Cultural meanings are derived through the active engagement of human beings in their ordinary socially embedded lives. As a result, the everyday notions derived from practice are necessarily vague to fit the various uses. Both key terms—identity and culture—that the reader encounters in this book are polyphonic. We use these terms in ways that cover a multitude of meanings at the same time—and these meanings lead us to feel into ourselves and our living environments with sudden passion. Consider the self-accusations—“I have no identity” and “I have no culture”—and the displeasure of even seeing these words on paper makes one uncomfortable. We do not clearly know what identity and culture are—but we feel challenged if accused (even by ourselves) of not “having” them! But are these common-sense constructs open to “having” them like we might possess our belongings—from stone axes to expensive jewelry to weapons of war? The answer here is NO—we can live by our own beliefs in who we are, and through the meaningful events in our lives we consider cultural—liking particular sari designs or brands of handbags, the performances of street musicians or orchestras in concert halls. We create our indigenous meanings of culture and identity—which are then cultural tools for our own lives. In everyday life we remain quite unconcerned about the imprecise nature of these terms, but use them profusely.
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