Amanee is a 21 years old Muslim girl from Egypt. She lived in a very religious, educated household. She came to the United States to study English. She is living alone with her roommate from the same country. Once she finishes school, she will be back home with her family. Describe and analyze some facts of the term enculturation of Amanee’s process. Describe how she became enculturated when she came to the United States putting in mind references to Religion.
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Culture influences people’s beliefs, values, and behaviors and often classifies people into distinct groups. However, as people interact within and without their cultural territory, they get in touch with different cultures. Hence, culture can be learned through two important processes: enculturation and acculturation. Enculturation refers to the process by which an individual learns the values, beliefs, and behaviors of his/ her own culture (Matsumoto and Juang p. 134).
A child is born with no culture but gets to learn his/her culture through interaction with other family members and later own with another member of the society with the same cultural background. As Matsumoto and Juang state, enculturation simply involves the development of an individual’s ethnic identity (p. 155). It is through enculturation that an individual identifies himself/herself as a member of a certain cultural group.
Acculturation, on the other hand, refers to the process by which an individual learns a new culture. This is often associated with people who get to interact with other people from different cultural backgrounds. When an individual emigrates from one community to the other, it is obvious that he/she will have to conform to the host’s cultural norms and beliefs. This would be the case for Amanee in the United States. Apart from ethnicity, people can also be enculturated or acculturated through religion. In the case above, Amanee is enculturated into the Islamic religion, but she is likely to be acculturated into western world culture through her stay in the United States. This paper thus presents a description and analysis of Amanee’s enculturation process from a religious point of view.
Amanees Enculturation Process
Paul Tillich (1957) defines religion as “the expression of humanity’s ultimate concerns, the articulation of longing for the center of meaning and value and connection with the power of being” (cited in Anderson, par. 6). In anthropological terms, religion can be defined as a system of belief in mystical forces. Religion in this context often has symbols and rituals associated with the supernatural forces to make life meaningful.
Just like culture, religion also consists of distinct patterns of values, beliefs, and behavior defining different religious groups. Hence, religion defines how members of a particular religious society carry out themselves including their beliefs and values. In this regard, the Islamic religion has a clear set of beliefs, values, and codes of conduct that define how both men and women operate within society. Muslim religion identifies a person by a unique name, food habits, and religious rituals adherence (Kabir p. 2). Muslims have unique names that make them stand out in society. Their religion also forbids them from interacting with non-Muslim believers.
In the Islamic religion, a woman/girl is expected to be submissive, obedient, and God-fearing. Her dressing code should disguise her body figure explaining why Muslim women are always dressed in hijabs. She is also expected to pray at least five times a day and observe all the religious rituals. She is not expected to consume “unclean” food or drink such as pork. She should be aggressive in looking for knowledge, but should never use such knowledge to challenge the male status in society.
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Islam teaches that women are “inferior” to men. They are sometimes excluded from the mosques and are never allowed to hold any significant leadership position in society. The role of a Muslim woman in society is simply reduced to child-rearing. In short, the Islamic religion teaches Muslim girls to be modest both in their dressing and behavior and to be submissive to men. Girls are taught to be better mothers in the future.
Such enculturation process may be difficult and confusing for a Muslim girl from a well-educated family. For instance, Islamic teaching that women and men are “unequal” contradicts the Qur’an’s teaching, which accords both men and women equal spiritual status. The Qur’an states:
For Muslim men and women- for believing men and women, for devoted men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah praise- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. (33:35)
Amanee must have been enculturated through the church teaching to be submissive and inferior to men, but conforming to this teaching would be difficult for her since she comes from a very educated family that must have interacted with knowledge from different parts of the world and probably believes that women are just as superior as men. Her first enculturation process, which began at the family level, must have taught her to be religious, but also seek knowledge to challenge whatever she disapproves of. This gives her the freedom to look for knowledge and use it in understanding her cultural beliefs and values.
Amanee could thus seek knowledge from the Qur’an and learn for herself that both men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah. In simple terms, Amanee’s enculturation into a Muslim girl must have been faced with challenges.
