What is Culture?
This paper examines culture and its characteristics. To answer this question, the paper reviews two videos. The first video by Mark Allen Peterson (24:12minutes) examines culture in general while the second video (Indian culture, 19.55 minutes) examines how a specific culture brings out the characteristics of culture as elaborated in the first video. I will first briefly review the two videos and then offer an assessment of them.
The main theme of the first video is culture. The lecture is concerned with the features of culture. The video explains that all human beings act from ideas learnt from others, which are then embedded in the social and material networks in which they live. These are then reproduced, habitualized, and passed on to new members of the society unless circumstances encourage change. What is Culture? Culture is learned systems of meaning that are shared by particular people. Therefore, people act out of human need for meaning and how we act is not from a vacuum but from how others have acted that were before us. Meaning gives us values and strategies to pursue those values and act in the world effectively. For example, almost all animals mate but it is only humans that marry with elaborate rituals and ceremonies, with sets of rights and responsibilities, with legal contracts and sacred myths that are invoked.
Culture is symbolic, and communicative; a shared system of knowledge that defines people and generated through encounters with others. Additionally, culture is adaptive as it continuously borrow from other sources or cultures and shifts in context from time to time due to economic, social, environmental, and political conditions.
The importance of this video is that it clearly achieves what it stated it was dealing with. It is well organized and it gives concrete examples as it tackles the different aspects of culture. It is thought provoking and adds to my understanding of what culture is.
The second video concretizes the characteristics of culture: presents an aspect over culture, which is the ability to adapt as it comes into contact with other cultures.
The video presents India as a huge country with many diversities exemplified in food habits, mode of dressing, and dances. However, with all these diversities, there is an underlying unity, which holds the Indian nation together. The mixing of people has been taking place in India over centuries, which leads to composite and dynamic culture. Despite changes, the Indian culture has endured over history. There is continuity and change in the Indian culture. An example of the change is the different forms of dance and music that have evolved over time, including the numerous festivals and customs. However, the basic spirit of the culture has endured.
The adaptability and richness of culture in India is exemplified by the many diverse racial groups who have inhabited India, such as the mongoloids and proto-Australoids. Moreover, different ethnic groups have also settled and mingled with the local population. Adaptability of culture is shown by the example of India as different people came to India with their cultural habits, ideas, and thoughts, which have been amalgamated into the existing culture. The Indian cultures also show a remarkable capacity for assimilating ideas, which gives credence to the first video’s claim that culture is generated through encounter with others.
The video explains that although different people in India have their distinct culture and this supports the explanation given in the first video, culture is a learned system of meaning shared by a particular people.
This video although it helps in giving concrete ideas on how culture is diverse and particular, it is not well organized in terms of its flow of ideas and it is very repetitive. Therefore, it still adds to my understanding and knowledge of what culture is.
Indian Culture. (2013, June 30). Indian Culture for IAS Mains Online Coaching
Video [Part 1]. Indian Culture. Video retrieved from
Peterson, Allen M. (2014, September 6). People of the World at Miami University
[Lectures in Anthropology 175].WhatisCulture? Video retrieved from