up to: Cultural Anthropology: A New Way of Looking at the Human Condition, 2nd ed. Jump up Zmago mitek and Boidar Jezernik, “The Anthropological Tradition in Slovenia,” New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.,
  13. Jump up Philosophy Home, 2009
  14. Jump up Zmago mitek and Boidar Jezernik, “The Anthropological Tradition in Slovenia,” New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.,
  15. Jump up Zmago mit In: Han F. Vermeulen and Arturo Alvarez Roldán (eds. ), The New York Times. Fieldwork and Footnotes: Studies in the History of European Anthropology, 1995
  16. Jump up American Anthropological Association Statement on “Race,” May 17, 1998
  1. The Sociological Imagination, by C. Wright Mills, was published by Oxford University Press in 1961 and has the ISBN 0195133730. Other resources include: Louisa Lim, Painful Memories for China’s Footbinding Survivors
  2. James A. Crites Chinese Foot Binding
  3. Justin Marozzi, The Son of the Father of History, 2007
  4. James A Introduction to The Journey of Friar John of Pian de Carpine to the Court of Kuyuk Khan, 1245-1247, as translated by William Woodville Rockhill in 1900
  5. Introduction to The Journey of Friar John of Pian de Carpine to the Court of Kuyuk Khan, 1245-1247, as translated by William Woodville Rockhill in 1900
  6. Emily A. Schultz and Robert H. Lavenda collaborated on this project. Cultural Anthropology: A New Way of Looking at the Human Condition Oxford University Press, New York, 7th ed.
  7. s^ ‘RACE – The Influence of a Deception.’ “What Exactly Is Race |.” PBS, aired on March 8, 2009
  8. Cultural Anthropology, 4th edition, Boston: Pearson Education Inc., 2007
  9. Miller, Barabra. Cultural Anthropology, 4th edition, Boston: Pearson Education Inc., 2007
  10. Judith Lorber’s “Night to His Day”: The Social Construction of Gender is available online. Text and Reader for the Transition from Inquiry to Academic Writing 617-30
  11. Bourgois, Philippe, “Workaday World, Crack Economy.” Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 617-30
  12. In The Nation (1995), pages 706-11,

External links

  • What is the discipline of Anthropology? American Anthropological Association information
  • SLA – Society for Linguistic Anthropology information
  1. Emily A. Schultz and Robert H. Lavenda authored this article. Cultural Anthropology: A New Way of Looking at the Human Condition, 2nd ed. Page 79 of the 2009 edition of Oxford University Press.
  1. Emily A. Schultz and Robert H. Lavenda authored this article. Cultural Anthropology: A New Way of Looking at the Human Condition, 2nd ed. pgs. 332-333 in New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2009.

Characteristics of Culture – Anthropology

Edward Tylor established the first thorough definition of culture in anthropology, defining the idea as “that complex totality which comprises knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capacities and habits acquired by man as a member of society,” according to the definition. Tylor’s cultural evolutionary account of human development, Primitive Culture, published in 1871, serves as the basis for this description. Despite the fact that the 19th-century concept of cultural development has long been rejected by anthropology, the major parts of Tylor’s definition of culture have survived.

The majority of anthropologists would agree with Tylor that culture is best defined as the examination of ordinary daily life as opposed to the output of the “elite.” Despite the fact that culture appears to be a straightforward idea, the issue is in understanding culture in all of its complexities.

Ideational/ symbolic refers to the fact that culture lives in our thoughts: culture contains the idealized rules and values that we keep in our minds, as well as the symbolic element of culture, which is perceived and interpreted differently by different people; Even if culture can be viewed of as a concept that exists just in the mind, it is manifested in the world via material creation and direct human contact.

