What is Culture?

Posted on by gary.gillespie@northwestu.edu

Defining Culture


Why Study Culture Now? 
•We live in an interconnected global economy

Global Village



•Growing awareness of ethnic



•Growth of inter-ethnic hatred 



Culture Defined


Lusting and Koester

•Culture is Learned
Passed on from family

What is good or bad

                                                            Food for example Rats in the Kitchen 

What is true or false

What is normal, proper


Hofstede’s Categories of

Culture (1994)

Shared Symbols: 
verbal and nonverbal language
Shared Rituals: 
socially essential collective activities within a culture
Shared Values: 
feelings not open for discussion within a culture about what is good or bad
Shared Heroes:
real or imaginary people who serve as behavior models within a culture

Expressed in mythic stories which can be subject of novels and literature

Maori Culture music video — can you identify unique Maori symbols, rituals, values, heroes, religious beliefs?

New Zealand Rugby War Dance      New Zealand Rugby vs USA Rugby

History of Haka Dance

 Proposed new designs for New Zealand Flag







Way of Life 

Arts, Music, Literature, Film, Dance


From Generation to Generation 

•Group membership identification


Cultures Within Cultures


resembles a culture in that it usually encompasses a relatively large number of people; exists within dominant culture and is often a subdivision based on economic or social class, ethnicity, race, or geographic region


suggests that no one culture is inherently superior to the other coexisting culture; mutuality may not be easily established

•Book uses term cultures within cultures

•Membership groups

•Like cultures, subgroups provide members with relatively complete sets of values and patterns of behavior

•Exists within a dominant culture and dependent on that culture

•Occupation is one important subgroup

•Membership can be temporary

Culture influences our perceptions and behavior.


Cultural perspectives can be deeply ingrained and are sometimes not even noticed.

Improving  Intercultural


• Your effectiveness as an intercultural communicator is in part a function of your knowledge of other people and their cultures

• You learn more about yourself when you study other cultures, which results in increased tolerance for diversity


• Know the parts of the Communication Process help us understand others


Communication Model




the common view that one’s own culture is central to perceptions of the world

and that all other cultures are judged in reference to it.

Cultural relativism:

the view that other cultures are merely different, not deficient.


Are all cultures equal?

Apocalypto trailer


 “Culture in Breakdown”

Race and Skin Color


•Race refers to a large body of people characterized by similarity of descent; may include some physical characteristics or characteristics of heredity
•A socio-historical concept, which is why what we think of as race varies over time
•Skin color alone does not define race

•Racial categorization is prevalent even in multiracial societies

•White Privilege: how a dominant culture empowers some, while denying others


Mime video

•Another basis of subcultures
•Can refer to a group of people of the same descent and heritage who share a common and distinctive culture passed on through generations
•Distinguishing characteristics can be language, accent, physical features, family names, customs, and religion
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