The concept of Culture

Culture has never been easily defined or understood. Nevertheless, there are certain things we all recognize as being important to culture:  artistic expression, religious belief, and language. According to the UN, culture is not a frozen set of values and practices but something that constantly changes as people question and redefine their values and practices in response to changing realities and the exchanges of ideas (SOURCE?). Culture is something learned from one generation and taught to the next, and in the process new traditions are incorporated while others are modified or no longer passed on. If cultures never changed, women in North America & Europe would still not be able to vote, as universal suffrage (i.e. the right to vote) was only introduced in the 20th century.

A sense of identity and belonging to a group with shared values and cultural bonds is important to individuals.  But each individual also identifies with many different groups and may have many cultural “identities”: being Australian; being a woman; being of Chinese origin; being bilingual; being a Buddhist; being a lawyer; loving jazz; enjoying detective stories; being a vegetarian; and so on. Culture and identity have an element of choice:  individuals choose what priority to give to one membership over another in different contexts.  Each person has a distinct combination of cultural identities of different importance within the unique context of his or her own life. 

Today, cultural liberty and diversity – the right of each individual to choose from a diverse array of cultural associations – are important values and are based on the belief that the fostering of cultural freedom is one of the key tenets to healthy and harmonious societies.