  • Therefore, culture is defined by what people think and do; that culture is built on symbols, both those that exist in thinking and those that are manifested in material culture and social life; and that culture is characterized by what people think and do.
  • This is meant to imply that, while no two people will have exactly the same cultural knowledge and life experience, they will both have enough in common to make social interaction conceivable.
  • Culture shock happens exactly when everything that is taken for granted (i.e., shared within one’s own culture) is no longer valid or applicable.
  • This acknowledges the reality that people do not survive only on instinct; rather, culture serves as a medium for our adaptation to our physical environment and vice versa.
  • The term “learned” implies that culture will be acquired in major part during a child’s early years of life (enculturation), but it does not indicate that people will ever cease learning culture.
  • Finally, culture is an integrated totality, or to paraphrase Clifford Geertz, a web of meanings and importance, wherein every aspect of culture is related in this web of significance to everything else in that culture.

This means that a study of political life would entail an analysis of kinship and marriage, looking at how authority and power are often transferred between generations; economics and the ways in which politics shapes production, distribution, and consumption as well as the ways in which large economic considerations shape the distribution of political power and authority; religion and the ways in which the sacred is called upon to justify or legitimate power; and finally, language and communication and ways in which power can be achieved through the use of metaphor and language.

Though contemporary anthropologists rarely write monographs that purport to describe an entire culture or population, anthropology will still seek to understand any aspect of culture or social life as existing in a much larger and complex whole whereby changes in one quadrant may possibly bring about unexpected changes elsewhere in that culture.

Likewise, anthropology will not perceive culture as a shopping list of qualities or rules, rather as an always evolving mass of ideas and actions, in which culture is poorly shared between people in a social group, but equally between social groupings.


  1. M. Arnold is credited with inventing the term “moonlighting” (1869). An essay in political and social critique on the relationship between culture and anarchy Smith, Elder, and Geertz, C. (London: Smith, Elder, and Geertz, C.) (1973). An anthology of articles on the understanding of culture Basic Books
  2. Haviland, W., Fedorak, S., Crawford, G., and Lee, R. New York: Basic Books
  3. Haviland, W., Fedorak, S., Crawford, G., and Lee, R. (2005). Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology that studies people from different cultures (2nd Canadian ed.). Nelson and E. Tylor are publishing in Montreal, Canada (1871). Primitive culture: Investigations into the evolution of mythology, philosophy, religion, art, and customs in the absence of written records (2 vols.). J. Murray & Sons, Ltd., London.

Like? Please spread the word!

Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA)

Certainty style is being taken out of fashion one issue at a time. Hover your cursor over the keys to see definitions: True Speculative in Most Cases Individuality is a characteristic of humans. When compared to “Great Apes,” the following is true: As defined under the standard anthropological definition of culture, it is “that complex totality which comprises knowledge and religion, art and architecture as well as law, morals, custom, and any other talents and habits acquired by man in his role as a member of society” (E.

  1. Tylor 1871).
  2. Culture may be divided into two categories: “traits” (single things) and “complexes” (more or less integrated or institutionalized collections of traits).
  3. This is not necessarily the case.
  4. If social learning is also regarded to be a necessary prerequisite for culture, then many creatures other than humans are thought to possess culture.
  5. Despite the fact that this is a semantic issue, it is also a major scientific one.
  6. But if human culture is unique from other civilizations, then the parallels that exist between chimpanzee and human cultures indicate that they are comparable but distinct developments in their own right.
  7. As a result, some historians argue that animals have traditions but do not have a cultural heritage.
  8. Timing The manifestation of the change in the Hominin’s behavior was timed.
  9. Lineage separation events may occur at different times in the future, depending on how well the scientific community can agree on improved time estimations at the present moment.
  • It was 25,000 – 30,000 thousand (25 – 30 million) years ago that humans and old world monkeys shared a common ancestor
  • It was 6,000 – 8,000 thousand (6 – 8 million) years ago that humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor
  • It was 2,000 thousand (2 million) years ago that the genus Homo emerged
  • It was 500 thousand years ago that humans and neanderthals shared a common ancestor
  • It was 100

The Human Difference: Human civilization is far more sophisticated than the cultures of any other species, and this is reflected in our language. In human civilization, there may be a tendency toward moralization (the “correct” way to do things vs various ways to do things). When it comes to human populations, universality is important. Culture may be found in all human cultures, whether they are ancient or modern. Mechanisms that are responsible for the disparity: The higher complexity of human culture may be a result of variations in the methods of cultural transmission between different societies.

