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How does Culture Shape Your Identity?

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Lindsay Rath

on 23 March 2015

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Transcript of How does Culture Shape Your Identity?

How does Culture Shape Your Identity?
Assimilation, Diffusion and Multiculturalism
Assimilation, diffusion and multiculturalism are terms that are often applied to shaping our culture. These terms can have a positive or negative impact to how we live.

Assimilation is a process of consistent integration where members of a minority group begin to lose their uniqueness and take on the cultural characteristics of the majority group. Assimilation can be applied on a small and large scale.

On a smaller scale, assimilation can simply be the transition into high school. In elementary school, you identity yourself through your school’s mascot and spirit wear. On occasions, you wear your school colours and cheer for your sport teams or school clubs; however, this changes once you begin high school. You no longer identify yourself by your original school’s colours. Instead, you embrace the new environment and change. You begin to wear your high school’s colours to school events as you cheer on your new team.

Assimilation on a large scale has a greater affect and can sometimes be negative. The transition is often harder to go through. For instance, residential schools that once existed in Canada took young First Nations and tried to assimilate them into the European culture. These children were forced to embrace their new culture by learning a new language, wearing new clothes and eating new food. This made the First Nation population less unique as more and more children began to adapt to the European culture.

On cultural terms, diffusion is when cultural traits such as objects, ideas or behaviour patterns are spread from one culture to another. Cultural diffusion can be implied in various aspects in life such as food, thoughts on religion, music, language, the clothes we wear or our education. Due to Canada’s diversity, Canadians are exposed to various entertainment and production services across the world. We often have products imported from the United States, Asia or Europe.
Culture and Identity
France and England, the two founding nations, shaped Canadian’s early culture. As a result, the Canadian government tried to assimilate the First Nations into the European lifestyle. Eventually, the Canadian government changed this approach and embraced the First Nations which greatly affected our Constitution, as well as our attitude towards the environment, education and justice system.

In addition to the First Nations, the United States became a greater influence on Canada once we became more independent. Now in today’s world, Canada is often defined to be a multicultural country due to our acceptance towards all ethnic backgrounds. This was made possible due to the Multiculturalism Act in 1971. The act states that “freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage”.

We often wonder if our identity has been shaped throughout our life but how has culture shaped our identity? Well, follow the path and see how culture has impacted our lives.

Multiculturalism is an ideology that states all cultures are of equal value and should be promoted equally within the same nation. Since Canada is defined to be a multicultural country, various ethnic backgrounds are incorporated into our cities such as Toronto. Toronto has various sections dedicated to different cultures such as “Korea-town” and “China-town”. In addition, Toronto also has ethnic neighbourhoods so immigrants with specific heritages can settle into Canada within a familiar environment.
All human beings grow up to be an adult, but cultures throughout the world look at this process in various different ways. These processes are often defined by a “rite of passage”. A rite of passage is a ceremony, ritual or event that marks a change in life or status. Many cultures have ceremonies to mark birth, adolescence, marriage and death; although, cultures vary greatly in how they mark these occasions.
Rites of Passage
The first stage is called segregation. In this stage, the person undergoing the rite of passage is separated from the rest of society and from his or her original status. This often includes a geographic change as well as a change in physical appearance such as body paint or special clothing.

The second stage is the transition stage or known as the liminal stage. This stage can last for a few hours, days, months or years. The person going through the rite of passage is becoming his or her new self and is learning the new role. In this stage there is often guidance, learning or instruction from a mentor who has completed the rite themselves; however, in some cultures the individual must go through the rite of passage alone.

The last stage is called incorporation and reintegration. The individual is reintegrated into regular society in his or her new role. The new role can be marked by tattoos, scars, body paint or special new clothing. The individual gives up something to symbolically indicate that one role has ended and one has begun. They are expected to assume new tasks and are formally recognized by the society in his or her new status.

Three-Stage Process
Rites of passage exist to help individuals move from one stage of life to another, reduce stress, create emotional bonds, and strengthen the fabric of society. Three rites of passage that Canadians go include being born, reaching puberty and experiencing death. These passages may seem simple but different cultures go through different processes than we do as Canadians.

