reproduction

"Reproduction," as it is applied to culture, is the process by which aspects of culture are passed on from person to person or from society to society. There are a number of different ways in which this can happen.

The most common form of cultural reproduction is "enculturation," which one anthropologist describes as "a partly conscious and partly unconscious learning experience whereby the older generation invites, induces, and compels the younger generation to adopt traditional ways of thinking and behaving" (Harris 7). Does enculturation work like a Xerox machine, reproducing everything mostly as it was? Of course not. Your hairstyles and music and diction are different in many ways from those of your parents; cultures are organic, growing and changing with the passing of time. However, enculturation is a powerful tool, and enculturation is the reason why, for example, people born in the U.S. drive on the right side of the road while people in Europe drive on the left. Parents and educators are two of the most influential enculturating forces; the Muslim boys pictured above, studying the Quran (or Koran) outside their teacher's house in the Old Quarter of Kano, Nigeria, are involved in a variety of enculturating processes.

Another important pattern of cultural reproduction is called "diffusion." Diffusion (which means "a spreading out") happens when patterns of cultural behavior or meaning are passed from one society to another. For example, when international leaders meet at a conference or summit, it is quite normal for all of the males to be wearing Western-style business suits -- even though such garb is hardly part of a cultural tradition in most parts of the world. This type of clothing, and its symbolic association with formality and professionalism, has spread out to many different cultures. Diffusion is also the reason why many U.S. citizens cherish sushi (a Japanese delicacy), live in "Santa Fe style" houses (incorporating Spanish and Native American architectural styles), and make everyday use of words like "boutique" (a French loan-word).


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