What is Culture?

We launch the e-journal “Making Culture” with a series of questions, arrayed around the core problem of “culture” itself. Inspired by Raymond Williams’ famous historical explorations of the term we ask what culture has come to mean in the present moment and what new configurations of the culture concept might be emerging around us.

Please post your thoughts on "what is culture" in the Discussion forum above.

And consider the related questions posed by contributors:

  • What is the status of the text and processes of entextualization under conditions of digital encoding and internet-based circulations of "content"?
  • Is “art” the privileged or supreme manifestation of culture? Does great art exemplify, or transcend, or even negate, the cultural field in which it emerges?
  • Under what conditions can innovative cultural practitioners unmake or unfix the taken-for-granted schemata of the overall culture in which they came of age and within which they operate?
  • What are the conditions, and likely fates, of “national cultures” and "local cultures" under conditions of globalization? For Benedict Anderson, the imagined community of the nationalist state generally rests on the sanctification of mass warfare waged on the state’s behalf by its citizenry. Are there alternate modes of imagining national culture outside of the logic of militarism and collective sacrifice in war?
  • In turn, are avowedly local articulations of culture now intimately governed by a global logic of "culturalism" that renders all forms of cultural difference ultimately equivalent?
  • How can the potential positive effects of community engagement with cultural productions be marshaled toward coexistence and reconciliation without instrumentalizing artistic creations in ways that diminish their aesthetic integrity?
  • In regions of conflict, how do cultural productions mediate tensions between memory and imagination, retribution and restoration, cultural integrity and interdependence?
  • Is contemporary “culture” necessarily mired in the capitalist marketplace? Richard Handler proposes that modern ideas of “culture” are largely a function of the 17th century ideology of possessive individualism, and that to “have a culture” in the sense that modern persons recognize the concept is bound up with the forms of having and holding generated by commmodity-based consumer capitalism.
  • Is culture necessarily linked to the commodity fetish?
  • What ways, if any, are available to us for revising specific cultural practices or restoring worlds we have lost or re-creating forms that are threatened or that have become endangered as the result of economic, political and cultural forces in the world around us?
  • What modes of critique of contemporary culture are especially apt and effective?

Please post responses to these questions, or formulate new questions, in the Discussion section above.