“Your City Has No Culture!”

That’s what I often hear from “folks” who live in places like New York City. They also happen to be “folks” who earn upper-middle-class livings and define culture based on “high art” standards. Anything that doesn’t have a marquis or high price tag for access doesn’t count as culture. And I venture a guess that patronage by white people is also a big part of the ethnocentric experience that shapes their definitions. I could, of course, be jumping to conclusions. But, this narcissistic anthropologist believes she has been noticing enough to know better.

I am going to go ahead and let the misuse of the word “culture” slide for now. Because whether a city like mine that is portrayed in media as having a primarily “Boughie” consumer culture instead of an artistically or cultural-tradition based culture….”culture” is still present. Culture is the human reaction to the constraints imposed upon us by our environment and our sociopolitical situation.

Here are some other attempts at defining culture (thanks to Texas A&M University):

  • Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.
  • Culture is the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people.
  • Culture is communication, communication is culture.
  • Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behavior; that is the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behavior through social learning.
  • A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.
  • Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its symbols include a group’s skills, knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions.
  • Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand, as conditioning influences upon further action.
  • Culture is the sum of total of the learned behavior of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation.
  • Culture is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.

Definitions aside, however, I know what the point of criticism is referring to.  But when I look at my city I see a vibrant grassroots arts community.  I could spend days photographing the public and street-level art that runs rampant through pockets of my city.  There is a pronounced culinary and ethnic food culture here as well.  It actually is known for being a “food” city.  I also see a vibrant gay and lesbian community that shapes our popular culture here.  Then there is the “dirty south” hip hop scene, a thriving DJ culture and a very distinct nuanced social order that comes from the intersection between the old south (that lives just moments away) and the thriving metropolis of the city.   When I drive through town I also see tons of students walking to and from various universities, a quirky hipster-bicycle culture and various other pockets of curiosity.   Not to mention a couple of museums, a botanical garden, a mainstream theatre that hosts touring shows, several other amateur and professional theatres, an opera and a ballet.

I think it’s important for those who have access to “higher” forms of art as a part of their insulated city life to take a moment to notice what’s happening on the ground.  Every city has “culture”…that’s unavoidable.  But most cities, even if they don’t have a high-profile, public-facing creative scene, have a lot art and nuance going on if you care to look deep enough.  And once enough people go deep and take the time to excavate the artifacts of art from beneath the surface of their city, they have the power to put their city “on the map” as a “cultural center”.  Lets just go ahead and take a moment to recalibrate our definitions and then there will be no stopping the advancement of human “culture”.

Categories: Anthropology, Art, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Participant Observation, pop culture, Uncategorized, urban culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Post navigation

One thought on ““Your City Has No Culture!”

  1. An interesting list of definitions of culture. Reminds me of Kroeber and Kluckholm’s classic study “Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions” only a very light version.

    These definitions are descriptive attempts to define what to look for or where to look for something we call culture. Identifying the object may be the first step, but more important is understanding what the object does in the large system of reality/experience. From a biological perspective, Culture is life’s second replicator. Culture replicates that which has lead to a successful mating of the past experience with the present necessity and improves the odds of a future for a human society.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at


femdom/adult writings

Punk Rock Anthropology

All things punk rock: music, news, and fashion.

ish ism

Love. Explore. Advocate. Rejoice. Note.

Adventures in Living Abroad


Abigail S. Holbrook, MSW, LCSW, LLC

Counseling and Consulting in Athens, Georgia


The only authority for all things beer...

Millennials at Work

Coming of Age for the Millennial Workforce


Personal, design, inspiration, interests.


Just another site




Being a popular kid isn't easy,you have to be cautious about every move of yours because you know that all eyes are on you.Not just the eyes that look up to you but also the eyes that love to see you in pain.You might have your own list of followers but with this list there exists the "popularity starved crowd" who wants to replace you.But when reality bites these morons and they're back to square one,hurt and angry with themselves they try to make you the victim of their moment of high adrenaline,just to make you suffer because you're better.They try to clean their head by ruining your perfect life.What's more is right then you realize that none of your "friends" are what they appear to be.You're broken,depressed .You feel the need to talk to someone of your own kind,someone who won't judge you and that's when you can find me at thepopularitébug,I promise to do anything and everything to help you out of your problem!Amen.

Working Self

Creating Meaningful Work with Rebecca Fraser-Thill


Often described as a blog, an online magazine, a journal. When examined further the description changes and it becomes a project, an objective, a mission. American Male is one simple thing. It is a collection of different thoughts and experiences so come share yours and be part of the narrative.

nydwracu niþgrim, nihtbealwa mæst

signals, signals everywhere / and not a thought to think


World travel and photography

entitled millennial

"any man can handle adversity; if you want to test his character, give him power"

%d bloggers like this: