Cultural Milieu: Definition & Explanation

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

This lesson provides examples of cultural milieus and how sociologists use this term to help understand society. After the lesson, you will check your knowledge of the concept with a quiz.

‚Äč!!!Definition of Cultural Milieu

Cultural milieu refers to the setting and environment in which a person lives, including social and cultural aspects of life. The term comes from the French word milieu, meaning 'middle.' Countries that have been influenced by the French language use this word to describe a location and cultural environment. A way to remember what the word means is to think of being in the 'middle' of a particular cultural 'milieu.'

You may hear this term used to describe a particular time and place, such as 'the cultural milieu of 19th century Boston' or the 'cultural milieu of modern-day Buenos Aires.' This term is useful for anthropologists and sociologists who want to describe a cultural dynamic that's happening, or has happened, in the society they are studying.

Examples of Cultural Milieu

Imagine a 38-year-old man named Aaron, who lives in a sparsely populated area of Vermont. What might his cultural milieu be like? The beautiful natural surroundings of his home have led to a great deal of interest in his community in protecting this space. His personal interests also lie in the outdoors, where he spends time skiing in the winter and hiking and kayaking in the other seasons. Driving is a usual part of his life and in his state, billboards and signs have strict rules about how they can be presented in order to preserve the scenery. Due to his passion for keeping the area preserved in its natural state, Aaron is involved in local politics aimed at environmental conservation efforts.

Aaron's cultural milieu involves many different elements of his life, from how he spends his time, to the beliefs he holds. He is used to certain laws, such as the restriction on billboards, and his political views have emerged from these experiences. This cultural milieu is a factor in how he conducts his everyday life.

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