“Culture ...taken in its widest... sense, is that complex wholewhich includes knowledge, belief, arts, morals, law, and custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”
Features of Culture
Definition stresses that culture is:
1) a whole: complex with many interdependent parts.
2) acquired: not inborn (distinct from race) capacity for culture is inborn (large brain, speech mechanism).
3) culture depends on an ongoing society for existence.
Additional points not in definition
Culture includes behavior as well as ideas. Practices are significant even if not conscious and not explained. People can not explain all of their own culture (Like language)
Culture is symbolic. Culture is a system of meanings. Meaning results from relations between different areas of experience, e.g., religion and subsistence.
Azande homesteads are interconnected reflecting kinship. Narukuari and Ortenzio have satellite homesteads that are connected Uku’s home by paths.
They are all in the same clan (kin group), related through fathers. Uku and Narukuari are first cousins in English kinship terminology.
Culture determines much of our attitudes, rules and action. (Cultural determinism)
Cultures are diverse, evidenced by the wide variety of ways doing things and reactions to situations.
Cultures provide evaluative frames that are not appropriately applied to each other. (Cultural Relativism)
Cultural Relativism in Methodology
All humans are inherently ethnocentric.
Culture supplies us with values which we need.
The basis of ethnocentrism is application of values to people who do not share them.
Applying outsider’s values usually leads to conclusion of outsider superiority.
Cultural relativism avoids applying outsider values.
Suspending judgment is necessary for understanding.
Evaluation of cultural practices should be in terms of values of the actors.