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Social & Cultural Reality Theory in Action Essay

Q. 1. Challenge DeVito, O’Rourke and O’Neill’s (2000) definition of culture using Richards (1999) or Anae (1997). How do DeVito et al look at membership within a culture and how does Richards see it differently? DeVito, O’Rourke and O’Neill’s (2000, p. 99) definition of culture is very limited when describing modern cultures of globalised human society. Perhaps where people are isolated to villages, towns or countries with little communication with the outside world, the definition would be completely workable.

But now, due to access of information, global trade, travel and immigration etc the world is becoming more and more an eclectic melting pot of human culture. For most, our individual ‘culture’ is not definitive, but active, highly influenced, and ever-changing. This is especially the case when addressing one’s culture from an individual, identity-based standpoint. Cultural identity

As we can see in Parehau Richards opening speech of the 1998 ANZCA conference (Richards, 1999), Richards seeks to identify herself from both a Maori cultural and an academic standpoint, whilst weaving in the many social groups that have influenced her culture, including: * Two lines of tribal heritage * European ancestry * Catholic denomination * Upbringing by Anglican grandparents in a rural community * Education as a Maori woman * Academic position in a western learning institution. There is no one ‘culture’ (according to the DeVito et al definition) that would express Richards’ diverse identity.

Nor could her unique combination of values, beliefs, behaviours, communication styles etc, be packaged and labeled as any one particular ‘culture’. Membership DeVito et al assert that membership comes by way of either generational enculturation (passed down) or social acculturation (adopted). Richards’ expresses that membership is found by way of connection and association (through one’s denomination, ancestral origin etc); even to such things as places, mountains, rivers, workplaces etc. She uses this ‘connectedness’ to assist her communications to a socially and culturally diverse audience.

Q. 2. Explain 3 distinct ways that I communicate my culture to those around me. Choosing distinctive aspects of my culture indicate how they’re communicated One of the best things about coastal living is to host visitors from elsewhere. Visitors love our lifestyle, and for many its a brand new experience. We share our culture by showing the many things we do as part of our daily lives. Perhaps the most enjoyable, involves the sea. Hunting My husband Julian, an avid fisherman, is glad to take visitors out by boat. He takes fishing seriously, as a sport, a way of life and as plain good therapy!

Fishing is very much part of Kiwi culture, and continues to grow in popularity. For us it has deeper cultural roots. As descendants of the sub tribe ‘Te Whanau Moana’ (the sea family) our life as a people, is connected to the sea. For men, it is a most uplifting and manly thing to return home with a 30 kg Kingfish or bin full of snapper. Gathering The women and children spend hours on the beach, looking through rockpools, snorkeling, gathering shellfish. It’s a delight to come home with a bucket of ‘tuatuas’ (clam like mollusks) and make fritters. Gathering your own food is rewarding.

It connects you to nature, teaches you to appreciate and look after the planet and allows you to contribute with your own hands to the needs of the family. Loving A third way I would communicate my culture is through relationships as a Christian. We are learning to follow the lifestyle and teachings of Jesus who modeled Christianity. A fundamental element of his culture is to ‘lay down your life for others’. For him, that was to the point of death. For us, it’s simply putting another’s needs before our own. So whether we feel we can or want to, if led, we draw strength from God to help where we should.

This may mean dropping off some fish to help a family, or spending time on the phone to guide a friend in hardship. We are taught that laying down your life for another is the fruit of real love. Essay Social & Cultural reality theory in action Melissa Peters Bachelor of Arts Student, Open Polytechnic Introduction How is it we know when to laugh, cry or shout? Or when it would be rude or inappropriate to do so? Why is it we value integrity, honesty, respect…or not? And where do our religious or spiritual beliefs and practices come from?

This essay looks at theories of social construction and their part in the development of cultural and societal realities. We look at constructivism as a means of learning social norms, values, beliefs etc using examples from the production ‘Tapu’ (Smith and Haami, 2000). In particular we’ll address the theories of emotional construction and rule governing. So what is social construction? Social construction is the idea that our understanding of reality derives from interaction with others. It refers to the way we create meaning and understanding to build collectively held beliefs.

