Chap2 - Cccr’EJH'e :15 "The Lir:_\' my; Life :1 The...

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Unformatted text preview: Cccr’EJH'e :15 "The Lir:_\' my; Life :1 The Idemmmaa’ Ccvrcspiz'm: of (Edna's f: For-11m? fir.‘ Sociafiy Transmmmf . . . Knowledge . . r Siam-ed by Sauna: Gran}: of People {mnpnnncnis L Cuiunfii E-ana'lenige chi;;:ok)gic‘af Krmza';’czf;_;;-‘ Non; :5- I/hfuc‘o‘ C‘or'fccffrc’ LEIcI'L'J's‘HaH 1’ Categories? and 0'" of Reafr'rlx' W0er Il'z‘en'a‘ Culiun‘ :md Each-21 -' The Advantages of Culture The term (“hm-e refers m Hm sociaflv {canted knom‘en’gc shared by a group of peopfe. Nurse Sm: dn‘idren n'fh’ 33cm? (heir cm’nu'c through (1 proved; Krzmtw as L‘Ht'm’rm'an'ou. 17 f you should ask a hundred cultural anthropologists what their field is all about—what, more than anything else, is its subject matter—most would answer "culture." If you were to find another hundred and ask them what characteristic of humanity most distinguishes us from other animals, probably seventy or eighty would respond r‘the capacity for culture." What is this phenomenon called culture, and why is it so critical in understanding humanity? What Is Culture? Culture as “The Way of Life” In anthropology, the term culture generally refers to the way of life of some group of people. So we can speak of Chinese culture. meaning the way the Chinese people lire—their religion, their fam- ily life, and attitudes towards strangers; how the}r organize their economy and government; and so forth. Often the word culture emphasizes the unique or distinctive aspects of a peoples' cus- toms and beliefs. The definition of culture as the whole way of life of some people was proposed by E. B. Tylor in 18?], when scientific anthropology was in its infancy. He wrote, “Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, lax-v, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquire-:1 by man as a member of soci~ err." This definition is still quoted widely as a useful way of bolting at culture. The main thing to notice about it is that culture is defined in such a way as to include almost everything about a people—their thoughts about the world-their be- liefs about how people should live, their actions, and all other “capabilities and habits" that they acquire while growing up in a particular society. Since Tyler's day, numerous anthropologists have tried to improve on this definition of the key concept in their discipline. Ralph Linton, writing in 1940, defined culture as “the sum total of knowledge, attitudes and habitual behavior pat- terns shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society.” This way of looking at the concept rightly draws attention to two major characteristics of culture: it is shared by some group, and it is transmitted between generations. 18 Part ‘[ This definition also is quite broad. Notice the in- clusion of all "knowledge, attitudes and habitual behavior patterns." Knowledge and attitudes are things people carry in their mindsflthey are mental phenome- na. We cannot observe knowledge, attitudes, and other kinds of mental phenomena directly. We can ask people what they think or how they feel about someone or some event and thus find out about their knowledge and attitudes. But we have no way of knowing by direct observation what’s in their minds. Behavior, in contrast, is directly observable. Of course, behaviors are strongly influenced by the knowledge, attitudes, and other things stored - in peoples’ minds. Information {including knowl- edge and attitudes) underlies behavior, which means that we can infer something about how a person thinks and feels by watching what he or she does in certain situations. In sum, culture often is defined broadly as the whole way of life of a people. It consists both of the shared information stored in people’s brains and their behavior. By this definition, cul- ture includes both mental phenomena (ideas, in- cluding ways of thinking and feeling) and behav- ioral phenomena (ways of acting). mm The ldeationai tlonceptien of {in turn Recently, influential anthropologists such as Rog- er Keesing, Ward Goodenough, and Clifford Geertz have proposed a narrower, less inclusive definition of culture. It is useful for some pur— poses to make a distinction between the shared information (ideas) people carry in their heads and the way they actually behave. We have just Seen one reason why this distinction is useful: the information stored in someone's brain cannot be Concepts of Cultural Anthropology observed directly, but behavior is observable. An- other reason is that people everywhere have ideas about how they should behave, but their actual behavior dees not always reflect their shared ideas. People can agree, in principle, that some things ought to be done in certain ways, and yet large numbers of individuals may not abide by these agreements. Finally, the more broadly we define a concept, the more confusion its use can cause. If culture is defined as the whole way of life of a peeple, then mental and behavioral phev nomena tend to get lumped together and cone fused. and for some purposes it is useful to distin- guish them. For these and other reasons, in this book we use the term culture to refer to mental phenome— na rather than to behavior. This way of conceptu~ alizing culture often is called the ideational defi- nition of culture. Culture consists not of activities—not of what Linton called "habitual bee harior patterns"—but of shared and learned ideas. Of course, shared ideas influence behavior profoundly. But they are not the only influences on how individuals act, for shared ideas generally provide only guidelines for behavior, as we shall see. If we define culture to include onl}r learned and shared ideas, we need another concept that encompasses other aspects of how a people live. Unfortunately, no such single word now exists. The phrase most commonly used is sociocultural system. Sociocultural is a composite word, made up of social and cultural. We discuss the "social" part of the term in chapter 3; for now, think of social as referring to relationships between indi- viduals, to the kinds of groups people form, and to the relationships between these groups. The word system empltasiaes that-the various aspects (subsystems) of a way of life are integrat- ed, meaning that they mutually affect one anoth— er. To say that a way of life is integrated means that each of its elements is tied up with the others, so that many elements fit together to make up a sociocultural whole. The holistic perspective of anthropology is derived from our assumption that the sociocultural system of a people is inte- grated. Systcm and integration are important con~ cepts for two major reasons. First, sometimes we can make puzzling beliefs and practices intelligi— ble by seeing them as parts of a system, when we cannot understand them in isolation. Second, in- tegration implies that changes introduced in one component of a sociocultural system may have impacts on other components that are unintend- ed, hard to foresee, and often undesirable or harmful to a people and to the persistence of their customs and beliefs. Ordinarily the group that shares a sociocul- tural system is called a society, or a territorially distinct group whose members speak a common language and share a feeling of common identity relative to other societies. {However, some socie- ties—notably many modern nations—winclude eth— nic or racial minorities who share a sociocultural system that differs in some respects from that of the so-called mainstream.) Behavior refers to what individuals actually do. In most of their behavior, individuals are in- fluenced by other people with whom they interact socially and with whom they form groups. The behavior of any individual also is influenced by the ideas (culture) he or she shares with other people in the society. Because the behavior of in— dividuals is so greatlyr affected by culture and by the existing relationships between individuals and groups, most individuals adopt similar be- havior in similar circumstances. We therefore speak of patterns of behavior, meaning what most people tend to do when they are in certain situations (cg, in church, at a wedding or funer- al, at a convention). So the phrase sociocultural system encompasses the patterns of behavior. the shared ideas, and the prevalent relationships be- tween individuals and groups of a society. In this book, we use sociocultural system and'way of fife (or ft’feway) interchangeably. To avoid tedious repetition, we shall sometimes use the phrase "customs and beliefs" to mean the same thing. Culture, however, always means shared ideas. assaults ;—'='-.. _ . _ ;. ._.4m(1%:5:37;"5‘55-Ea‘fi't-‘-'i'€J:\-E¢Ef:"afar!" Eva g A Formal Definition of Culture The concept of culture is so important that we need a formal definition of what we shall mean by the term: Culture is the socially transmitted knowledge shared by some group of people. Chapter 2 Culture 1 9 This definition is used partly because it is easy to break up into components that can be discussed separately. Socially Transmitted . . . To say that culture is socially transmitted is to say that