Tuesday, February 19, 2008

CULTS, Culture and MemOry

So once we have interrogated notions of culture, and how we are enabled membership into a particular social group by behaving in certain ways that are appropriate to that culture, we ask questions about whether we just merely conform to what culture expects of us, and absorb value systems and practices (like sponges).. or whether we are able to decide, choose, and assimilate.

Does our culture or society make us what we are?
What is a culture. What is a CULT? Cults may be seen as derogatory. Perhaps as counter-culture, as one student raised in class today. So then membership in a CULT can be seen as a response to culture.

We said that culture enables us; and it constrains us. Agency is relative.
Culture is open, cultures may inform each other.

In making social meaning, culture is a text, a language which its members learn.
Language, and discourse suggests that culture is not just absorbed. But language is open to ambiguity. What kinds of ambiguities are apparent to you? Are you able to identify ambiguous messages in your making sense of the social world?

Try to answer these questions and keep in mind the diary project! Can you see the links? Identity is a function of the enculturation process. And culture is language. We need language to make sense of the world. We use language to CREATE our stories. In listening to peoples life stories, which is what you do when you interview someone, we understand the importance of empirical REAL data in the social research process. Biography is important for research. Peoples stories come from how they make sense of life. And Memory is a great way of creating that space for conversation about life. So. Ask people what they remember!!! Remember. Stories are in Memories. Memories are Stories.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I THINK MOST PEOPLE REALLY DO CHOOSE HOW THEY WANT TO BEHAVE.HOWEVER IT IS GOOD TO NOTE THAT OTHERS MAY CHOOSE TO BEHAVE IN A PARTICULAR WAYS BECAUSE OF CERTAINS RESTRICTIONS AND CODES THAT THEIR CULTURES MAY HAVE.I ON THE OTHER HAND AM A ZULU AND AM PROUD OF MY CULTURE AND THE INTRICISIES THAT IT HAS.IT IS A VERY INTERESTING CULTURE.BUT TO ME IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT IS NOT TO BE QUESTIONED.I HAVE FOUND THAT IT IS EASIER FOR ME TO NOT RESTRICT MYSELF TO JUST MY ZULU CULTURE.AS I MENTIONED IN PREVIOUS COMMENTS I GREW UP IN AN INDIAN AREA.SO FOR ME THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A CONFLICT AS TO WHICH CULTURE...AND MAYBE EVEN RELIGION I SHOULD FOLLOW.AT HOME WE ARE ZULU'S AND WILL DO WHAT IS EXPECTED OF ME A A ZULU YOUNG MAN.BUT WHEN I AM OUT SIDE MY HOME I HAVE FRIENDS WHO ARE ALL INDIAN AND HAVE GROWN UP WITH.ANOTHER PERSON WHO DOES NOT KNOW WOULD THINK AT TIMES I DO SOME THINGS TO FIT IN BUT I THINK FOR ME IT WAS A MATTER OF THE PEOPLE AROUND TRYING TO FIT IN WITH ME BECAUSE I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN OUTSTANDING IN MOST OF THE THING I DO.BUT IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING THAT I LEARNT MY INDIAN FRIENDS CULTURES AND UNDERSTAND THEM AND EVEN PERFORM THOSE THAT I FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH.SO MAYBE WHILE GROWING UP THAT ENABLED MY MEBERSHIP INTO THAT SOCIAL GROUP.IT IS VERY FUNNY BUT BETWEEN MY FRIENDS AND MYSELF WE HAVE NEVER HAD AN ISSUE ABOUT RACE...TO THEM I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AN INDIAN.TO ME,I AM AN INDIAN WHEN I AM WITH THEM AND AM A ZULU BOY WHEN I AM AT HOME OR WITH OTHER ZULU PEOPLE.BUT IT'S ALSO WEIRD BECAUSE I CAN SPEAK LIKE AN INDIAN PERSON BUT I JUST CHOOSE NOT TO AND WOULD RATHER TWANG A LITTLE BECAUSE THE SCHOOLS I ATTENDED WERE NOT THE SAME AS MY FRIENDS.

AT TIMES THERE IS A CONFLICT OF BOTHE MY CULTURES AND WHEN I HAVE TO MAKE A DECISION I USE THE USE THE ANALOGY(ZULU),THAT I MUST MAKE A DECISION THAT WILL MAKE THE GREATEST NUMBER HAPPY IN MY COMMUNITY.AND AT TIMES IT WORKS AGAINST MY FAMILY.LOL!

