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Complicating the concept of culture

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This essay argues against a simple, reified view of culture as a set of ideas and norms belonging to a group or nation, and considers the implications of a more complicated concept for discussion of world culture and the global/local nexus. Most anthropologists define culture as the making of meaning, with an emphasis on the process itself as contested. It follows that world culture is locally produced in social interaction, and that meanings are then reconstructed in the global/local nexus. Power matters, particularly the hidden power to make resources for meaning making widely available, and to make them attractive and scientifically persuasive. How actors succeed in claiming particular ideas as global and how the locals strategically respond are questions where anthropologists can contribute to understanding the global/local nexus and the exercise of power within the world polity.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Michigan–Dearborn, Dearborn,MI, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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