“Identity Culture” and “Cultural Identity” in a Postmodern World

Term Paper, 2007

21 Pages, Grade: 2.0



Executive Summary

1 Conceptualization of Culture
1.1 Definitions of Culture
1.2 Clustered Image of Culture
1.3 Some Nuances of Culture
1.4 Some Pitfalls of Culture

2 Understanding Postmodernism
2.1 What is modernism?
2.2 Ideas of Modernism
2.3 What is Postmodernism?
2.4 Postmodernism and Grand Narratives
2.5 Comparative Study of Modernism and Postmodernism

3 Postmodern World: Identity Culture and Cultural Identity
3.1 Identity Culture in Postmodern World
3.2 Cultural Identity in Postmodern World – Carnival of Cultures
3.3 A Photomontage depicting Postmodern Cultural Identity
3.4 Fazit: Paradox der Postmoderne


Executive Summary

End of the 20th century has witnessed sudden emergence of “Identity Culture”. More and more people across the globe are thinking about their identity and origin. Collective identity is gaining more and more importance. Noted Scholar Samuel Huntington writes in his celebrated work „ Kampf der Kulturen“: „Völker und Nationen versuchen heute, die elementarste Frage zu beantworten, vor der Menschen stehen können: Wer sind wir ?“[1] Identifying with others, in various different ways, can be extremely important for living in postmodern society.[2]

In today’s postmodern times identities are ever changing and they are also situation specific. In this work I intend to explore the possibility of describing cultural identity emerging in contemporary postmodern world. In Chapter 1, I begin with conceptualization of the term “Culture”. The main purpose of this work is to deal with cultural identity in postmodern age and hence I have taken liberty to use the words postmodern, postmodernity and postmodernism synonymously.

The term postmodern consists of a whole plethora of interpretations and it derives its origin from modernism. Hence to begin I start with description of modernism in chapter two. Thereafter comparative analysis of modernism and postmodernism is presented.

Postmodern age is an age of dilemmas. This era has given momentum to identity culture. As mentioned earlier more and more people are worried about their identities and various discources at various levels are taking place. But simultaneously cultural identity in this era is getting fragmented. Therefore I have divided discussion in two parts namely - identity culture and cultural identity - in postmodern times. In this work I have restricted my sphere to philosophical and cultural fields.

1 Conceptualization of Culture

The word culture is very often vaguely refered to describe various activities associated with it, such as “ corporate culture” or “ art and culture” “modern culture” “postmodern culture” “identity culture” and so on. This means culture is an abstract term, and it needs other concepts to realise its meaning. For example American Culture, European Culture and so on.

The word “ Culture” is derived from Latin word “colere” – which means, “to build” “to care for” or “ to cultivate”. Hence it could be infered that culture is something that is “man-made”.

1.1 Definitions of Culture

Kroeber & Kluckhohn define culture as “Culture consist of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive acheivement of human groups, including their embodiment in artefacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i. e. historically derived and selected) ideas especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, can be considered as product of action, on the other , as conditional elements of future action.”[3] This definition go for meta or large or grand culture such as French Culture, German Culture, American Culture and so on. Cultural parameters differ from society to society. These parameters differentiate one society or group from another. For example “French Culture” implies that society shares certain values, which distinguishes them from other societies.

Hofstede defines culture as: “ The collective programming of the mind which distinguishing the member of one group or category of people from other.”[4] This definition elaborate more on reach of the concept “collective programming” and allows more flexibility. Here diversity of individual personalities within one culture or society is also taken into consideration.

Another refined concept of culture is put forward by Hall. He maintains very often people become aware of their culture, when it is severely challenged. Members of given society act within parameters set by that society and such acts are called “culturally acceptable”. “Culture has always dictated where to draw the line separating one thing from another. These lines are arbitrary, but once learned and internalised they are treated as real.”[5]

Spencer-Oatey makes the sphere of culture more wide and includes also the functions which culture performs. In her description: “Culture is a fuzzy set of attitudes, beliefs, behavioural norms, and basic assumptions and values that are shared by a group of people, and that influence each member’s behaviour and his/her interpretations of the “meaning” of the other people’s behaviour.”[6]

1.2 Clustered Image of Culture

Culture consists of various levels. It is like an onion: a structure that can peeled, layer-by-layer, in order to reveal its content.[7]

At most basic level culture consist of two levels:

a. A level of values or invisible level
b. A visible level or artefacts of some form

Hofstede describes three easily identifiable / recognisable levels of culture, which are as follows:[8]

a. Rituals – konventionaler Verhaltensmuster
b. Heroes – Personen, -lebende, -historische, Filmstars, Sängers, Politikers
c. Symbols – Wörter, Gesten, Bilder, Objekte

1.3 Some Nuances of Culture

Culture as shared habit of action

Culture is basically a set of shared habits of actions, which enables individual members of a single community or group to get along with one another and with the surrounding environment as well. According to this explanation every academic department, prison, monastery, farming village, scientific laboratory, street market and a business corporation has a culture of its own.[9] We belong to a lot of different cultures. To mention - to that of our university ECUE culture, to that of the cosmopolitan intellectuals and so on. „In diesem Sinne des Wortes ist >> Kultur << kein Name einer Tugend und nicht einmal unbedingt der Name für etwas, was den Menschen im Gegensatz zu den übrigen Tieren zukommt.“[10]

Culture as a Virtue

„Kultur, ist die Bezeichnung einer Tugend.“[11] Culture is etwas cultivated. Through this explanation, an argument is put foreward that the word culture is very often used to describe something refined, especially ‘high culture’ or describing the concept of selected, valuable and cultivated artefacts of a society.[12] “In this sense, “culture” means something like “high culture”. Prisoners often don’t have much or any of it but inhabitant of monasteries and universities often have quite a lot.”[13] Culture can be acquired through education and hence sometimes reserved for wealthier. Very often culture is associated with rationality, according to suggestion that sweetness and light go together.[14]

Culture as a Core Value

Very often the word culture is used to describe behavior pattern of a group of people. An organization lebelled as having very competitive culture implies that competitiveness is shared core value among members of such group. Here culture describes both behavior and core value. In this example group collectively at least share the common core value of competitiveness but not necessarily individually.


[1] Samuel Huntington, P.21

[2] See Amartya Sen, P.19

[3] See Stephan Dahl, P. 2


[5] See Stephan Dahl, P.3

[6] See Stephan Dahl, P.4

[7] See Stephan Dahl, P.7

[8] See Stephan Dahl, P.6

[9] See Richard Rorty, 1999, P.188

[10] Richard Rorty, 2003, P.272

[11] Richard Rorty, 2003, P.272

[12] See Stephan Dahl, P.1

[13] Richard Rorty, 1999, P.188

[14] See Richard Rorty, 1999, P.189

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“Identity Culture” and “Cultural Identity” in a Postmodern World
Ruhr-University of Bochum  (European Culture & Economy)
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Culture”, Identity”, Postmodern, World
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Jitendra Jain (Author), 2007, “Identity Culture” and “Cultural Identity” in a Postmodern World, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/163899


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