Model of heritage consistency.

Model of heritage consistency.

22 ■ Chapter 2

the sum of beliefs, practices, habits, likes, dislikes, norms, customs, rituals, and so forth that we learned from our families during the years of socialization. In turn, we transmit cultural luggage to our children. A third way of defining culture is the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group (, n.d.) and, lastly, one that is most relevant in areas of traditional health is that culture is a “metacommunication system,” wherein not only the spoken words have meaning but everything else does as well (Matsumoto, 1989, p. 14).

All facets of human behavior can be interpreted through the lens of cul- ture, and everything can be related to and from this context. Culture includes all the following characteristics:

1. Culture is the medium of personhood and social relationships. 2. Only part of culture is conscious. 3. Culture can be likened to a prosthetic device because it is an exten-

sion of biological capabilities. 4. Culture is an interlinked web of symbols. 5. Culture is a device for creating and limiting human choices. 6. Culture can be in two places at once—it is found in a person’s mind

and exists in the environment in such form as the spoken word or an artifact. (Bohannan, 1992, p. 12)

Culture is a complex whole in which each part is related to every other part. It is learned, and the capacity to learn culture is genetic, but the subject matter is not genetic and must be learned by each person in a family and social commu- nity. Culture also depends on an underlying social matrix, and included in this social matrix are knowledge, beliefs, art, law, morals, and customs (Bohannan, 1992, p. 13).

Culture is learned in that people learn the ways to see their environment— that is, they learn from the environment how to see and interpret what they see. People learn to speak, and they learn to learn. Culture, as the medium of our individuality, is the way in which we express ourselves. It is the medium of human social relationships, in that culture must be shared and creates social relationships. The symbols of culture—sound and acts—form the basis of all lan- guages. Symbols are everywhere—in religion, politics, and gender; these are cul- tural symbols, the meanings of which vary between and within cultural groups (Bohannan, 1992, pp. 11–14). The society in which we live, and political, eco- nomic, and social forces tend to alter the way in which some aspects of a culture are transmitted and maintained. Many of the essential components of a culture, however, pass from one generation to the next unaltered. Consequently, our cultural background determines much of what we believe, think, and do, both consciously and unconsciously. In this way, culture and ethnicity are handed down from one generation to another. These classic definitions of culture con- tinue to serve as a basis for understanding the term in the present time. In fact, the recent definition developed by the Joint Commission in 2010 defines culture as “integrated patterns of human behavior that include the language,

Cultural Heritage and History ■ 23

thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, or social groups” (p. 91).

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