The process of ‘culturing’

The word ‘culture’ is not unproblematic. Experts and academics often do not agree with each other on how to define it. Anthropologists may say one thing, sociologists have another description, psychologists something else. This can be confusing for those of us talking about or discussing the intricacies of ‘culture’.

Typically, experts have defined culture as a ‘thing’ – a set of rules, a set of behaviours, a shared way of doing things. This is fine as a definition, but somewhat limited and uncontemporary. This definition ascribes ‘culture’ with a static quality and does not allow for the changing, flexible nature of groups of people.

In former days, when people didn’t travel as much internationally, when there was less interaction across national borders, when there was less global influence on local matters, when technology did not exist to encourage remote contact, when people stayed in one place, it might have been appropriate to describe a culture as a static ‘thing’. In other words, to describe the behaviours and attitudes of a group of people identified by the borders of their nation. Eg, Swedish culture is like this…Swedes are like this…

But I’m afraid this doesn’t work anymore. Thanks to migration, immigration, internationalisation and individual travel, we are subjected to different influences and attitudes. These differences are integrated into our societies and our societies change. So ‘culture’ is not a static concept. It is constantly changing. It is always in flux. It is not a fixed thing, but a fluid thing.

This is why I try to describe what we are experiencing as a process of ‘culturing’. We are forming our realities together. We are constructing our societies and our groups. We are navigating and negotiating with each other constantly. This is why different groups of people do things differently – they have ‘cultured’ differently. But it’s not written in stone – it changes.

And this is why, for me, racism is defunct. It’s unavoidable that there are diverse people with different perspectives in a community. And it’s this diversity that keeps us continuously ‘culturing’.


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