Cultural Studies and Europe

Cultural Studies and Europe
or the Reality of Virtuality

Cultural Concepts


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Culture as a notion is multi-coloured and multifarious in the wealth of its  meanings. Research literature on the subject reveals hundreds of different definitions. However, that is not necessarily proof of a total lack of unity, but  can be seen instead as an expression of the great variety of aspects and factors which constitute culture, or of which approach to culture we take. Thus one can differentiate numerous aspects within the concept of culture, although these are also closely interwoven with one another. In general they represent traditional studies and scientific disciplines:

Most cultural theories, and the concepts of culture they rely on, embrace more than one of these aspects.
This favours or  more truly necessitates the elaboration of interdisciplinary and  transdisciplinary  approaches and theories. It also advances the cause of cultural studies, which for their part have provided  a wide range of definitions of 'culture'.

A meta-theoretical, synthetical method of approach incorporating  multiple perspectives allows the elaboration of a range of conceptual characteristics within the notion of 'culture', and as many of these concepts show common features they can be taken to represent a transdisciplinary conceptual nucleus.

Broad, general definitions of culture are offered by Hansen and Sperber in their cultural studies research:


Sahlins offers a highly regarded but narrower definition, which is propagated by UNESCO

The etymological perspective is also relevant: in the Latin 'colere' means to cultivate, from which is derived 'cultus', that which is cultivated or fashioned. Exposure in the modern world to languages of various ethnic groups, and associated  cultural diversification, has also led to the augmentation of concepts. When subject to historio-scientific examination, their linguistic representations (for instance in German, English, French) demonstrate differing contents. Cross cultural variation can immediately be seen in a comparison of words such as "Kultur" and "Zivilisation" in German, "culture" and civilisation" in English, and "culture" and "civilisation" in French. However the meaning of these concepts  are converging across languages as a result of international scientific contacts, cultural exchange and other information processes. Schools of thought,  as with other cultural concepts, are not subject to either territorial or linguistic borders.

Hansen, Klaus P. (1995): Kultur und Kulturwissenschaft. Tübingen/Basel: Francke. S. 15/31. [back to the text]
Acc. to Sperber 1996 in: Budin, Gerhard (1998): Wissenschaftskommunikation im Spannungsfeld zwischen Globalisierung, Technisierung und kultureller Diversität. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. 5.Nr. WWW: [back to the text]
Sahlins, Marshall (1995): Introduction. In: Our Creative Diversity. Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development. o.A.d.O.: World Commission on Culture and Development. S. 21.[back to the text]

About the Exhibition

Language, images, number systems

Reality and Virtuality


Does Europe exist?

Information Structures

Structures of Research

Cultural Studies on the WWW

Cultural Processes

European Policies, Civil Societies

Education and Scholarship

"Culture of Peace"

Cultural Exchange



Financing Research

©INST: Research Institute for Austrian and International Literature and Cultural Studies, 1998