it is learned, but learned in a special way. Two kinds of learning can be distinguished. The first is called trial-and-error learning. With this type. found even among many relatively simple animals such as snails, an animal tries out a be- havior without any preconceptions as to whether it will work—that is. bring a reward. If it does not work, another behavior is tried, and so on until one trial works, after which it is repeated. By trial-and—error learning any animal, including a human, can acquire behaviors that work. But the trials are costly: they require time and energy that could be spent on behaviors that are rewarding. If there were a way to avoid the erroneous trials, learning would be more efficient. The second kind of learning does away with the necessin to engage in costly trials that do not work, and therefore it is more efficient. This kind is called social learning because an indiriduai learns by imitating or communicating with other individuals, thus benefiting from their experi— ence. Information that some individuals have ac- cumulated about what works in some situation is socially transmitted to other individuals. So if wyou have learned through trial and error that some. food is good to eat, I don‘t have to learn this on my own but can instead profit from the knowledge you have'gained through experience. If you and I are contemporaries, and if previous generations have somehow learned about this food, both of us can benefit from their experience if they teach us their food habits. _ Social learning not only spares each individ- ual the costs of ordinary learning, but the knowl- edge that each generation acquires through its experience can be passed OD—SOCiEllly transmit- tedfito future generations. Social learning pro- tides a mechanism by which the knowledge that underlies and guides behavior (i.e., culture) is transmitted between generations. The process of cultural transmission from ::e generation to the next is called encultura— tion. Because of enculturation, the younger peo— E: a society share the culture of the older ; :ple. When rapid change occurs, there may be I'll 3 Part 1 generation gaps, in which members of a younger generation do not share—or have consciously re- jected—some of the culture of their elders. Gener~ ation gaps can appear large to members of differ— ent gene_rations in the same society. The youngsters frequently think they have little in common with their elders, and the elders may wonder how future generations will fare with such low standards of, say, sexual morality. But actually the widest generation gaps in a society often are insignificant when compared to the much larger gaps between the sociocultural sys- tems of different peoples. If your parents or grandparents are outraged at the number of op» posite—sex people in their early twenties living to, gether, think how both of you no uld react if large numbers of girls in their early teens married men in their sixties, or if a typical young man's first marriage was to an elderly widow. Yet these are common marriage patterns among the Tiwi peo- ple of Australia. in spite of generation gaps, you and your elders are a lot more alike Culturally than either of you care to admit! Besides being socially transmitted “dot-fin" Diffusion refers to the spread of socioculturaf etements geo- graphically, from one people to another. Many tools j c'. material goods have virtually worldwide distribution one C. . fusion. These African women are drawing water from a wen using buckets and tubs made of galvanized iron. Concepts of Cultural Anihroriology through time to new generations, culture can be transmitted “out” through Space to other groups of people. This prOCess whereby cultural ele— ments (or elements of an entire sociocultural sys- tem) are spread out geographically "from place to place and people to people is known as diffusion. Through diffusion, which results when members of different societies come into direct- or indirect contact, some‘customs and beliefs spread from one society to another, and so the ways of life of the two societies become more similar. When members of a society with a more ad- vanced technology (especially with superior weaponsllcome into contact with another people, lis'l'herecan: he ‘riol'duestion about the: average I. ..soeiiizénfsjAherisariisinnihisflsieét Etoziareéerve _- this sessile-islets at it” uses: fixiev'eiih'ele'ss',’ " senile insidious-foreign ideas have alreadyworn‘led I-‘ti'ie‘ir‘tigay trite-tits Civilization without hisrealizing Whistles" trims Dni Tiles dawn.iiind$Z-ttié" 7 ' "en's-Li's'p'e'otiiitj 'Itia't‘riot garbed'in satisfies garment ,b'i Easiiiidian'drigin; and-tying matted; suitor: a pattéin whichicriginated in either 'Pe'r'sialij'r Asia 5 .' Mines-He? rimmed mine earsin'ii'n’rarrierican imateriatszjcotton. first domesticated-in'_-lndia; linen, dornesticated in the Near'-East;-wool trod} an animal native to Asia Minor; or_.,s_ill{ whose uses 'were'firsi discovered "by the Ch'ine‘sef-Alllthesie ' “substances haveibeen tranSfo'rrnied into cloth by methods invented in_Southwestern Asia.'lf the weather is celcl enough he may even be sleeping under an eiderdown quilt invented in Scandinavia. Onia‘aiakenlng'he glances at the‘ciock,’ a ' medieval European invention. u'ses'one' potent i'La‘tiri‘i-ivord in abbreviated forni;"rises' haste, and "goes-to thé‘bhihrbmifneie. if'he' stripe to thirtk' I'ali'tititli‘tljhegrnyu's't-feéi himself inithé:'hresEhce of a rgreai'american institution; he will haveheard ' stories of both the quality and frequency of foreign plumbing and will know that in noctner country -2°+9'e..2-'3..Ereri';-n' ' and the latter adopt some of the sociocultural ale- ments of the formerge. process. of change known as acculturation occurs. We commonly hear to- day that the whole world is becoming modern- ized. Indeed, the various peoples of the world probably-are more similar to one another today than they were a century ago, because of accul— turation. But the notion that Westerners invented practically everything important, which subse- quently diffused to the rest of the world, is ethno- centric (as well as wrong). Diffusion has gone from "them" to “us,” as well as in the opposite direction. as you can see in Box 2.1. _ . . sentient. iii-the .. . J...ih'é'i'ihéicliofls‘friieisn _ _ _ _ him-eves" here: eiziis'sfjwas _ Jaineientjégvptians; the use-of 57-, gla lies'ilo'r._-éflo_ors aridliivalls in the-Near East; porcelain}anthrja; and-thieart oi enari'iéling on. ' metal, 'o'y .Médite'rr'arje'an' .ar'lti—sans'o'f the. Bronze 'r I- I d.:.toilet_-are'li_ut slightny modified-copies; .. "Bunyanoriginategrhéonly ' ' purely' to the 'ensernnle is” th’e s_tean'i-'radiei‘ttfit'v agaiiist'iwhich_lour patriot very brieilv-EandElie-intentionain 'plac'es his posterior . . . . “Retaining to the bedroom. the unconscious viCtiniof tin-AmeriCan practices-removeshis ' cloth'es'fro'rn achair; invented in the Near-East, . andproceedstodress.‘ Heputs on close-fitting. tailoied garments .whose‘torm derives from the skin clothingofgins-ancient‘nornads cf the Asiatic _ Steppes: arid fastens-them with buttons: whose :-' prototypes 'aopeared in'Edrope at the close of the Stone Age. . . . He gives himself a finai appraisal in theirhirror, an'ol‘ci' Mediterraneaninventiori, and __ _ goes dowri’stairs to breakta‘St. ‘ Heie'a'whole 'new series'ot foreign things _ sentient; {limit-its food'and drink are placed _' before hirn'in pottery vessels, the popular name of Chapter 2 Culture 21 I plentyof butter. originally a Near-Eastern cosmetic. As a'side‘rdish'he may have the egg of a bird __ domesticated in Southeastern Asia or strips of the flesh Of an animal domeStieated in the same ‘- region, which have been salted and smoked by a process invented in Northern Europe. Breakfast over, he places upon his head a mottled piece of felt. invented by the nomads of Eastern Asia, and, if it looks like rain, puts on outer shoes of rubber. discovered by the ancient Mexicans, and takes an umbrella, invented in lndia. . .. Knowledge . . . People who have sociall}r learned a common cul- ture believe certain postulates about the world, take certain “facts” for granted, accept certain standards of behavior, and share certain assump— tions about themselves and the natural world. By cultural knot-Madge we certainly do not mean truth. What matters about cultural’knowl- edge is not its correctness by some objective stan— dard of truth. lNhat is most important is that 0 individuals share enough of it that they are ca- pable of behaving in ways that are acceptable and meaningful to others; that is, individuals do not constantly misunderstand one another's behavior; - it leads to behavior that Works at least well enough to allow the population to survive and perpetuate itsslf; - it is to some extent consistent: that is, it makes logical sense at least to the degree that actual events in the world can be interpreted in such a 22 Part ‘1 el- _. .t as '-a'noiédt-'$ea1ites' by. apro rialtéstiiéfli h a. sets-invented. by the cafes: misses -iit';eoer'many. '- uponga' :e'ria "talented .irtithiriat-ffistheisoans the; ' riallpi "out dire _r_ésult:é'_to_our'" institutions