Culture and Representations: Why Culture and Representation Matter

Introduction

Cultural representations play a critical role in determining how people view certain aspects of a specific culture. By bringing out unique aspects of a given culture, representations make it easier to create a shared understanding of the culture and shape how it is viewed by the general public. Without representations, it will be more difficult to explain key concepts about a certain culture and the world views that are held by people of that culture. Representations aid in deconstructing different aspects of a specific culture and influence how people perceive the culture in general. Viewing representation as one of the crucial goals of media will help to assist people from underprivileged backgrounds and belonging to cultural minorities, thus promoting equality and social justice.

Three Things Learned about Culture and Representation

Cultural representations are mainly the result of long-standing cultural practices and beliefs that unite people of a specific group. Culture includes established practices, beliefs, and ways of life that are unique to a particular type of audiences. People belonging to a single culture have certain aspects of life that unite them and encourage them to behave in a way that allows them identify as the members of a group. According to Arvind, representations refer to how people bring out these unique characteristics of their culture (38). Therefore, the latter must be represented in one or more ways by the people who subscribe to them. Cultural representations, therefore, are a means of both validating certain practices associated with them, as well as spreading information and knowledge about them. When cultural practices are represented in popular media, more people get to understand their significance better and share experiences associated with them with other people. Therefore, encouraging the media to shed light onto marginalized cultures and representatives of minorities should be seen as an essential goal.

The fact that cultural representation can be used as a basis of political power was also highlighted in the course content. Cultural representations in the media are rarely associated with political or manipulative power, but they, in fact, have a significant amount of power in influencing how people perceive each other. Cultural representations that portray people in a particular way eventually determine how they are perceived by people of other cultures (Arvind 38). The representation of certain elements of culture can also be used to change how people interpret that aspect of culture and how they exercise it. As the discourse on a particular representation takes place, the beliefs and views of people regarding that aspect of culture may change in an intended way. Cultural representations can be used to portray a certain characteristic of culture either positively or negatively, which gives the people or groups who create them some level of political power and influence. The power to control representations can be the basis of cultural oppression, as it is possible to shape and change how people view a certain culture.

The analysis of the social role of language, or semiotics, was also useful as it provided practical information on how language is used in representations to explain different concepts of a specific society. Language in itself cannot be useful if it does not influence the views that people have about different aspects of life. In turn, semiotics will help to discover the deeper meaning of how language reflects societal changes. Language is, therefore, analyzed as a social tool that is used in representations to explain concepts that can shape the views that people have about life in general.

Why Culture and Representation Matter

The study of representation plays a key role in understanding the different aspects of a specific culture. According to Arvind, all meanings are created by historical events that are influenced either directly or indirectly by cultural factors (39). The representation of culture is, therefore, a key aspect of all essential historical events that have taken place in the past. Studying and understanding cultural representations, thus, provides crucial information that can be utilized to analyze and understand different characteristics of a particular culture (Quijano 171). Since representations include main beliefs and practices that are associated with a specific culture, understanding them makes it possible to deconstruct the culture and understand the significance of its different aspects, such as language form and traditional practices.

The use of cultural representations also promotes tolerance among people of different cultures. Through the analysis of the subject matter, one gains insights into the beliefs and customs of people of different backgrounds and learns to appreciate them (Williams 49). As a result, cultural differences lose the value they have, as one finds more useful information about people belonging to minority groups. Understanding the significance of certain cultural aspects encourages one to tolerate people of that culture more, as there is a shared understanding of what certain cultural practices mean (Escobar 155). Cultural tolerance reduces the impact of binary oppositions, where conflicting aspects of different cultures do not have a common ground. Since there is a shared understanding of what cultural practices mean, the value of any existing differences diminishes, which makes it easier for people to be more appreciative of other people’s cultures.

Cultural representation also enables people to make sense of the world by enabling people to use language to express their thoughts and beliefs about different aspects of life. The linguistic and semiotic approach to representation relies on the use of language to create symbols and images that can be understood to mean something about a certain aspect of life. According to Hall, a key role of language is to explain useful concepts about different aspects of life that can enable people to have a better understanding of their society and the world in general (13). Cultural representations, therefore, rely on language to explain often abstract concepts about life or a specific aspect of a certain culture.

A World without Representations

In a world without representations, communicating existing cultural knowledge would be substantially difficult, as it would be challenging to explain the cultural knowledge in question in a way that is easy for people to understand. It will also be quite complicated to share information about key cultural practices, as symbols and images that can be easily understood will not be used. Knowledge and information about other cultures will also be limited, which would reduce social tolerance and make it complicated for people of different cultures to understand each other. Language would also not be an effective tool of communication as its social application will be significantly limited.

Conclusion

Cultural representations play a key role in communicating useful information about different cultural practices and their significance. Through cultural representations, it is possible to understand existing world views about certain traditions and customs that are associated with a particular culture. Representations are also a source of political power, as they can shape how people perceive a specific culture. By creating a shared understanding of certain concepts of life, cultural representations also make it easier to eliminate binary oppositions that would otherwise make it difficult to overcome conflicting views or opinions about certain aspects of culture.

Works Cited

Arvind, Padmaja. “Stuart Hall’s Circuit of Culture- Media Culture- With Reference to Film.” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science, vol. 24, no. 4, 2019, pp. 38-40.

Douglas, Mary. “Do Dogs Laugh? A Cross-Cultural Approach to Body Symbolism.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, vol. 15, no. 4, 1971.

Escobar, Arturo. Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton University Press, 1995.

Hall, Stuart. (ed.) Culture, media and identities. Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices. Sage Publications, Inc.

Quijano, Aníbal. “Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality.” Cultural Studies, vol. 21, no. 2, 2007, pp. 168-78.

Williams, Raymond. “The Analysis of Culture.” Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, edited by Storey, J, Prentice Hall, 1998.

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NerdyTom. (2022, July 29). Culture and Representations: Why Culture and Representation Matter. Retrieved from https://nerdytom.com/culture-and-representations-why-culture-and-representation-matter/

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