Archive | February 2015

What’s culture, anyway?

Today I found asking myself precisely this question while visiting the ‘National Cultural History Museum’ in Pretoria with two of my roommates – a question that has been keeping social scientists busy for quite some time.

The Oxford Sociology Dictionary (2014: 152) defines ‘culture’ (as understood within the social sciences) as “all that in human society which is socially rather than biologically transmitted, whereas the commonsense usage tends to point only to the arts. Culture is thus a general term for the symbolic and learned aspects of human society (…).” Following this definition, almost anything falls under the term ‘cultural’. ‘What is not culture?’ seems to be the question quicker and easier to answer. Criticizing the excessive usage of the term, Adam Kuper suggests in ‘Culture. The Anthropologists’ Account’ (1999: x, preface) to “avoid the hyper-referential word altogether, and to talk more precisely of knowledge, or belief, or art, or technology, or tradition, or even of ideology-” ‘Culture’ seems to be almost as problematic as ‘identity’ (see Brubaker & Cooper 2000, Beyond Identity). But that’s a different story. Read More…

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