Is Culture?, continued
Obviously, a single
individual may be a male, a nurse, a baby boomer, an Asian- American,
a middle-class Southerner and a Catholic (gender,
occupational, age, class, regional, racial, and religious subcultures)
while still being a member of a larger cultural group. Moreover, an individual
may move more fluidly through some subcultural groups than others. Age,
for example, cannot be changed, but people sometimes move from one religious,
occupational, or class subculture to another.
to this picture of culture and subcultures is that seemingly similar
across ethnic groups may be very different
in content. While gender subcultures exist in all cultural groups,
they exhibit different characteristics across groups: The roles and
of women and men in Arabic cultures, for example, are quite different
from the norms for the genders in many European cultures. A culturally
aware person will not expect gender subcultures to be the same across
ethnic groups and will not make assumptions based on the characteristics
of subcultures within a single cultural group.
Avoiding such easy
assumptions when policy making, planning, or delivering health and
services to several different ethnic or cultural groups is critical.
interaction of subcultures, and the dynamism that occurs when a culture
interacts with its total social and material environment,
individuals and groups within a single culture vary in terms of
their acceptance and enactment of core cultural values, customs, beliefs,
and norms. In small, relatively homogeneous ethnic groups, this
is not great; in complex societies in which there is much interaction
among many cultural groups and subcultural groups, consistent immigration
of a variety of groups, easy travel across regions, and much outside
influence, intracultural variation tends to be much greater.
surprisingly, with all this complexity, cultures are dynamic. They
change and adapt over time through a variety of influences:
with other cultures, the invention of new technologies, war,
and environmental change, just to name a few. Some aspects of a culture
as with religious beliefs or social roles; other aspects of culture
more rapidly, such as adoption of new foods or technologies.
of health, mental health, disease, disability, and well-being,
if they are linked to a culture’s religious or spiritual
beliefs, which they often are, may be resistant to change. However,
with the advent
of new health care technologies and procedures that are seen
to be effective, even long-held beliefs often can be modified.
aware person is mindful of these dynamic aspects of culture and
is cautious not to easily generalize or stereotype individuals
based on an over- simplified evaluation of their cultural backgrounds.
Cultural awareness includes an understanding of the potential interaction
among subcultural identities within each individual person and
the implications of that interaction for health and mental health