YES BOTH OUR CULTURE AND SOCIETY MAKE US WHAT WE ARE.OUR CULTURE FOR THE MOST PART IS TAGHT TO US BY OUR FAMILIES AND WHEN WE GO OUT INTO SOCIETY WE MAY INTERACT WITH DIFFERENT PEOPLE.AND AS SOCIAL BEINGS WE INTERACT WITH ONE ANOTHER AND WE ARE BOUND TO ABSORBS CERTAIN THINGS FROM SOCIETY AS WELL AS OUR CULTURE.

FOR ME A CULT MAY BE A GROUP THAT GOES "OUTSIDE THE BOX" AND DOES NOT NECESSARILY STICK TO WHAT IS THE NORM IN ITS SOCIETY.THE CULT MAY INCORPORATE THINGS FROM ANOTHER CULTURE OR JUST BE LIBERAL IN ITS OWN WAY.FOR EXAMPLE IT MAY HAVE VALUES DIFFERENT FROM THE REST OF SOCIETY AND WHAT IS THE NORM IN THAT CULT MIGHT BE SEEN AS BIZARRE BY THE REWST OF THIER SOCIETY.SO IN ESSENCE I AGREE FOR THE MOST PART WITH THE STUDENT IN CLASS THAT;A CULT MAY BE SEEN AS A COUNTER-CULTURE.

FOR MOST PEOPLE CULTURE DEFINITELY DOES CONSTRAIN AND ENABLE THEM.FOR ME:IT DOES NOT.I AM VERY OPEN-MINDED AND LIKE EXPLORING WHAT I DO NOT KNOW,OR WHAT I AM NOT FAMILIAR WITH.AT HOME MY PARENTS SEEM TO THINK THAT FAT,LIGHT-SKINNED GIRLS ARE BEAUTIFUL AND HEALTHY AND A REAL WOMEN SHOULD BE THAT WAY.MY BROTHER(2 OF THEM)ALL HAVE LARGE WIVES.THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT BUT I ASK MYSELF SOMETIMES IF IT IS REALLY WHAT THEY WANT OR HAVE THEY BEEN BRIAN WASHED TO LOOK FOR BEAUTY IN LARGE WOMEN.WELL AS EXPECTED I WENT IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION.IN HIGH SCHOOL I ONLY DATED GIRLS THAT WERE NOT MY RACE AND WERE SLIM AS WELL.MY FATHER TO THIS DAY THINKS I AM HIS WORST SON,AM THINK I AM REBELIOUS AND EXPECTS THE WORST OF ME.LUCKILY MY MOTHER JUST LOVED MY GIRLFRIENDS.

TO THIS DAY I AM STILL LEARNING NEW THINGS ABOUT OTHER CULTURES AND OTHER PEOPLE AND WILL NOT STOP.THE WORLD IS EVER CHANGING AND SO I HAVE TO REMAIN AS OPEN MINDED AS I AM AM.I PERSONALLY BELIEVE THAT FOR ME TO SEE GOOD IN ANOTHER CULTURE OR IN A PERSON OF ANOTHER CULTURE I HAVE TO FORGET ABOUT MY OWN AND NOT BE JUDGEMENTAL.YET I AM CRITCAL OF WHAT I CHOOSE TO INCORPORATE INTO MY LIFESTYLE.

IRVIN B. MAPHUMULO

STUDENT NUMBER:205517503

riona said...

a cult is part of culture since they both share similar practices and beliefs. however for me a cult is a group of people that rebel against society and since they go against the norms they establish their own group eg a gothic cult

Ashton said...

206501331-Im still not entirely sure about the link between language and culture. Sure, we learn about our culture through each of our languages...and often our languages are connected to our culture because culture requires one group of people who share a langauge to communicate, and thus for a culture to form. so..im not sure if i answered my own question or if there is more to it??

I agree that each of us has agency, and thus culture is not just absorbed. And often there are ambiguities in our culture (or in mine anyway). On the one hand, women in my culture are responsible for cooking and cleaning in the family...but more contemporary ideas in my culture say that women should be independant and that men to, can share in domestic tasks. It is up to me as an agent to think about and decide which aspect of my culture..or which discourse i will live my life according to.

