When does something become a part of a culture? - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#13310173
Question in short: When does something (such as a food stuff) become a part of a societies culture, as opposed to being something culturally foreign?

Question in detail: I'm sure we've heard the expression 'As American as Apple Pie' (well, Americans should have heard it atleast), but the apple pie that most Americans eat is not native to America. The oldest 'apple pie' was English 'apple pudding', and included figs, raisins, pears, and no crust (atleast not how it's seen in our pies). The apple pie eaten by Americans is most similar to Dutch Apple Pie, which includes mostly the same ingredients and a very similar crust. And that (aside from being Dutch, and thus clearly not American) has been around since as late as 1626. So, despite it's Dutch origins and pre-American history, Apple Pie is 'American'. A similar story goes for baseball (again, 'as American as mom, baseball and apple pie'), but it's origins are French, Basketball is German, and Football (American football, I guess I should say) is based on various Gaelic and Meso-American games.
So, at what point did we decide to take these various non-American cultural elements and call them American?
User avatar
By Fasces
#13310288
Basketball was invented in Massachusetts. American football is developed from rugby.

To actually answer your question, it becomes a part of culture when it becomes universally recognized as a part of culture.
User avatar
By Cookie Monster
#13310519
To actually answer your question, it becomes a part of culture when it becomes universally recognized as a part of culture.
The problem is how do we determine universal recognition. By whom, how and when?

To answer the question, I think it becomes part of a culture as soon as it becomes more common in a social unit (family, city, region, state).
User avatar
By Fasces
#13310536
I do not think there is a definitive answer or definition to be had. Apple pie is culturally American because Americans widely believe apple pie to be culturally American. No other reason. I cannot define when the exact moment when something transcends subculture and becomes culture, however.
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By Cartertonian
#13310538
Time and association are probably the only arbiters of when something is accepted as culturally congruent.

There is likely to be a generational component.

McDonalds, for example, was alien to me as a child, and I therefore always think of it as an American cultural import to the UK, whereas my kids have been eating at McDonalds since babyhood, and although they may be vaguely aware that the burger - despite its Germanic origins - is an American icon, they may well not regard McDonalds as 'American'.
User avatar
By Cookie Monster
#13310605
It's an interesting question actually, because it makes you wonder how we can describe a culture. Interaction seems to be the fundamental aspect of cultural phenomena.
By Kynaston+1
#13372244
'I suppose it's down to perception. Is Tikka Masala British?'

Very much so, like fish and chips, or tea. I am old (or of the right educational group) enough to find adverts on television profoundly alien, and that was also my reaction to Mrs Thatcher, so I think that the thing is a combination of personal history, cultural perception especially by those who control the media, generation and what is considered 'yours' by other people. Did you play rugby? Can I sing? I used to eat lava bread once because I thought I should. A beth am 'Dillon' Thomas te?
User avatar
By danholo
#13377716
A culture's cuisine is defined by what is readily available, I think, and what is imported into culture, from your neighbors or immigrants. But generally, it is the seasons that define the traditional food stuff. In today's global world, pasta is still Italian, and noodles Chinese. For example, Finnish food can be seen as quite Russian or Swedish because we have plenty of similarities with those countries in cuisine. While we have few traditional dishes, Finns have traditionally made food that last through the winter, like pickles, jam etc. Then there is the fresh food stuff during the summer like fish, potatoes and so on. Reindeer is Lappish cuisine but Finns consider it Finnish. Israeli food is what the people here have traditionally eaten over the centuries, with its own twist of course.

Maybe I'm off here, but yeah. 8)
By mooney10x28
#13540551
I don't believe there is a set time that dictates when something "becomes" a part of a culture. It is all based on how that culture views it. American society views baseball and apple pie as part of the American lifestyle, so it becomes a part of the American culture. When other cultures begin to see such a distinction, the product that is now "American" becomes even further immersed in the that culture because that is how it is viewed. After enough time has passed, the children of the specified society will be encultured to believe the "apple pie" is a part of their lifestyle.
By Inexorable
#13540680
Very thoughtful question and I think it raises issues about nationalism and national self-identification. I've always viewed the nation as a sort of entity (not to be confused with socio-political organization as being an entity, which is ontologically problematic) that is altered largely by what it 'eats'. Cultural diffusion and assimilation is typically a two-way street: the new element may seem alien and even hostile to the host culture but after generations it will either die off as a fad or become modified to fit the conditions of that culture, like when Islam arrived in ancient Iran or Chrsitianity in Rome. Some cultures seem more able to assimilate foreign objects than others largely due to their actual social structure and laws. For instance, Americans can make St. Patrick's Day and even the militantly self-formed Kwanzaa national holidays without blinking an eye because we are used to foreign influence and commercialism, whereas other civilizations would be less likely to accept outside objects.

