Unit Two: Studying Africa through the Social Studies
Module Eight: Culture and Society in Africa
Introduction to Module 8
PURPOSE: Module Eight: Culture and Society in Africa is an examination of what is meant by the concepts of culture and society. We do not want to define these categories as if they are set in stone, but rather challenge students to think about the usefulness of as well as the problems created by such concepts. "Culture" and "society" are commonly thought of as the way of life of a group of people. While studying a people's "culture" can be meaningful, it can also lead to overgeneralizations and stereotypes about groups of people.
In this module, we want to emphasize the diversity within cultures and societies as well as among them. At the same time, we will challenge students to think about similarities that they may see between themselves and people in Africa, realizing that they may not be so very different in some respects. We have chosen to focus on only a few aspects of culture and society since these categories are very broad and potentially inclusive of many things. Students should be challenged to think about other aspects of culture not included in this module, both in various regions of Africa and in their own cultures and societies. It should also be clear to students in this module that Africa is a culturally diverse place with a history of global connections with cultures inside and outside of Africa.
- What do the terms "culture" and "society" mean?
- What behaviors, expressions, and ways of living do we categorize as representative of a culture or a society?
- What is useful and not useful about using concepts such as culture and society?
- What can the study of language tell us about cultures and societies in Africa?
- What can we learn about family and communities in Africa?
- What similarities and differences can you find between your own culture and those you have learned about in Africa?
OBJECTIVES: After completing this module, students will have gained the following:
- An understanding of some of the positive and negative aspects of the concepts of culture and society.
- A sense of the wide range of topics that can be described as aspects of a particular culture or society.
- An understanding of the diversity of languages in Africa, and how the study of language can be useful in understanding cultures and societies.
- A few examples of what family and community life can be like in various regions in Africa.
- An evaluation of how the students' own culture is similar to and different from those learned about in Africa.
Go on to Overview for Module 8