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3.1 What Is Culture?


Examine the difference between material and nonmaterial culture in your world. Identify ten objects that are part of your regular cultural experience. For each, then identify what aspects of nonmaterial culture (values, beliefs, norms, language, and practices) that these objects represent. What has this exercise revealed to you about your culture?


Do you believe that feelings of ethnocentricity or xenocentric attitudes and practices are prevalent in U.S. culture? Why do you believe this? What issues or events might influence your ideas about these concepts?

3.2 Elements of Culture


What do you think of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis? Do you agree or disagree with it? Cite examples or research to support your point of view.


How would the elimination of a social “norm” influence your culture? Describe the positive and negative effects.

3.3 High, Low, Pop, Sub, Counter-culture and Cultural Change


Identify several examples of popular culture and describe how they form societal culture. How prevalent is the effect of these examples in your everyday life?


Consider some of the specific issues or concerns of your generation. Are any ideas or concepts countercultural? What subcultures have emerged from your generation? How have the issues of your generation expressed themselves culturally? How has your generation made its mark on society’s collective culture?


What are some examples of cultural lag that are present in your life? What influence does technology have on culture? Explain.

3.4 Theoretical Perspectives on Culture


Consider a current social trend that you have witnessed, perhaps situated around family, education, transportation, or finances. For example, many veterans of the Armed Forces, after completing tours of duty in the Middle East, are returning to college rather than entering jobs as previous generations did. Choose a sociological approach—functionalism, conflict theory, or symbolic interactionism—to describe, explain, and analyze the social issue you choose. Afterward, determine why you chose the approach you did. Does it suit your own way of thinking? Or does it offer the most relevant method of illuminating the social issue?

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