Working culture: Making cultural identities in Cali, Colombia

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There is a tension in social theory between approaches which privilege practice and those focusing on discourse. Such dualisms have recently been challenged, for example, in the analysis of social movements, by perspectives which seek to overcome divisions between culture and politics. I argue that these challenges can be promoted by focusing on the tension between culture as a human activity of working in the world, in which the material and the symbolic are unified, and culture as a commodified object in the context of hegemonic constructions of culture which construct it as primarily a set of symbolic representations. I examine this theme in relation to the efforts of young blacks in the city of Cali, Colombia, who use rap music to make a cultural identity as a way of life while at the same time constructing their culture as an object designed to move in circuits of consumer commodities and, especially, state and NGO funding. The local state and the voluntary sector also work on culture as a more limited set of expressions, seeking to depoliticize it. © 1999 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-471
Number of pages22
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1999


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