When she came to the United States, her enculturation must have been challenged by westernization. While she must have been enculturated to believe that women are inferior to men, she is faced with a new western culture whereby both men and women are equal. Will she trade her religious values and beliefs for western values? Besides, western culture has no restriction on food and dressing code challenging Amanee’s enculturation.
What about interaction with non-Muslim believers? Muslims believe that non-Muslims are sinners hence they should not interact freely with them. Will this belief affect Amanee’s interaction with other students? Last, Amanee’s enculturation process must have only exposed her to the Arabic language yet she now wants to learn English. Will this affect Amanee’s ability to learn English?
Amanee’s Learning Process
Every person is born into this world without culture but has to go through a learning process to acquire one. The first avenue for enculturation is the family. Once Amanee was born into this world, it became the duty of her family to rear her. Through the process of rearing, Amanee was able to acquire the first two cultural identities: name and language. Having been born in a Muslim family, it is automatic that Amanee was given a Muslim name to identify with other members of the cultural group.
Second, Amanee must have acquired language from her family. Having been born to a Muslim family in Egypt, it is automatic that Amanee’s family speaks Arabic and she acquired the same language from her family. It is also through her family that Amanee must have learned the religious virtues of her culture. She must have learned the basics of prayer from her family.
The second avenue for Amanee’s learning process is the church. Through Muslim teachings, Amanee learned what entails Islamic faith: the expected codes of conduct including behavior, values, and beliefs. She must have learned through church teachings that a Muslim girl is: inferior to a Muslim boy; must be modest in her dressing; must refrain from important leadership positions; must be generous; and must not consume any “unclean” food or drink.
The third avenue for Amanee’s learning process is the school. Going through the education system in her country, a predominantly Muslim society must have helped her acquire important etiquette that defines her as an educated Muslim girl.
The fourth and the last avenue for Amanee’s enculturation process is interaction with other members of the Islamic community. Members of the same cultural community possess the same beliefs, values, and behaviors, but might have slight differences in how they interpret and exercise them. Through Amanee’s interaction with different members of the Muslim society, she must have learned different versions of her Islamic culture.
All these avenues are present for learning in every enculturation process. While the family comes at a tender age in a person’s life and proceeds through his/her life cycle, the other avenues come at a later stage in the enculturation process. The learner is thus presented with knowledge from different avenues and has to sort out all these sources of knowledge and blend them to conform to the culture. Amanee thus must have had the challenge of blending and sorting out knowledge from different sources in her enculturation process into a Muslim girl.
Anthropological Insights of the Case
From this case, it is clear that religion plays an important role in the enculturation process. This is true especially in a religious society whereby culture is derived from religious beliefs and values. The church teachings shape people’s values, beliefs, and behavior and in turn transform a group into a unique cultural community. A child born to a religious family will always tend to acquire religious values and beliefs from the family, which is later enhanced by church teachings.
The case analysis has also revealed that enculturation is never an easy process, but a challenging process with many factors influencing it. While the family and church teachings instill values and beliefs into an individual, his/her educational status and interactional level with other members of the cultural group will greatly determine his/her behavior. A non-educated Muslim woman would be submissive and consider herself inferior to the male gender. However, an educated Muslim woman would question Muslim values and beliefs concerning gender equality.
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Finally, the analysis of this case has revealed that one’s enculturation process affects his/her acculturation in the future. This is especially true in cases whereby an individual’s host culture contradicts his/her parent culture. For this reason, it is difficult for Amanee to abandon her religious beliefs and values to embrace western beliefs.
Anderson, Margaret L. “Women and Religion.”Thinking About Women: Sociological Perspectives on Sex and Gender (Chapter 8: 232-259). Web.
Kabir, Nahid. “Enculturation and Acculturation of Young Muslims in Australia: What is the right mix?” Online Proceedings of Annual Conference of the Cultural Studies Association of Australia (CSAA) Held 6-8 December 2007 at 2008 UniSA, Adalaide, Sustaining Culture, 2008. Web.
Matsumoto, David and Juang, Linda. Culture and Psychology. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadworth, 2008. Print.
The Qur’an (Oxford World’s Classics). Trans. M. A. S. Abdel Haleem. USA: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.