Culture – The Target

Lesson 1: Topic 10 of 25

If we imagine culture looking kind of like a dartboard, the concept of worldview within culture is a little easier to picture. Starting from the outside ring, consider Material Culture

Material Culture includes the objects generally used by people within a culture. Americans usually have a refrigerator, tennis shoes, a cell phone… you get the idea. Works of art would also be found here, as would buildings, furniture, playgrounds. Whether most everyone in the culture has it, or it is created within a subculture (such as quilters or woodworkers), it can be considered something that belongs in the culture. This is the stuff of culture, in other words.

Within this ring, everything could be said to answer the question, “What is used or made?” In some cultures, there may be a mortar and pestle in every kitchen, or a hammock may be typically used for sleeping. Navajo artisans create beautiful blankets or turquoise and silver jewelry. Some material items might be unique to particular cultures, more broadly seen throughout culture clusters, or even exist worldwide. Televisions, cars, fishing poles – you get the picture.

Moving toward the interior, the next ring we see represents Behavior. This is the actions, words, verbs of culture. Many actions are often observable by outsiders. Behavior answers the question, “What is done?” Many Americans eat peanut butter, call even new acquaintances by their first name, and tend to buy larger cars than most of the world. Meanwhile, in Spain, people eat over 100 kilos of fish and seafood in a year, some take a siesta break in the afternoon, and football, or “soccer,” is the sport, whether played or watched. 

The following ring is Values. These virtues that a culture rates as needed answer the question, “What is good or best?” Americans highly value direct communication, privacy, and self-reliance. (Notice that these are all examples. You may personally choose different values.) People of Ghana value harmony, their place in families, and networks of friends. These Values work out in particular ways. As John, a Ghanaian friend, once told me, “No one worries that no one will come to their party. Everyone will come!”