Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How does my definition of Culture differ from Stephen Long's

              His basic idea is that culture is a metaphor and it must be applied differently to different situations.  I agree with his literal meaning of culture.  In that a process that creates a specimen in a peetre dish in a laboratory  is a culture.  This is the most concrete definition of culture in the reading.
               Because I am a biology major I like to hold onto concrete ideas and say "this is the answer", however recently I have found that with many words that we define in class that is not the case.  I do agree with Long in that culture can be a metaphor.  there is no one object that a person can look at and concretely say "That is culture."  It is the ideas, believes, living style, language, food, and practices of populations of humans around the world, which is culture.  It can be small or large scale, the difference between those who live in America and those who live in Europe, the difference between those who live in Thurston Hall and those who live in Potomac.
               The only problem I have with Long's definition is that he says that it has to relate to God.  But why do all cultures have to relate to the one God that Christians believe in.  Is Muslim not a culture with their own God Allah, in which to relate their beliefs to? I do not think that all culture should be related to the one Christian God.  Everyone has their own beliefs and sometimes this defines a culture.  If you would like to respond to my post please comment on it, if you would like to post a new idea, to take the topic in a new direction or if you have a totally different meaning of culture, please make a new post.  Because I am moderating this week I feel this system would be most efficient.

****Caitlin Costa


  1. I think to help keep the blog organized and easy to navigate through, it'd be better for people to respond to previous posts. People can contribute their answers to the overall question and simultaneously make a conversation of the topic. Professor Berry said the two classes would be commenting on the same topics.

    As I have said in several of our previous discussions, I believe that culture and its meaning is left up to the individual. In that sense, I agree with Long. Similar to what Caitlin previously said, culture can be anything from food to language. When I was a sophomore in high school, an upperclassman in my psychology class typically wore a necklace bearing the star of David. During one of our discussions, religion became the focus and the teacher asked the student about the necklace. He said that while he didn't believe in God or in most of the Jewish beliefs, he considered himself a "cultural Jew." My classmate went on to explain that he participated in many Jewish traditions, such as lighting the menorah during Hanukkah, and often ate dishes like latkes. It was the traditions themselves that impacted his life, not the theology behind it.
    That, in a nutshell, is what I consider to be culture; practices, whether they be speaking a certain language or lighting candles, that make up people's day-to-day lives. I agree with Caitlin that culture shouldn't have to relate to God. Long is correct in there being a correlation between culture and theology, but I don't think they are always one in the same. It's my opinion that culture does not have to relate to God, but God most definitely relates to culture. How little or how large theology relates to one's culture is determined by the individual.

    Does anyone believe that culture always has to relate to God? Or does anyone have a completely different view of culture than Caitlin and I?

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  3. I agree with Caitlin that culture is not something that can be concretely defined. Instead we grow up knowing how to apply it. I agree with Long's argument that we don't grow up learning words by strictly matching it to its precise dictionary definition, instead we learn language by engaging in everyday activities that help us get an understanding of the words so we know "how to go on."
    In my experience theology can go hand in hand with culture. For example, there are a lot of practices and customs that my family practice that I consider part of Islamic culture like fasting for ramadan, celebrating eid, and going to the mosque. However, like Caitlin and Ben, I disagree with Long that theology is a necessary part of culture. Putting henna on my hands, eating Pakistani food, and speaking urdu are part of the pakistani culture, but that doesn't necessitate being Muslim or a Christian or even having any religious beliefs.
    Caitlin makes the argument that cultures shouldn't have to relate to the the christian god and that Muslims have their own god Allah. Although I agree culture does not require Christianity, the christian, muslim, and jewish god are the same. All three are monotheistic religions that call for one god. Room for other religions like Hinduism and Buddhism should be made. In addition, atheists should be factored in. If theology was necessary for culture then it would appear atheists would have no culture. This is clearly not the case since as I mentioned previously one can have an ethnic culture like being Pakistani yet have no religious sentiments.

