Examples Of Cultural Dynamics Essay Samples
In ten thousand years of evolution of a human being, culture has evolved from The Stone Age to The Era of Space Exploration. It never remained static: it appeared, evolved and spread from one region to another, transmitted from past generations to present and future ones, constantly refueled with new material and spiritual elements. Various types of cultural changes have been identified in cultural anthropology as the concept of "cultural dynamics", which refers to all kinds of changes taking place in culture and society under the influence of external and internal reasons (Lemke, 1993). A change is an inherent property of culture and includes both internal transformation of cultural phenomenon (changes over time), and external changes (interactions between cultures, geographical expansion and diffusion, etc). The following are examples of the dynamic nature of culture:
1. Body alterations. From 10th to early 20th centuries foot binding was widely spread in China. A painful ritual that prevented young women's feet from growing started out among court dancers in Imperial China and soon became fashion and sign of wealth and higher status, as only women from wealthy families, who didn't have to work, could afford doing it. It has the similar roots as the tradition of keeping ones face as light as possible, showing that they weren't peasant working in the fields. In the modern society foot binding is considered a cruel barbaric ritual dropped by the society. On the other hand such cultural phenomenon like body piercing brought from Asian and African cultures were gladly picked up by former metropolises, widely spread nowadays and not considered barbaric.
2. Homosexuality. In the 4th century BCE Plato published Symposium in which other Greek philosophers argued that love between two men as the highest form, while sex with women was considered to be a product of lust and was utilitarian. In the 1st century Nero the emperor of Rome married two men in official ceremonies (Crompton, 2003). Homosexuality was an important part of the Hellenistic culture. Until 1962 sodomy was considered to be a felony in every state and was punished by imprisonment (Goodman, 2001). With the spreading Christianity appear the first anti-gay laws that get more severe and more widely accepted with every century. Even 50 years ago now liberal and tolerant countries had severe punishment for homosexual people. In the early 20th century people who were accused of homosexuality had to go through hormonal therapy that was basically a chemical castration. In modern days more and more countries not only accept gay relationship but legalize gay marriages. In several decades the fact that gay marriages used to be illegal might be considered barbaric.
3. Slavery and African-American culture. Seeking cheap work force colonists started bringing slaves to The North America. Slavery was abolished in 1865; segregation was fought against still in 1960s and 1970s. Social interactions, mixed schools and marriages were considered appalling not so long ago and there are still people in the US, especially in the South, that twitch seeing a mixed couple considering that there is "something wrong" about it. At the same time African-American culture that formed in the times of slavery, when the stripping slaves of their indigenous culture was considered to keep them submissive; invaded American culture, changed it and became one if it's significant elements. The oral practices that were the only way for slaves to preserve and transmit their culture from generation to generation are now adopted by the Americans of all ethnicities. It is not rare to see a Caucasian, Latino or Asian rapper, soul singer, jazz performer or passionate artistic preacher.
4. Beauty standards. Through all the history of humankind beauty standards were different. In the Middle Ages when the influence of Catholic Church was very strong, women used to cover their hair to show modesty. At the same time wearing wigs were considered a "mortal sin". It was also popular to shave front hair to imitate a bigger forehead. During Renaissance Humanism era and growing popularity of Protestantism along with weakening of Catholic Church, women were able to wear their hair loose. Main beauty standards included curvy round body shape, narrow mouth, full lips and strawberry blond hair. A beautiful woman by the standards of that time would be considered overweight by standards of modern time. In 1990th and the beginning of XIX century a "perfect woman" had to be skinny, which was later changed by athletic and nowadays is being switched back for curvy and athletic. Ten years ago we would not see women with average body constitution on a catwalk, and now it is a rise of a plus-model phenomenon.
In these examples we can see different internal and external reasons that can provoke cultural changes and it becomes clear that dynamism is an inherent property of culture, its "nature". This dynamism serves as one of the main reasons of the evolution of human as a social being and forms the modern civilization.
Crompton, L. (2003). Homosexuality & civilization. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Goodman, R. (2001). Beyond the Enforcement Principle: Sodomy Laws, Social Norms, and Social Panoptics. California Law Review, 89(3), 643-740.
Lemke, J. L. (1993). Discourse, Dynamics, and Social Change. Cultural Dynamics, 6, 243-275. doi:10.1177/092137409300600107