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Anthropology Mid-Term: The Primary Characteristics of Culture (Term Paper Sample)

Anthropology mid-term
Culture is a way of life of a group of people and includes beliefs, knowledge, ideas, morals, art, customs, and laws. Social scientists agree that culture is made up of patterns that are implicit and explicit for and of behavior implying that it is acquired by man in his day to day activities then transmitted through symbols. Social scientists agree that the core element of culture is the ideas that have been passed down through history and the values have been attached to these ideas. The systems of culture, on the other hand, are considered by social scientists to be a result of man’s actions, hence, they are conditioned to further actions (Heider, 1997). This particular essay shall explain culture and further discus the concept of culture and examine how human collective practices, social roles, beliefs, and local institutions influence the patterns of production, distribution and consumption across different social groups.
Anthropology mid-term
The primary characteristics of Culture
The main and most crucial characteristic of culture is the fact that it is not genetically passed on from one generation to another, but rather through learning. Culture can be shared both in and out of a particular society. New members of a society learn the cultural ways of that particular society through sharing. Additionally, new-born children learn the culture ways of their society through sharing as they grow up. Human beings place ideas and values in artifacts and in turn, these ideas direct his behavior. For example, a traffic sign with the word STOP written on it implies that an individual should stop. There is a close connection between ideas and acts, hence, patterns of behavior are solely based on ideas. By critically analyzing the film "Seeing Anthropology" that was based on the research conducted by Ronald a trained Anthropologist and psychologist, the following concepts about culture were identified.
The Startle reflex
In this particular section, Ronald C. was trying to identify the link between culture and biology. For a long period of time, the startle reflex in Malaysia has always fascinated a lot of Anthropologists. It is true to state that there is a biological basis for the syndrome, however, it has been noted that different groups exhibit different intensities of the syndrome with some exhibiting extreme conditions. Some cultures do not pay special attention to those with the syndrome, for example, the United States of America (U.S.A), while others like the Peninsula Malays hold stereotyped patterns, judgmental, moral, and folk explanations to the syndrome, and this contributes greatly to the cultural construction of the syndrome (Montgomery, 2011). According to Ronald, from the etic perspective, the syndrome plays a particular function in society. In Malaysia, the syndrome allows individuals receive special attention. Those with the syndrome are the powerless and weak members of society, for example, the old, those with no relatives, widows, and orphans. From the emic perspective, it is evident that if an individual got constantly teased, he or she would assume a startle as a defense mechanism. A majority of women in Malaysia have the syndrome as it is culturally perceived that it signifies the subordination of women to men and that such women are good at soul matters and reproductive roles. On the other hand, Men with the startle are considered weak and not very good at the productive roles. Therefore, despite the startle being genetically transferred, there is a close link between it and culture as well as other traits in relation to a societies beliefs and how they are held.
Human collective practices
Anthropologists have gone an extra mile in exploring and examining human collective practices. In the film, there is a critical analysis of the Japanese culture. The Japanese culture has been chosen simply because of its cultural emphasis on group mentality and not individualism. It is true that each and every society is made up of individuals. According to the American culture, it is considered dominant for one to attain autonomy and not at all depend on others. Children from a young age are taught to become independent and when they are too dependent, concern is raised. However, in Japan, this notion of independence is not valued. According to the Japanese culture, individuals are taught to become dependent members of a group. There is a form of dependence in Japan that is not valued in other cultures that uphold independences such as the U.S.A, this dependence is referred to as Amae. Amae is a sort of dependence of guests to hosts, children to parents, and employees on bosses (Montgomery, 2011). This particular analysis illustrates how culture to a great extent influences collective practices in cultures. There are cultures that promote individualism, hence, shall have little or no human collective practices while those that promote the group mentality shall have a lot of collective human practices.
Social roles and Division of labor
Culture to a very great extent influences a society’s social roles, as well as the patterns of in production, distribution, and consumption. It is true to state that in almost all societies, there is never a clear economic division of labor. However, the division of labor in most of them is based on other factors such as age and gender.
Since children take a long period of time to reach adulthood, much of their roles are assumed gradually. In Dani, with as early as 6 to 7 years of age, children here begin taking up some roles, for example, taking over the care and responsibility of infants (Liamputtong, 2007). And when they reach their mid teenage years, they are seen as adults and all take a share of the adult roles. This is very different to the American culture, where adulthood is extended even to the early twenties. Therefore, culture to a great extent influences the division of labor in all societies on the basis of age.
Gender is another major contributing factor to the division of labor in all societies. No particular culture in the world assigns both males and females the same jobs. Men in most societies do the heavy jobs, labor that requires intense energy exertion, and finally, work that is very far from home. Women, on the other hand, handle jobs that are considered to be long lasting. For example, childbearing, home preparation, cultivation of land, and weaving. There is a biological basis for this division of labor. Men are stronger, especially in their upper bodies, hence, take up the productive roles and women the reproductive roles. Therefore, gender is one of the determining factors to the patterns of the division of labor in a society.
Identity and its importance
The most important feature of culture is language. It is through language that individuals get identified. The language you speak as well as the way you speak it greatly contributes to your identity. From the ethnography, it is easy to trace out a per-World War One song that sought to identify the British into a particular class due to the English they spoke. Before the American civil wars, the American government wanted to strip the Indians off culture, and the weapon they used was to prohibit the use of native languages in schools. Therefore, culture is a form of identity to societies and language aids in identification.
Particular aspects of culture are symbolic. The language itself consists of a large number of symbols all of which give meaning. It is true to state that there is a direct connection between symbols and what they represent or identify. For example, the leaf of a maple tree identifies Canada and a broken crucifix represents the NAZI.
Additionally, the film also critically analyzes the distribution and mechanisms of exchange in societies. Here, anthropologists put a lot of emphasis on the distribution and consumption patterns. All societies have different manners through which they produce food as well as other tools and goods. However, anthropologist state that these methods only differed in detail but not in terms of principle. For example, the sharing of food. By critically analyzing the ethnographic film on the Trobriand’s in the Trobriand Islands, the major function of giving gifts was to forge the bonds between communities in the islands. However, it is important to note that similar practices serve other functions elsewhere. When it comes to food, during the dry seasons, having food that would be enough for every member of a household would be hard to achieve so sharing of food would be done with the perception that food given shall one day be returned. Among the members of the community, it was one way to safeguard themselves against the coming bad times commonly referred to the social refrigerator. Food, tools, as well as other goods, were also distributed in marriages for exchange. In modern societies, marriage is considered as a union between two individuals, however, in a majority of societies such as the Trobriand Island societies, marriages were considered as unions between two groups and in turn it unites them.
The film also critically analyses both negative and balanced reciprocity in relation to the distribution of food, tools, and goods.
Balanced Reciprocity
Balanced reciprocity is noted mainly among groups or communities that are distant apart geographically or do not closely match socially. The Kula ring in the Trobriand Island was a two-way economic system in the villages and in ceremonies men of the villages would present gifts which would some other time get reciprocated a process referred to as generalized reciprocity. The others, on the other hand, would bring gifts which would be unceremoniously de...
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