Furthermore, explicit education is prevalent among humans, while it is unusual or non-existent among most other kinds of animals.

In comparison to other animals, certain human cultural universals can be credited with a more fast and comprehensive cultural evolution.

Due to the changes in the demography of people brought about by fire and cooking, there was more room for cultural creativity and variance.

The transmission of culture was considerably aided by the use of human speech. Other Animals That Have Culture: Culture may be found in a wide variety of animals when seen in its broadest sense.


  1. The use of fire during the Middle Pleistocene epoch was the earliest indication of extensive cultural dissemination in human evolution. MacDonald, Katharine, Scherjon Fulco, van Veen Eva, Vaesen Krist, and Roebroeks Wil, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021/08/03, Volume 118, Issue 31, p.e2101108118, (2021)
  2. Roebroeks, Wil, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2021/08/03, Volume 118, Issue 31, p.e2101108118, (2021)
  • The number of the population does not explain historical variations in cultural complexity. Vaesen, Krist, Collard, Mark, Cosgrove, Richard, and Roebroeks, Wil, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2016 Apr 19, Volume 113, Issue 16, p.E2241-7, (2016)
  • Vaesen, Krist, Collard, Mark, Cosgrove, Richard, and Roebroeks, Wil, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2016 Apr 19, Volume 113, Issue 16, p.E22
  • Perspectives on Creativity and Human Innovation from a Cultural Evolutionary Perspective., Fogarty, Laurel, Creanza Nicole, and Feldman Marcus W., Trends Ecol Evol, 2015 Dec, Volume 30, Issue 12, p.736-54, (2015)
  • Fogarty, Laurel, Creanza Nicole, and Feldman Marcus W., Trends Ecol Evol, 2015 Dec, Volume 30, Issue 12, p.736-54, (2015)
You might be interested:  What Causes A Culture To Change

What is Culture?

(Click on the colored words for more information about each one.) Peoplelearnculture. That, we believe, is the most important characteristic of culture. An infant’s urge for food, for example, is triggered by physiological traits established by the human genetic code. Many other aspects of human existence are also genetically transmitted. However, an adult’s special craving for milk and cereal in the morning cannot be explained genetically; rather, it is a learned (cultural) reaction to hunger in the early hours of the day.

As a result, culture may be found in all acquired behavior as well as in some forming template or consciousness prior to activity (that is, a “cultural template” canbe in place prior to the birth of an individual person).

  • Systems of meaning, of which language is the fundamental component
  • Systems of structuring society, ranging from familial groupings to governments and multinational businesses
  • The specific practices of a group and the goods that they produce
  • And

Following from this description of culture are a number of essential principles:

  • If the process of learning is a fundamental aspect of culture, then the act of teaching is likewise an essential characteristic of that culture. Education and reproduction (see the definition of reproduction in the glossary) are key components of culture in and of themselves. Cultural change occurs as a result of the non-linear relationship between what is taught and the knowledge gained (part of what was taught is forgotten, while new discoveries are continually being discovered), and as a result, culture is in a permanent state of flux. Meaning systems are the result of negotiated agreements – members of a human community must agree on the linkages that exist between a word, behavior, or other symbol and the importance or meaning that it conveys to them. In the same way that culture is made up of systems of meaning, it is also made up of negotiated agreements and negotiation procedures. Because meaning systems involve relationships that are not essential and universal (for example, the word “door” has no essential connection to the physical object- we simply agree that it shall have that meaning when we speak or write in English), different human societies will inevitably agree on different relationships and meanings
  • This is an example of a relativistic approach to describing culture.

After reading through several discussions/definitions of culture on this page, you will realize that there is a great deal of disagreement about the word and concept “culture,” and that any definition, this one included, is part of an ongoing conversation (and negotiation) about what we should take “culture” to mean. Clifford Geertz’s The Interpretation of Cultures, published in 1973, emphasizes the importance of interpretation. In addition to his anthropological studies of Javanese culture (Java is an Indonesian island off the coast of Borneo), Clifford Geertz (born in 1926) is well-known for his writings on the interpretation of culture.

