Development Cooperation Handbook/Definitions/Culture

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Culture is defined in numerous ways. As such, it has been defi ned as “the whole set of signs by which the members of a given society recognize…one another,
while distinguishing them from people not belonging to that society.4” It has also been viewed as “the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and
emotional features of a society or social group… (encompassing) in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions
and beliefs.5” Culture is at the core of individual and social identity and is a major component in the reconciliation of group identities within a framework
of social cohesion. In discussing culture, reference is made to all the factors that pattern an individual’s ways of thinking, believing, feeling and acting as
a member of society.

Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.
Culture is the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people.
Culture is communication, communication is culture.
Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behavior; that is the totality of a person's learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behavior through social learning.
A culture is a way of life of a group of people--the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.
Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its symbols include a group's skills, knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions.
Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand, as conditioning influences upon further action.
Culture is the sum of total of the learned behavior of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation. Culture is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.

Majority and Minority Cultures

The term “minority culture” generally refers to the culture of “marginalized or vulnerable groups who live in the shadow of majority populations with a different and dominant cultural ideology”13, the “majority culture”. The nondominant position of minority groups does not always derive from numerical weakness; it often has a qualitative dimension linked to the specifi c cultural and socio-economic characteristics of the community. Such characteristics can produce value systems and life styles that are very different from or even incompatible with those of more dominant groups in society.
The term “minority” is used to refer to “four different categories of groups:
(1) autochthonous or indigenous peoples, whose line of descent can be traced to the aboriginal inhabitants of the country…

(2) territorial minorities, groups with a long cultural tradition…

(3) non-territorial minorities or nomads, groups with no particular attachment to a territory…

(4) immigrants…”
Indigenous peoples, in particular, have found themselves subject to economic, cultural, communication and educational policies which, although they may
have been well intentioned, have nevertheless contributed to undermine the bases of their material existence. Even though there is no single defi nition of
‘indigenous peoples’, several distinctive characteristics are regularly used to
defi ne the term, including:
� specifi c social, cultural and economic living conditions of these peoples;
� the existence of distinct social, economic, cultural and political institutions, and customs and traditions regulating their status;
� identifi cation as ‘indigenous’ by others;
� self-identifi cation as ‘indigenous;
� attachment to land and to a specific territory and a special relationship with nature or the earth; and their cosmovision.

Cultural vitality is closely linked to the social and economic status of minority communities. This is because the cultural features of different communities,
such as practices, beliefs, or life styles, are ‘valued’ and hierarchized. And while some prevail, others are marginalized.
The cultural composition of societies is today growing even more complex through increasing migratory movements from one country to another and from rural to urban regions. Whereas indigenous peoples and other minority groups can look back on a long historical tradition in a given region, today’s migratory movements tend to produce culturally fragmented, usually urban or semi-urban societies, which present specifi c challenges for educational policies.
Education systems need to be responsive to the specific educational needs of all minorities, including migrants and indigenous peoples. Among the issues to be considered is how to foster the cultural, social and economic vitality of such communities through effective and adequate educational programmes that are based on the cultural perspectives and orientations of the learners, while at the same time providing for the acquisition of knowledge and skills that enable them to participate fully in the larger society.