Islam in the arts in the USA

Authored by: Sylvia Chan-Malik

Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415691321
eBook ISBN: 9781315794273
Adobe ISBN: 9781317744023


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In his oft-cited definition of “culture” published in Keywords, Raymond Williams tracks the term’s genealogy from the early fifteenth century onward, identifying that “culture in all its early uses was a noun of process” (Williams 1985: 87). Used to describe “the tending of something, basically crops or animals,” culture’s usage was eventually extended to apply to processes of human development, and by the mid-nineteenth century had begun to express its current multivalent connotations, often used in relationship with notions of civility and civilization, folk-life, and artistic work (Williams 1985). Writing in 1976, Williams explored how the word had come to be used in almost entirely metaphorical – as opposed to physical – senses. specifically as: (1) a noun describing a process of intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic development (e.g. to become “cultured” or “enculturated”); (2) a noun indicating a particular way of life (e.g. Chinese culture, Victorian culture, New York culture); and (3) a noun denoting the “works and practices of intellectual and especially, artistic activity” (i.e. music, literature, painting and sculpture, theater and film). These varied usages of the word made culture, Williams wrote, “one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language” (Williams 1985: 87).

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