'Culture' is not benign

Arnold Shepperson, Keyan G. Tomaselli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article formulates some of the harder questions facing the post-modern Humanities project. Using cultural studies as a context, and a cultural tourism junket to Vietnam as an impressionistic case study, the authors probe some of the conceptual, logical and political terrors that have evolved since the events of 11 September 2001. It is argued that global terror is - semiotically speaking - a form of criminality peculiar to a world without empires in the classical sense. Dissecting the role of the concept of civilisation in the development and fall of empires, it is argued that the original impetus behind the early modern conception of culture was to act as a system or doctrine providing a normative regulating factor to moderate the headlong rush into industrial civilisation. However, the essential nominalism of the original family of concepts has resulted in 'culture' becoming a tool for justifying the rejection of civilisation, instead of merely moderating it: culture has become a ground for wholly relativised discourses that permit mass murder as a communicational option. The suggestion is offered that a truly comprehensive and comprehensible starting point for conceiving the role of culture in a globalizing civilisation, lies in the unashamedly anti-nominalist and post-Darwinian evolutionary philosophy of C.S. Peirce (1839-1914). Again, using globalisation and terrorism as a case study, we offer a preliminary overview of how it may be possible to reconceive the role of cultural inquiry as a resource for coming to grips conceptually with the uncertainties and possibilities (negative and positive) that have evolved out of the collapse of the bipolar world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-70
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cultural studies
  • Culture
  • Terrorism
  • The west
  • Third-world response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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