Understanding Cultural Diversity. Culture, Cultural Traits and Cultural Changes Between Global and Local Scales

  • Vincenzo Matera


This essay argues for a new attention to cultural traits and cultural diffusion notions by side of anthropologists. Such concepts are crucial to understand how Culture works and changes in the wider world beyond the local. Anthropologists are required to focus in a less parochial way on particularistic views and analyses of local cultures, and to study cultural processes from more wide perspectives, if they still have some ambitions to contribute almost in parts to improving cultural theory. To grasp what is going on in contemporary societies with regard to cultural dimensions is the chance for anthropology to overcome the crisis of representation of the last decades and to reaffirm its “authority” as understanding of cultural diversity.


Cultural traits Cultural understanding Cultural theory Local/global scales Creolization 


  1. Abu-Lughod, L. (1991). Writing against culture. In R. G. Fox (Ed.), Recapturing anthropology (pp. 137–162). Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.Google Scholar
  2. Amit, V. (Ed.). (2000). Constructing the field. Ethnographic fieldwork in the contemporary world (EASA book series, pp. 1–18). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Andersen, E. S. (1975). Cups and glasses: Learning that boundaries are vague. Journal of Child Language, II, 79–103.Google Scholar
  4. Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large. Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  5. Assmann, J. (1992). Das kulturelle Gedächtnis: Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen. Munich: C. H. Beck. Eng. transl. Cultural memory and early civilization: Writing, remembrance, and political imagination. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  6. Barth, F. (Ed.). (1969). Ethnic groups and boundaries. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.Google Scholar
  7. Barth, F. (1989). The analysis of culture in complex societies. Ethnos, 54(3–4), 120–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bateson, G. (1936). Naven: A survey of the problems suggested by a composite picture of the culture of a New Guinea tribe drawn from three points of view. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Benedict, R. (1934). Patterns of culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  10. Benhabib, S. (2004). The rights of others. Aliens, residents and citizens. Cambridge: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Berger, P., & Luckman, T. (1967). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York: Doubleday Anchor.Google Scholar
  12. Berlin, B. (1992). Ethnobiological classification: Principles of categorization of plants and animals in traditional societies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Boas, F. (1948). Race, language and culture. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  14. Borofsky, R. (1994). Assessing cultural anthropology. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  15. Brumann, R. (1999). Writing for culture: Why a successful concept should not be discarded. Current Anthropology, 40, 510–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cardona, G. R. (1985). La foresta di piume. Manuale di etnoscienza. Bari: Laterza.Google Scholar
  17. Clifford, J. (1988). The predicament of culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Clifford, J. (1999). Routes. Travel and translation in the late twentieth century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Clifford, J., & Marcus, G. (1986). Writing culture: The poetics and politics of writing ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  20. Descola, P. (2013). Beyond nature and culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  21. Dunn, R. G. (1998). Identity crises: A social critique of postmodernity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  22. Duranti, A. (1997). Linguistic anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ferguson, J., & Gupta, A. K. (1992). Beyond “Culture”: Space, identity, and the politics of difference. Cultural Anthropology, 7(1), 6–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fisher, M. (2007). Culture and cultural analysis as experimental systems. Cultural Anthropology, 22, 1–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Foley, R. (1997). Anthropological linguistics. An introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  26. Friedman, J. (1994). Cultural identity and global process. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  28. Geertz, C. (2000). Available light: Anthropological reflections on philosophical. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Gehlen, A. (1940). Der Mensch. Seine Natur und seine Stellung in der Welt (1940), Frankfurt am Main. Engl. Transl. Man. His nature and place in the world (trans: McMillan, C. & Pillemer, K.). New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  30. Gellner, D. N. (2012). Uncomfortable antinomies: Going beyond methodological nationalism in social and cultural anthropology. AAS – Working papers in Social Anthropology/ÖAW Arbeitspapiere zur Sozialanthropologie, 24, pp. 1–18.Google Scholar
  31. Gilroy, P. (Ed.). (2000). Against race: Imagining political culture beyond the color line. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday Garden City.Google Scholar
  33. Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction ritual: Essays in face-to-face behavior. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  34. Gupta, A. K., & Ferguson, J. (1997). Anthropological locations. Boundaries and grounds of a field science. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  35. Halam, E., & Ingold, T. (2007). Creativity and cultural improvisation. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  36. Hallowell, I. (1960). Ojibwa ontology, behavior and world view. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrils.Google Scholar
  37. Hannerz, U. (1969). Soulside: Inquiries into ghetto culture and community. New York: Columbia University Press. Re-edited University of Chicago Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  38. Hannerz, U. (1992). Cultural complexity: Studies in the social organization of meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Hannerz, U. (1996). Transnational connections: Culture, people, placet. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Hannerz, U. (2003a). Being there … and there … and there! Reflections on multi-site ethnography. Ethnography, 4(2), 201–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hannerz, U. (2003b). Macro-scenarios. Anthropology and the debite over contemporary and future worlds. Social Anthropology, 11(2), 169–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hannerz, U. (2010). Anthropology’s world. Life in a twenty-first century discipline. New York: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  43. Hastrup, K. (2004). Getting it right. Knowledge and evidence in anthropology. Anthropological Theory, 4(4), 455–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Herzfeld, M. (2001). Anthropology: Theoretical practice in culture and society. Oxford: Blackwell. Paris, UNESCO.Google Scholar