Ultimately, I'm pragmatic about these issues. A nation can easily adopt things that would destroy its current mutation, but what is significant is what enhances the power and health of the nation.
#15139507
I think one would have to study the emergence of a concept and its proliferation and objectification into society. But the issue of a unit or how to think of culture is a useful step towards determining the means to answering as much.
https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/works/concepts-activity.htm
Concepts always arise from some kind of predicament, sometimes indicated by the problem (e.g. sexism) and sometimes by the solution (e.g. freeway). A concept arises along with a word coined for it, at some cultural and historical conjuncture, within some social practice, in which the problem suddenly becomes the focus of action. Men have behaved for millennia in a way we now characterise with the concept of ‘sexism’, but it was only in 1968, in the wake of the civil rights struggle, under conditions when the paternalistic institutions which had justified this behaviour were becoming unviable, that the problem was named, and became a focus for the women’s liberation movement. ‘Freeway’ originated in the US in the 1930s, together with the promotion of the automobile, the growth of the dormitory suburbs they serviced and the cheap labour provided by the Depression. Once a word has been coined and passed into the language, it may long outlive the particular circumstances which necessitated the coining of a word. Sometimes, changing circumstances mean that the word falls out of currency and the concept is lost or relegated to the history books. Sometimes, in the process of migrating out of the social situation in which it arose, the concept mutates and along with that mutation, word meanings change, often by analogy or metaphor with a former problem, or as Vygotsky observed, by isolating one contingent attribute of the object or situation named. Words and concepts each have their own trajectory.
...

‘Predicaments’ give rise to concepts because they are contradictions and demand an innovation in the relevant system of social practice. This innovation is manifested in the introduction of a new word, or the investment of new meaning in an old word and a modification in the normative practices of that institution. In that sense the institution is ‘composed of’ concepts. If there is no relevant system of social practice, no institution or social movement for which such a problem could arise and express itself, then no contradiction arises. Without a modern women’s movement and the social and technical conditions which made that possible, there could be no problem to be named ‘sexism’. In a country with no urban planning authority and automobile industry, there could be no project to build ‘freeways’.


https://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/chat/index.htm
A concept is a form of action organised around a word acting as a sign for it, which is the basic unit of a culture or project and a unit of the consciousness.
Explanation