In Austria, giving gifts to expecting parents is considered to be bad luck; however, in Canada, expected parents receive many gifts from a baby shower to help them get started as parents. Also in Austria, most parents baptize their babies and select god parents. God parents are charged with Easter gifts and moral support until the child is fourteen. Similarity, many parents in Canada baptize their children and assign god parents but parents give their own children Easter gifts on Easter.

Reaching Puberty:
In the Mescalero Apache tribe, the transition from childhood to adulthood for females revolves around the first menstruation. Once a year in early July, girls who first menstruate gather together for four days and nights in a large teepee. They wear special clothing to represent the white painted woman. They celebrate by dancing and singing and they are reminded of their ancestry and obligations. In the incorporation and reintegration stage, the girls put their childhood aside and become full members of their tribe and community. On the other hand, Canada provides classes on reaching puberty so preteens can understand and help cope going through physical and emotional changes that are associated with puberty.

In Judaism, the parents, spouse, siblings and children of the deceased go through a seven-day mourning period called Shiva. During this time, mourners are not supposed to go work or school. Shiva allows families mark the passage of the deceased before continuing with their own lives. In Canadian culture, families mourn by having a funeral for their loved one which is typically followed with a service to remember the deceased.

Comparing Canadian Rites vs. Other Cultures
Race and Ethnicity
The idea of race has been used in the past to justify social, economic, and political inequalities and excuse hatred, cruelty and violence. We often make assumptions based upon our external characteristics. We define race based on our skin pigment; however, race does not exist. According to the American Anthropological Association, race does not exist on scientific terms. There is more genetic variation that exists within “races” rather than between them. Racial identity is not genetically constructed; it is socially constructed. We identify ourselves through learned behaviour within our own cultures.

Human Variation:
Charles Darwin outlined how living things evolve through natural selection. Natural selection occurs through variation, heritability and environmental fitness.
1. variation: every species has a lot of variety within it
2. Heritability: individuals pass on traits to their offspring
3. Environmental fitness: individuals who are better adapted to their environment will produce more offspring and pass on their traits to the next generation

Therefore, many of these favourable traits are the result of a population’s isolation or migration. Many racial traits such as eye colour have no evolutionary advantage at all.

Gender is defined by a person’s culture, not biological factors. We make this distinction because societies vary in how males and females perceive each other as well as how we define ourselves as men and women and the appropriate roles we play. These concepts are not the same in all cultures, nor are they fixated at birth. There are many expectations about how a woman should look, act, behave and what she should wants. Based on assumption, the Western culture believes that women are more nurturing, emotional and caring than men. On the other hand, the Western culture does not devote as much as time to analyze male gender roles compared to female gender roles. Historically, there are some tasks that were predominantly done by men in all societies, such as hunting, mining, woodworking and warfare. In today’s society with the increasing number of women in the workforce and support from the Canadian government, men are taking more responsibility for child care in their families.
Technology and Culture
Technology is the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.

Culture is the total system of ideas, values, behaviours, and attitudes of a society commonly shared by most members of society.

Present Times
Today, most human societies have incredibly complex technologies such as airplanes, water purification systems and cell phones. When a society adopts a new technology, it also adopts the idea, language, social structures and then it leads to a change in culture.

In order for technology to be adopted into a culture, the innovation must:
1. Become known
2. Be accepted by many people
3. Fit into an existing system of knowledge

Other factors:
• Whether an authority endorses it
• Weather it meets a perceived need
• If it appeals to people’s sense of prestige
• How well it fits with local customs

Positive Affects
Digital technology is substantially changing our culture in a positive way, which brings Canadians closer together. Overall, digital technology can have a profound effect on how people do their job, whom they interact with and how they interact with them, and the different issues and events that they are exposed to. Research is less intrusive, which makes things faster and easier. Digital technology is also being integrated into classrooms. Things such as chalk boards and overheads are being replaced with a smart board, which makes things neater and more precise. In addition, digital technology has been developed into marking. There are websites available for teachers so they can check for plagiarism, and spelling and grammar. Moreover, digital technology has impacted other aspects of culture such as the medical field. Doctors can research symptoms at a click of a button which can cure more people. Also, more research can be done on more complex health issues such as cancer.
by Lindsay Rath
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