at acbepttn‘g 'to‘r'eign‘ideas'L-i'hje ‘wiii nor: - - fail to‘ thank a Hebrew God in an 'indoéEuropean languagethat he is a one hundred per cent [decimal system invented by the Gr'eeksiAmeriCan ' ii'rorn'_'Arlie_'—'ricus vespucei; Italian geographer). ' " Source: This artiste by Ralph Linton first appeared 'in i ' The American Memory in 1937. it still-carries- a vital m'es‘sagetmany of the objects we use in everyday life. and many ot our customs and beiiefsrtverej derived irorn ' people who lived long ago and tar atvav. ' I way that they do not diseonfirm the facts and assumptions of cultural knowledge. To put this in a few words, cultural knowledge must lead to behavior that is meaningful and adaptive, and the knowledge itself must not be so out of tune with reality that it is constantly falsi- fied. On the last point, it is important to add that an event that would falsify some Cultural assump- tion or belief to an outside observer does not nec— essarily diSprove the belief to one who believes it. To an outsider, the fact that a particular rain dance does not bring immediate rain shows that rain dances do not work. But those who believe in rain dances are more likely to reason that per- haps this one was performed incorrectly; or may- be an enemy is performing more powerful magic to make the drought continue; or, more likely, the dance will bring rain later, as rain dances have in previous years. To take a more familiar example, we quote a minister one of us knows: “God al— ways answers prayer; sometimes the answer is u no. Concepts of Cultural Anthropology , . _ Shared by Some Group of People Culture is an attribute of some kind of human group; it is shared by some kind of coilectivity, Shared is a relative term meaning that, although all individuals differ somewhat in the ideas they acquire during enculturatlon, they largely agree on_;-,;_certain fundamental kinds of knowledge, which we shall describe shortfy. We often call the group that shares a com- mon culture a society, but many societies exhibit internal sociocultural differences within their boundaries. Most modern nations, for instance, include people of many ethnic backgrounds among their citizenry. These ethnic groups, which usually are defined on the basis of racial type, national origin, or native language, may share some customs and beliefs that differ in some respects from those of the majority popula- tion. However, because they usually live and work among the population at large, they also share a great many sociocultural elements with other citizens. To recognize at one and the same time their distinctiveness from the majority and their cultural similarity with other citizens, the term Subculture is applied to members of such categories. Nations that contain people of many subcultures are said to be pluralistic or are said to exhibit subculture! variation. In the modern United States, several subcul- tures can be identified, including Hispanics, blacks, Jews, 'WASPS, and Native Americans. The term subculture sometimes is used to refer to less noticeable differences in values and lifestyle among the majority population. The southern, northern, midwestern, and southwestern subcul- tures of white Americans differ in some respects (regional subculture). So do the subcultures of Protestants versus Catholics, working-class peo— ple versus professionals, preppies versus sfudents in public schools, and yuppies versus “farmers. Some anthropologists consider religious commu- nities such as the Amish, the Hutterites, the Moonies, and the Hart Krishnas to be subcul- tures. Others consider them sufficiently different from the American mainstream to warrant being called separate cultures. Obviously, the term sub- culture can be used in many ways, and whether one wishes to apply the term to some particular category of people depends very much on one's interests at the moment. Defining culture as the shared knowledge that results from social learning is certainly a more narrow conception of culture than defining it as a whole way of life. When we say a culture is shared by a group, we obviously mean that the members of the group agree on certain funda- mental kihds of knowledge. What specifically do we mean by cultural knowledge? w Components of Cultural Knowledge The culture of a people may be divided into sever, al categories of conscious and unconscious knowledge. Each of the following components af- fects and is affected by the others, because of the systemic nature of culture. Technological Knowledge Technological knowledge refers primarily to the information people have about how to make and utilize the tools that allow them to live in their natural and social environment. Because we are defining culture as shared ideas, we include only the knowledge of how to make and use tools as part of culture. We exclude the tools themselves-— \‘t'fial some call “material culture“—considering these to be products of cultural knowledge rather than part of culture itself. Some anthropologists believe that technolog- ical knowledge and technology itself are the most important components of the way of life of a pop- ulation. They think that the exploitation of an environment made possible by tools and the knowledge of how to make and use them greatly influences many other characteristics of a socio— cultural system. This theoretical position, known as n-zatcriafism, is introduced in chapter-5. Norms A norm is a shared ideal {or rule} about how people ought to act in certain situations or about how particular individuals ought to act towards particular other individuals. The emphasis here should be placed or: the words ideal, rule, and Chapter 2 Culture 23 Most modern nations are pluralistic Shown here are a few of the subcultures represented in only one American city—Cleveland. Ohio. Clockwise from upper left: Americans of German ancestry dance at German American Day; a folk drama is performed annually in the Hungarian community; at the. St. Vladimir Ukranian Orthodox Churcn, dances are held on Easter Monday; Hispanics err-g u? Feast Day of St. John the Baptist: the Obun testival is held at the Japanese Buddhist Temple; Palm Sunday is celebrated bl, Iii-.1. l -r. of Slovenian extraction at St. Vitus Church. 24 Part 1 Concspls of Cultural Anthropology ought. To say that norms exist, it is not necessary for everyone to follow them all the time; indeed, some norms are violated with great regularity. Norm implies, rather, that (1) there is widespread agreement that pebpl'e ought to adhere to certain standards o'f'behavior, (2) other people judge the behavior of an individual according to how close— ly it adheres to those standards, and (3) individu- als who repeatedly fail to follow the standards face some kind of negative reaction from other members of the groupf‘We are able to make col— lective judgments about someone’s personal mo- rality because we share common norms. The ethi- cal codes of some professions, such as medicine or law, are nothing more than norms that have been debated upon by some authority and then formalized. A law is a specialkind of norm, one that is formulated and enforced by a governmen- tal authority. Although it sometimes seems to individuals that the norms of their culture are a bunch of silly “shoulds” and "musts" that stifle them, in fact norms are quite useful to us as individuals. It is mainly because we acquire norms—during en- culturation that we know how to behave towards others and that we have expectations about how others should act towards us. For example, when you enter a roomful of strangers at a party, you are somewhat uncertain about how to act. But everyone knows how to go about getting so quainted in your cultural tradition, so you soon are introducing yourself and shaking hands and asking the other guests how they make their liv- ing or what they are studying or—uundcr some circumstances—finding out whether they are married, single, available, or willing. Here, and in many other cases in everyday life, norms are not felt to be constraining but serve as useful instruc- tions 0n how to do something in such a way that others will know what you are doing and accept your actionsas normal. Values consist of shared ideas about the kinds of goals or lifestyles that are desirable or worth- while for individuals, groups, or society as a whole. Values have a profound, although partly unconscious, effect on individuals. The aims we pursue, as well as our more general ideas about “the good life,” are influenced by the values of the society into which we happen to have been born. Values also are critical to society as a whole, for they represent the qualities that a people believe are essential for the maintenance of their way of life.'