SW 5235:  American Indians and Social Policy


Described below are six important concepts about the “deep structure of culture.”  Awareness of them helps us understand culture as a process.

It is by understanding your culture’s rules that you know how to greet a person younger than you, older than you, a friend, a stranger.  Cultural rules help you to know how to hold a baby.  Cultural rules shape food preferences, and celebrations—determine whether you celebrate the sun or the moon; whether you wear a dress or pants, or nothing at all.  These rules give meaning to all the events and experiences of life.  The essence of culture is not these behaviors themselves, but the rules that produce the behaviors.

Because culture is learned, it is a mistake to assume a person’s culture by the way s/he looks.  Someone can be racially black and culturally Irish.  A person can also become bi-cultural or tri-cultural by learning the rules of cultures other than his or her own primary group.

Carol Brunson Phillips

February 27, 1991