These beliefs are called “social constructions” or “constructs”. In the 1967 book, The Social Construction of Reality, Berger and Luckmann argue that all knowledge, including the most basic, taken-for-granted common sense knowledge of everyday reality, is derived from and maintained by social interactions. (Wikipedia, 2012). Culture is a vital aspect of social construction. Our culture is both a lens we see through, and a feature of our own unique grasp of reality. Santrock (1999, p. 15) defines culture as “the behaviour patterns, belief and all other products of a particular group of people that are passed on from generation to generation”.

According to Devito, (DeVito et al 2000, p. 99), culture refers to the relatively specialised lifestyle of a group of people. This includes attributes of culture such as behaviours, values, beliefs and practices. Tapu and Maori culture Tapu is part of the spiritual dynamic of Maori culture. The collective belief of tapu presided prior to the integration of Christianity. Not to be confused with any deity or idol of worship, tapu was a religious observance, and acted as a means of social ordering and governance. The subject of Tapu is complex and somewhat metaphysical with broad application.

If something or someone was said to be ‘tapu’ (adjective), it meant they were very sacred. As a noun, a tapu was placed on something, it was sacred and not to be touched, eaten, visited or similar. A darker element of tapu, often misused and perverted, was known as “Makutu” (sorcery, witchcraft, magic). It relates to the supernatural realm and includes the use of makutu to inflict physical and psychological harm, even death. In the DVD we see tapu as a social construct – a feature of the culture. The documentary addresses how belief in tapu was observed in the past, and is still acknowledged today.

There are two areas of social construction theory I will highlight, as I see them outworking in the documentary. Construction in action To illustrate the broad area of social constructivism in action, here’s a great example: In the interview with Hone Kaa, the children were not familiar with tapu until they came to live on the marae. There they were exposed to the ‘realities’ of tapu. Hone recalls his and his siblings’ sores that wouldn’t heal, and also mentions wood they’d collected for firewood. The district nurse prescribed sulphur cream to aid healing.

At the same time, an elder accused Hone’s mother of “eating defiled food”. The family discovered that the tree used for firewood was in fact a ‘sacred tree’, and over many generations the after births of newborn babies were placed under the tree, making it very tapu (in this context very sacred, restricted in use, and likely the object of incantations to incite consequences to any who breach tapu restrictions). Hone recalls his mother was filled with fear upon learning they had violated the tapu of the tree. The tohunga (priest) performed a cleansing ritual to free the family from the effects of the tapu.

When the sores miraculously healed we see two conflicting realities in effect: 1. The health nurse’s reality Her construct of healing is purely physical and scientific. When the sores are healed she gives full credit to the medicinal balm and would likely be disbelieving of the ritual’s effectiveness. 2. The family’s reality Hone tells us the family members were completely convinced their healing was due to the ceremonial cleansing and not the medicine administered. Even though tapu was unfamiliar to the children, by experiencing violating tapu and the relative remedy, they were learning the construct of tapu.

Through interaction with the parents, the uncles, the tohunga, the wood and the rituals, their social construct of tapu was being formed. Seeing the sores healed after the ritual was performed reinforced this construct for them, making tapu a certain aspect of their reality. The social construction of Emotion When Hone Kaa’s mother was filled with fear (as mentioned above) it demonstrates her social construct of emotion in the given situation. Through knowledge and experience she must have understood the ramifications and severity of violating tapu. Hence, the manifest emotion was fear.

Averill suggests that emotions are belief systems that guide one’s definition of the situation (Littlejohn 1999, p. 181). Based on what she believed (that breaking tapu had dire consequences) we could assume that the mother’s fear was of what could happen as a ramification, the disapproval of the social group offended, or shame of the family’s actions. Averill asserts that every emotion has an object, and in this case the object is the violated tapu; the mother is afraid of what the breach of tapu may mean for her and her family. Again, if she weren’t operating under the construct of tapu as a reality, she need not fear.

Applying Averill’s four rules for governing emotions to this situation, we see that using: 1. Appraisal – means the children are aware the emotion of the mother is labeled fear, and that it is negative 2. Behaviour – tells us that by manifesting fear, the children are being taught that the transgression committed is harmful 3. Prognosis – teaches us the required remedy is the ‘cleansing’ ritual, and the fear doesn’t end until the ritual is completed, or the fear is realised. By performing the cleansing, they believe they will now avoid or remedy the negative consequence 4.