-It is useful to think of values as the ultimate standards that a people believe must be upheld under practically all circumstances. An excellent example of values as ultimate standards is the American emphasis on certain rights of individu- als as embodied in the Bill of Rights in the Consti- tution. No matter how much Americans hate what the press prints, what the right or left wing says, or what the Moonies or Hari Krishnas preach, few of them believe that the offending newspaper should be outlawed or that the fanatic organization should be suppressed, so long as the}r do not engage in or advocate violence. Free— dom of the press, of speech, and of religion are ultimate standards that take precedence over the opinions and interests of the moment. Note that regardless of how worthwhile some society finds its ultimate standards, these stan- dards are in fact relative. The idea that individu— als should be allowed to say what they want, or to practice whaiever religion they choose, would have been ludicrous to practically everyone in the world a few centuries ago and even today is not accepted by hundreds of millions of people. Members of a single Culture know how to inter, pret one another’s behavior. Our understanding of what some behavior means allows us to inter— act with one another without the constant neces- sity to explain what we are doing. Such collective understandings seem to be among the most un~ consciOus of all components of culture. It is possi- ble to talk about and explain to a foreigner the norms and values of one‘s own cultural tradition and to give reasons (which of course the stranger might find strange) for why vve think people ought to act in certain ways or why we think certain standards are important to uphold. l'x'e cannot, however, explain why a wink or a tone of voice or certain gestures or words mean what they do; we “just know" what meaning they con- vey but cannot say why they mean this rather than something else, or even how we know their meanings. The feeling that we “just know” what some things mean—that they are "common knon’l. edge”-—is attributable to an enormously impor- Cheznter ._'-- Catr'r-tis'e- 25 tant characteristic of much cultural knowledge. Some things and behaviors carry meanings that have no obvious and necessary relationship to their physical properties: that is, the meanings of some things and behaviors are arbitrary. Arbitra- :31, in this context, means that there areno inher— ent qualities in the object or actioh-itself that lead some human populaticin to attribute one meaning to it, rather than.sorne other meaning. The mean— ing exists only because of shared conventions and collective understandings. Objects and actions whose meaning is arbi- trary‘and conventional are called Symbols; The twitch of an eyelid muscle that causes a momen- tary closing of the eye. which we call a wink, carries a flirtatious significance in some cultural traditions but carries other connotations in other traditions and is meaningless in still other tradi- tions. The shared meaning of an upraised middle finger can result in a brawl in a few societies, but the same movement in other parts of the world elicits no reaction. To the Ndembu people of Zambia, the white secretions of a certain sacred tree carry connotations of womanhood, fertility, nourishment, and sexual maturity, although to most other people in the world it is merely tree sap. To the Christian the cross arouses deep emo- tions of reverence, but to many other people it stands for oppression and imperialism. All these objects and actions are examples of symbols. There is another important characteristic of symbolic behaviors and objects. The meaning of an action depends on the actions that preceded and followed it and on the total situation in which the action occurred. Similarly, the mean ing of an object depends on the objects with which it is associated and on the surrounding cir— cumstances. Simply stated, meaning varies with context. A wink is only sometimes flirtatious; in other situations, it means “just kidding," or “right onl”, or something else. The cross at the altar means one thing; the cross on the grave, another. An upraiscd middle finger in the right place and situation is ajoke rather than an affront. (And, as Sigmund Freud is reputed to have remarked: "sometimes a cigar is just'a cigar.”} The meaning carried by symbolic objects and actions, then, is arbitrary and contextual. You will realize that the arbitrary and contextual na— ture of symbols is just like the arbitrary and con- textual nature of one particular kind of symbol: words. In English, the word for a certain kind of 26 Part 1 large mammal is horse, but in Spanish it is cabs:- Io, in German it is pferd, in Arabic it is hisanwc in- French it is Chavez, and so on for other lan- guages. There is nothing about the animal itself that makes. some combination of sounds appro- priate to stand for it when we talk about it. But horse does not always mean that animal, even in English; sometimes it means a hard worker, and sometimes it means a large person. We can in- stantly figure out the meaning the speaker in- tends by the words that surround horse (how it is used in the sentence) and by the total situation in which the sentence is spoken. Because the mean- ings people associate with symbolic acts and ob jects share the characteristics of arbitrariness and dependence on context With sounds, words. phrases, and sentences, language provides enor- moust helpful clues to the analysis of symbols. We discuss the analogies between language and culture in chapter 4. Categories and Classifications of Reality The carriers of a single cultural tradition share ideas of what kinds of things and persons exist. They have similar “cognitive categories," mean- ing that the human and natural environment are divided up according to common principles. For example, people everywhere recognize a category of persons that are related to them bio— logically—their kinfolk, as we call them. But the principles by which certain kinds of relatives are placed into cultural categories vary between dif— ferent kinds of kinship systems. Thus, we think of the sisters of both our mother and father as a single kind of relative, and we call them by the same kinship term, aunt. But there are some cul~ tural traditions in which the sister of one's moth- er is considered to be one kind of relative, and the sister of one’s father quite a different kind, and each is called by a separate kinship term. As we shall see in chapter 11, these various ways of clas- sifying kin into different categories or kinds of relatives is related fairly consistently to other characteristics of a people's kinship system. The general point for now is that people of different cultural traditions have different ideas about so- cial life, and the way they conceive of their rt me- ties as divided up into kinds of people vanes. The same applies to the way a people classify Concepts of Cultural Anthropology 1heir natural environment. Culture not only pro- vides the categories by which we classify kinds of people but also categories by which plants, ani- mals, phases of the moon, seasonal changes, and other natural phenomena are classified into kinds? Of course, the way peeple classify the things in their natural environment both affects and is affected by hovv they relate to it. For example, on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines livefa people known as the Hanunoo. These people grow most of their food by a method known as shifting cultivation. This method, described further in chapter 8, involves farming a plot for a year or two. abandoning it for a number of years until some of the natural vegetation has regrown and it has recovered its potential to yield a crop, and then replanting it. it therefore is useful for the Hanunoo to be able to tell when a plot they abandoned some years pre— viously has recovered enough to make it worth- while to replant it. Theyjudge this by the quantity and kind of natural vegetation that has recolonized the plot. The usefulness of this ability to assess the degree of readiness of'a plot for recultivation has led the Hanunoo to develop an extremely complex classification of the plants found in their habitat. They are able to identify over 1,600 different "kinds" of plants, which ex— ceeds by over 400 the number of species that a scientific botanist would distinguish. Which classification is right, that of the I-lanunoo or that of the botanist? Both (or is it neither?) The point is not that the Hanunoo are right and the botanist wrong. or vice versa. Rath- er, the botanist uses one set of criteria to decide whether two individual plants belong to the same kind, and these criteria have been adopted be— cause the} have proved useful to science. The Hanunéo use a different set of criteria that, over the course of many generations, they have‘devel— oped for their specific needs. The criteria by means of which various realms of nature are carved up and assigned to categories are impor— tant components of cultural knowledge. for the}r influence the way a people perceive the natural world. Theyr also influence how a people use the re- sources that occur in their environments. Plants and animals are classified not just into various kinds but also into various categories of useful- ness. Members of different cultural traditions perceive nature in different ways, and what one Members of different sociocultural systems often regard differ- ent kinds of animals and plants as edible and inedible. Guinea pigs were an important food Source for many pro—Colombian peoples