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How are material and nonmaterial culture defined, and what are examples of material culture or nonmaterial culture?

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Greg Jackson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Material culture and nonmaterial culture are both expressions of a society. The former refers to the physical and tangible expressions of that society and the latter involves its values and ideas. Anthropologists and sociologists study both nonmaterial and material culture to get a fuller understanding of a society.

Material culture exists in the form of buildings, household and religious objects, and public spaces. Think of the objects and buildings that you would expect to see in just about every neighborhood in your society. If you are in North America, you could expect to see schools, houses of worship, homes of a certain size and style, parks and playgrounds, and roads. Inside most homes, you would expect to see a television or two, framed photos, wardrobes, furniture, and more. These are all expressions of culture in a material form. Traveling around the world and moving from culture to culture, you would see great variation in this. For instance, homes in Japan tend to be smaller...

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