The book “Introducing Cultural Studies” by Brian Longhurst et al. deals with cultural studies considering it as “one of the most stimulating areas of activity in intellectual life” (Longhurst et al. 2008). The main points of the extract under consideration are defining the notion of culture, discussing the issues connected with definitions of “culture”, taking into account theoretical descriptions of these issues, presenting the view of cultural studies as a developing field of science. Culture is the keyword of the extract. According to Longhurst et al. (2008), culture can be defined as the arts and artistic activity; the learned, primarily symbolic features of a particular way of life; and a process of development. At this, another term, namely “symbol” arises, and it is regarded as something that stands for a certain idea, feeling or object and possesses certain meanings which form the culture. It is emphasized that the concept of culture should be distinguished from the concept of society which is a bearer of a particular culture. Another concept discussed is socialization, which means forming the identity of the person in the society, as well as acculturation, which is borrowing the features of other societies, enculturation and conditioning possessing the meanings close to socialization, the concepts of race, class and age are also discussed. The issues connected with definitions of culture are evidence, relativism and interpretation of meaning which is defined as the core issue of cultural studies. The theoretical approaches to the concept of culture, symbol, society and socialization are offered in the extract which shows that the areas these concepts are used have been thoroughly explored. The extract in general gets at defining the term of culture and discussion of the issues it is connected with.
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It is worth mentioning that defining the notion of culture can be observed throughout the extract but what else is paid attention to is the diversity of cultures and their influence on various aspects of human life. Therefore, three key points in the reading can be pointed out, namely, the interpretation of different cultures, relationships between different cultures and connection between culture and power. What makes namely these issues key points is that they are indeed problematic, they are closely connected with the notion of culture as such and they are widely discussed by other researchers which proves that they are important and constitute an integral part of cultural studies. To support these key points certain arguments have been used by the authors of the book and they need to be discussed as well as compared with views of other researchers in respect to these issues.
To begin with, the interpretation of different cultures demands a thorough examination of the cultural characteristics the society may have. The extract deals with the question of whether it is possible “to understand the cultures of other people the way they do themselves” (Longhurst et al. 2008). It is pointed out in the extract that different societies hold different conceptions and ideas about certain notions which form practical difficulties for interpretation of cultures. Some researchers keep to the point that when it comes to interpretation of cultures, cultural characteristics should be paid special attention to. The matter is that a person who grew up in a different culture inevitably has a different personality. Members of different societies possess their own distinctive personal characteristics that are why “understanding the basis of some cultural differences may help people not to react personally to behavior they don’t understand” (Mildred Reed Hall, 1990). For instance, as stated in Geri-Ann Galanti (2008), lack of eye contact means different things in different countries; the same goes for gestures the interpretation of which strongly depends on the beliefs of society they are used in. This is why cultural characteristics should be necessarily taken into account when interpreting this or that culture.
What’s more, relationships between different cultures also deserve some attention. As the book points out, it is difficult to trace and explore these relations due to a number of factors. First of all, to figure out relations between cultures it is necessary to determine the exact amount of these cultures which is nearly impossible since “culture is a matter of age, gender, class, status…” (Longhurst et al. 2008) and each society can be made up of incalculable number of cultures. Secondly, any culture is in a constant process of formation during which different cultures merge, change and acquire new forms. This makes it problematic to determine features characteristic for separate cultures. And finally, considering a separate culture alone does not make any sense as what matters above all is “how it fitted into the intersection between different cultural networks” (Longhurst et al. 2008) since each culture “develops its own means for explaining and coping with life” (Donald W. Hendon 1998) and the features of the culture can be realized only when compared with other cultures similar to or different from the initial one.
And the final key point is all about the interaction of culture and power. Discussing the relationship between culture and power Longhurst et al. (2008) stresses that being a product of interaction, culture is also a part of the social world which is why they are closely related since any society is controlled both economically and politically. Examining relations between culture and power Chris Barker (2002) sorted out two related concepts, namely ideology which unites different social groups and hegemony which applying forced methods rules and controls subordinate classes. Taking this into consideration, Chris Barker (2002) states that issues of cultural representation are ‘political’ because they are intrinsically bound up with questions of power. Thus, it can be asserted that neither power nor culture can exist without each other because they are interdependent.
In conclusion, the extract from the book “Introducing Cultural Studies” by Brian Longhurst et al. is informative and educational as it deals with an important notion of culture and the issues the definition of this notion involves providing proper theoretical background based on the research of a number scholars.
- Brian Longhurst, Gaynor Bagnall, Greg Smith, Garry Crawford, Scott McCracken, Miles Ogborn, Elaine Baldwin, 2008, Introducing Cultural Studies, Pearson Education.
- Mildred Reed Hall, 1990, Understanding Cultural Differences: Germans, French and Americans, Intercultural Press.
- Geri-Ann Galanti, 2008, Caring for Patients from Different Cultures, University of Pennsylvania Press.
- Chris Barker, 2002, Making Sense of Cultural Studies: Central Problems and Critical Debates, SAGE.
- Donald W. Hendon, Rebecca Angeles Hendon, Paul Herbig, 1998, ‘Negotiating across Cultures’, Security Management, vol. 42, no. 11, p. 25.