Photo Essay

Home as Material Culture

Homes are good examples of material culture. Their construction is influenced not only by local materials but also by ideas of what a home is. Homes shape the context in which family members interact, so they can influence the nonmaterial culture – including beliefs, values and symbols. Houses, like clothes, act as symbols that communicate levels of prestige.


Questions to Consider:

  1. When looking at the pictures above, can you tell which home houses the most important person? Why or why not? How does your answer reveal how symbols are social constructions whose meaning may vary from society to society?

  2. How did the size, shape, and material of the building in which you were raised indicate your family’s social class level?

  3. How do the physical of material aspects of dwellings in which families reside shape the interaction and experiences of family members and thereby influence the nonmaterial culture shared by a family?

  4. How much privacy did the home in which you were raised provide for each of its members? How did that influence your family life when you were a child and your expectations for family life as an adult?