Citing Clyde Kluckhohn’s seminal anthropological book, Mirror for Man, in an attempt to set out the numerous connotations associated with the term “culture,” Clifford Geertz proposes the following interpretations of the term:

1. “the total way of life of a people”
2. “the social legacy the individual acquires from his group”
3. “a way of thinking, feeling, and believing”
4. “an abstraction from behavior”
5. a theory on the part of the anthropologist about the way in which agroup of people in fact behave
6. a “storehouse of pooled learning”
7. “a set of standardized orientations to recurrent problems”
8. “learned behavior”
9. a mechanism for thenormativeregulationof behavior
10. “a set of techniques for adjusting both to the external environmentand to other men”
11. “a precipitate of history”
12. a behavioral map, sieve, or matrix

“The idea of culture that I advocate. is fundamentally asemiotic in nature. I agree with Max Weber that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he has spun for himself, and I consider culture to be those webs, with the analysis of culture being neither an experimental science in quest of law nor an interpretive science in search of meaning. Specifically, I’m looking for clarification. (pp. 4-5)” When evaluating culture, Geertz equates the approaches of an anthropological to those of a literary critic: “sorting out the structures of meaning.

” It’s like attempting to read (in the sense of ‘create a reading from’) an unfinished text when doing ethnography.” Once human behavior is understood as.

The question to pose is “what is the significance of their import?” (Pages 9 and 10) Geertz believes that culture is “public because meaning is”—meaning systems are inherently the common property of a group—and that this is why culture is “public.” It is our “lack of acquaintance with the mental cosmos within which their acts aresigned” that we are confessing when we declare that we do not comprehend individuals from cultures different than our own (pp.

  • 12-13).
  • Originally published in N.
  • ), Convictions (1958), as a chapter of the book Richard Raymond Williams was a pioneer in the field of “culture studies” – and in fact, he was working in this subject long before the phrase “cultural studies” was invented.
  • A former editor has stated that Williams “forced the first significant change towards a new way of thinking about the symbolic components of our lives” here.
  • Every human community has its own unique shape, as well as its own set of goals and meanings.
  • The formation of a society is the discovery of shared meanings and directions, and its development is the result of active discussion and amendment under the stresses of experience, interaction, and discovery, which results in the writing of one’s own identity into the landscape.
  • The formation of a mind begins with the gradual acquisition of forms, purposes, and meanings, which allows for the performance of labor, observation, and communication.

A culture has two aspects: the recognized meanings and directions to which its members have been schooled, and the fresh observations and meanings that are presented and tested by the culture.

There are two ways in which we might use the word culture: to refer to a whole way of life—the general meanings; and to refer to the arts and learning—the specific processes of discovery and creative endeavor.

Questions regarding profound personal meanings are at the heart of the inquiries I make about our society.

An Anthropological Perspective FromCultural Anthropology: Tribes, States, and the Global System, by John H.

Washington State University’s Department of Anthropology is led by John H.

In this extract from his textbook on cultural anthropology, Bodley covers the history of anthropological notions of culture and their development across time.

I use the term culture to refer to a society and its way of life as a whole, or to refer to human culture as a whole, depending on the context.

In certain cases, academics have sought to compile extensive, universally applicable inventories of the substance of culture, which are then used as guidelines for future investigation.

Assisted by Tylor, a committee of the British Association for the Advancement of Science undertook the first inventory of cultural categories in 1872, which was published in the journal Science.

The most comprehensive of these lists is the “Outline of Cultural Materials,” which was initially published in 1938 and is still in use today as a reference for documenting vast amounts of international cultural material for cross-cultural surveys.

There are 79 major categories and 637 subdivisions included in the outline.

Since Tylor’s time, anthropologists have engaged in extensive theoretical discussion over the most important characteristics of culture that should be emphasized by a technical understanding of culture.

Despite the fact that their list has been condensed in the brief table below, it demonstrates the complexity of the anthropological definition of culture.

TABLE: Diverse Definitions of Culture: A Comparative Study

Topical: Culture consists of everything on a list of topics, or categories, suchas social organization, religion, or economy
Historical: Culture is social heritage, or tradition, that is passed on to futuregenerations
Behavioral: Culture is shared, learned human behavior, a way of life
Normative: Culture is ideals, values, or rules for living
Functional: Culture is the way humans solve problems of adapting to the environmentor living together
Mental: Culture is a complex of ideas, or learned habits, that inhibit impulsesand distinguish people from animals
Structural: Culture consists of patterned and interrelated ideas, symbols, or behaviors
Symbolic: Culture is based on arbitrarily assigned meanings that are shared bya society

A culture has at least three components: what people believe, what they do, and the physical goods that they make. In this way, cultural elements such as mental processes, beliefs, knowledge, and values are all included. Some anthropologists would characterize culture as a set of mental norms that guide conduct, despite the fact that there is frequently a significant difference between the accepted standards for appropriate behavior and what individuals actually do. As a result, some scholars devote the majority of their focus on human behavior and its material results.

  • Because of the common feature of culture, it is considered to be a social phenomena; idiosyncratic conduct, on the other hand, is not considered to be cultural.
  • In the case of the color white, for example, most Americans are not born knowing that it represents purity, and this is not a universally recognized cultural symbol.
  • Animals can be taught to respond to cultural symbols by humans, but they do not generate their own symbols on their own.
  • In terms of quality, the symbolic aspect of human language, particularly voice, represents yet another enormous qualitative improvement above animal communication methods.
  • Because of the cross-generational nature of culture, some anthropologists, particularly Kroeber (1917) and Leslie White (1949), have come to regard culture as a superorganic phenomenon that exists independently of its human carriers.
  • Individuals’ effect on culture, according to Kroeber and White, would be primarily dictated by the culture in which they lived and worked.
  • A demeaning rejection of “free will,” or the potential of humans to create and modify culture, according to some scholars, is the result of such an extreme superorganic view of culture.
  • As a result, considering culture as an abstraction may lead to the denial of the fundamental human rights of small-scale cultures and ethnic minorities to preserve their cultural legacy in the face of challenges from dominant civilizations.
  • Culture is treated as if it were an objective fact by me.

Meanwhile, people might be denied access to their own cultural heritage against their choice. Cultural diversity is widely acknowledged by many humanistic anthropologists as being an observable phenomena and people’s most valuable property.

Chapter Outline


  • Native American sports mascots continue to be a contentious topic, with both sides taking for granted their own views on what constitutes a suitable tradition. Anthropologists use the term “culture” to refer to the viewpoints and activities that a group of people deem natural and self-evident
  • It is a dispute over cultural values. In this chapter, the subject of how the idea of culture may assist explain the contrasts and similarities in people’s ways of living is explored. These attitudes and behaviors are anchored in common meanings as well as the manner in which individuals operate in social groupings.
  • What exactly is culture? Why does culture appear to be so stable, if it is emergent and dynamic in nature? What role do social institutions have in the expression of culture
  • Is it possible for anybody to possess culture?
You might be interested:  Whose Culture Has Capital

Culture is the key idea in anthropology, and most definitions have certain characteristics in common. What Exactly Is Culture?

  • Despite the fact that there are hundreds of subtly varied meanings of “culture” in the anthropological literature, the field of anthropology is not hampered by this condition. Cultural anthropology was founded by Sir Edward B. Tylor (1832–1917), an English researcher who was a foundational figure in the field. It is an indication of a vibrant study. As described by Tylor (1871, page 1), culture is “a complex system that comprises knowledge, belief, art (including architecture), law (including morality), custom (including customary law), and any other capacities gained by man as a member of society.” A great many theories of culture have been created by anthropologists since Tylor’s time (see Table 2.1). We have identified seven fundamental characteristics that anthropologists think are essential to any explanation of culture across all of these theories:
  • Culture is something that can be learnt. Symbols are used in culture
  • Cultures are always evolving and changing, and they are dynamic. Cultural experience is intertwined with everyday life
  • Everyone’s life is influenced by their culture
  • Culture is something that everyone has
  • Understanding culture necessitates the rejection of ethnocentrism.

Cultural learning begins from birth, which is one of the reasons why our ideas and actions appear so natural to us: we have been acting and thinking in specific ways since we were very little. Anthropologists refer to this process of becoming familiar with a society’s cultural laws and logic as enculturation. A system of symbols, according to anthropologist Clifford Geertz (1926–2006), by which people make meaning of the world is what culture is, according to Geertz. A symbol is anything that customarily stands for something else.

  • Cultural interpretation, according to Geertz, is the concept of culture as being both embodied and conveyed through symbols.

In today’s world, anthropologists are less concerned with culture as a completely coherent and unchanging system of meaning (in other words, as a thing) and are more concerned with culture as a process through which social meanings are formed and disseminated. The fact that these cultural processes are being observed demonstrates how culture is dynamic.

  • When it comes to analyzing cultural processes, contemporary cultural anthropologists pay special attention to the relationships between power and inequality. It is necessary to understand who has authority and how they came to have this influence in order to comprehend the evolving culture of any organization.

A variety of interconnected factors of life experience that may be gathered together under the name “culture” influence and develop our values and views. Being able to recognize that culture is made up of a dynamic and interconnected collection of social, economic, and belief systems is essential to comprehending how the entirety of culture functions.

  • The remarkable flexibility and plasticity of the human species, as demonstrated by an across-cultural perspective, is demonstrated by the fact that human belief and behaviors come in different shapes and sizes.

Everyone has a sense of culture. However, much as we notice differences in accents, we notice differences in cultures more when they are different from ones we are acquainted with. When it comes to minorities, immigrants, and those who are different from white middle-class standards in the United States, there is a propensity to refer to them as “people with culture.”

  • The culture of a group becomes more obvious to everyone when it deviates from popular culture patterns and norms. As a general rule, the more “culture” one appears to have in this sense, the less power one appears to possess.

Individuals who participate in social groups are able to make sense of their environments and organize their lives. Using a number of technical breakthroughs, culture may now be imparted face to face or online, depending on the situation. In any instance, the culture of a group must be shared among its members. The term “cultural construction” refers to the reality that individuals “create” meanings as a result of their shared experiences and negotiations. ‘Constructions’ are formed as a result of prior collective experiences in a community, as well as a large number of individuals discussing, debating, and acting in response to a similar set of aims and challenges.

  • Understanding another culture on its own terms does not imply that anthropologists must necessarily support and justify all of the things that people do in that culture. The term “moral relativism” is not synonymous with “ethical relativism.”

View the article “Classic Contributions: Franz Boas and the Relativity of Culture” for some historical context on the roots of relativism in anthropological theory.

We recognize that there are a range of acceptable meanings of “culture.” For the purposes of this textbook, culture is defined as “the communal processes that give the appearance of naturalness to the artificial.”

  • In this concept, it is stressed that the sentiments of naturalness that individuals have regarding their ideas and activities are in reality artificial
  • That is, they are humanly made and vary among social groupings, and they may alter rather fast. Because anthropologists present culture as a dynamic and emerging process based on social interactions, they are able to investigate the ways cultures are generated and rebuilt on a continuous basis in people’s lives.

Why does culture appear to be so stable when it is in fact emergent and dynamic?

