Joey's experience as an international student in Johannesburg prompted a few intriguing questions about culture. In response to these questions, Robert Thornton presents his own interesting perspectives on culture. His text is entitled "Culture: A Contemporary Definition" and it appears in the book series "South African Keywords". Though it was first written in the turbulent times of the 1980s in South Africa, Robert Thornton's text still has currency and his definition of culture is still relevant, as the title suggests, Culture, A contemporary definition. The text challenges the idea that people are fundamentally different. Although the chapter is written from a South African perspective, the points that Thornton raises are applicable across different contexts. For instance, in the first paragraph, Thornton gives examples of how the term culture has often been used in the plural, whether on Kellogg's cereal boxes giving instructions on how to communicate across cultures or on formal documents, such as the Freedom Charter and school textbooks. Why do you think he lists all these examples? Does he also believe, like the authors of the Freedom Charter and school textbooks, that there are many cultures? What do you think Thornton's actual argument is upon reading the following extract? Thornton states, "These commonplace notions distort the nature of culture. They need to be corrected in order to understand what culture is and what it does." If we think about the statement carefully, we can see here that Thornton is referring to the authors of the Freedom Charter and the textbooks he cited earlier, and stating that these texts present everyday understandings of culture as cultures with an s. Thornton argues that because these authors add s to the word culture, they mislead us into believing that there are in fact many cultures. So he's of the view that there is simply culture and not cultures as was suggested. The reestablished chapter seeks to substantiate this point. Following on from Thornton's first paragraph, the discussion illustrates how the term culture has been used and abused through the ages, how it has justified the oppression of minorities, as in the case of the Jews who were persecuted for the sake of ethnic cleansing during the Holocaust. In the next sections, Thornton shares his views on culture. He says that culture is a resource, like sunlight and air. What do you think of this? So essentially, he's saying that culture does not belong exclusively to anyone, and that a person is not born with it. He reckons that culture is a product of social and historical processes. He goes on to say that it is important to consider what culture does. In this case, culture creates boundaries. These boundaries would include such things such as ethnicity, religion, gender, and so forth, in other words, things that we have created ourselves. In this way, Thornton argues that the idea of cultural groups is something that has been created, learned, and internalized, and he asserts that differential access to cultural resources has created what seems to be distinct groupings. What this means is that not everyone has the same access to the resources that are made available through culture. In fact, severe restrictions are sometimes placed on certain groups in society so as to prevent them from using these resources freely. In South Africa for example, during the period of apartheid, Black South Africans were given very limited educational resources in comparison to their White counterparts. So the best schools, the best paying jobs, and the best access to healthcare was preserved for a small White minority. So for Thornton, education, employment, and healthcare would be seen as cultural resources. This unequal access to resources intensify the distinctions between White and Black identities in South Africa. So according to Thornton, this goes to show that boundaries are not permanent, they only seem to be so because people have agreed on what constitutes these boundaries. Such boundaries can therefore be unlearned. For instance, the idea in some patriarchal societies that women cannot be educated is a misconception that's been widely challenged, and subsequently, increasing numbers of women in these societies are being educated. The idea that women could not be educated is therefore being unlearned. By understanding culture as a resource that anyone can possibly draw from, we might begin to appreciate that differences are not inherent but a product of social structures, and that individuals have more in common than imagined. We saw this in the case of our international student Joey who came to study in South Africa as well as in the DNA journey. In light of Thornton, consider the following questions in relation to your essay. What cultural resources do you draw on to construct your identity? And which of these resources accompany you when you move from one context to another? Also, what were some of the compromises that you had to make in order to fit in?