  45. Hoebel, A. (1958). Man in the primitive world. An introduction to anthropology. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  46. Huntington, S. (1994). The clash of civilization and the remaking of the world order. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  47. Inda, X. J., & Rosaldo, R. (2002). The anthropology of globalization, a reader. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  48. Ingold, T. (1993). The art of translation in a continuous world. In G. Palsson (Ed.), Beyond boundaries: Understanding, translation and anthropological discourse (pp. 210–230). Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  49. Ingold, T. (1998). Culture, nature, environment: Steps to an ecology of life. In B. Cartledge (Ed.), Mind, brain and the environment (pp. 158–180). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Ingold, T. (2004). Culture in the ground. Journal of Material Culture, 9(3), 315–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ingold, T. (2007). Anthropology is not ethnography, Radcliffe-Brown lecture. London: British Academy.Google Scholar
  52. Keesing, R. M. (1994). Theories of culture revisited. In R. Borowsky (Ed.), Assessing cultural anthropology (pp. 301–312). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  53. Khun, T. (1969). The structure of scientific revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  54. Kilani, M. (1994). L’invention de l’Autre. Essais sur le discours anthropologique. Lausanne: Payot.Google Scholar
  55. Kroeber, A. R. (1945). The ancient Oikoumene as an historic culture aggregate. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 75, 9–20.Google Scholar
  56. Kroeber, A. R. (1952). The nature of culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  57. Kroeber, A. L., & Kluckhohn, C. (1952). Culture: A critical review of concepts and definitions. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum, Harvard University.Google Scholar
  58. Kuipers, J. (1997). Language, identity and marginality in Indonesia. The changing nature of ritual speech on the island of Sumba. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Kull, K., Roepstorff, A., & Bubandt, N. (2003). Imagining nature: Practices of cosmology and identity. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Labov, W. (1973). The boundaries of words and their meanings. In C.-J. N. Bailey & R. W. Shuy (Eds.), New ways of analyzing variation in English (pp. 340–373). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Latour, B. (1993). We have never been modern. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Leach, E. (1959). Political systems of highland Burma. London: The Athlone Press.Google Scholar
  63. Levinson, S. (2003). Space in language and cognition: Explorations in cognitive diversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Lévi-Strauss, C. (1963). Structural anthropology. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  65. Lévi-Strauss, C. (1966). The savage mind. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  66. Lévi-Strauss, C. (1973). Tristes tropiques. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  67. Lewellen, T. (2002). The anthropology of globalization. Cultural anthropology enters the 21st century. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  68. Malinowski, B. (1944). A scientific theory of culture and other essays. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  69. Markowitz, F. (2004). Talking about culture. Anthropological Theory, 4(3), 329–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Matera, V. (2013a). Il nuovo Bricoleur. Archivio Antropologico Mediterraneo, 15(1), 97–103.Google Scholar
  71. Matera, V. (Ed.) (2013b). Deconstructing the field. Archivio Antropologico Mediterraneo, XVI, 15(2), 9–98.Google Scholar
  72. Matera, V. (2013c). Ethnography: Experiences, representations, practices for studying cultural diversity. Introductory notes. Archivio Antropologico Mediterraneo, XVI, 15(2), 9–18.Google Scholar
  73. Miller, G. A. (2003). The cognitive revolution: A historical perspective. Trends in Cognitive Science, 7(3), 141–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Ortner S. B. (Ed.). (1999). The fate of ‘culture’ (pp. 1–13). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  75. Sahlins, M. (1999). Two or three things that I know about culture. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 5(3), 399–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Sahlins, M. (1994). Goodbye to tristes tropes: Ethnography in the context of modern world history. In R. Borofsky (Ed.), Assessing cultural anthropology (pp. 377–394). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  77. Said, E. (1973). Orientalism. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  78. Sayad, A. (1999). La double absence. Des illusions de l’émigré aux souffrances de l’immigré. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
  79. Shore, B. (1998). Culture in mind. Cognition, culture, and the problem of meaning. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Speck, F. (1935). Naskapi. The savage hunter of Labrador Peninsula. Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  81. Sperber, D. (1985). Anthropology and psychology: Towards an epidemiology of representations. Man, 20, 73–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Sperber, D. (1996). Explaining culture: A naturalistic approach. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  83. Sperber, D., & Hirschfeld, L. (2004). The cognitive foundations of cultural stability and diversity. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8(1), 40–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Stolcke, V. (1995). Talking culture: New boundaries, new rhetoric of exclusion in Europe. Current Anthropology, 6(1), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Swidler, A. (1986). Culture in action: Symbols and strategies. American Sociological Review, 51(2), 73–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Trouillot, M.-R. (2000). Adieu, culture: Between theory and politics. Paper given at Culture and the Cultural: New tasks for an old concept? The Wenner-Gren International Symposium, 127.Google Scholar
  87. Tylor, E. B. (1871). Primitive culture: Researches into the development of mythology, philosophy, religion, language, art, and custom. London: John Murray [VI ed. 1920].Google Scholar
  88. Wagner, R. (1981). The invention of culture. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  89. Werbner, P. (1997). Essentialising essentialism, essentialising silence: Ambivalence and multiplicity in the constructions of racism and ethnicity. In P. Werbner & D. Modood (Eds.), Debating cultural hybridity (pp. 226–254). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  90. Werbner, P. (2002). Imagined diasporas among Manchester Muslims. Oxford: James Curry. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.Google Scholar
  91. Wikan, U. (1992). Beyond the words. The power of resonance. American Ethnologist, 19(3), 460–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Wikan, U. (2013). Resonance. Beyond the words. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  93. Wissler, C. (1929). An introduction to social anthropology. New York: Holt.Google Scholar
  94. Wright, S. (1998). The politicization of “culture”. Anthropology Today, 4(1), 7–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Yengoyan, A. A. (1986). Theory in anthropology: On the demise of the concept of culture. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 23, 368–374.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Social ResearchUniversity of Milano - BicoccaMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations