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  1. Define cultural relativism and how it is used by anthropologists as an approach to cross-cultural research. Explain how cultural relativism contributes to anthropologists’ efforts to counter ethnocentrism.
  1. Describe an example of how your culture has ‘taught’ you to behave the way you do, or to believe what you believe.  This could be an instance in which you were taught a lesson, or perhaps when you made a mistake and were corrected by an elder. Think about how such lessons shape your worldview, your ideas about what’s “normal,” and your values.  Are these universal beliefs or are they culturally constructed?

I need the answer in the form of a speech draft cause I need to use it on presentation.!!!!!!!!!!!!

First question no less than 200 words, the second question no less than 150 words

CHAPTER 2

Culture

Copyright © 2020 W. W. Norton & Company

An Introduction to Culture

As anthropologists, how do we understand the roots of American gun culture?

Said one Parkland student, “For our generation, it’s not a question of if there will be a shooting, but when.”

Gun violence in the United States is a uniquely American cultural phenomenon. Using the tools of anthropology, we can make sense of “senseless” gun violence in America.

Culture is made up of shared meanings, belief systems, and knowledge.

It includes shared ways of seeing and understanding the world.

Looking at culture like an anthropologist helps us see the hidden complexity in things that seem normal or obvious.

For instance, a device designed to penetrate and rip apart flesh at a distance has become more than its component parts.

Owners say they buy guns for protection, hunting, and sports. For some men, hunting together is an outdoor tradition, an expression of their masculinity, and a kind of social glue connecting generations of men and families and communities.

But when we look at the victims of gun violence, we see that guns disproportionately take the lives of young people, poor people, and people of color.

Culture underlies all of these processes, and we’ll learn how over the course of this chapter.

Chapter Learning Outcomes

What Is Culture?

How Has the Culture Concept Developed in Anthropology?

How Are Culture and Power Related?

How Much of Who You Are Is Shaped by Biology, and How Much by Culture?

How Is Culture Created?

How Is Globalization Transforming Culture?

Chapter Learning Outcomes

In this chapter, we will focus on the following topics:

What Is Culture?

How Has the Culture Concept Developed in Anthropology?

How Are Culture and Power Related?

How Much of Who You Are Is Shaped by Biology, and How Much by Culture?

How Is Culture Created?

How Is Globalization Transforming Culture?

What Is Culture? (1 of 8)

“Culture is a system of knowledge, beliefs, patterns of behavior, artifacts, and institutions that are created, learned, shared, and contested by a group of people.”

—Ken Guest

What Is Culture?

The term culture has many meanings.

In popular usage, it is often equated with distinctive traditions of different ethnic groups.

Examples include Mexican mariachi music, Chinese food, or British theater.

These are certainly representative of cultures, but they are only the tip of the iceberg.

Sometimes the term “culture” is used to denote so-called refined sensibilities.

That is to say, one can be called “cultured” for enjoying classical music and the theater (in contrast to pop music and Hollywood blockbusters).

Anthropologists use the term in a very different way.

For anthropologists, culture is a very broad concept.

Specifically, it does not involve value judgments (i.e., someone being more cultured or less).

Let’s look at your book’s definition: “Culture is a system of knowledge, beliefs, patterns of behavior, artifacts, and institutions that are created, learned, shared, and contested by a group of people.”

This definition is still rather broad. Let’s drill down into this idea more.

What is Culture? (2 of 8)

How has the definition of culture changed over nearly 150 years?

The inclusion of artifacts, i.e. material constructs that can be considered typical of a culture

Dropping the patriarchal use of “man” to mean “people in general”

Emphasis on the fact that culture is “learned” and “created”

Let’s break down the culture concept and look at individual pieces.

What Is Culture? (3 of 8)

Culture Is Learned And Taught

Culture is not genetically inherited; it is passed on to people through the lifelong process of enculturation.

All humans are equally capable of learning culture.

Cultural institutions have been established as part of the enculturation process.

Culture Is Learned and Taught

Central to the modern anthropological view of culture is that it is learned. A person must be “enculturated.” That is, you must learn the culture you live in. This is contrary to older notions (often racially motivated notions) that one is born into a culture.

If culture is learned, then it must also be taught. This is done in many ways, but often a child’s first teachers are her parents. We raise our children to emulate what we think is normal.

Simply taking part in social activities with other people is perhaps the most basic form of cultural education. Children quickly learn what is and is not acceptable in group interaction. Stealing toys, for example, quickly results in group sanctions: Other children don’t want to play with you.

As culture continues to change, culture learning and teaching becomes a lifelong activity.

What Is Culture? (4 of 8)

Culture Is Shared Yet Contested

Culture cannot arise from an individual in isolation; it is developed as a result of one’s membership in a group.

Smaller cultures can exist within larger ones.

Culture is constantly changing.

Culture Is Shared yet Contested

Culture is inherently a group concept. It is a shared experience that derives from living as a member of a group, although there may be smaller subcultures within larger cultures. For example, the culture of your college classroom is embedded within larger American culture.

At the same time, you know that nothing in a culture is permanent. For example, American culture has recently been debating the topic of same-sex marriage. In recent years, public opinion and legal opinion have made substantial movement toward a collective concept that same-sex marriage is permissible. This was not even remotely true twenty or even ten years ago.

The central idea here is that culture is contested. Once learned, that culture is not static. When there are parts of it that people do not like, those parts can be changed. The act of changing a culture, however, is difficult, and can usually only be seen over long periods of time.

What Is Culture? (5 of 8)

Culture Is Symbolic and Material: Norms

Norms are group’s ideas or rules about what behavior is appropriate or “normal” in a specific situation.

Norms are often unwritten assumptions enforced by society.

Most people follow and accept a culture’s norms because challenging them often results in some form of consequence or even punishment.

Cultural change can arise from challenging norms.

Culture Is Symbolic and Material

Culture is structured, or created, through norms, values, symbols, and mental maps.

Even within a culture, not everyone shares equally in intuitions about these ideas. But each of these elements powerfully frames what people can say, do, and sometimes even think.

Norms

Norms refer to ideas or rules about how people should behave in particular situations or toward certain other people.

Marriage norms are a good example.

In some cultures, marrying within the group (endogamy) is common. In others, marrying outside of the group (exogamy) is instead the norm.

Looking at U.S. history, there has long been a cultural norm for marrying within one’s racial group. Some states even criminalized interracial marriage to enforce this norm. The strength of this cultural prejudice arose out of decades of racial segregation in the United States. Only finally in 1967 did the U.S. Supreme Court rule that this prejudicial law was unconstitutional in the case of Loving v. Virginia.

Most people within a culture follow its norms. But culture change often arises from resistance to such norms. Hence the United States has seen a long-term movement toward accepting interracial (i.e., exogamous) marriages.

What Is Culture? (6 of 8)

Culture Is Symbolic and Material: Values

Values are fundamental beliefs about what is true, right, important, and good which are cultivated and promoted by a culture.

Values are subject to change and can have varying degrees of influence.

Values are powerful ideas that can be enshrined in law or motivate people to take extreme actions for them.

Values

Cultural values are the fundamental beliefs about what is important; what makes a good life; what is true, right, and beautiful. Cultural values develop out of shared history and background.

The United States is heavily influenced by Puritan colonists that helped to found many of the continent’s earliest settlements. Thus, values such as hard work and denial of pleasures (general abstinence) are often seen as worthy values. Even to this day, many companies value workers who do not use their vacation days but instead work straight through the year.

Values have a way of changing over time, and not all values are shared values.

What Is Culture? (7 of 8)

A symbol is something that stands for something else.

Language is an important example of abstractions conveyed through symbols of written and spoken words.

Most symbolic communication is nonverbal, action-based, and unconscious.

Culture Is Symbolic and Material: Symbols

Symbols

Cultural norms and values are often expressed through symbols, particularly when we consider that even language is a symbol.

Simply put, a symbol is anything that represents something else.

Language is a common human tool for symbolic abstraction. Language is an abstraction where sounds stand in place for a concept or an idea. For example, consider the word tree. If tree was a fixed symbol, rather than abstract, everyone around the world would use the same word. Instead, there are an infinite variety of words out there that also signify tree.

Human culture has a remarkable ability to distill complex institutions into single symbols. Entire nations, their histories, and cultures can be expressed by a flag. As an example of the importance of symbols, one need look no further than the lengthy debates the U.S. Congress has held in regard to how flag desecrators should be treated.

What Is Culture? (8 of 8)

Culture Is Symbolic and Material: Mental Maps of Reality

Mental maps of reality are constructs created by the human brain to organize and make sense of the overwhelming amount sensory data taken in by an individual.

Mental maps are shaped by enculturation. They are not fixed.

Mental maps classify reality and assign meaning to what has been classified.

Mental maps can become problematic when the classifications created by them are treated as scientifically “natural” or universal.

Mental Maps of Reality

The human ability to use symbols ties directly into our use of “mental maps.”

Mental maps of reality are cultural classifications of what kinds of people and things exist, and the assignment of meaning to those classifications. Mental maps represent people’s attempt to distill the complex world around them into understandable categories.

To emphasize the cultural nature of mental maps of the world, we can look at concepts of time. We tend to think of time as an absolute, something that is objectively real rather than culturally constructed. And yet, the clocks that we live our lives by create arbitrary structures. The length of a day is a natural unit (from sunrise to sunrise, a unit that does not change). But the structure of twenty-four hours, sixty minutes to an hour, sixty seconds to a minute is entirely arbitrary. There is no reason we could not divide the day into twenty units or thirty.

Ethnocentrism

The attitude or opinion that the morals, values, and customs of one’s own culture are superior to those of other peoples’.

Because of the all-encompassing nature of culture, it is natural to think that one’s own culture is correct and that anyone who lives differently is abnormal, if not outright wrong.

Using our own cultural norms, values, and beliefs blinds us from the origins, rationales, logics, and philosophies that underlie other cultures.

Anthropologists must attempt to ‘walk in someone else’s shoes’

Cultural Relativism

The notion that one should not judge the behavior or beliefs of other peoples using the standards of one’s own culture.

When approaching a new culture, we must suspend our judgment and seek to objectively understand the new culture on its own terms.

This doesn’t mean everything another culture does is right, moral, or practical. It simply means that we can only understand why people do certain things if we analyze their choices and actions in their own cultural context.

Human Rights

As anthropologists, it is our duty to observe and objectively describe a culture, not to become foreign activists for change.

Anthropologists generally rely on international standards for Human Rights established by the United Nations (UN) when conflict arises.

Yet even this can be difficult, as we know that UN declarations are strongly influenced by Western political powers.

How Has the Culture Concept Developed in Anthropology? (1 of 5)

“Culture or Civilization, taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

—Edward Burnett Tylor (Primitive Culture, 1871)

How Has the Culture Concept Developed in Anthropology?

Let’s now turn to looking at how the concept of culture has developed within the discipline of anthropology over time.

The culture concept is an essential part of anthropology.

Ever since Edward Burnett Tylor offered a definition of culture in 1871, culture has been the primary focus of study for all anthropologists.

However, culture is such a broad concept that it has given rise to many debates within anthropology.

There are debates regarding how it should be defined, how it should be understood and studied, and how we should describe it.

To better understand the culture concept, we are going to take a step back and look at some of these debates. As you will see, Anthropology in general, and the culture concept in particular, have a problematic history.

How Has the Culture Concept Developed in Anthropology? (2 of 5)

Early Evolutionary Frameworks

Early anthropologists: Edward Burnett Tylor, James Frazer, and Lewis Henry Morgan

They believed in a simplistic, uniform cultural development theory known as unilineal cultural evolution.

This theory’s ranking system, which used European culture as the ideal standard, is now considered racist.

Early Evolutionary Frameworks

The earliest anthropologists, such as Edward Burnett Tylor (1832–1917) and his colleagues James Frazer (1854–1941) and Lewis Henry Morgan (1818–1881), primarily subscribed to an evolutionary model of culture.

Working in the late 1800s, these scholars were heavily influenced by Charles Darwin and his new book On the Origin of Species.

Evolutionary theory was very popular and was broadly adopted in a variety of different disciplines.

Early European anthropologists noted that many cultures that had been encountered around the world were less technologically and socially complex in comparison to Europe’s cultures.

As a result, they began to argue for an evolutionary sequence in culture.

They saw less complex cultures as “less evolved.”

Lewis Henry Morgan developed an evolutionary typology.

He classified cultures as belonging to one of three different stages of evolution: savagery, barbarianism, or civilization.

This theory—that all cultures naturally evolve through the same sequence of stages from simple to complex—was referred to as unilineal cultural evolution.

