Culture can be defined as the acquired behavior of a group of people. Examples of human cultural aspects include religion, traditions, economy, and relationship with the environment, music, art, hierarchies, mythology, social structures, and government systems. The study of the human culture creates an understanding of various cultures.
It also tries to lessen the barriers that divide different cultures in order to appreciate and care for all the members of the human community. In order to achieve this, one should engross himself/herself in a given culture, reside with the inhabitants, participate and learn their way of living in the best way possible.
When studying culture, we explore an individual’s mind, its contents, and the source of the contents. This is because culture is directly influenced by the mind (Siegel134). While carrying out research, cultural anthropologists use of their eyes and minds to survey and make the appropriate analysis.
Nevertheless, other instruments such as recording and videotaping devices as well as computers are also vital in this analysis. Indeed, the mind is the most crucial tool in anthropology. Thus, when studying the behavior of people, we should learn to separate our feelings from the facts. This should ensure that our feelings do not interfere with our factual observations.
There are various aspects of culture including religion, geography, family structures, economical background, social differences, science, aesthetics, and religion. For that reason, all anthropologists should ensure that they learn the given aspects of culture. Some of these aspects are elaborated below;
The economics of a given people is a very important aspect of culture. When studying a given culture, it is vital to learn what the people do to eke a living. Anthropologists should always endeavor to find a people’s economic activities in a particular culture.
For instance, do the people produce farm products? If they do, what are the products and who are the people doing the work? What happens to the products? Are they consumed and if so who are the people who provide the market? The economic activities in a particular society enhance the people’s lifestyles.
The world provides the resources and individuals make use of them in various ways. Case in point, one may plant cotton on a piece of land and another person may mine coal, or even hunt bush meat. Some cultures as seen in New Guinea require every individual to share some part of their daily income with others.
However, there arises a moral concern when one has to decide on what percentage of his/her income should be given out. Even though most cultures appreciate one’s ability to give and take care of one’s self, a person who offers to give too much is considered to be imprudent while the one gives too little is considered to be egocentric (Boas 188).
2. Social Organization
In many cultures, societies are organized in terms of political lines and family structures. As a matter of fact, every society is composed of smaller structures which make up the entire society. For instance, every individual in a society belongs to a particular sub-group be it a family, a house of worship, school, town, nation, continent and ultimately, the world.
Precisely, the nuclear family that consists of father, mother and children is considered to be the smallest group in every society. On the other hand, the nuclear family forms the extended family which consists of several nuclear families. Several extended families form a clan while several associated clans form a phratry. Several related phratries compose a tribe.
Herbert Spencer, a great anthropologist, compares the society with the human body. He argues that, just like the human body, a society is a single unit that is composed of several parts that help each other, and while in conflict, they make the whole body sick. All the constituent sub-groups within a society have got a specific purpose as in social organizations. The groups ought to meet the needs of individual members while the individual members should meet the needs of their groups for effective growth.
3. Art and Science.
The study of the human culture also involves examining the people’s scientific know-how as well as the things they make. In any society, ethnoscience is of great importance. This refers to tribal science where people study their environment and collect knowledge on food sources, curative plants and soil.
Just as science involves practical and dynamic procedures, so does the study of culture form judgments based on factual knowledge. While science involves the use cognition to deduce factual information, art is affective. As much as we fancy the world facts, we also desire to feel the world. For instance, the splendor of the sunset is highly treasured in most parts of the world. Through the use of art, people are able to convey their feelings in various ways. This may be through the use of drawings dances poems as well as songs.
We always encounter art in our day to day endeavors. For instance, we use well festooned utensils such as gourds, plates or even cups. According to Franz Boas, a valuable item is converted into an object of art only when form is added to it making it more effective. For example, one can curve a bowl of soup in an uneven and rough manner, and find that the bowl can also be made to hold a fish in a very functional way.
Even though it can be used for its main purpose, the bowl can hold the fish in a more striking and effective manner. Such a bowl is said to gain a significant form and creates an artistic feeling to a wide range of people. A people’s work of art should also be seen to bring resolution to individual as well as societal conflicts (Boas 189). This can be achieved by bringing in the element of fusion of various styles and opposites into art.
Generally, every culture in this world conforms to a given religion. The belief that the world is controlled by a responsive and supernatural force is universal. The supernatural forces can either be annoyed or delighted by the actions of human beings. Different cultures associate different things with this supernatural being which may be in the form of sun, animals, clouds or even nature. One cannot examine a culture’s religion without considering the spirits or gods, which are often believed to be unapproachable.
For instance, in regards to the Southern Pacific culture, the ghosts of the Ifaluk atoll are known to be good and equally dreadful. The Malevolent spirits, often known as alus, are said to derive pleasure from doing harm to human beings. In most cultures, the view that gods have a two-sided nature matches to humanity’s two sided view of the world as good and bad. Ideally, there are two ways in which religion brings contentment to people.
First, by experiencing something good that we believe represents the world such as the, sun, or a good poem, we become happy. That way, we achieve aesthetic conquest. This is the most rational form of success.
The other success involves negative thinking about everything that exists in the world. This is where we perceive everything to be bad. A good number of people in many cultures find themselves in this category which makes them feel contented to some extent. In most cultures, the existence of harmful ghosts is attributed to two major sources.
The first source is the people’s perception of the world as hostile towards us and the other source is the general sentiment that people have annoyed the gods. This feeling comes as a result of our guilt from the sins we may have committed. In reality, these two views provoke individuals to have a fair outlook of life (Miller 503). They represent our unconscious mind in a spiritual way.
On the other hand, every culture in the world performs rituals. For instance, in the American culture, rituals such as the Easter celebrations are practiced every year.
This is more so with the Christian religion. Another common but simple ritual that is performed in many cultures throughout the world is that of shaking hands with acquaintances. Even though every individual learns the rituals in the process of life, they always create a new emotion within us. Among several cultures, Rituals are said to appease the spirits and digressions from the rituals are disciplined. This creates a desire in every individual to conform to the values of a given culture.
In order to explain about a people’s way of living, it is important to describe their environment first. One should take note of where the people live and how this affects their mind and their way of living. As a matter of fact, there is always some relationship between our environment and how we are at present. For instance, farmer living in America may lead a very different life from a farmer living in Africa. The difference in their lifestyles may be attributed to the different weather patterns experienced in the two continents (Miller 503).
In conclusion, different cultures can be said to have some common aspects which are unique in every culture. These aspects include social structures, religion, traditions, their relationship to the environment, art, hierarchies, mythology, as well as government systems. All these aspects play important roles in terms of aesthetics as well as social economic functions.
Exploring the human culture creates an understanding and appreciation of various cultures. Thus, in order to achieve this, we should learn to detach our emotions and preconceived perceptions from the facts as we study human behavior.
Boas, Franz. Race, Language, and Culture. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1995. Print.
Miller, Barbara. Culture Anthropology. Fifth edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/McGraw Hill, 2009. Print.
Spradley, James and McCurdy, David. Conformity and Conflict. 13th Edition. New York: Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.