Attribution – sees the justification or explanation of the emotion. In this case, the significance of the tapu, and the reality of it’s meaning, provides ample reason for such fear. The severity of consequences would likely relate to the degree of tapu on a particular thing, here one could say the tree was very tapu. To supplement this example, later in the DVD a man describes the sadness Maori experience when wahii tapu (burial ground or sacred place) lands are developed. Because of the sacredness of such sites, to violate their consecrated purpose is utter exploitation and trampling on what is dear and precious.

The Maori value so much the setting aside and making sacred of such lands, the idea of disrespecting them causes great anguish and despair. This emotional construct shows us the significance of tapu to Maori people. Shimanoff’s Rule-Governing approach Apparent in the DVD is the framework of rules surrounding tapu practice and belief. Shimanoff defines a rule as “a followable prescription that indicates what behaviour is obligated, preferred, or prohibited in certain contexts” (Littlejohn, 1999, p. 184). There are many examples of ‘rules’ applied to objects of tapu such as burial grounds (in particular Papamoa), sacred trees, even body parts.

In particular the example of Hone Kaa’s firewood demonstrates a rule about a tree such as: ‘The tree is tapu and should be left alone and untouched – treated with reverence/respect’. Or in the case of certain lands like Papamoa: ‘The wahii tapu, is to be preserved, not developed and set aside for the purpose of burial and respecting the dead’. To verify a rule against Shimanoff’s theory of rule governance, these elements must be present in the rule: 1. Rule is followable: Can an agent choose whether to follow or violate the rule, and is it possible to follow? For example, “Do not disrespect, build on, or change this land”.

Local Maori have followed the rule, however council has violated the rule with development. 2. It is prescriptive. Is a course of action called for and can one be criticized for failing to abide? For example, “The wahii tapu is to be left alone and not changed”. Council can be criticised for allowing development. 3. It’s contextual. Does the general rule always apply or is it specific to a specific type of situation? In this case, wahii tapu is relative to the said lands, but does not restrict council from approving development on other lands in the area; only that which is said to be wahii tapu.

4. Specifies appropriate behaviour. Tells us how to behave or not behave in relation to the rule. Exampled in Tapu is the concept of ‘lifting’ tapu, i. e. cancelling the rule on a designated object, hence neutralizing the tapu originally invoked. This could be described as “breaking the spell/curse” onced placed on the object. So, for the council to use the land, the appropriate thing to do, would be to work with Maori to lift any associated tapu. Conclusion To conclude, the documentary Tapu provides excellent examples of theories of social and cultural reality.

The Maori culture is unique in its practice and the concept of tapu has been preserved and continues to be respected to this present day. Tapu has survived, and exists alongside the many different cultures now present in New Zealand, namely due to the effectiveness of social construction throughout generations. Reference list Definition. (n. d. ). Social constructionism. Retrieved March 14, 2012, from Wikipedia website: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Social_ DeVito, J. , O’Rourke, S. , & O’Neill, L. The culture in communication. In Human communication (New Zealand ed. , pp. 99-118).

Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education New Zealand. Reilly, A. (1999). Exploring the construction of my cultural identities. Beginning Journeys: A Collection of Works, 5, 26-29. makutu. (n. d. ). Retrieved March 23, 2012, from Maori Dictionary website: http://www. maoridictionary. co. nz/index. cfm? dictionaryKeywords=makutu&search. x=0&search. y=0&search=search&n=1&idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan= Littlejohn, S. (1999). Theories of social and cultural reality. In Theories of human communication (6th ed. , pp. 1750198). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Richards, P. (1999). Communicating people and place. In J. DeVito, S.

O’Rourke, & L. O’Neill (Eds. ), Human communication (New Zealand ed. , pp. x-xvi). Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education New Zealand. Santrock, J. (1997). Life-Span Development (8th ed. ). USA: Brown & Benchmark Sharp, G. , & Wade, L. (Speakers). (2008, September 16). Social Construction [Youtubeclip]. Youtube. Retrieved from http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=GVVWmZAStn8&feature=player_detailpage Tapu. (n. d. ). Retrieved March 18, 2012, from Maori Dictionary website: http://www. maoridictionary. co. nz/index. cfm? dictionaryKeywords=tapu&search. x=0&search. y=0&search=search&n=1&idiom=&phrase=&proverb=&loan=.


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