IB Cultural Anthropology/The Nature of Culture/Enculturation

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Definition[edit]

If a culture is to survive, it must find a way to pass itself through generations. All cultures do this through enculturation- the transmission of cultural knowledge to children. As children grow up, they learn the accepted behaviors of their society. However, enculturation is not simply the learning of accepted behaviors. Any animal can be conditioned to perform certain behaviors, yet these animals are not being encultured. When one is encultured, one not only learns proper behaviors, but the proper way of perceiving the world.

Yanomamo vs. Semai Enculturation[edit]

A Yanomamo boy, for example, will learn certain behaviors as he grows up. He will learn to begin fighting whenever he gets angry. Yet, not only will he learn to fight, he will also begin to perceive fighting and “fierceness” as a noble and valiant behavior. A Semai boy, on the other hand, will not only learn radically different behavior, but will gain a radically different perception of the world. The Semai boy will learn to never express his anger or lash out in violence. After time, however, he will not only never physically express anger, but he will not view anger as a prized trait and so will rarely get angry.


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