24 Family as Culture

Janelle Cruz

Almost everyone has a circle of people that they find themselves close to, whether familial or chosen. Those circles of people have their own circles of people, too. Therefore, familial and intimate relationships make up a substantial part of social life. However, “family” can look different to everyone you meet. Some people can be incredibly close to their immediate, blood-related family while some people are no longer in contact with them. Family does not have to be rooted in blood, and we can argue that family is a social construct. A universal understanding of “family” is therefore not really possible; however, it is evident that socialization is an important part of family through teaching, learning, and reciprocating. Within the family, members most likely find themselves to have shared beliefs and behaviours or a similar way of life that they all subscribe to and practice on a day-to-day basis. Your family would ultimately influence your way of thinking, traditions, values, and everyday actions. Therefore, we can say that family is central to our idea of “culture.”"A metal bowl shown directly from above with chopped beets, carrots, yams, and herbs inside."

The term “culture” can be used in different sociological theoretical perspectives. In sociology, we can see family through a structural-functionalist lens, through a symbolic interactionist lens, or through an intersectional lens. The structural-functionalist approach describes macro-social interactions which can affect groups found on a large-scale, such as whole communities, provinces or states, and countries. Here, culture can refer to the idea of, for instance, what makes a nation, or what makes someone a member of a community. On the other hand, the symbolic interactionist approach describes micro-social interactions which tends to be more individualistic and face-to-face interactions with friends, peers, employers, etc. In this case, culture could be the family life-ways that are shared, like food served on special occasions and family recipes. The intersectional approach for families in sociology considers how oppression and privilege intersect in building personal identities and familial relationships. Culture in this sense could refer to preserving traditions that are systematically eradicated by dominant social ideologies, such as threatened languages. For example, Assiniboine is a critically endangered Siouan language of the Northern Plains of the USA and Canada;[1] preserving this language could concomitantly help preserve a way of life.

shared ways of life associated with beliefs, values, rituals, good, art, and the like; the shared ideas of “a good life”

  1. See https://ftbelknaplanguagepreservation.com/FBLPPAssiniboine.html


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Gender in Canada: A Companion Workbook Copyright © 2023 by Janelle Cruz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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