Culture Essays

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Cultural studies is an emerging field that falls under the rubric of multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary studies. Cultural studies focuses on culture. Culture is defined in various ways, but generally includes: group knowledge, beliefs, values, experiences, religion, philosophies, beliefs about the universe, belongings, notions of property, traditions, beliefs about time, social roles, gender roles, ways of conceptualizing spatial relationships, symbols, meanings, attitudes, and hierarchies. Culture refers to group beliefs, but it can refer to a broad group, such as a national culture, or a smaller sub-group that exists within the larger group.

In many ways, culture refers to daily life and how groups of people live their daily lives. Therefore, culture is not a static concept, but a changing concept, which evolves for various reasons. Technology, immigration, emigration, changing gender norms, and scientific advances are just a few of the variables that can drive cultural change. Moreover, people experience several layers of culture: national, regional, religious, gender, generational, social class, racial, educational, and workplace are all common layers of culture, all of which may impact the individual in different, sometimes conflicting, ways.

Cultural determinism is a theory that culture is transmitted through learned values, beliefs, ideas, and meanings, and that this learned culture determines human nature. While this theory would seem to limit human ability because people learn what it means to be human from their surrounding culture, it actually suggests no limitations on human ability; as long as people can learn behaviors, they can change. However, it also suggests that conditioning is extremely powerful and that while people can make changes after being exposed to different cultures, those changes are unlikely because they have already been conditioned to accept one version of humanity.

Cultural relativism takes the view that no culture is superior to any other culture. Therefore, no society can be considered normative. This position is relevant to members of all cultures, because, since ethics and morals are culturally-based, it suggests that there are not only no universal ethical or moral systems, but also that all ethical and moral systems are inherently equal. Cultural relativism is also known as pluralism and tolerance.

In contrast to cultural relativism, cultural ethnocentrism is a belief that one’s culture is superior to other cultures. This belief can be overt and conscious, where it manifests as overt bigotry, racism, and xenophobia, but it can also be subtle and unconscious, with people judging other people’s cultures by referencing their own culturally-defined values and morals. It is very difficult to be completely objective, but being aware of how your own cultural influences have shaped how you view other cultures is one way to be more tolerant. Gaining information about other cultural practices and why they occur is another way to reduce cultural ethnocentrism.

Learning about culture involves studying many different areas. Earning a cultural studies degree generally involves studying: art, language, gender relationships, families, marriage, laws, philosophy, literature, history, sociology, and communication. Cultural studies majors learn to analyze and critique culture using several methodologies and theories, including: ethnography, class theory, deconstruction, gender theory, and semiotics