Vygotsky never clearly says what he means by ‘concept’. It has to be inferred from what he means by a ‘true concept’ as opposed to a ‘pseudoconcept’ on one hand and an actual concept on the other, how he defines other concepts, and by his declarations in favour of dialectical logic. This is not surprising, as it is extremely difficult to give an adequate and clear definition of ‘concept’ which avoids dualism, makes the distinction between ‘true’ concepts and other forms of activity, such as pseudoconcepts and in some way connects up with intuitive understandings of the word ‘concept’.
Firstly, Vygotsky presents us with an apparent conundrum: he defines a true concept, which he distinguishes from other forms which are evidently not true concepts, such as pseudoconcepts. These forms are evidently also concepts, but not true concepts. Vygotsky never gives us a feature by which ‘true concepts’ may be distinguished from concepts which are not ‘true concepts’, but rather points to the path of development of a concept which marks it as a true concept, viz., that via some formal practice of instruction, it is consciously and effortfully appropriated as part of a system of concepts. But such a ‘true’ concept is still not fully developed. An actual concept, must also mature through practical life experience. This idea of ‘concept’, as a line of development which includes both mature forms and abstract, immature and undeveloped forms, is consistent with dialectical logic and with his own genetic method.
Secondly, Vygotsky investigates concepts by observing the activity of children with symbolic artefacts from which the child’s consciousness can be inferred. That is, the inner aspect of actions, inaccessible to observation, is inferred from the observation of behaviour. Both internal and external aspects of the activity are essential to his idea of concept. The child or young person’s actions can be understood in terms of a concept acquired by the subject which makes sense of a whole system of their actions, that is, that various artefacts are taken to be signs for a certain entity, the relevant concept. The inner and outer aspects of the activity are inseparable, and neither would be what they are without its connection with the other. This is consistent with saying that a concept is a form of activity. Although Activity Theory, with its precise definition of ‘activity’ was only founded by A. N. Leontyev only after Vygotsky’s death, Vygotsky’s concept of concept played the same role in his psychology: – that which provides the motivation for actions and allows the observer to make sense of a subject’s actions.
Finally, what makes a ‘true’ concept true are that the concept is a cultural-historical product of the wider community, transmitted to the subject by instruction.
“The tasks that are posed for the maturing adolescent by the social environment – tasks that are associated with his entry into the cultural, professional, and social life of the adult world – are an essential functional factor in the formation of concepts. Repeatedly, this factor points to the mutually conditioned nature, the organic integration, and the internal unity of content and form in the development of thinking.” (1934, p. 132)
Vygotsky further supports this proposal by means of occasional observations about the cultural and historical development of concepts. That is, concepts are in the first place units of a culture, from which they may be acquired by an individual. This explains the distinction he makes between artificial concepts, manufactured in the laboratory, and actual concepts.
#15139512
Fun question.

For some things, potentially never.

For instance, many Americans eat sushi. Sushi bars can be found everywhere. It's a high brow activity, just like the women sitting around and drinking tea & playing Mahjong in the 1930s. But at no point would we say that Sushi or Mahjong are Western.

It's also doubtful it'll ever occupy such a massive position in the national conscience to be able to slip in as an American thing.

Other things can quickly become part of a culture. I can't imagine Korea without baseball... but most Koreans walking around a hundred years ago would not have known what it was.

K-pop is another example -- there are some nineties acts that can be pointed to as a sort of K-Pop, but I am unware of anything in the 1980s that could properly be understood as it.

Another interesting example would be folk music in Korea -- honest-to-God, Western-style folk music has a very important place in the country, with countless legends like Kim Kwang-seok, Yang Hee-eun, Jeon Ingweon, etc. While most people would never initially associate folk music with Korea, it's hard to imagine not being able to go into some off-the-beat LP bar or cafe run by a long haired dude or an uncharacteristically dressed down woman playing these folk classics...

It's really a fun question.

I think culture mostly has to do with reference points -- and how people from that group have a common set of tropes and ideas about how a thing is, and are far more inclined to default to these. It can change, naturally, but some things are eternal, and change can't really be forced. The artificial changes to it will also fade away with the generation who instituted these things.
#15139514
Everything is a part of culture, the significance simply depends on how many people are exposed to it or take part in it.

For instance, let's say there was only one Muslim-American who prayed to Allah, well they're American and so it is still a part of American culture. However, only that one person does it and very few witness it therefore it would be an extremely small part of American culture compared to many other things, but it's still a part of it in a very small way.
#15139522
Unthinking Majority wrote:Everything is a part of culture, the significance simply depends on how many people are exposed to it or take part in it.

For instance, let's say there was only one Muslim-American who prayed to Allah, well they're American and so it is still a part of American culture. However, only that one person does it and very few witness it therefore it would be an extremely small part of American culture compared to many other things, but it's still a part of it in a very small way.


I hate this way of thinking.

Theodore is the English form of Fyodor (Russian), Todor (Bulgarian), and Theodoros (Greek).

Obviously, in London, there will be English citizens named Fyodor, Todor, and Theodoros, but these names are not English names, they are Russian, Bulgarian, and Greek names. I also bet you that in Moscow, Sofia, and Athens, there are men named Ted / Theodore... Yet, Theodore is not a Russian, Bulgarian, or Greek name.