of the Americas. Here being roasted, they are still eaten in some parts of Latin America. people censider to be a resource is not necessarily a resource for another people. The fact that a given animal or plant is edible does not mean that a given human population will eat it (had any toasted beetle larvae lately?) Also, the perception of something in the environment as a resource changes over time, even within a single cultural tradition. And, finally, some plants and animals are known to be edible by people, but their con— sumption is explicitly forbidden at certain times or prohibited for certain categories of people or even prohibited for everyone all the time. The question of whether this cultural determination of resource exploitation is adaptive—tl'iat is, whether the prohibition on using resources that to an outsider appear perfectly usable somehow subtly aids the survival and perpetuation of a peo- ple—is a hotly debated issue that We take up later. VJOrld Views The world view of a people is the way they pen ceive and interpret reality and events, including their images of themselves and how they relate to the world around them. World views are affected by how people classify the social and natural world, which we have just discussed. But world views include more than just the way people and Chapter 2 Culture 27 nature are carved up by a culture. People have Opinions about the nature 0f the cosmos and how they fit into it. All systems of cultural knowledge distinguish physical bodies from spiritual souls and have beliefs about what happens to the latter after the former dies. People have ideas about the meaning of human existence: how we were put on earth, who put us here, and why. They have a notion of what evil is, where it comes from, why it sometimes happens to good peeple, and how it can be combated. They have beliefs about what supernatural powers or beings are like, what they can do for (or to!) people, and how people can worship or control them. Everywhere we find myths and legends about the origins of living things, objects, and customs. These examples of various aspects of world view all come from religion. But it is important not to confuse world view and religion, and espe— cially not to think that religion and World View are synonymous. Although religious beliefs do in- fluence the world view of a peOple, cultural tradi- tions vary in aspects of world view that we do not ordinarily think of as religious. For instance, the way a people view their place in nature is part of their world view: do they see themselves as the masters and conquer- ors of nature, or as living in harmony with natu- ral forces? The way people view themselves and other people is part of their world view. Do they see themselves, as many human groups do, as the only true human beings, and all others as essen- tially animals? Or do they see their way of life as one among many equally human, but different. ways of life? Most modern scientists share a simi- lar world view: they believe all things and events in the universe have natural, discoverable causes that we can know through logic supported by cer- tain procedures of observation and experimenta- tion. Science is a world view just as much as reli- gion, although unlike the beliefs of religion, the theories of science can be discontinued by obser- vations and experiments. A people’s conception of time and space is also part of their world view. Westerners are so used to thinking of time in terms of arbitrary units—for our seconds, minutes, and hours are not natural segments of time——that we forget that other people do not share our ideas of how im— portant these units are. North Americans frown on “wasting time" and on "living in the past,". for our "period" in this world is "limited," so it is 28 Part 1 important to “make the most of our time here." This view of time as a resource that, like money, can be spent wisely or foolishly is not present in many other cultural traditions. Similar consider- ations apply: to space. In a house, unused space— that is, areas in which little activity occurs or that are not filled up to the culturally appropriate de- gree with our possessions—4s wasted space. To a large extent, such views of time and space are understandable given other dimensions of the American way of life. They are connected to various American values. such as progress and the work ethic. They also are connected to certain economic conditions not found in many other places in the world. We must pay, and pay dearly, for the space of earth enclosed by the walls of our dwellings; in general, the larger the space, the more we pay; so unused space truly is wasted space, for we have paid for something we are not using. If, on the other hand, spaces of earth are freely available to all who wish to use them, the notion of wasting space is less likely to be strong. The same applies to time. We can waste it because it is possible for us to use every bit of it in some way. Time not spent sleeping, eating, and main- taining our bodies can be spent earning money or enjoying the things that money allows us to pos- sess or participating in social activities that we barely can "find the time for." If, on the other hand, we were to stop working whenever we sat- isfy our bodily needs, as was once common among humanity, we would find ourselves with “time on our hands,“ and the view of time as a resource that can be wasted and used wisely or foolishly would be less developed. In summary, cultural knowledge includes shared, socially transmitted knowledge of tech- nology, norms, values, meanings, categories for classifying reality, and world views. You can see why this definition of culture is often called the ideational view, and why from this perspective culture is a mental phenomenon, and not a be- havioral or physical thing. You also can see why not everything an individual knows should be considered “cultural.” Technically, knowledge that you acquire on your own and do not pass along to other people is not cultural, because it is neither shared nor socially transmitted. If you have learned on your own to be a beetle-larvae eater but have kept the knowledge to yourself, then it does not become part of the cultural tradi- tion of your group. On the other hand, you cer- Concepts oi Cultural Anthropology tainly by now can appreciate that much of what you consider to be common knowledge, or just plain common Sense, is in fact socially learned and hence is cultural knowledge." Culture and Behavior Eariier. we note-:2 the usefulness of distinguishing on rare la:— a: unobservable mental phenome- nonr from. behavior las an observable physical phenomenon. By defining culzure as a mental phenomenon that consists f shared norm“. val— ues, understandings, views of reality. and the like. we exclude behavior as part of cuiture. We see culture rather as the system of shared- knowledge that underlies behavior. How then shall we con- ceptualize the relationship between culture and behavior? We might conceive of Culture as'rules that serve as instructions for behavior, telling individ- uals how to act in specific situations and how to relate to other people. We might imagine, for ex— ample, that culture instructs its “carriers” how to plan and carry out a wedding, how to wrest a living from the environment, how to settle a quar- rel, and how to act towards their mothers-in-iaw. There is a fairly tight relationship between the unconscious rules and how real people act, ac— cording to this approach. Those individuals who do not act according to the rules are classified as deviants, but all cultures have procedures for handling deviant behavior. By some means those who deviate are brought back into conformity with the rules or eliminated or ostracized. . This way of conceptualizing the relationship between culture and behavior is the way most people think of the problem. To state this view somewhat baldly: Culture tells us what to do, and We generally do it; and if ‘We deviate, we are pun- ished. There is a growing trend among anthropolo- gists against this approach. For one thing, cultur- al knowledge consists of more than just rules or instructions for behavior. It consists also of val~ ues, which provide only very vague guidelines for behavior and which sometimes conflict. It in- cludes shared categories and views of reality, which certainly influence behavior, but only indi— rectly by affecting how we perceive the world rather than directly as rules. Finally, culture in- cludes shared understandings, which also affect how we ac_t, but not in the same way as rules. The effects of these other components of culture on behavior are too subtle and complex to call them "instructions." For another thing, a large number of anthro- pologists now believe that culture provides a great deal of leeway for individuals to choose be- tween alternative courses of action- Most of the rules that people are said to "obey" do not specify how they should act in great detail, but provide only general guidelines. In their everyday lives, most people do not blindly follow the dictates of culture; they plan, calculate, weigh alternatives. and make decisions on what