What Is Culture Chapter 5

Culture is the learned set of shared interpretations about beliefs, values, norms,and social practices, which affects the behaviours of a felatively large group of people. (Lustig & Koester)

The Basic Elements of Culture

• Every culture has methods of obtaining food and shelter.

• Every culture has ways to protect itself against invaders.

• Every culture has family relationships including forms of marriage and systems of kinship.

• Every culture has a system of religious beliefs and sets of practices to express themselves.

• Every culture has forms of artistic expression, such as carving, painting and music.

• Every culture has some type of scientific knowledge.

Five aspects of culture we will consider when studying the culture of Atlantic Canada are:

1. Physical environment: how do people interact with their physical environment?

2. History: What are the origins of the culture, and how have events brought changes overtime?

3. Political life: how do people in society organize themselves so that they can live together in peace and security?

4. Social life: how do individuals and groups within the society interact? What are their religions, values, and traditions?

5. Economic life: how do people make a living? How do their occupations influence their lifestyle?

In order for us to learn about cultures and human characteristics we look to the work of anthropologists. Through their work, we can see how different cultures all over the world are, and anthropologist have coined the term cultural diversity.

Cultural Diversity

Diversity has played an important role in Canada’s formative history. Today, Canada boasts the highest percentage of foreign-born citizens than any other G8 country. In 2012, Canada welcomed a record number of immigrants for its seventh consecutive year, with 257,515 newcomers entering the country. In opening its doors to immigration, Canada has created a society of mixed languages, cultures and religions. (http://canadianimmigrant.ca/guides/moving-to-canada/diversity-in-canada-an-overview)

A History of Immigration

Canada is a nation of newcomers. Originally inhabited by Aboriginal peoples, immigration to Canada began with the French and British colonization in the 17th century. The trend continued through the 18th and 19th centuries with United Empire loyalists who fled the United States during the American Civil War. A subsequent wave of immigration from Europe after the two World Wars brought many new cultures, languages and religious groups to Canada, resulting in many changes in government policy and the first laws to protect diversity.

During the last 60 years, immigration has continued to flourish, with newcomers arriving from every corner of the globe. In 1971, Canada became the first country in the world to enact an official policy of multiculturalism, showing how valued diversity is in Canada’s political and social landscape.

The Canadian constitution, implemented by Prime Minister Trudeau in 1982 contained a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protected multiculturalism. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act was introduced in 1988 and federal funds began to be distributed to ethnic groups to assist them in preserving their cultures.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act was introduced in 1988 and federal funds began to be distributed to ethnic groups to assist them in preserving their cultures. Many of the cultural community centres that exist today were established during this time as a result of this funding.(http://canadianimmigrant.ca/guides/moving-to-canada/diversity-in-canada-an-overview)

What is Material Culture?

Material culture includes the physical objects that can be seen, touched and felt by others. Buildings, architecture, songs, art, music, plant fields, canals, tanks, statues along with some thousands of other creations we can identify as examples in material culture. Material culture has made humans the dominant beings on earth. (http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-material-and-vs-non-material-culture/)

What is Non-material Culture?

How do you think these images express non-material culture?

Non-material Culture contains ideas, values or attitudes from which a culture is shaped. The knowledge, beliefs, norms and rules that form a society and its peoples’ behavior can be considered as non-material culture. Each and every culture has its own belief system and they may believe in God and angels, heaven and hell and many other myths and legends. These are passed from one generation to another and they have helped to bring people together in a community also. Material things have a symbolic value related to the non-material things. For example, people have religious faith in their hearts and this is non-material culture. This faith can be symbolized by some physical objects such as statues or emblems. So, the non-material faith is embedded in the material object. The wedding ring has a material existence and it may reflect love, care and faith to each other between couples.

What is the difference between Material and Non-material Culture?

  • Material culture includes things that have a physical existence and these are created by man himself.
  • Non-material culture represents a community’s values, norms and attitudes and these do not have a material existence.
  • Further, the non-material culture is implanted in material objects, representing the value system in the particular community.
  • Both material and non-material culture help to shape a culture and they signify the peoples’ lifestyles and creativity in a community. Both these are subjected to change over time and both have a strong relationship in shaping a culture.

Canadian Cultural Values

Equality: We respect everyone’s rights. Everyone has the right to speak out and express ideas that others might disagree with. Governments must treat everyone with equal dignity and respect—two other fundamental Canadian values.

Respect for cultural differences: We try to understand and appreciate the cultures, customs and traditions of all Canadians, whether they were born in Canada or came here from another country.

Peace: We are proud of our non-violent society and our international role as peacekeepers.

Freedom: As Canadians, we enjoy basic freedoms, such as freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of peaceful assembly.

Law and order: We respect democratic decision making and the “rule of law.” We promote due process so that the courts and the police treat everyone fairly and reasonably. We ensure that our elected governments remain accountable to Canadians.


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