    1. I apologize, what I was trying to get at was the fact that there should culture should not only be related to the one Christian God. Perhaps I used a poor example with Allah because as you say it is the same person, however in each individual religion He has different teachings.

  4. I agree with Ben that culture does not always relate to God but that God certainly does always relate to culture. In my opinion culture is something that is individually constructed. A person's culture may include many other things aside from religion such as language, gender, ethnicity, beliefs, and norms and morals. I don't think that culture always has to relate to God because there are many individuals who have no religious beliefs but still maintain their own unique culture. God must relate to culture because a person usually forms their religious beliefs through personal experiences and their upbringing (essentially their cultural surroundings).
    I agree with Stephen Long's relation of culture to metaphors because culture is a word that has taken on many meanings over time and is defined differently by all individuals. For example, Long relates culture to something that could be found in a petri dish. When I think of culture, petri dishes would be the last thing to come to mind. Instead I tend to think of how an anthropologist would define culture as a person's language, religions, ethnicity, practices etc.

  5. While reading Stephen Long's "Theory and Culture," I was constantly agreeing, yet thinking beyond what he was saying. He related culture to a metaphor, or to the discrepancy even the word hammer can have. I believe culture is a completely separate entity that has aspects of a metaphor, but the fact that he proclaims culture is be a metaphor comparing "what happens to people" to something in a petri dish, seems like stretch. Culture is its own category, a category in which ideas like language, habits, beliefs, and values fall into. These ideas shape culture. Still, I agree with Long that defining culture is not so simple as a category with subcategories like religion, language, etc. There are many definitions for culture and I loved the way he says culture's definition is not in the meaning of the words, but in the various uses for the term. This leads me to question why he says a statement like "That is much culture" would be a strange use of the word, cause this is one way we colloquialy have grown up hearing "culture."
    I strongly agree with Caitlin in that Long relates the idea of "culture" to one God, (a seemingly Christian God), yet all religions may not have a 'God', which she backs up with the presence of Allah in the Muslim religion. Long focusses on only Christianity, which hinders his argument. Part of what makes culture have meaning is the fact that there are so many cultures and the diversity of ideas that go underneath the large umbrella that is culture. Each religion can be said to have its own culture. Long's piece truly helped me depict the word culture and juxtapose culture and theology, yet I agree with Tara that culture does not always have to relate to God. Culture can describe the full population, "human culture," it can describe certain countries or regions population, which can be separate from God. Culture and 'God' truly seem to coexist when describing the culture of different religious groups.

  6. I don’t completely agree with Long’s definition of culture. I find Long has trouble distinguishing culture and religion. Two topics I believe that should not be initially intertwined with each other.

    I say initially because for Long, religion is part of his life, therefore it is part of his culture. On a personal level it is fine for Long to combine culture and religion because that is what works for him. Unfortunately with his definition he makes a sweeping definition that only applies to himself. However Long does successfully acknowledge the fact that culture is subjective. He is just slightly contradicting by trying to insist his idea of culture is law.

    Personally I believe culture to be something that can be influenced by religion but doesn’t have to. I come from a very secular family where religion is an afterthought in my daily life. My culture is secular, but it is not for me define or critique the word “culture” because who am I to judge.

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  8. For the most part, I agree with Ben and Caitlin's argument on the definition of culture as a metaphor. It is of no doubt that culture cannot be precisely defined as a single term nor can the word mean universally identical to each individual. The perspectives of looking at its interpretation must all differ. In that sense, I believe that both Ben and Caitlin did a great work in explaining and I do agree with them to a great extent. I also agree with Shazreh's argument that the society does not define each word with its definite meaning and we learn to assume as we continue live.

