Tuesday, April 28, 2020

How to identify culture?

Culture has great importance. We cannot survive without culture. We all are in some cultures. No man can stay away from the culture. What is culture? How is the culture identified? I will make it clear in this article.

What is culture?

According to E.B. Tylor, "Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society.” 

From this definition, it is clear that the meaning of culture is very broad. It is not limited to a limited boundary. There are two aspects of culture. They are material culture and nonmaterial culture. Material culture includes all those physical products that people create and gives meaning to it. E.g. food, clothing, weapon, building, paper, etc. Nonmaterial consists of the intangible products of human society. E.g. language, religion, family, politics, belief, values, norms, etc. To sum up, culture has visible and invisible dimensions. 

Culture is not only religion, worship, dance, etc what we generally call. It does not limit itself within this boundary. If the material and nonmaterial all can be culture, how can we identify culture? What are the basic requirements of culture?

Culture is shared

Sometimes we quarrel with each other, whether a particular activity is a culture or not. Or whether a particular belief is a culture or not. If one person has unique good art, is it culture or not? It is important to remember that to be a culture it should be shared by all. Culture is the common ground of all. What a person does, thinks individually is not a culture. If someone does something unique of his own, it cannot be considered a culture.
Gurung girls in shared activity(traditional rice beater).
A culture is a behavior or thinking shared by a group or community. Even if not everyone behaves that in a certain way, almost most of them should. But if an individual thinks and behaves in a certain way, that is idiosyncratic, not cultural. The Gurungs(indigenous people of Nepal) worship nature and ancestor as their god. So this is Gurung culture. They all dress in Bhangra. So it is also considered as culture. They have common language and script shared by all, so they are considered as culture. To be culture, it should be shared by all, if not all, most of them. 

Culture is learned

When we are born, we do not inherit culture. Culture is learned through social interaction. What is genetically determined is not culture. For example, a group has a typical hair color which is not culture. Because it is not learned behavior. The worship of ancestor by Gurungs is culture because it is learned, not innate behavior. The language we speak is culture because it is learned after we born. 

When we grow, we gradually learn various social activities. We learn to eat, we learn to interact, we learn to dress, etc. We all have biological needs. They simply cannot be culture but can greatly be influenced by culture. We all eat foods. It is biological. But what we eat, how we eat, when we eat, how much we eat is influenced by culture. Some eat pork as delicious food but in some cultures, it is strictly prohibited. In Hindu culture, a cow is strictly prohibited for meat, but in some cultures, it is not. 

Million of years ago, we were in a stone age. Today, we revolutionized the world turning into the modern industrial age. If we didn't have learned culture, we would still be at a stone age. We have achieved a myriad great achievements through cultural learning. We learn different art, skills, and transfer from one generation to another. This process continued for millions of years. It is continuing and will always continue.

We learn from our parents or seniors and transfer to children or junior. We have a different belief, norms, and values which are transferred to the next generation. So to preserve our culture, we should learn and acquire culture and transfer to the future generation. If not learned and acquired, we cannot imagine the existence of culture. So it is mandatory to transfer culture to children at the appropriate time.  


Culture has a very broad dimension. To be a culture, it should be learned and shared by all. If something is learned and shared, it becomes culture. If not, it is idiosyncratic.  


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