Unifying & Dividing Cultural Factors: Media, Religion & More

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  • 0:04 Culture as Unifying & Dividing
  • 0:53 Media
  • 2:13 Food
  • 2:45 Sports
  • 3:46 Religion
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins
How do things like sports, food, and religion impact our lives? In this lesson, we'll talk about how these aspects of our culture have the power to divide us or to bring us together.

Culture as Unifying & Dividing

Culture refers to a system of shared beliefs and meanings that we learn growing up in a particular society. Culture is something that everyone in a society experiences. But culture does not necessarily mean that everyone has the same beliefs. While many aspects of culture bring people together in a society, culture can also have very divisive elements. When we talk about a cultural divide, we mean the factors that create rifts in our society and can make it more difficult for people to live happily together. But, in other ways, many aspects of culture unify us, creating harmony and shared experiences. In this lesson, we'll talk about a number of different factors in our society that can both create divisions and bring us together.


When we talk about the media, we generally are talking about print such as newspapers and magazines, television, radio, and the internet. Media serves a number of important functions in a society. Media is also interesting in terms of what it tells us about the cultural divide. Here's an interesting example. Researchers have found that the type of television shows that are most popular tend to vary by region. More specifically, they varied along rural, urban, and suburban lines. So, some shows will resonate more depending on where you live. For example, a reality show that features the lives of a conservative Christian family was found to be much more popular in rural areas than urban areas.

But media also is a unifying force. Think of all the new social networking platforms that have emerged. These social networking sites allow us to connect and share things with one another across cultures. They help us stay informed about things that happen in societies across the globe. They have also played an important role in recent social and cultural movements. For example, during the uprisings in 2011 in places like Egypt, social networking sites allowed us to stay connected to and follow the events taking place on the ground.

Social media has played a role in recent social movements
social media


Food is also another important unifying cultural factor. Imagine visiting New York or San Francisco and walking through Chinatown. You could experience traditional cuisine from across the globe. Immigrants to a new country who open restaurants or stores bring their traditional foods with them, which is shared with their new culture. Food is important to our identity and our cultural practices. Food allows us to get to know about other cultures and experience their traditions.

Food is an important cultural resource
food; culture, chinese food


When was the last time you went to a sporting event? While sporting events can get heated when everyone is rooting for their favorite team, there are also ways that sports can bridge cultural divides. One important example of this occurred in South Africa during apartheid. Nelson Mandela was elected as the first black president of South Africa in 1994. During the World Cup game of rugby, he awarded the World Cup Trophy to a white rugby player named Francois Pienaar who had grown up under the influence of white nationalism, where blacks in South Africa were viewed as inferior. This event demonstrated the role that sports can play in easing cultural conflict.

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