Likewise, when Fyodor, Todor, Theodoros, and Ted get fall in love with foreign women, have babies who have citizenship or eventually receive citizenship in those foreign countries, the Chinese, Malaysians, Indians, and Japanese do not say "These foreign names are now regular parts of our culture!"
#15139528
Verv wrote:I hate this way of thinking.

Theodore is the English form of Fyodor (Russian), Todor (Bulgarian), and Theodoros (Greek).

Obviously, in London, there will be English citizens named Fyodor, Todor, and Theodoros, but these names are not English names, they are Russian, Bulgarian, and Greek names. I also bet you that in Moscow, Sofia, and Athens, there are men named Ted / Theodore... Yet, Theodore is not a Russian, Bulgarian, or Greek name.

Likewise, when Fyodor, Todor, Theodoros, and Ted get fall in love with foreign women, have babies who have citizenship or eventually receive citizenship in those foreign countries, the Chinese, Malaysians, Indians, and Japanese do not say "These foreign names are now regular parts of our culture!"

I don't live in the USA or Germany, but eating hot dogs is something we do here and is a part of our culture. Hot dogs didn't originate in my country, but it's still a part of the culture here. Same with an American who eats pizza. It came from Italy but is a part of the US culture.
#15139529
Usage determines meaning, Webster is always chasing the changes in the ways people are using words.

This is no different.

But the 'invader' is usually changed in the process. Hot dogs are a little different than sausage. I imagine apple pie doesn't come with ice cream in Europe. Italians see spaghetti and meatballs as annoying, but I grew up on the stuff, so it's my favorite 'Italian' dish. Want some pineapple on your pizza? :D
#15139608
Unthinking Majority wrote:I don't live in the USA or Germany, but eating hot dogs is something we do here and is a part of our culture. Hot dogs didn't originate in my country, but it's still a part of the culture here. Same with an American who eats pizza. It came from Italy but is a part of the US culture.


And Americans even have their own distinctive forms of pizza.

Is eating at McDonald's part of Korean culture? What a strange question. Koreans do eat at McDonald's, and it is a habit for people, so maybe we could say something like eating foreign fast food and fusion fast food is something Koreans do regularly, but does this mean that McDonald's is a part of Korean culture?

I suppose you could say that -- but these things just clutter the mind.

Are there Koreans named Pavel? Yes, I've met an ethnic Korean and a Korean citizen whose only name is Pavel because his parents are both Korean-Uzbeks and he grew up there. But Pavel will never be a Korean name.

Are there Korean Orthodox people? Yes, of course. There are also thousands of pure ethnic Koreans who are Muslims, and maybe even tens of thousands who are Mormons. Yet, Islam and Mormonism, Orthodoxy and Russian first names, eating at McDonalds once every few months... These are not normal aspects of Korean culture that call to mind any concept of what Korean life is like.

The culture is not defined by its exceptional groups or individuals, nor is it defined by the fact that the bulk of people occasionally eat foreign products.

Nobody seriously says "America -- makes me think of people who drive Toyotas!" "America is all about Thai food."

"Ramadan is an important holiday in America -- after all, 1.1% of Americans celebrate it."

Just as such, nobody thinks of the 1-1.5% of Japanese people celebrating Easter as some feature of Japan.
#15139630
Verv wrote:And Americans even have their own distinctive forms of pizza.

Is eating at McDonald's part of Korean culture? What a strange question. Koreans do eat at McDonald's, and it is a habit for people, so maybe we could say something like eating foreign fast food and fusion fast food is something Koreans do regularly, but does this mean that McDonald's is a part of Korean culture?

I suppose you could say that -- but these things just clutter the mind.

Are there Koreans named Pavel? Yes, I've met an ethnic Korean and a Korean citizen whose only name is Pavel because his parents are both Korean-Uzbeks and he grew up there. But Pavel will never be a Korean name.

I get all of your points. So are we to assume that culture is then only things that originate from a certain place/society? Or maybe things that a large portion of the people of a certain society take part in?

That's hard to say. Everyone would associate eating hamburgers and hotdogs with American culture but those foods originate in Germany. Something like baseball is easy to associate with America because it originated there, but then what about the "ballpark frank" (frankfurter - a German food named after a German city brought by German Americans I assume)? These are hard questions.

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