African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 171


“Culture” ‘Sous Rature’: A critical review of the notion of “Culture”: Consideration from cultural and literary studies

Ayman Abu-Shomar
Faculty of Arts King Saud University Post code 11451 P.O. Box 2456 Riyadh KSA, Saudi Arabia. 
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 05 September 2013
  •  Published: 30 November 2013



This paper offers a critical review of the concept of ‘culture’, and argues that at this particular juncture of our recent times the case against the concept has become prima facie a strong one. By tracing the various conceptualisations of the notion, its paradigms and schools of thought underlying the study of ‘culture’ in Western academy and beyond, I argue that in the 21st century the notion of culture has little to offer in terms of reflecting people’s ways of living. Following a post-colonial and Derridean deconstructionist repertories, I argue that the limitation of the term stems from its singular and latent form as it fails to reflect the mobility dynamicity, multiplicity and hybridity of current societies. The study is based on the premise that ‘‘culture’’ is thought of as hybrid, contested, and in constant (re)construction; not a noun but a ‘verb’. I, therefore, put the concept ‘under erasure’ to challenge the taken for granted, fixed and unified meaning of the term and move beyond the limitations of several ways it has been studied and theorised. In so doing, I speculate on the relevance of the concept to the liquid post-modern era that is marked by the fragmentation of societies, the emergence of new identities, Diasporas, immigration and birth of cyber-cultures. Additionally, in post-colonial institutional contexts, I argue that the concept of ‘culture’ mirrors the honorific term of the ‘canon’ or (the canonised English literary tradition). I contend that both concepts signify archaeology of ‘knowledge’ of the existing matrix of power relations in academia as well as in world relations. Both concepts signify the adoption of monolithic discourses that still perpetuate the regulation and dissemination of the ‘high cultural’ or ‘canonical ideology’, particularly in post-colonial academic contexts. I conclude that, both concepts should undergo critical revision or ‘erasure’ since they fail to reflect the discursive aspects of human and artistic life. The paper contributes to the wider debate of issues around “culture” and the literary canon by adopting a deconstructive post-colonial argument.


Key words: Cultural studies, post-colonialism, cultural hybridity, cultural hegemony, English literature.