    In terms of the correlation between culture and theology, my notions contrast with others. I believe that the two can go together to some culture but not always. Most religions namely Judaism, Hinduism, Muslim, Christianity, Buddhism, and even tribal civilization work as their core values and style of living that are build upon the society. To these groups, religion is so deeply inhabited in their society that it is simply impractical to live on without it. On the other hand, society that departed from no religious values or societies that abandoned and modified their values of living do live with religious values completely extinct in it. For instance, although South Korean cultures derived Chinese religion and ways of living, they have completely deserted the tradition converting to other religion such as Christianity or abandoning religious beliefs. Instead, Koreans still keep the culture that has survived through millennia. South Koreans bow to elders, use words that show respect, and must always listen carefully of what the elders are saying. Likewise, I believe that culture can go either ways with theological values with or without it.

  9. Before reading this, to me, culture is the way we, as human beings, act within the guildlines of our society. However, Long has brought up very interesting points. He states that culture’s meaning is in its use. This is very true, since culture is such a broad term and encompasses so many possibilities. Long also describes culture as a metaphor, which was very confusing for me. I always thought culture was more of a description of the way people live and why. But then again, the word culture is almost like a symbol defining acts and ways of life. Once again, this has led me to question what words actually mean and how deep the definitions go. Culture derives from the word cultivate, and originally had to do with farm-work, but now it, as Long describes, means how humans are cultivated. This provokes and image of humans as being lined up at all times, told exactly what to do. I guess, in a sense, society sets pretty strict guidelines which leads us humans to be formed based on what is seen as “normal.”
    I do agree with what most everyone has mentioned—that culture is based on the individual. However, I think that culture is very limited. There can be the culture of an individual but it is most definitely shaped by what the society they live in or the religion they practice (or don’t practice) expects. Culture, according to Long, is based off of religion, which before reading this I never thought of. Even if someone is not religious, the ideas and values of most cultures stem from beliefs in a higher power.

  10. My main issue with this article was that Long based his entire argument on Christian theology. While his argument could possibly be expanded to the other two Western traditions (Judaism and Islam), his assertion that the way in which we worship God mandates the fusion of two concepts of culture and theology falls short with the other 8 world religions. However, religion is arguably one of the most influential forces that shape human culture. My point being that if Long were to have expanded his understanding of Christian theology and culture to a broader understanding of religion and culture his argument would be considerably strengthened. Other than that, I found his overall article to be an interesting read.

  11. I don't fully agree with Long's definition of culture as subjective and related to religion. Everyone seems quite convinced that he is right in saying that culture is different for every individual because it relates to the personal experiences we get in the everyday life. Of course we experience culture through our own eyes, and make sense out of it from what we personally live everyday, but to me one's own history is not enough to make a culture. I think it is broader than that in a sense that it is shaped by a shared history, a common way of living and thinking.

    For example, as a foreigner discovering a new country and trying to understand its culture I will not only be looking at what kind of church are build, what kind of relationship these people have with God, but more how they live a different life as a community. If you are looking for "a culture shock", you will be after something that everyone does here, but no one does where you live.

    We can see this through different teaching methods: here in the United States I feel like we are supposed to get an A every time, it is the goal and a lot of people get perfect scores. If your answer is right there is no reason to give you a lower grade. But in France, almost no one ever gets a 20/20. We are told that we could always have done a little better and that we should have included a detail that would have made the answer more consistent, so we don't get full credit. It is as if here we are always told "you are the best" and this makes us want to be good, while in France, we are told "you are not bad, but you could have done better" and this (supposedly) make us want to always do better and finally reach that perfect score. These are different ways of thinking and learning, but it has to be shared by a sufficient number of people to be seen as part of the culture.

    Culture is also defined by history. Not just personal history but national history. This year I had my very first Thanksgiving, which commemorates the history of America. No other country does Thanksgiving and if you are not American you will not celebrate it, you will not feel concerned. Similarly, it would be absurd to ask American people to celebrate the 14th of July, which no French people would ever miss because it is part of our national identity, our culture.

    Thus I really think that culture is not only about "human activity" as Long says, and the way we experience our individual lives or our religion- although I have to admit that it sometimes does, like celebrating christmas. To me culture is more about the things we share with the people we feel connected to.