A set of beliefs, customs, practices, and world-views that are shared (more-or-less) by a group of people. Not the same thing as a society, which may or may not include multiple cultures. In the US, there is such a mish-mash of cultures that hardly anyone can claim to belong to a single culture exclusive to all others. Sometimes a religion can be a part of a culture, and this is common in non-western societies. Some people, like the religious right, want to make their religion a part of US society, which is just a bad thing in general, the most obvious of reasons being that not everyone in the US is Christian.

There are national cultures, like what some have called civil religions, that mark all nations, or peoples.

These affect even such cultural melting pots as the United States. While such beliefs may not be explicitly held by individuals, most, if not all, aspire to the cultural goals contained in such a civil religion, or share some part of it implicitly.

This is the drumbeat of all the tools of culture, primarily media, but also schools and universities and government.

Such notions as American Democracy, American media, the democratizing burden that Americans must bear, are elements of the American civil religion.

When cultures, such as the American culture, lose sight of the fact that its culture is a national culture, and instead see only a universal culture, with its necessary concomittant the democratizing burden, that breeds cultural imperialism.

"Culture" as defined by the venerable and pleasant archaeologist/anthropologist Stuart McRae, the instructor of my college class on anthropology:

(1)Culture is an organized system (2)of learned behavior and thought patterns (3)always made manifest by a group (4)making that group distinctive from other groups. (5)It is not instinctive, but rests on a biological base of:

a. Binocular stereoscopic color vision;

b. Habitual upright bipedal locomotion;

c. Generalized forelimb with opposable thumb; and

d. The Symbolic Capacity (750-950 cubic centimeters)

(6)Culture is transmitted through language, (7)is cumulative, (8)embraces both artifacts and attitudes, (9)and functions as humankind's chief adaptive mechanism.

The numbers 1-9 mark the 9 main ideas embedded in this concept.

A culture is an organism or colony of cells being cultivated in a laboratory medium (for instance, bacteria growing in a Petri dish filled with agar). Other common growth media ingredients for microbes include fetal calf serum, sugars, amino acids, and starches.

Specific biomedical culture types include:

Culture, rather than being seen as a static, concrete entity (i.e. the Nuer "culture"), is increasingly being reformed as an idea ; a dynamic process involving behavior, symbolism, and ideology which is constructed in different ways.

Reifying "culture" into absolute categories of people ignores the fuzzy boundaries and incredible diversity existing within groups as well as between them. Historically, it has been used by colonial forces to homogenize newly discovered peoples for the purpose of domination, creating one universal identity for a given "culture" which serves to justify the creation of inequality and differential treatment:
"Oh...them? They don't mind long hours of hard labour for little or no pay. It's in their culture."

To be honest, I have been studying anthropology for five years now, and still can't get a firm grasp on what this word means. I am finally coming to the conclusion that this is the point; there is no absolute definition, only a only a vague process by which we define ourselves and are defined by others.

I am not trivializing the importance of the symbolism and ideology that we, as humans, are inclined to create, nor am I trying to give a new definition of culture. I am only giving a warning as to the implications of the use of this term in a global, post-colonial context, and how it may be used to "other" certain groups, casting them as permanently, immutably outside the boundaries of acceptance.

I also believe that any concept of culture rooted in stereoscopic vision, bipedal locomotion, and a generalized forelimb with opposable thumb (as noted above) ignores pretty much every meaningful process, constuction or symbolic system that has ever been created, as well as the complex ways these systems are interpreted and will continue to be interpreted in new and dynamic ways.

Cul"ture (k?l"t?r; 135), n. [F. culture, L. cultura, fr. colere to till, cultivate; of uncertain origin. Cf. Colony.]

1.

The act or practice of cultivating, or of preparing the earth for seed and raising crops by tillage; as, the culture of the soil.

2.

The act of, or any labor or means employed for, training, disciplining, or refining the moral and intellectual nature of man; as, the culture of the mind.

If vain our toil
We ought to blame the culture, not the soil.
Pepe.

3.

The state of being cultivated; result of cultivation; physical improvement; enlightenment and discipline acquired by mental and moral training; civilization; refinement in manners and taste.

What the Greeks expressed by their paidei`a, the Romans by their humanitas, we less happily try to express by the more artificial word culture.
J. C. Shairp.

The list of all the items of the general life of a people represents that whole which we call its culture.
Tylor.

Culture fluid, a fluid in which the germs of microscopic organisms are made to develop, either for purposes of study or as a means of modifying their virulence.

 

© Webster 1913


Cul"ture, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Cultured (-t?rd; 135); p. pr. & vb. n. Culturing.]

To cultivate; to educate.

They came . . . into places well inhabited and cultured.
Usher.

 

© Webster 1913


Cul"ture (?), n.

1. (Biol.)

(a)

The cultivation of bacteria or other organisms in artificial media or under artificial conditions.

(b)

The collection of organisms resulting from such a cultivation.

⇒ The word is used adjectively with the above senses in many phrases, such as: culture medium, any one of the various mixtures of gelatin, meat extracts, etc., in which organisms cultivated; culture flask, culture oven, culture tube, gelatin culture, plate culture, etc.

2. (Cartography)

Those details of a map, collectively, which do not represent natural features of the area delineated, as names and the symbols for towns, roads, houses, bridges, meridians, and parallels.

 

© Webster 1913

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