Week 6: Flashcards on Culture

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What is culture?
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Culture is a knowledge framework A culture is a system of signs that produces meaning University culture, political culture, a company culture… A cognitive resource for solving needs and achieving goals A reference for communicating / interacting  with members of one’s group or other social actors (a family, a school, a professional organization, a confessional group, a state, institutions,…) Studying culture = studying signs and understanding how they create meaning Culture = a system of signs
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examples of signs
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Written text Audiovisual text (photos, drawings) Gestuality: body movements Artifacts: instruments, tools, monuments, clothing, food Natural objects: rocks Special entities: places, routes Temporal entities: chronologies, agendas Events: Burning Man Anthropomorphic entities: historical or mythical figures, animals, fictitious characters
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studying culture is studying…?
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meaning making
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Some of the questions we are asking: Where does culture come from? How does culture persist through time?
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What 3 things is a sign?
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1. A sign = an object that signifies something to a cognitive agent 2. A sign = any information loaded object that possesses some (cognitive, pragmatic, emotional) relevance to an agent 3. An agent = a cognitive and intentional entitiy, a person possessing a competence for interpreting and producing signs for interaction purposes
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Think of what a \”non-sign\” is:
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To \”signify\” means that an object is the support of some relevant information for an agent An agent = a cognitive and intentional entity A sign is always part of a system
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Signified
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= Mental concept of what the signifier stands for, it could be a concept, object or emotion. Ferdinand de Saussure Swiss linguist, 1857-1913
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Signifier
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the material aspect of it, such as the image, mark, sound, written word etc. Ferdinand de Saussure Swiss linguist, 1857-1913
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Sign system and cultural background
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Signs have to be understood with respect to an agent and her knowledge, values, interests… Signs have different functions: Communication Identity Historical transmission Demarcation, marking territory
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Historical nature of signs
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1. A sign system is a historical construction that has gained a collective acceptance (it feels \”natural\”) E.g.: the idea that people can be classified into groups which have different occupations, cf. Martin 2. Systems of signs are conventions that we use to: Interact, specify an identity, deliminate a territory… 3. As conventions, sign systems undergo historical changes
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Main idea in Martin’s text
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What is the process by which we come to think of social divisions as natural?
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Notes on Martin: What do Animals do All Day
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Understanding the idea of \”naturalizes the division of labor\” We are taught, as children, the concept of social divisions We are taught (we see it in children’s literature) that some people are more talented for certain types of occupations Those narratives shape what feels natural to people Children internalize this idea that there are divisions between people Tie with \”signs\”: The division between animals come to signify divisions between humans
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Habitus (Bourdieu) :
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system of durable dispositions (Ways of doing and ways of thinking) acquired by individuals during socialization The habitus organizes the representation of the social world and also organizes the way people behave. Categories of thought are not neutral
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totemic logic
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Durkheim was trying to understand the origin of religion (in this book: The Elementary Forms of Religious Life) Totems are collective symbols The totem is the representation of the clan to its members It is the manifestation of collective consciousness By worshipping the totem, clan-members reinforce social cohesion

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