Thursday, September 29, 2011

Material and Symbolic Culture

       Material culture involves material objects that distinguish a group of people. Some examples are jewelry, art, tools, clothes, and eating utensils. An example from God Grew Tired of Us is how the Lost Boys ate. In their culture, they used their hands to eat -- and that was normal for them. But, Americans use utensils like forks, spoons, and knives to eat. The way we eat and the things we use to eat differentiate Americans from the Lost Boys.
       Symbolic culture is nonmaterial culture whose central components are symbols. This includes gestures and language. Obviously the Lost Boys and Americans speak a different language. Also, although in America nodding ones head means yes and shaking ones head means no, it is the opposite in other countries. In America we shake hands, but Asian people usually bow. These symbols demonstrate central components in our unique cultures.
       Both material culture and symbolic culture distinguish groups of people. Hand gestures, language, clothing style, and even toilets show the differences between cultures. In class we saw picture of different toilets around the world. Not only did the toilets (material culture) look different, but also the way  people go to the bathroom in different countries (symbolic culture) is different. Some squat, some stand, some sit, some let the fish eat their remains. Whichever way it is done, it symbolizes difference.

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