Ethnic culture

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File:BattleRegalia PapuaNewGuinea by C Arnesen.jpg
Men in Battle Regalia, Papua New Guinea. By Christopher Arnesen—Stone/Getty Images
File:Santas by Nick OMalley.jpg
Men in Christmas Regalia, Australia. By Nick O'Malley

Too often, when we think of culture, we think of "ethnic culture" - African culture, Spanish culture, Polynesian culture, etc. - as though these are discrete artifacts that exist ahistorically, rather than as living, changing, porous practices that influence and are influenced. Culture becomes reified and objectified as a Thing and its members delimited as Others/things.

For instance, in the course of telling a young woman about the Cultural Studies program, she gushed in response: "Oh, I love cultures! Which one is your favorite?" As sweet and funny as this sounds to us now, it nonetheless demonstrates a sense of distance, even branding, of ‘culture.’ Obviously the young woman was thinking of ethnic cultures. But in referring to them the same way one would refer to ice cream flavors or bands, her own culture "disappears". She can pick a favorite and compare her 'taste' to others'.