Anonymous said...

i think cult is a group of individuals that constitute their own beliefs and practices. every individual perceives the world in their own way, think differently and therefore are unique. i believe there is a sight link between culture and language because both are part of something that is inhereited within us.we learn from language but culture is more of rules and regulations. culture sets limits on things as compared to language.

Anonymous said...

Culture as we all know by now invariably form a big part of who we are in society, cults are a response to the majority, where the minortity seek to unite in their differences. Most of the time because cults deviate from the norm they are seen as negative. But who is to say they are really negative, because the definition of what is normal is always changing, it transforms all the time according to what a specific society define as normal at a specific point in time

Mandy 206507689

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can choose between culture and society in determining what makes us who `we are. I think culture and society go hand-in-hand and the one needs the others to operate. Culture is an intergral part of society.

Cults are definitely a response to societal norms and traditions etc. they usually seem to be ritualistic(which frightens people, though i don't know why), and they do have dark connotations as they tend to do exactly the opposite to what is expected of normal functioning members of society.

I was just thinking about a previous question on the blog, I'm not sure if it's been dealt with in class by now of something but...
I think the link between language and culture is much greater than the link between race an culture as we were speaking about earlier. Think about the cultural differences between the Zuu's and the Xhosa's...

Anonymous said...

oops the comment untagged above is will smyly
206501517

Anonymous said...

I am zulu but grew up with indians. I agree with ashton when he says that culture can not just be absorbed. Because what i was taught on my early years is still with me today. Though i sometimes feel like isolated because of not conforming to what is regarded as normal to the indians or by not following their culture. So does this mean am a cult?

Anonymous said...

ok that was:
Nondumiso
206525054

KimyaShafinaaz said...

im smiling because im reallyyyy glad that you lot are remembering to add your id. even if its as an afterthought. maybe its worthy of analysis!!! why leave your identification as an afterthought??? think about it: you click on 'anonymous' when you post the comment to the blog. (sociologists tend to over-analyse eVerYthing, but humour me ok!)

So. Responses to the above?

Anonymous said...

I think that the way you were brought up basically determines the person you will be, especially if you were brought up very culturally, you tend to live in the same cultural pattern that you were brought up although sometimes a change there and here but you still hold some of the basics of your culture the norms and values that were taught to you will still be very visible in you. language plays a very important part in culture because it really differentiates between cultures.

this was 206518819

Anonymous said...

I think that culture and tradition define us as individuals. It gives us a sence ot direction in life. It also forms the basis of our initial understanding of the way we identify ourselves.I feel that people should be proud of their beliefs and practices because if makes them the people that they are.

Anonymous said...

Well, in respnse to the question above I think everyone has been posting thier comments as anonymous because they are nervous that they might be wrong. This is a new concept to all of us and it is very daunting to know that everyone including the lecturer will be reading our comments and critiquing them.

Anonymous said...

I think people (especially the youth of today) do not merely conform to culture anymore. In this era people have 'freedom' and as a result they now have the power to choose. Perhaps in pre-colonial times people din't think twice about conforming to culture, they would just submit to it. Today people choose what aspects of culture they want to adopt and which ones not to make part of their lives. For example, I am a 'cultured Zulu' although there are certain Zulu rituals which I do not partake in. Most people no longer simply conform to culture they adopt what suits them because they view culture as ancient, oppressive and boring.Considering that almost everyone is trying to be unique, it is not surprising that people are increasingly turning their backs on conformity.

Those of us who are members of cultural groups are what we are because of culture. This is because our actions are informed by it (culture), although of course to a certain degree. I believe the reason I do not steal or kill is that my culture forbids me from doing such things. As a matter of fact the risk of arrest if caught is secondary to respecting my cultural values and norms.

Lastly, I think culture certainly enables us but also constrains us. It enables us in the sense that it gives us identity and thus allows us to feel that we are part of a collective. In isiZulu we say 'umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu' which loosely translated means - a person is a person because of other people. This translates into respect and love for one another and also being able to count on fellow beings to support you in times of need. Such are benefits of acculturation.

Unfortunately culture also constrains us. For example, culture tends to dictate action and limits us (especially women)from reaching some of our goals.

Name: Lindokuhle
Student Number: 205500409

Anonymous said...

culture and society do indeed make poeple who they are!!!! Culture constrains people in a sense that it dictates to them the manner in which they should go about living their lives, how they behave and also instills certain beliefs in people which limit them from having a more broader outlook on life. Society provides the dictates to which culture adheres to,it provides the basis of that which is morally right or wrong. if people do not adhere to their cultural beliefs and constrains they are generally disowned and society places a stigma on them. often people that have been rejected from their cultures usually form cults as a way of rebelling against the norms and values of society, I for one believe that satanism is a cult and it is going against society's religious beliefs.Cult is definitely a culture,people that are part of a cult have their own way of dressing,their behavioral patterns are out of the ordinary,etc. Cherry, T 206503196

adrian said...

In response to "does our culture or society make us what we are?"...i believe to truely understand this we need to distinguish between culture and society….and in my opinion on this vast topic i suggest, that culture, is indeed our norms, scanctions and belief systems that shape us as individuals in our primary stages of socialization were these norms values and scanctions are transmitted to us by our parents, and family. However when we look at society, we should think of it as a secondary stage of our socialization process,wereby we are left vulnerable to outside influences, value systems, norms and sanctions (that are of a questionable nature). So in short it is our society that opens up endless possibilities for us and then again because our culture is so limiting and fixed, it tends to govern our behaviour and every step. So with the help and combination of these two powerful factors an average individual is able to make an authoritive decision, as to whether or not s/he will b a conformist or nonconformist, and then there are some who will use elements from both these stages of socialization to shape themselves!......so in light of the above question it becomes quiet debatable to choose btwn culture and society!!! So y do we have to choose?! Y cant elements of culture and society make us what we are!!!! frm the student who raised the is issue of a counter culture...adrian n. n 204005469

adrian said...

how many different types of culture do we know of at the top of our head? there are many! so with that point i think we can make sense of what culture is?!... yet again in my opinion i believe that culture is associated with people and the way in which people behave, do particular things communicate, the way in which they think or their thought process... which all boils down to similar people sharing similar norms, values and scanctions, and strongly believing in them as true....so what if a person denies believing in what s/he was taught in their primary stages of socialization, and assumes or internalises a different type of behaviour that is different from any known type of norm, or culture or behaviour, and internalises it to make it their own!...WOULD THAT BE NOT BE CALLED A CULT?!...so i would conclude that the word cult is defined simply as a type of behavior, value systems and belife systems, that do indeed have the elements of a culture..although it is a culture that is relatively new and unknown to man..which also leads me to believe that people are not able to adapt to change easily, or accept somting that is foreign or unfamiliar to themselves...so when people defy the norms of a known to explore the unknown they are described as different, hence creating a counter culture ADRIAN.N.N 204005469

Anonymous said...

The laguage plays an important role because it differintiate cultures.That is why it is important that poeple respect and not loose their languages and culture,reason being that culture is part of who you are and the language that you speak tells people of who you are.In most cultures poeple that are raised culturally tend to have good respect and they pass that respect from one generation to another.

A language is for us to communicate and culture is there to guide or give us rules such as norms ,values,directions and limitations.But peolple tend to ignore their cultures and adopt other people's culture.(206519031)Mondli

Anonymous said...

Individuals are not 'objects' whose behaiviour are predictable and can be simply explained by identifying causes that exist outside the individual. Explanations of social behaviour must take into consideration the subjective and cultural meanings and beliefs that the individuals attach to themselves. My assumption is that people present themselves differently in different social contexts, therefore how people present themselves will depend on the way others view them. 205512694

Anonymous said...

Culture is a way of life. Something that is taught to us. At first we are like sponges but later on in life as our knowledge of the world increases so does our ability to try and experience other cultures. In this way culture can be seen as being similiar to language. And just like culture, we are able to learn other languages. Culture is also a form of communicating and relating

Deeven Sigamoney
206507211

Anonymous said...

Culture is a way of life. Something that is taught to us. At first we are like sponges but later on in life as our knowledge of the world increases so does our ability to try and experience other cultures. In this way culture can be seen as being similiar to language. And just like culture, we are able to learn other languages. Culture is also a form of communicating and relating

Deeven Sigamoney
206507211

Anonymous said...

