The Cultural Nature of Human Development

By Barbara Rogoff | Go to book overview

3
Individuals, Generations,
and Dynamic Cultural Communities

Each of us lives out our species nature only in a specific local manifestation …
our cultural and historical peculiarity is an essential part of that nature.
—Shore, 1988, p. 19

Scholars and census takers alike struggle with how to think about the rela- tion of individuals and cultural communities. This chapter focuses on how we can conceive of cultural processes and communities if we consider de- velopment to be a process of changing participation in dynamic cultural communities.

Two major challenges in trying to characterize people’s cultural heritage are the focus of this chapter. The first challenge is moving beyond a pair of long-standing related dichotomies: cultural versus biological heritage and similarities versus differences. The second challenge is how to think of cul- tural processes as dynamic properties of overlapping human communities rather than treating culture as a static social address carried by individuals.


Humans Are Biologically Cultural

The well-known nature/nurture debate places culture and biology in oppo- sition. Proponents argue that if something is cultural, it is not biological, and if something is biological, it is not cultural. In particular, psychologists have spent a long time trying to figure out what percentage of a person’s characteristics is biological and what percentage is cultural or environmen- tal. This artificial separation treats biology and culture as independent en- tities rather than viewing humans as biologically cultural.

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