Setting aside the judgment-based problems of referring to other cultures as savage, anthropologists began to argue that the data simply did not fit this simple evolutionary concept.

As anthropologists studied more and more cultures around the world, new ideas began to form about culture.

How Has the Culture Concept Developed in Anthropology? (3 of 5)

American Historical Particularism

Franz Boas advocated for historical particularism, the idea that cultures arise from different causes.

Ruth Benedict explored the unique patterns and integrations of cultures and cultural traits.

Margaret Mead studied the power of enculturation on cultural patterns and personality types.

American Historical Particularism

In the United States, the reaction against evolutionary frameworks was led by the anthropologist Franz Boas (1858–1942).

During his career, Boas worked with both Native American cultures and immigrant European cultures.

Outside of the annals of anthropology, Boas is best remembered for his work fighting against the racial stereotype that Eastern European immigrants faced in the United States.

Boas argued that evolutionary frameworks for culture were narrow and restrictive, thus not capturing the true picture of how a culture developed.

In response, he founded a school of historical particularism.

Boas argued that in order to understand a culture, you needed to learn about its particular (i.e., unique) history.

This idea, historical particularism, argues that cultures develop in specific ways because of their unique histories.

This argument helped to explain differences between the many Native American cultures.

It also helped to achieve a measure of equality for European immigrants.

As a professor of anthropology at Columbia University, Boas helped to train the subsequent generation of anthropologists. Thus, his influence extended far down the line.

Perhaps the most famous of Boas’s students is Margaret Mead.

Mead carried on the torch of historical particularism in her study “Coming of Age in Samoa.”

In her trips to study the cultures of Samoa, Mead noticed a startling difference.

In the United States, female adolescence was widely considered a difficult and challenging time in a young woman’s life.

Due to the biological changes in women’s bodies, Americans explained these difficulties as a biological reality.

But Mead noticed that in Samoa, adolescent girls did not experience the same period of disruption.

She began to realize that the emotions and difficulties surrounding female adolescence in the United States, while perhaps biological at base, were also deeply cultural.

In short, there were particular patterns to the culture of Samoa and the culture of the United States.

As a result of her study, Mead had a strong impact on the burgeoning Women’s Rights movement in the United States.

How Has the Culture Concept Developed in Anthropology? (4 of 5)

British Structural Functionalism

Rejecting unilineal cultural evolution, British social anthropologists from the 1920s to 1960s thought of human societies as organisms that worked to maintain their equilibrium, a conceptual framework called structural functionalism.

Adherents: Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Bronislaw Malinowski

Critics: Max Gluckman, Victor Turner

British Structural Functionalism

British anthropologists took a different tack than their American counterparts.

In response to the evolutionary school of thought, British anthropologists developed what has become known as structural functionalism.

The general approach of this school of thought was to examine how different structures within a culture functioned to keep the system as a whole in equilibrium.

Structural functionalists took a scientific approach to the study of culture.

As much as possible, they looked to control their field studies to examine particular structures.

As a result, many studies were done on kinship structures, political structures, religious structures, and so on.

The idea was that if we could isolate these structures (or these systems), we could understand them better.

Looking at a smaller picture, there is less detail to overwhelm you.

Once these smaller systems were well understood, they could be pieced back together to understand the culture at large.

E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s ethnography “The Nuer” (1940) was a classic example of this school of thought.

Evans-Pritchard (1902–1973) went to great lengths to study and describe the separate structure of Nuer culture.

He included their political, economic, and kinship structures.

While different from the American response, which emphasized a culture’s unique history, British structural functionalism was highly influential.

This helped to move us toward a better understanding of cultures around the world.

How Has the Culture Concept Developed in Anthropology? (5 of 5)

Culture and Meaning

In modern anthropology, one predominant view is the interpretive approach, which sees culture as a symbolic system of deep meaning.

Clifford Geertz emphasized thick description as necessary to truly understand an action’s meaning within its culture.

Culture and Meaning

Our final step in developing a modern understanding of culture can be seen as a reaction against the American and British schools.

While the British school of structural functionalism carries a certain logic, it is easy to argue that a culture is more than the sum of its parts.

Simply understanding a kinship system and a political system does not mean you understand the nuances of norms, values, and symbols found within a culture.

Likewise, the American historical particularism school can perhaps explain what influenced the development of a culture but not necessarily why it developed the way it did.