they think is best for them or for those they care about. They consider [or often Consider, at any rate) the possible conse quences of alternative courses of action in their minds before actually acting. Indeed, this abili- t:\'-—-il'1i5 thinking ahead—is one capacity that humans seem to have developed to a higher de- gree than other animals. Undoubtedly it is one of the secrets of our evolutionary success. In decid- ing how best to approach the relation between culture and behavior, we must take into account humanity's ability to plan and choose. How shall we build planning and choosing into the relation between culture and behavior? One way is to begin with the realization that for— mulating plans and making choices are mental processes, and therefore they rely on and work within the framework of knowledge that individ- uals acquire culturally. To make a decision about how to behave involves at least the following pro: cedures: choosing one's goals (or ends); determin- ing the resources (or rheans) available to attain these ends; considering which specific actions are likely to be most effective; calculating the relative costs (in reSources) and benefits (in rewards) of these alternative behaviors; and, finally, choosing between these behaviors. We can call these mental procedures'strategizing, and the overall plan of behavior an individual has decided upon may be called a strategy. As a result of choosing between alternative strategies, individuals adopt particular behaviors (or series of behaviors) that they believe will help them effectively attain their ends. What affects the strategies individuals choose Chapter 2 Culture 29 and, thus, the behaviors they perform? All the factors and forces thataffect the choices made and the strategies adopted are called constraints. Constraints include theinformation available to the chooser, subjective perceptions of costs and benefits, anticipated actions and reactions of oth. er people, the individual's moms to resources, and so forth. Constraints narrow the range of pos- sible strategies that individuals can adopt, so that some behaviors are more likely to occur than others in a pepulation. By channeling the behav- ior of many individuals into certain paths, con- straints lead many individuals to do the same kinds of things in similar situations. Constraints therefore are partly responsible for the pattern- ing of behavior in a sociocultural system. Some, but not all, constraints arise from the system of shared knowledge that We call culture Technical knowledge, norms, and values obvi- ously are constraints. Norms and values, for in- stance, constrain choices by forcing individuals to take into account how others will react to their behavior, and to consider whether some possible behavior will violate deeply held values or wheth- er the chooser himself will feel guilty for trespass ing on the legitimate rights of others. Choices also are constrained by cultural categories of persons and things, world views, and the chooser's antici- pations of how others will interpret the meanings of his or her actions. We can see, at least roughly, how important culture is for the decision making of individuals: it affects goals, perceptions of re- sources, availability of means, relative weighting of costs and benefits, and so on. So important is the effect of culture on decisions that one influen- tial anthropologist has defined cultural knowl- edge as “standards for deciding what is, . .., what can be, _ . , how one feels about it, .. . what to do about it, and . how to go about doing it” (Good— enough 1961, 552). We therefore can say—Hand this is a useful way of conceptualizing the rela- tion between culture and behaviorhthat one way culture affects behavior is by previding some of the most powerful constraints on choice making. An analogy may be helpful in understanding the relation between culture, strategizing, con- straints, and behavior. Imagine you are engaged in a game of chess- Your goal is to win the game. You and your Opponent are evenly matched, so you both have a roughly equal chance of victory. 30 -'U n: 21 You both know the rules, but neither of you knows much about the strategies of chess—about what series of moves and cbunterrnoves to make in certain situations. After several Ineves one of your rocks is in danger. You could escape by cheating while your opponent is out for a lemonade, but that would not be satisfying, for you are morally committed to playing by the rules. Besides, your opponent might notice when she returns, and her anticipat- ed reaction to your Cheating makes you think twice abOut doing it. You also could escape by making a certain move with your queen, but you know enough to look ahead and see that the queen will be taken if your opponent makes smart moves. You have to decide where to move given your poor knowledge of the strategy of chess, your estimation of your opponent's knowl- edge of strategy, your assessment of where this move will put you in the overall game, and so forth. All these factors constrain your choice of your next move. Unbeknownst to you, there is a strategy, well known to skilled players, that will give you a sure Checkmate in only four moves. However, it is not available to you, for it is not part of your knowledge of chess that you learned from your teachers; not something you have learned on your own since you've been playing; and it is much too complicated to figure out on the spot. Your lack of knowledge of this sure-win strategy also is a constraint on your next move, for it does not allow you to gain the Checkmate that otherwise you would certainly achieve. Thus, throughout your imaginary match, your choices are constrained by the rules (norms) of chess that you and your opponent share, by your commitments to play fair (to do otherwise would violate your values), by other kinds of knowledge you have about the ways to win, and by the knowledge possessed by your opponent. Culture. of course, is an enormously more com- plex system of knowledge than that of chess, but this analogy should help you to understand how the cultural constraints on choice limit the range of behaviors found in a society. There are two other ways to state this per- spective. The first is to say that behavior is pat- terned and that culture consists of mental pat- terns for behavior, rather than of actual patterns of behavior. Culture is sometimes said to be a ‘42".3533. :i Camera: Ambrose-logy code for behavior: we know how to encode our intentions into the behavior we perform, and we know how to decode the intentions of others from their behavior. The second way of stating this perspective emphasizes the normative components of culture: culture supplies the boundaries of behavior by determining which behaviors are proper or ac- ceptable or understandable to others. People gen- erally do not step outside these cultural bounda- ries because they fear negative reactions from others and/or because doing so would involve actions that others might misinterpret. Both of these statements capture part of our approach, which views culture as an enormously important constraint on behavior. Why is it so important to make a distinction between culture and behavior? One reason is that there can be widespread agreement that people ought to act in some way, despite frequent viola- tion of shared norms. Thus, many industrialized societies have an explicit norm that the only thing an employer should take into account in deciding who to hire for some job are the relative qualifi- cations of applicants. There is little doubt that this norm is frequently violated; it may be even be violated more often than it is followed. Even norms that are powerful (in the sense that viola— tions are considered serious breaches of morality and usually are punished in some way if de— tected) are not honored. For example, the norm against adultery is widely accepted and poWerful; yet, in the United States in the 19708, almost half the married population had committed adultery. The same thing applies to the relation be- tween values and behavior. it is agreed widely that equality of opportunity for all is one_of the most cherished values of North Americans; socie- ty should be set up so that all individuals can do as well for themselves as their abilities and ener‘ gies allow. Yet there is no doubt that some people have a head start in life's competition, and others must possess truly unusual talent or ambition to “make it" because of their ethnicity or impover- ished background. Such distinctions between the ideal and the actual—between the “oughts” and the “ares” of a society—make it essential not to confuse culture with behavior. At any rate, norms and values are not always consistent and so may not provide clear guide— lines to: behavior. (You should not lie, but some— times a small lie is necessary to preserve a rela- tion or avoid hurt feelings, or is so useful to you personally that you violate this—rather weak-— norm.) In situations in which one norm or value conflicts with another norm or value, individuals must choose which norm to follow or which value to uphold. (Employers generally should hire the most qualified