This edition: Characteristics of Culture
The state of Oaxaca, Mexico, is the backdrop of this lesson, which explores the nature of culture and how cultures are studied. The Oaxacan society is used to illustrate the basic characteristics of culture: an integrated, dynamic system of beliefs, values, and behaviors that are shared by the members of a society wholly; learned and based on symbolic systems; and constituting humankind’s most important method of adaptation. Jayne Howell’s work in Oaxaca aims to determine how this society in transition is adapting to the pressures imposed by outside forces. It illustrates some of the methods of research that ethnographers employ in a biocultural approach to discovering how the world’s diverse cultures function.