After all, different people and different cultures react in diverse ways to similar events.

Clifford Geertz (1926–2006) led the charge in the 1960s for a new “interpretive approach.”

This conceptual approach sees culture as a symbolic system of deep meaning with many layers. To understand the kiss in Western culture, you must understand many layers of meaning.

In order to achieve such an understanding for another culture, Geertz argued for detailed descriptions and careful observation.

Understanding required more than simply a description of what the anthropologist might think is important.

There should be descriptions of all details of an event.

This way, the more subtle symbols may be gradually observed and understood.

Out of this approach came Geertz’s study of Balinese cockfights, showing how even the smallest moment can offer insights into a culture.

How are Culture and Power Related? (1 of 4)

Power is an individual or group’s ability to bring about change through action or influence.

It can be argued that power dynamics exist in every single human relationship.

Any individual who is part of a society has complex relationships with systems of power in that society.

Power in a culture creates a hierarchy of resource distribution and privileges known as stratification.

How Are Culture and Power Related?

The relationship between culture and power is extremely important in modern anthropology.

This is particularly due to the roots of the discipline.

Anthropology began primarily as an endeavor of the powerful studying the powerless.

European scholars spread throughout areas of the world that had been colonized by European nations.

Perhaps because of this somewhat uncomfortable relationship between anthropology and power, many early anthropologists did not focus on the issue of culture and power.

Today the topic is to be very important in anthropology.

Before talking about the relationship between culture and power, we need to define power.

Power is “the ability or potential to bring about change through action or influence.”

That is someone, or a group of people, who can cause things to happen.

It might be through their influence alone.

It might be due to threats of force or actual force.

It is the ability to bring about change.

Whether that change is simply a movement of goods, causing farmers to grow food, or armies to assemble, any directed change is what defines power.

Simply put, can you make people do stuff?

How are Culture and Power Related? (2 of 4)

Power and Cultural Institutions

Great power is vested in institutions created to promote and maintain a culture’s core values.

France’s 2003 debate about Muslim girls wearing headscarves to public schools demonstrated a clash between religious institutions and educational ones.

Power and Cultural Institutions

More recent scholarship on culture has argued that power is crucial to understanding how culture works.

Power is often described as the ability of potential to bring about change through action or influence, either one’s own or a group institution.

Although we often think of power as seated in an individual—your boss, your parents, the president—power is often controlled by cultural institutions.

Religious institutions are perhaps the most obvious example. For example, the Catholic Pope often comes out and dictates morals (i.e., norms and values) for his adherents.

On a smaller scale, local churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and so on often have great influence on their communities.

Other institutions such as schools and the legal system highlight differences in power.

Power is embedded in many kinds of social relation, and power in a culture reflects stratification—or, the uneven distribution of resources and privileges among participants in a group or culture.

By examining the way access to these resources is organized, we can begin to use culture as a conceptual guide to power.

How are Culture and Power Related? (3 of 4)

Hegemony

Material power, according to Antonio Gramsci, is that which is exerted through coercion or brute force.

A different type of power arises from hegemony, the ability to create consent and agreement within a population.

Because culture often unconsciously shapes people’s norms and values, it holds an enormous hegemonic power. Culture can convince people to discipline their own behavior even if doing so is against their own interests and there is no real punishment for misbehaving.

Hegemony

When discussing culture and power, it is also useful to make a distinction between material power and hegemony.

Material power refers to the more traditional signs of power: political, economic, or material power. Such power is exerted through coercion or brute force.

Hegemony refers to a power to create consent and agreement within a population without the use of threat or force.

The most direct example of a display of hegemony is the aforementioned missionary activity of many religions.

Your textbook relates the research of Jean and John Comaroff in South Africa. The Comaroffs describe how British colonists used military power to attain political and economic control over South Africa.

British missionaries sought to convert local populations to the Christian religion. This process brought about cultural change through the power of ideas rather than might.

Many similar events have happened throughout the world. Most notably, in the Americas, European military powers sought to control the Americas. Many missionaries sought to convert the Native Americans.

The results of these conversion efforts created the state that we see today, where many native groups have been disenfranchised from economic and political power. They have also inherited a mixture of indigenous and Christian religious beliefs. Such religious syncretism is found through much of the Americas.