applicants, but this norm often conflicts with affirmative—action guidelines, which try to make up for generations of systemat- ic discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender.) Violations of rules and standards for behavior often are rationalized by believing that the person harmed by one’s actions deserved it because of their own past violations. (You might justify stealing from your employer because yOu are underpaid.) Finally, individuals receive con— tradictory messages about acceptable behavior. Sometimes the official norms that are supposed to serve as models for behavior are contradicted by messages and models people receive from their friends' actions or from the popular media. (Adultery is wrong, but we gain the impression from the mass media that it is common and al— most to be €Xpecied.) There is a final reason for distinguishing be— tween culture and behavior. Cultural systems change, and SOmetimes this change is partly caused by the contradiction between existing rules and standards and what many people actu— ally are doing. There was a time in Medieval Eu— rope when usuryh-the earning of interest from loans—was considered to violate the teachings in the Bible, and was prohibited by the Catholic church. To make money off of money without being excommunicated, Catholics lent such large sums that the borrower could not possibly repay when the loans came due. They then charged damages for'failure to pay. Technically, the norms of Catholic interpretations of the scrip- tures were not violated, and of ecurse money could always be borrowed from Jews, for their Torah contained no such restrictions. Later, with the Protestant Reformation and the beginnings of capitalism, the norms against usury became so burdensome even to Catholics that they disap- peared. Here we see that strategies developed to get around an inconvenient norm without pun- ishment. and as economic conditions changed, Chapter 2 Culture 31 the norm itself eventually disappeared. This ex- ample shows how a change in behavior caused by a change in conditions can result in a change in norms, hence why it is necessary to distin- guish between the two. M The Advantages of Culture We conclude this chapter oy discussing another question: What is culture itself good for? What benefits does the human species gain from its capacity for culture? Not very long ago, the answer to this question seemed obvious: culture was defined more or less as "learned ways of thinking, feeling, and acting." The advantages of learning seemed clear enough. The ability to malte and use tools was believed to be the major difference between humans and oth- er species, as well as the major reason why the human species spread over most of the land sur— Anthropoiogists used to believe that humans are the only animal to make tools and to pass a tool-making tradition along to future generations. As we see in this photo of a female wild chimpanzee probing for ants with a stick while her offspring looks on. both beliefs are now known to be mistaken 32 Part. 1 face of the earth. New tool making—as opposed to merely tool using—Seemed to require a certain amount of reasoning ability: not only did the tool maker have to realize that an object of a certain type would be useful for the task at hand, but he or she also had to be able to envision a finished tool in its raw material. Surely tool making re- quired mental abilities too complex to be encoded in our genes! Living in highly organized and co— operative social groups also seemed to require an ability to store complex information that could not be genetically encoded. If we were to gain the many advantages of tool making and group liv- ing, we had to acquire the capacity for culture. Culture allows us to store and transmit large quantities of complex information—this is the main evolutionary advantage it offers humanity. Today we know that very complex social be haviors occur in animals that appear to have no Culture. Social insects, such as termites, ants, honeybees, and some wasps, live in social groups that are astoundingly complex. Yet the informa- tion that allows them to do so is carried complete ly in their genes. We now know also that humans are not the only animal to use and make tools; indeed, the ability to use and even to make tools can be inherited genetically. For example, bea- vers have a genetic program that instructs them how to build their dams, a behavior that certainly qualifies as tool making. Birds, mammals, and many reptiles build some form of nest for their ymmg without needing to learn to do so. Thus, it simply is not true that only very sim» ple behaviors can be inherited genetically. Genes not only carry information on how to construct the body of organisms but also can provide de tailed and complex instructions on how orga— nisms behave. it is quite possible to acquire the benefits of tool making and of cooperative social behavior without having culture. Further, it is becoming increasingly clear to specialists in animal behavior that many nonhu- man animals are capable of a great deal of learn— ing by means of trial and error. imagine an animal whose genes program it to avoid pain, hunger, thirst, execssive heat and cold, and 5.0 forth. Imagine also that its genes instruct it to spit out food that tastes bitter but to swallow food that suits its tastes. Genes also build in the knowledge to avoid anything that tries to capture it. Imagine, in other words, that the organism's genes give no specific instructions, but merely general guide— Concepts of Cultural Anthropology lines, such as to avoid whatever causes pain and discomfort and seek whatever brings pleasure and satisfaction. Then our imaginary animal could adapt to its environment by means of trial- and-error learning. It could acquire dietary pref- erences by selecting tasty foods and rejecting dis- tasteful ones. It could learn what specific animals in its environment are predators and should be avoided. These observations make the benefits of cul» ture less obvious than they once seemed to be. If complex social behavior and tool making can be programmed by genes, then what special advan- tages does humanity gain from learning? And if- other organisms can identify through trial-and- error learning which specific behaviors bring them the greatest benefits in some particular en- vironment, then what do humans gain from so cial learning? is there anything unique about the way humans learn? Let's answer each of these questions in turn. First, what is the major advantage of using learn- ing rather than genes as guidelines for behavior? The general answer is relatively straightforward: If our behavior was entirely genetically deter- mined, we could only do what our parents did, since we get all of our genetic instructions from our parents. Trial-and-error learning allows an individual to experiment with novel behaviors and adopt them for future use if they are some- how valuable. Learning, in other words, allows individuals to find rapid solutions to new prob—. lems of survival and to exist in a habitat different from that of their parents. It does so by making behavior flexible throughOut an individual's life- time, rather than determined and fixed at birth. It allows humans to adapt to a wide range of natu— ral conditions (arctic tundra, desert, rain forest, and, most recently, outer space, for example) without undergoing any significant genetic changes. This advantage is no great mystery. But trial—and—error learning is not culture. As We have seen, the eSSencc of culture is the trans mission of information from one generation to the next through social learning. What are the benefits of social learning, as opposed to trial— and-error learning? Tbs}r are primarily two. First, as discussed earlier, each member of a new gen— eration is spared the costs of trials that do not work; the individual can adopt behaviors that seem to work for others. The imitators must, of course, assume that the behavior around them is tried and true. This is unlikely to be the case for all behaviors in the grown. but on average making this assumption surely beats trial and error. ' Second; but no less important for the human species, social learning allows a group to accumu- late useful i'nforrnation at a comparativer rapid rate. Again, compare social learning to learning by trial and error. With the latter, each individual can achieve successful solutions in its lifetime, but it cannot pass these solutions along to its offs spring or to others in the group. Each generation must relearn the lessons of its ancestors. The span of an individual’s lifetime is limited, so each individual can learn only so much. Experimenta- tion with new behaviors is costly, so once an ade~ quate solution has been reached, time and energy tend not to be wasted on costly new trials. With social learning. by contrast, each indi‘ vidual learns from the experience of others. If many others are observed and imitated, the indi— vidual will acquire a large behavior repertoire, presumably significantly larger than it could have acquired on its own. This then is passed along through social transmission to others, who in