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1.1 Culture and cultural identity

According to French Academy’s Dictionary culture today “designates the entire range of intellectual aspects, moral issues, material and symbolic system of values and finally the lifestyles which are characterizing a civilization.

In Social Sciences culture, as a term has a very wide range of meanings opening itself to an almost unlimited field. It was Edward Barret Tylor the one who imposed in his “Primitive Culture” (1871) the conception of “Everything is culture”. Alfred L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn (1952) are offering in their book no less than 163 definitions to the term of Culture.

Tylor takes culture to be synonymous with civilization, and therefore gives to that word what he calls a wide ethnographic sense. For him, culture is ‘that complex whole’ produced by people’s historical experience, of which he gives several examples: knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, and custom. However this enumeration is not a final list as Tylor’s definition of culture also includes any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

If we take all of the aspects of culture like: knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, laws etc. And we put them in a context like country, ethnicity we find the cultural identity by extracting the uniqueness or specificity from each of them. Culture is a universal phenomenon but it has individual forms of manifestations across regions, countries, populations or ethnic groups. All these individual manifestations take a form in a cultural identity.

The concept of identity refers to an image with which one associates and projects oneself. The most essential feature of identity is its multiple nature. One can have a single identity, but it would always be made up of several layers. Both individual and groups can have identities and like cultures, identities are constantly changing.

The term “cultural identity” refers to the shared subjective perception of the group’s history and heritage. When a nation or a continent has a cultural identity it does not mean that it is uniform. The cultural identity is integrated by some factors which make it at least in some ways united. These factors are often external, for example, war, an outside threat or climate (Kiriakos, 2002).

The negative impact of the loss of cultural identity of Irish immigrants in England has been explored (Kelleher and Hillier, 1996). Death rates amongst first and second-generation Irish people in England were found to be higher than amongst the host population. It was hypothesised that many Irish people living in England cannot attach themselves to their host culture, the country that subjugated them, but nor can they collectively promote their Irish culture as it is seen as the home of the Irish Republican Army, and not a legitimate ethnic group. So loss of cultural identity, coupled with the low socio-economic status many migrants find themselves in, can contribute to higher death rates.

Read more on:

http://www.tamu.edu/classes/cosc/choudhury/culture.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_identity

References:

Kelleher D & Hillier S. (1996). ‘The Health of the Irish in England’. In Kelleher & Hillier. Researching Cultural Differences in Health. London: Routledge, p.103-123.

Kiriakos, C. (2002) Europe-Culture and Identity. The programme of International Careers (Progi) Website Address: www.mv.helsinki.fi

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