How should we perceive cultures in today’s world?

The book Transcultural Americas encourages readers to question the notion of culture. Many changes have emerged in the past few years about the ideas behind culture, as a result of the impacts of globalisation and new media technologies.

Several definitions of culture exist, but according to the editor, Afef Benessaieh, most of them fail to explain what is really happening in today’s world. To demonstrate this, she classifies the definitions of culture in two categories: cultures as disparate or cultures tied together by commonalities.

We generally think of a culture as the ideas, customs, or behaviour of members of a particular society. We hold onto the idea that culture is clearly definable “Terms such as “transculturation”, “multiculturalism” and “interculturality” suggest that some sort of “pure” (in the sense of non-mixed) culture exists or precedes the mixture […]”.

This may have been possible before the advent of globalization, immigration, and the internet, but as Benessaieh observes: “with few exceptions, most societies around the world are culturally mixed, and national boundaries rarely enclose populations that are culturally or ethnically homogeneous.” The increased access to communication between cultures and exposure to other ideas, customs, and behaviours creates a situation where different cultures will influence others. The author argues that this must mean that cultures function together, as a network.

As a result, the term “transculturalism” is an attempt to identify the true relationship between cultures: “[It] is a new way of viewing culture that sees cultures not as separate islands, but as connected and interacting webs.”

Afef Benessaieh is assistant professor of International Studies at the télé-université (TÉLUQ) of the University of Quebec in Montréal.

For further information on Transcultural Americas, visit our Website.

*All the citations in this post come from our book
Transcultural Americas

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