addition have the repertoires of others in the group from which to learn. In this way, informa- tion about valuable behaviors becomes shared within the group. It also accumulates over time, so current generations live largely by the knowl- edge they acquired from past generations. For this reason, some people think of culture as pri— marily the accumulated adaptive wisdom of past generations. (Notice, however, that if by wisdom we mean “useful knowledge," the transmission of this information to future generations may not be "wise" if there is rapid social or environmental change.) . Now a great many other animals are capable of social learning, as well as of trial-and—error learning. For example, a Japanese macaque (a species of monkey) learned to remove dirt from her food by dipping it in water. This behavior was observed and copied by others in the troop and transmitted to future generations of monkeys. Wild chimpanzees throw things at predators. They also fashion tools out of sticks, which they trim to the proper length and insert into termites’ nests. When the termites latch theirjaws onto the intruding object, the chimpanzees withdraw the stick and lick off the tasty insects. The macaque and chimpanzee examples probably are more complex than “monkey see. Chapter 2 Culture 33 monkey do.” but this kind of learning appears to occur largely by means .of imitation: the unexpe- rienced individual observes an experienced indi- vidual doing something and tries out the same thing itself.~.iTh_is imitative learning also may in- volve some parents teaching their young what foods to eat and so forth. By definition, imitative learning is a, form of social learning. It is some- times called protoculruraZWhat is it about “full” culture that distinguishes it from protoculture? What is special about the social learning of humans? , We cannot go into this question deeply, but it appears that an enormously important ability of humans—lacking or quite undeveloped in other organisms—is the ability to communicate infor- mation, and thus to teach others, by means of a system of symbols. Human children do not need to learn solely by doing, or even by observing and imitating, although of course they do learn in both these ways. One individual can teach anoth- er by making sounds that are understood by both. The same applies to members of one group wish— ing to learn from the members of another, if the sounds of the teachers are understood by the learners. The mutually intelligible sounds are, of course, thesounds of a language. And language, above all.else,- is the capacity of- humanity that allows. us to realize the full benefits of social learning. Because of language, the knowledge that each generation acquires is retained in the group- It is stored in our heads, in the form of words and phrases with conventional meanings. (Once writing developed, itbecame stored also in the form of squiggles on a tablet, on paper, or on some other medium.) It thus becomes cultural knowledge, as we have defined it. it is passed down to new generations who, because of encul- turation, are spared the costs of learning by trial and error and who can hear about things (such as ghosts and gods) and events (such as worldwide depressions and Central American guerilla wars) they have never experienced or seen. When they grow up, members of the new generation may figure out new solutions to problems, or they may experiment'by trial and error. What they learn usually is transmitted—in general, using lan- guage—~40 others in the group and ultimately to future generations. We see then that cultural knowledge is cumu- lative largely because language makes it possible 34 Part 1 to store information in our brains and to commu— nicate it to others. Culture therefore relies on lan- guage, for language provides the code by means of which information is transmitted from one in- dividual or generation to another. It is no wonder language is the first sophisticated knowledge chil- dren learn: on this foundation rests practically all subsequent cultural knowledge they acquire. Summary Culture is one of the key concepts used by anthro— pologists. Although the term popularly means the whole way of life of some human society, in this book we define it more narrowly as shared and learned ideas. This view, often called the idea- tional definiticin of culture, sees culture as a mental phenomenon, not as objects and not as behavior. Culture is the shared knowledge that underlies and guides behavior and patterns of be— havior. We define sociocultural system as the whole way of life of a people, including especially their behavioral patterns. their culture, and prevalant relationships betWeen individuals and groups. Culture is socially learned, meaning that it may be transmitted from one group or individual to another. Enculturation is the transmission of culture to a new generation; it makes individuals of different generations in the same society share the same culture. Diffusion refers to the geo- graphic transmission oi cultural and sociocul— tural elements from one society to another. Cul— tural knowledge is not true in any objective sense, but it must at leasr allow a society to persist in its environment and must be enough in tune with reality that actual events are not perceived as con— s‘lantly falsi ring it. There are many components of cultural knowledge, but among the most important are technological knowledge, norms, values, collec- tive understandings (including the common un- derstanding of the meanings of symbols), catego- ries and classifications of reality, and worlc‘ views. Because these and other components ol' cultural knowledge are products of social learn ing—not inbornewe must learn them during en- culturation, no matter how natural or common- sensicai they seem. Concepts of Cultural Anthropology As we use the word, culture does not include behavior. It is not really rules for behavior, for the relation between behavior and values, Com- rnon understandings, classifiCations of reality, and world views is too complex to be captured by the term rule. Rather culture is an enormously important constraint on behavior, for it affects how people plan to achieve their goals and how they choose between alternative strategies- Because of our capacity for culture, humani- ty has many advantages over other animals. These derive mainly from the key fact that cul- ture is acquired through social learning, that is, through observation and imitation of and inten- tional teaching by others. Because culture is so- ciaily learned, rather than learned through trial and error, people do not have to try something out to see if it works or to figure things out on their own. Instead, they can learn from the expe- rience of previous generations. Social learning al- so allows a group to accumulate useful informa- tion at a rapid rate, because each individual can add the lessons of his or her own experience to the store of knowledge of the group: This infor— mation is communicated to others using the sys— tem of symbols we call language. Language, which so far as We know is unique to humans, provides the symbolic code by means of which cultural knowledge-is transmitted between indi- viduals- Culture therefore would be impossible without language. Key Terms culture acculturation ideational definition Schuhure of culture pluralistic . sociocultural system norm integrated values society symbols patterns of behavior categories trial-and-error world view learning strategizing social learning strategy enculturation constraints diffusion Suggested Readings Barclay, Harold B. Cultura' The Human Way. Calgary: Western Publishers, 1986. A brief book about culture, its characteristics, its components, and the forces that change it. Barrett, Richard A. Culture and Conduct. Belmont, Calif; Wadsworth, 1984. . In addition to serving as a short text, a book that summarizes many issues in con temporary ant}: ropology. Gamst, Frederick, and Edward Norbeck. Ideas of Culture: Sourccs and Uses. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976. Collection of articles arranged decom't'ng to approaches taken by their authors. Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic, 1973. Collected articles by a leading American unrkrOpoZogt'st iitko favors the identt'onal conception of culture. Two articles are especially well known: “Thick Description: Towards an Interpretive Theory of Culture ” and “The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man. ” Goodenough, Ward H. Culture, Language, and Society. Mcnlo Park, Calif.: Cummings, 1981. Views culture as a mental phenomenon that guides behavior. Also has as useful discussion of the relationship between individuals and culture. Pulliatn, H. Ronald, and Christopher Dunford. Programmed to Learn. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980. Discusses the advantages that humans gain from social learning over trial-and-error learning and over the strict genetic determination of behavior. Chapter 2 Culture 35 ...
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Chap2 - Cccr’EJH'e :15 "The Lir:_\' my; Life :1 The...

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