How are Culture and Power Related? (4 of 4)

Human Agency

Agency is the power of an individual or group to contest a component of culture.

No system of power can result in complete and absolute dominance from one group.

Resistance of a dominant group can be visible and public or subtle and discreet.

Human Agency

Hegemony and cultural institutions can be extremely influential sources of cultural power, yet we cannot overlook human agency.

Agency is an academic term that is similar to the concept of free will. Your textbook defines it as “the potential power individuals and groups have to contest cultural norms, values, mental maps of reality, symbols, institutions, and structures of power.”

Humans are deeply influenced by their culture, and its institutions of power, but that does not mean that they cannot step outside of it, critique it, or shape it.

How Much of Who You Are Is Shaped by Biology, and How Much by Culture? (1 of 3)

Nature and Nurture

Although all human genetic codes are 99.9 percent identical, there is a remarkable amount of physical and behavioral variety across cultures.

Eating and sleeping may be biological functions, but how these processes are performed and the patterns associated with them vary widely based on culture.

Cultural patterns and beliefs play an important role in shaping human behavior as well as societal inequality and stratification. Since these are all culturally constructed phenomena, they are also all completely changeable.

How Much of Who You Are Is Shaped by Biology, and How Much by Culture?

When looking at the variations of human behavior and culture around the world, we must ask where that variation comes from.

Anthropologists generally hold that the majority, if not all, of the variations come from cultural differences.

Many people over the years have argued that biological differences between peoples also affect behaviors.

Nature and Nurture

Human beings across the globe have nearly identical genetic codes. Every person on the planet has a genetic code that is 99.99 percent identical to everyone else. This remarkable similarity in genetics necessitates we have the same biological needs. All humans must eat, excrete, and have protection from the elements. And yet, even within those basic needs, we see tremendous variation.

Food and dietary patterns vary across the globe (hence the proliferation of ethnic restaurants in the United States). Often food is not simply a matter of taste or style; rather, there are major distinctions in what people will eat: Many cultures around the world hold certain insects as delicacies. Many Chinese people dislike cheese in all forms. Others consider fish eggs (i.e., caviar) a delicacy.

Even patterns of excretion vary. Public toilets in China are typically made up of a simple hole in the ground over which a person squats. In India, water is used in place of the Western-preferred toilet paper.

In terms of shelter from the elements, not only do clothing styles and preference vary drastically, but quite simply the amount of covering up that is considered appropriate also varies tremendously.

In spite of our similarities, we tackle similar problems quite differently.

How Much of Who You Are Is Shaped by Biology, and How Much by Culture? (2 of 3)

From Human Beings to Human Becomings

Biology and culture are not always mutually exclusive of each other.

The field of epigenetics explores how environmental factors directly affect human gene expression.

The human microbiome is evidence that each human body is not a discrete biological unit, but rather a part of a much larger, interconnected environment both inside and outside of the body.

From Human Beings to Human Becomings

Genes obviously play an important role in both human evolution and individual development, but epigenetics shows that genes are highly susceptible to environment.

Similarly, the human microbiome shows that our bodies don’t operate in isolation.

Instead of seeing bodies as discrete biological units, anthropological research calls for us to see bodies as complex, with connections to many other processes and organisms.

Some scholars frame this as a shift from thinking about ourselves as “human BE-ings” to “human BE-comings,” who are continually evolving and adapting, both on the species level and within our own life spans.

How Much of Who You Are Is Shaped by Biology, and How Much by Culture? (3 of 3)

Connecting Culture and Behavior

Culture is not written into DNA; it is learned from people around us.

Culture is found among all people, but specific practices are unique to each culture. There is no universal culture or cultural practice.

Genetic adaptations were important in early human evolution, but cultural adaptations have replaced them as the primary way contemporary humans adapt to and manipulate the world around us.

Connecting Culture and Behavior

Direct links between specific genes and specific behaviors have proven very difficult to identify. But the fields of study we’ve just discussed show that culture does have the power to shape the biological factors that define us.

Despite the popular idea that nature has driven our development as humans, we cannot discount the influence of culture on our evolutionary history as a species, and the development we go through in our own lifetime as individuals.

Indeed, over time, some cultural adaptations (e.g., fire, language, contraceptives) have replaced genetic adaptations as the primary way that humans adapt to their environments.

How is Culture Created? (1 of 2)

Creating Consumer Culture

Consumerism has become a way of life with its own culture.

Many key cultural rituals now focus on the spending and consumption of goods and services.

Consumerism has become so successful that it promotes a culture of spending even when people don’t have money.

How Is Culture Created?

Culture is something that is created by the members of a group.

While each new member undergoes enculturation, pressures from cultural institutions, human agents, and other historical forces bring change.

Cultures react to that change en masse, creating new forms of the original culture.

Typically, the process of cultural change is long and difficult to observe.

Recently in American history, we have seen a tremendous swing toward what can be called a “consumer culture.”

This change has been well-documented, thus allowing us to see how our own culture has changed.

Creating Consumer Culture

In order for a consumer culture to thrive—meaning a culture where buying and selling items is highly valued—there must be a desire to consume. This is also known as consumer demand.

As the consumer culture has grown in strength in the United States, there has been an ever-increasing need to create consumer demand.

As a result, the attempts have become more obvious and easier to understand.

For example, candy companies successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to change the date of Daylight Savings Time until after the Halloween holiday. This provided an extra hour of light for children to go trick-or-treating. This made the candy companies more money. (Remember when we talked about the subjectivity of time?)

On a similar theme, the U.S. Congress moved the Thanksgiving holiday to earlier in November, to lengthen the Christmas shopping season.

The fact that our culture has embraced this consumer trend can be seen by the way in which consumerism prevails throughout our lives.

One cannot skip giving gifts on Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day without risking social sanction, despite the subjective nature of these holidays.

The amount of money spent on a gift is often considered a measure of its social worth.

Even attempts to kindle a new romance are heavily laden with metaphors of consumerism, such as “Can I buy you a drink” or the gift of flowers from myriad florists (versus picking them yourself).

Advertising

The practice of advertising has long been seen as a key component to manufacturing the desire to consume. In fact, in the modern Western world, advertising agents have become extraordinarily influential cultural institutions. All seek to enculturate us to their systems of value.

An excellent example is the huge industry of personal hygiene. A slew of products exist, from soaps and shampoos to deodorants and perfumes. Yet, this industry is no more than a hundred or so years old. Human beings survived for well over 100,000 years without such products. Advertising agencies have taught us the value of their existence. Now, most people find it inconceivable to live without these products.

The influence of advertising is perhaps most noticeable by the extent to which we allow it to pervade our lives.

Everything, from our clothing to our electronics, is branded. We become walking advertisements for the products we purchase.

More traditional advertisements are found at every turn, from magazines, newspapers, billboards, TV and radio commercials, and virtually every website on the Internet.

Financial Services and Credit Cards

With the creation of the desire to consume, we have one more necessity for a consumer culture: the ability to consume.

Although credit cards are found throughout our lives today, they actually only began to grow in popularity about forty years ago. It was only after the deregulation of banks in the 1970s and the development of the necessary technologies that credit cards even began to exist in their present form. Now credit cards are foisted on college students with the promise of the ability to consume and delay the costs. This creates a cycle, starting the consumer demand, that then requires one to work for the already-received goods.

All of these forces of consumerism, demand, and credit have come together to permanently change our own culture.

How is Culture Created? (2 of 2)

Creating Consumer Culture

Advertising is a powerful tool of enculturation that shapes cultural norms and links values like beauty and happiness to the consumption of material goods.

The financial services industry provides money to feed the consumerist desires triggered by advertising, but this comes at a price to the consumer, often in the form of credit card debt.

Advertising

The practice of advertising has long been seen as a key component to manufacturing the desire to consume. In fact, in the modern Western world, advertising agents have become extraordinarily influential cultural institutions. All seek to enculturate us to their systems of value.

An excellent example is the huge industry of personal hygiene. A slew of products exist, from soaps and shampoos to deodorants and perfumes. Yet, this industry is no more than a hundred or so years old. Human beings survived for well over 100,000 years without such products. Advertising agencies have taught us the value of their existence. Now, most people find it inconceivable to live without these products.

The influence of advertising is perhaps most noticeable by the extent to which we allow it to pervade our lives.

Everything, from our clothing to our electronics, is branded. We become walking advertisements for the products we purchase.

More traditional advertisements are found at every turn, from magazines, newspapers, billboards, TV and radio commercials, and virtually every website on the Internet.

Financial Services and Credit Cards

With the creation of the desire to consume, we have one more necessity for a consumer culture: the ability to consume.

Although credit cards are found throughout our lives today, they actually only began to grow in popularity about forty years ago. It was only after the deregulation of banks in the 1970s and the development of the necessary technologies that credit cards even began to exist in their present form. Now credit cards are foisted on college students with the promise of the ability to consume and delay the costs. This creates a cycle, starting the consumer demand, that then requires one to work for the already-received goods.

All of these forces of consumerism, demand, and credit have come together to permanently change our own culture.

How is Globalization Transforming Culture? (1 of 3)

Some cultural activists worry that the expansion of big, global corporations to all parts of the world will have a homogenizing effect that will diminish cultural diversity.

The actual result of globalization is often hybridization.

Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia (James Watson, 1998)

The Global and Local in Tension: Homogenizing or Diversifying

How Is Globalization Transforming Culture?

As we have seen, globalization allows for the people of the world to be in ever closer contact.

This contact and communication has had a tremendous effect on cultures worldwide.

A Homogenizing Effect

To anthropologists, one of the most startling effects is the degree of cultural homogenization that has begun to occur. That is to say, cultures are adopting values, norms, and symbols from one another in such a way that many cultures are becoming more like one another.

A simple example of this phenomenon can be found in children’s backpacks around the world. In virtually any country around the world, you can find children wearing Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman backpacks. The American film industry has exported its blockbusters worldwide, and it has created a shared culture of fantasy as a result.

While we may wish to revel in a shared enjoyable experience, we also lament the loss of variety. People have been telling stories to one another for as long as there have been people. We are now losing some of those stories as louder voices (e.g., movies) drown out quieter local voices.

How is Globalization Transforming Culture? (2 of 3)

Migration and the Global Flows of Culture

When people migrate, their culture migrates with them.

Robert Smith explored this phenomenon in his book, Mexican New York (2006). Mexican immigrants living in the suburbs of New York City create and maintain complex physical, virtual, and economic links to their hometowns in Mexico.

Migration and the Global Flows of Culture

Not all globalization entails the loss of cultural diversity. Increased levels of migration (with improved transportation technologies) have led to the sharing of different cultural traditions. When migrants move to a new place, they bring their cultural values and norms with them. The values and norms often change to a certain extent to accommodate their new environment. But they can also influence their new environment with their old culture.

Many neighborhoods in the United States benefit from diverse, interacting cultural traditions.

With every improving communication technology, migrants can often remain in contact with their home cultures, thereby strengthening their cultural retention.

This back-and-forth process of culture sharing and influence is what we call a “global flow” of culture.

How is Globalization Transforming Culture? (3 of 3)

Increasing Cosmopolitanism

Increased globalization has resulted in increased access and connection between different communities, resulting in a “new cosmopolitanism.”

Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt (Lila Abu-Lughod, 2005)

Increasing Cosmopolitanism

Finally, increased globalization has led to an increase in cosmopolitanism. That is to say, there is an increase in the awareness of belonging to a global community.

Even the most remote corners of the globe today house people who are aware of global issues. Radio, television, and Internet broadcasts allow one to learn of global developments from virtually anywhere. While some people choose to engage more or less with the surrounding world, the option is now there.

Increased cosmopolitanism has led to broader global outlooks. As anthropologists, we find this hopeful. A chance for increased understanding and tolerance between cultures is always an encouraging thought.

Concept Check (1 of 4)

Human culture is

taught through formal instruction.

hardwired into our DNA.

learned informally.

both A and C.

Answer: D

Concept Check (2 of 4)

The framework that anthropologists use to challenge ethnocentrism is

ethnography.

norms and values.

cultural relativism.

mental maps of reality.

Answer: C

Concept Check (3 of 4)

In early evolutionary frameworks of cultural variation, anthropologists tended to describe Western cultures as

savage.

barbarian.

unilineal.

civilized.

Answer: D

Concept Check (4 of 4)

The study of epigenetics tells us that

even our genes can be affected by the environment.

there is a clear-cut line between biology and culture.

men and women are different for hard-wired evolutionary reasons.

culture is determined by biology.

Answer: A

Credits

This concludes the Lecture PowerPoint presentation for Cultural Anthropology 3E.

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