The Different faces of Culture
Culture refers to the shared practices, norms, values, and knowledge of a group of people based on their history, traditions, experiences, and interactions. Culture can also be used as a synonym for language or folk culture. In most complex cultures, the society-the family as a living entity-forms the base of the cultural system. The family, together with its informal structures such as marriage and children, forms the base of a culture. Culture, therefore, can be thought of as a way of organizing human affairs, a set of rules that guide how people interact and maintain a sense of equilibrium in their environment. A group of socially cohesive individuals can be referred to as a culture, even though the cultural values may vary across a broad range of cultures.
For example, there are differences in the ways that Chinese, Indian, and Pakistani people may relate to one another, despite similarities in many areas, such as religion and language. Differences in norms also account for the different cultural values and traditions. There is no common norm that governs all cultures; rather, each culture constructs its own norms, based on the experience of local people, that are then passed on from generation to generation. Thus, while the norms may appear to be similar, underlying differences in behavior and social context make each culture unique. This is also seen in the level of technological innovation between different societies within a region, such as between China and India, or between Pakistan and India.
Each cultural zone has its own cultural identity distinct from others. Similarly, each ethnic group has its own cultural identity, often linked to its language, art, and traditional customs. A group’s culture can be thought of as a living tradition that transcends from generation to generation, just like language or folk culture. A border is usually drawn between two cultures, although some cultures may have very vague borders, such as between Hindu and Muslim cultures in South Asia. Each cultural zone has its own traits, its own customs and rituals, its own food and customs, and its own unique history. The history of each cultural zone will thus provide key indicators for understanding the ethnic group, the language, the dialect, the cuisine, and the arts in that particular society.