We use the expression “multicultural society” to describe a group of people in which several cultures coexist. But what do we mean by culture? Reach your own understanding of the term by working on the tasks below.
Work in pairs or in a group. Discuss the questions.
What is culture?
What is multiculturalism?
Look up the words you find in the box below.
Read the text below before you work on the research tasks.
What do we mean by culture?
In a culture there are beliefs that are shared within a group, and these beliefs lead to shared behaviours. Phenomena such as art, language, religious practice, institutions, family structure, custom, etiquette, norms, values and so forth are an important part of culture. A culture is a shared way of living.
In dictionaries, encyclopedias and scientific articles you will find many different ways of understanding the word culture. Although they don't necessarily disagree directly, they emphasise different aspects of this multifaceted phenomenon. Some will stress the idea that a culture represents a heritage, while others will be more interested in the set of beliefs a culture is built on.
Here are some definitions:
Culture is a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.
Source: Cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz, in Britannica
Culture is the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.
Culture is the shared beliefs, behaviors, or social environment connected with a particular aspect of society
Culture is the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.
Source: Dictionary.com - culture
Sociology understands culture as the languages, customs, beliefs, rules, arts, knowledge, and collective identities and memories developed by members of all social groups that make their social environments meaningful."
Work in pairs and have a look at several different sources that define what culture is. Find at least three different definitions of culture, then follow the four steps below. Remember to jot down notes throughout the process, since each step depends on the previous one.
- Compare the definitions you have gathered: point out similarities and differences between them.
- Assess them: what are the strengths and weaknesses of each definition?
- Take position: Which definition(s) do you prefer? Explain why.
- Write your own definition of what culture is, using language that is simple and easy to understand.
In larger groups, each pair presents their definition. Choose one definition the whole group can agree on, and give reasons why you have chosen this definition.