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Culture (the word comes from the Latin word colere which means “to cultivate” / “honor”) generally refers to human activity. UNESCO’s definition of culture as “the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs“.

Culture is a legacy that is transmitted using the specific communication codes such as gestures or words, writing and the arts, the media (press, radio, television), interactive media (phone). In the same way transmit gestures, rituals, theoretical knowledge, abstract rules, religion. Culture can be acquired through various forms of subjective memory (reflexes, words, pictures) but also through objective memory (objects, pictures, books, numbers, rules).

The popular use of the word culture in many Western societies may reflect even layered character of those societies. Many people use this word to refer to consumer goods of elite cuisine and activities such as art or music. Others use the label “high culture” to distinguish it from “low” culture, referring to all consumer goods that do not belong to this elite.

Historical definitions

Theorists of culture of the eighteenth century and early 19th century and many of today identifies the culture and civilization that they often oppose to nature. Thus people who lack signs of high culture often seem more natural and observers criticize or defend rather high culture elements that would inhibit “human nature”.

At the end of the nineteenth century anthropologists have proposed a broader definition of culture, definition that can be applied to several types of societies. They defined culture as human nature and have noticed that it is rooted in universal human capacity to classify experiences, and encode them to communicate symbolically. Consequently, isolated societies develop their own original culture, but component of various local cultures can easily spread from one community to another.

The new discipline called Cultural Anthropology had to find definitions of culture that can be used both methodologically and theoretically. Anthropologists distinguish between material and symbolic culture not only because each reflects different kinds of human activity, but also because they represent different data corpora which require different methodologies.

Another common way of understanding culture is by defining it according to its component parts: Values (ideas), Rules (behaviors) and Artifacts (things or parts of material culture).

Values are ideas about what can be important in life. They guide the rest of the culture. The rules are different expectations of behavior of people in different situations. Every culture has different methods (sanctions) to impose rules. The penalties also vary depending on the norm importance. The most important formalized rules of penalties are called laws. Artifacts arising from cultural values and norms.

Typically, archaeologists focus on material culture, and cultural anthropologists on the symbolic culture, although both groups are interested in the interaction of the two areas. Moreover, anthropologists understand by the culture not only consumer goods, but also their production process; they give a sense both to consumer goods and social or practical relations generated by them.

At the beginning of the twentieth century anthropologists meant by culture not only a separate set of activities or processes but also models, patterns of these products or activities. In addition, they assumed that such models have clear boundaries so that people confuse culture with the society that produced them.

In smaller societies where people enter into relationships of age, gender, family or descent group, anthropologists believe that people have more or less the same set of conventions and values. Therefore, it was used the term subculture to identify the cultures that are part of an integrated categories. Because they reflect the position of a segment from the other segments of society and to the whole, often reveal processes of domination and resistance.

Translation from Wikipedia

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