Culture gives meaning to human life, and it is only in culture that we find the forces that shape human nature. To live as human, we acquire a socially conditioned identity that allows us to feel that we control our lives. (Kiriakos, 2002, Leninger,1995, Spector,1991). Culture is something learned and shared; something one generation passes on to the next generation. It is an ever-changing construct, summing up beliefs, norms, institutions and traditional ways of doing things in a society. The concept of identity refers to an image with which one associates and projects oneself. Cultural identity is important for people's sense of self and how they relate to others. When a nation or a continent has a cultural identity it does not mean that it is uniform. Identifying with a particular culture gives people feelings of belonging and security. It also provides people with access to social networks which provide support and shared values and aspirations. These can help break down barriers and build a sense of trust between people - a phenomenon sometimes referred to as social capital - although excessively strong cultural identity can also contribute to barriers between groups.
Kiriakos, C. (2002) Europe-Culture and Identity. The programme of International Careers(Progi) Website Address: www.mv.helsinki.fi
Leininger, M. (1995) Transcultural nursing. Concepts, theories, research & practices. McGraw-Hill. New York.
Spector, R. (1991) Cultural diversity in health and illness. Appleton & Lange. East Norwalk, CN, USA.
http://socialreport.msd.govt.nz/2003/cultural-identity/cultural-identity.shtml (accessed 22.07.04)
Related terms: Culture Cultural heritage Ethnos / Ethnic Ethnohistory