What is the nature of culture?
Every little part of someone's life is determined to some extent by his or her culture. What they like to eat, what is appropriate behavior, the music they enjoy, what they consider to be relaxing, etc. What is culture then? Culture, according to anthropologist Richard H. Robbins, is "The system of meanings about the nature of experience that are shared by a people and passed on from one generation to another". What is it that creates culture though?
Interpretation plays a big part in culture. A group of people must interpret different aspects of the world such as race, progress, and political economy to create meanings which can be passed on to the next generations. In his book, Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco, Paul Rabinow writes about his experiences in with Moroccan culture, but his more important use of his work and his research with the Moroccan people was to prove one thing: that culture is interpretation.
He says, "The 'facts' of anthropology, the material which the anthropologist has gone to the field to find, are already themselves interpretations". This quote is saying two things, (1) a culture is created by the people's interpretations of the world around them and (2) that the information a cultural anthropologist gatherers are not rocks which can be picked up and shipped home to be analyzed, but rather are interpretation by the anthropologist of the world he or she observes.
How do anthropologists study culture?
A cultural anthropologist's job is not an easy one; essentially, they are trying to view the world through the cultural lens of others. To do this the anthropologist must understand their own culture and be able to separate it from the one they are studying. They must also practice cultural relativism (respect the...