For me culture is a practice, the way in which we conduct ourselves in everyday life. Culture is something that is learnt from the time we are born, the way we walk, talk,dress,eat, etc all has to do with the type of culture we follow.
However, on the other hand, a cult, is something that totally goes agianst the teachings and beliefs of one's culture. 205512694

Anonymous said...

Reading your message on the blog page got me thinking what if it is possible to both absorb our value system and also decide on our own what’s what. I am on the fence on this one because there are some values which we absorb from our parents and some we just decide on because on life experience. In this day having rights is the most exciting thing and we are able to decide on what say or do, it is said to be "freedom of choice". How is it that people who have the same culture speak different "Languages" when it comes to it shouldn't a culture have one universal language whereby each and every member could understand. Life for me is a very unclear "event" if I may call it that I says this because there are things the are required of you by society or parents to be done and you see no reason to do that and if you don't do it disrespect to your culture or elders. What is a person living in the 21st century to do because there are these western subcultures emerging being young and energetic you want to explore but we you come from restricts you. For example we Zulu girls we are expected to go for this virginity testing. If you don’t want to got elders assume you no more a virgin, if you go you feel as if somebody is invading your privacy. What a girl got to do in that situation. Then because you don't like what you do in your culture you explore other cultures that your elders take as offense disrespect. Do you think we should continue with old cultures or ancestors should we start our own? Which preferably won’t disappoint our elders in that matter?

Silindile Dlamini
205516430

Anonymous said...

To my understanding I would say a culture is a normative factor that may classify a group of people according to their language and even possibly race. But how much of the beliefs and practices of a culture would be expected from the people depends on the soceity they are brought up in. What I mean by soceity its the geographical location that one is brought up in and the age of the people that are involved in socializing you. If you could observe both male and female people who grew up in rural areas, urban areas and others from areas with mixed races you are most likely to find some similarity and difference. For some their culture wold be more deffused with that of those they shared their geographical location with, whereas others might still adhere to those beliefs strictly regarded as of that certain culture. Often you could find that people who grew up with their grandparents around they value alot of 'traditional' values of that particular culture. For example when a person would be choosing a marriage partner there might be certain things they'd require their spouse to possess.

TM sithole
206508302

Anonymous said...

I believe that our society and culture shapes who we are (our identity). Sometimes we may not like certain parts of our culture or another culture, and this is when cults develop, so as to stand out and go against the mainstream culture.

R Moodley
206 500 578

Anonymous said...

Culture can be considered a language, something that we grow up with, something that subconsciously becomes part of us and our everyday actions. The values and beliefs present are absorbed into our being and help us to make sense of the world and notice appreciate other cultures, or other ‘languages’. The ambiguousness comes from the fact that how speaking English makes us aware of the intricacies and beauty of other languages, such as Italian or French, and wanting to learn them, but actually speaking Italian to a society that prefers English propagates alienation and misunderstanding. So in most cultures we have the choice of wanting to explore other cultures that are different to our own, but acting upon that choice can result in rejection by members of our own culture.

Cults are surrounded by a lot of darkness and negativity. They are often formed when people, most notably the youth, run away from a troubled home or a life that does not satisfy them emotionally, where loneliness is the norm. Leaders of cults often brainwash members by pulling their emotional strings and promising a better sense of belonging if members partake in the cult’s often outlandish beliefs and rituals.

M Hemrajh
205516953

Anonymous said...

I don’t think that there is one answer for this question. We have a society that is so diverse and people react and absorb things differently, there are people who are like sponges and absorb their culture completely, their culture is what makes them. Then we also have people who belong to the “infamous” cults, society makes them as they absorb other cultures that are in society, cultures are open to influence one another making cultures fluid and more accepting of the ever changing society. It is easy to say that you identify with a counter culture but being active about absorbing it is a different story and that is when you find that culture restricts you from what you want to do. Making sense of the world that is already ambiguous is hard enough as it is, along with the confusion of trying to figure out who you are and find your identity.

206516466 (Ngema)

Anonymous said...

to me a cult is a group of people who follow a certain leader of the group. the leader has power over the group and the group subordinates to the leader because of the belief that he/she might of supernatural powers e.g. shembe followers which is a religious cult group. shembe was the leader of the religious cult group. the cult group may have certain practices and behaviour to identify themselves. they all have certain dress codes and symbols.

to me culture is ambiguios because it is made up of social constructions and subjectivity. therefore it has its own way of fabricating what real life is

N.B. Shube