  • Societies work most smoothly when cultural developments appear natural and steady to the members of the community. The capacity to maintain cultural stability is essential, and enculturation occurs on a daily basis, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Symbols, beliefs, norms, and traditions serve to anchor our cultural experience on a consistent basis. Asymbolis anything that is used to represent something else in a traditional and arbitrary manner. Despite the fact that symbols fluctuate (sometimes significantly), they are a particularly durable and readily remembered manner of retaining a culture’s traditional meanings
  • This is especially true for religious symbols. Fundamentally desirable principles or characteristics are represented as symbolic manifestations of such principles or traits. They have a tendency to preserve the prevalent beliefs about morality and social concerns that exist in a culture. As a result, when different viewpoints coexist within a society, values can shift, but at a slower rate than other components of culture. In this study, norms were defined as normal patterns of conduct that were seen by participants as the unwritten regulations of everyday life. They stay consistent because individuals learn them from a young age and because society pushes people to comply to social norms and expectations. We are typically ignorant of our own cultural standards until they are violated, which frequently results in dramatic consequences! Teachers might undoubtedly recall instances in which they unintentionally violated cultural standards in different cultural situations.
  • In a society, tradition refers to the elements that have survived the test of time and have been ritualized. Tradition is often considered to be timeless or at the very least very ancient. Challenges to traditions are difficult because of the entrenched belief that things have “always been a particular way.” This is true even when traditions support activities that make no logical sense in current times. (Many beloved American traditions are hardly more than a century old
  • Many are much younger.)

What role do social institutions have in the expression of culture?

  • It is also because social institutions, which are organized sets of social ties that bind individuals to one another in a structured fashion in a given society, embody and support dynamic culture that it appears to be so stable. These institutions include, among others, the following:
  • Family and marital patterns
  • Economic activity
  • Religious institutions
  • Political structures

Functionalism, which has been associated with British anthropologists Bronislaw Malinowski and A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, asserts that cultural practices and beliefs provide important services for communities, such as explaining how the world works and arranging individuals into efficient roles. Fundamentally, functionalists believe that social institutions must work together in an integrated and balanced manner in order to keep the entire society running smoothly and to limit social change to a minimum.


(History is replete with examples of societies that are unstable and badly functioning.) Modern cultural anthropologists continue to draw on elements of functionalism, particularly its holistic approach, which tries to uncover and comprehend the whole—that is, the systematic linkages between different cultural ideas and practices—rather than the individual pieces of a system.

What is it about cereal that attracts so many Americans for breakfast?

  • In the nineteenth century, John Harvey Kellogg (1852–1943) designed cornflakes because he felt that bland, wholesome meals may help prevent “unhealthy” sexual desires, such as masturbation. A prosperous lifestyle in the nineteenth century was marked by rich, substantial meals (meat and eggs, biscuits with gravy and butter, and butter) and a full-bodied body type as a result of this lifestyle. During the early twentieth century, as Americans began to place greater emphasis on eating a better diet and maintaining a slimmer body type, breakfast cereals became a more popular alternative. By the 1920s, a thriving morning cereal business, which was utterly divorced from any notions of sexual deviance, had inundated the market with a variety of cereal options. Cereals are still a morning staple over a century after they were first introduced.

One way to look at cornflakes is as a whole. It demonstrates the interrelationships between many areas such as ideas (sexual morality, good health), social institutions and authority (expert knowledge, medical procedures), and daily living (changes in labor organization and economic life, dietary preferences). It also demonstrates how something that appears to be completely natural (pouring oneself a bowl of cereal in the morning) is in fact the result of entangled cultural processes and meanings in the first place.

  • See the article “Thinking Like an Anthropologist: Understanding Holism” for more information.

Is it possible for anybody to possess culture?

  • However, despite the fact that no one can claim ownership of “the collective processes that make the artificial appear natural,” conflicts can arise when people claim the exclusive right to use symbols that give culture power and meaning. This is the phenomenon of cultural appropriation, which is the unilateral decision of one social group to take control over the symbols, practices, or objects of another group. Example: the contentious Native American team mascots addressed at the outset of this chapter.
  • See “Anthropologist as Problem Solver: Michael Ames and Collaborative Museum Exhibits”
  • And “Anthropologist as Problem Solver: Michael Ames and Collaborative Museum Exhibits.”


  • In all anthropological studies of culture, the concept that culture aids individuals in understanding and responding to a continually changing reality lies at the center of the discussion. As previously said, culture is comprised of the communal processes that provide the appearance of naturalness to the artificial

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *