During the first week of class, the lecture “The Culture Concept” covered all the basics of culture. As we all now know, culture is a huge part of a person’s identity, and it plays a huge role in how that person acts, talks, thinks, etc. In the previous lecture, “What Is Anthropology?” we became acquainted with the idea of ethnocentrism, which is trying to form an opinion on a culture by applying the traditions, beliefs, etc. of your culture to it. One of the readings associated with that week, “Body ritual among the Nacimera” by Horace Miner also touched on this, by showcasing how weird American culture is from an outside perspective. Of course, for those of us who’ve grown up in American culture, this doesn’t seem weird at all because it’s what we’ve been socialized into our whole lives.
The following week, we learned about race and human diversity. One of the most important things we learned that week was that race is not biological, rather it’s simply used to place people into different groups. Along the same lines, race is considered to be a “function of culture,” according to Claude Levi-Strauss. The reading, “Recognizing Cultural Diversity: What We Can Learn from Japanese Civilization” by Claude Levi-Strauss further touched on this point by explaining how race used to be seen as biological. Additionally, people also used to believe race influenced culture.
Fast forward to a couple weeks later, when we learned about “Culture/People on the Move.” Globalization was a central theme that week. We learned about how different cultures are able to travel, in a sense, to different countries with ease nowadays, and how that allows cultures to influence other cultures. The reading “How Sushi Went Global” by Theodore C. Bestor further illustrated this point by detailing the globalization of sushi, and how it became immensely popular in other cultures. Another important point to keep in mind with this, though, is cultural hybridization, or when cultures adopt from other cultures, but sort of change said adoptions so they better fit into the adopting culture. We also learned about the different categories of “people on the move”: immigrants, guest workers, refugees and tourists.
Okay, so what’s the connection between these three different lessons? Besides the constant presence of culture in general, I’ve noticed a recurring categorization of people. The first lecture touched on how we sometimes categorize and judge people/cultures from an ethnocentric perspective. The following lecture discussed how race is used to categorize people. With the last lecture I mentioned, we learned about the different categories of “people on the move.” Based on all this, I think it’s safe to assume we love categorizing people. Personally, I think this is because categorizing people helps us understand them better, or so we think anyways. Categorizing people forces us to look at people on a group-level, rather than looking at them individually, which is additionally a faster way of “understanding” someone.
Miner, Horace. “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.” Societal Culture and Management (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 16 Aug. 2016.
Lévi-Strauss, Claude. “Chapter 3: Recognizing Cultural Diversity.” Anthropology Confronts the Problems of the Modern World. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2013. N. pag. Print.
Bestor, Theodore C. “How Sushi Went Global.” Foreign Policy 121 (2000): n. pag. Web. 16 Aug. 2016.