Definitions and Theories of Culture

  • From the list of definitions of culture provided choose 1 that you believe best defines culture and explain why.

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.

This definition best defines culture because culture is something that doesn’t develop in an instant, it is developed over time. Cultures are developed unknowingly once a group a people start sharing similar beliefs and values. This definition covers basically everything that cultures are about. It also talked about how cultures are passed down from generation to generation to preserve our ancestors thinking and way of life and also look back on the mistakes they made and improve on them.

  • Try to explain the various cultural theories that are given.

Theory of Cultural Determinism

This theory basically explains that there is not any right way of doing something and everyone just assumes that their way is the right way. It also talks about how humans are capable of doing whatever they want and there are no limits to humans if they really want to achieve something. This theory suggests that people should be able to choose the way of life they prefer and should not be forced to anything. They should have control over their own lives. However, today’s world has taught us to do whatever our culture says is right.

Theory of Cultural Relativism 

This theory suggests that no culture is “superior or inferior to another.” This theory basically states that there is ultimately nothing that is good or evil.  It talks about how each culture thinks differently, feels differently, and acts differently. It explains that there is no way that two cultures can have all of these things in common because that is what makes each culture different and unique. Moreover, this theory suggests that one of the best ways for two cultures to agree on something is negotiated and understand that all cultures that different perspectives and point of views.

Theory of Cultural Ethnocentrism 

Cultural Ethnocentrism is the belief that one culture is superior to another. This theory is based on judging cultures based on your culture’s ideas and values. This theory states that cultures that think they are superior do not care about the other cultures opinions and their way of life. These cultures are biased and think their views are the only ones important. They find it difficult to understand the differences they might have with other cultures and cannot see things from others point of view.

  • Look at the manifestations of culture diagram.  Choose a culture and fill out the activities and beliefs that would correspond with each element of the diagram.

Culture Chosen: Hindu Culture


  • Om: This is the sound used in meditation. “Om” is the first syllable in any Hindu prayer. It is ultimately used to symbolize universe and reality.
  • The Swastika: This symbol is a sign of good luck and fortune. It is also used to represent honesty, truth, and purity.
  • The Sri Yantra: This symbol represents nine interlocking triangles that start from a central point. Four of the nine triangles represent a masculine side, Shiva. The other five triangles represent the feminine side, Shakti. It symbolizes the bond or unity of both the masculine and the feminine deity.
  • The tilaka: This symbol is placed on the head of a Hindu devotee.
  • The Lotus: This plant represents creation and is used to symbolize Vishnu, Brahma, and Lakshmi.
  • The Veena: This is a stringed instrument that represents art and learning. It is used for the goddess Saraswati and the sage Narada.


  • Vishnu: Vishnu is the preserver who protects the world. When he is needed, he comes to Earth as an avatar or reincarnation. So far, he has come 9 times. Vishnu has dark blue skin, sits on the snake Shesha, and rides with the eagle Garuna.
  • Shiva: Shiva is also known as Lord Mahesh. He is the destroyer in Trimurti and is the Vedic god of death.
  • Brahma: Brahma is the creator. He has four heads which all point in a cardinal direction.
  • Krishna: Kirshna is the eighth avatar of Vishnu. He can often be seen as a child, adolescent or adult. As a child, he would play many pranks on people. However, as an adult he can be seen as a warrior.
  • Ganesha: Ganesha is the god wisdom. This elephant-headed god is often shown riding a rat. As a child, Shiva cut Ganesha’s head off and later sent servants to get the first child’s head they could take when the mother of the child was not watching. The servants came back with an elephant’s head. People pray to him because he brings good fortune and removes obstacles from their path.
  • Indra: This is the god of rain, thunder, and war. In early times, he was the king of the gods who ruled swarga. He defeats the dragon Vritra, who had deprived the world from being able to acquire water.
  • Lakshmi: She is the goddess of prosperity and patron to moneylenders. She represents virtue and honesty.
  • Hanuman: He is the son of the wind god Vaayu and Queen Anjana. Hanuman has a human’s body with a monkey’s head.


  • Puja: This ritual engages the senses of both the devotees and the gods. Pujas can be performed in a temple by priests or just in your home. The hindu god is treated with much respect and a member of royalty.
  • Darshan: the act of seeing and being seen by the deity at attain grace.
  • Shraddha: This ritual is one of the most important rituals in Hinduism. This is the ceremony that is held at a home ten days after the death of someone in the Brahmin caste. This ceremony bring the family’s mourning period and ritual impurity to an end. All vistors are expected to bring fruit.
  • Mukhagni: This the ceremony that takes place after someones death at the cremation site. A Hindu priest holds the prayer with a special holy book and reads the mantras. Guests are able to see the body and later the body is cremated.


  • Marks on Forehead: These markings signify what Hindu a person is. Each marking is for a different caste. Everyday when the woman of the house perform their daily puja, they put a very small mark of ash or paste on their forehead. This small mark is put on everyone else in the house even if they do not believe in the hood. This small mark shows that puja was done and now the home is blessed.
  • Doing Pujas: This is a worship event for Hindus. They can be short or simple or very intricate and complex. The simplest version of puja is the one performed everyday by the woman of the house. The common elements of a puja are: lamp with oil, burning incense, bells, flowers, fruits camphor, image of deity, chanting scared scriptures, and a pot with mango leaves.
  • Hindu festivals: All the hindu festivals have their own special story and way to celebrate. These festivals are usually regional and are not celebrated all across India.
  • Visiting temples and holy sites: Visiting a temple is a daily or weekly behavior for a hindu. They visit the temple early in the  morning to watch puja being done. Often, Hindus take pilgrimages to larger temples and other holy sites.


  • Truth is eternal
  • Believe in reincarnation- the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. According to Hinduism, karma directly influences the life situation you will be born into depending on your deeds.
  • Dharma: They believe all humans are born with certain duties and these duties are decided by your gender, caste, and age. They teach people that if you fulfill your duties, all beings benefit.
  • Hindus believe that the individual soul is neither created nor destroyed. You have the same soul in a different body.

Summarizing the Big Ideas


  1. Expanding our knowledge about a culture allows us to understand it better. Once we understand one culture better, it helps us view other cultures from several different perspectives as well. Understanding the origins and importance of diversity helps us value it more and enhances our learning of other cultures.
  2. Communication amongst people, with different beliefs and social standards, affects the ways they express their culture. Belief systems and social organizations often affect people’s perspectives and mindsets, influencing the way these people express their culture.
  3. Surrounding land and resources affects the culture’s opportunities to trade and produce crops. The land’s texture and weather patterns would determine how many crops cultures could grow. Depending on various geographic factors, some cultures may have been able to prosper more than others, which is why we continue to see some cultures around today while others have gone extinct. These factors affected agriculture and trade for several people. Cultures which were able to trade and produce crops on high levels were able to prosper and complex their cultures.
  4. Religions and cultures with the most followers and power often shape the government most drastically within a culture. They often have the most authority within a culture. Holding the most authority, they try to implement their values and beliefs into the structure of power and control everybody according to it.

Socials 11 Topic Choices

Choice 1: SOCIAL STUDIES — Comparative Cultures 11

  • Last year in Socials 10 we learned about different cultures and their perspectives towards other cultures. However, we did not learn this in depth. This year I would like to learn more about these cultures.

Choice 2: SOCIAL STUDIES — 20th Century World History 11

  • I want to learn about the different wars and how some conflicts led to other conflicts. I would also like to learn about how the different governments cooperated to end these conflicts.