What is disculturation?

Joseph J Kozma.

Let me tell you the three influences or exposures or just happenings that caused me to think about culture and the condition of disculturation.

Remember the chess world- championship of 1972? Having been a chess player, even Jacksonville’s champion at one time, I followed the games and all of the reporting. Bobby Fisher was playing Boris Spassky. Fisher was late, forfeited a game, and became the world champion anyway and deservedly so. He was probably the very best ever. That did not impress the Russians; they called Fisher Nyet kulturnik meaning a man without culture. That he was a genius of chess did not matter. According to them he lacked culture.

The next exposure was offered to me at a meeting in Pennsylvania by an organization of psychologists. At their meeting it was discussed that physicians frequently disculturate because of their constant exposure to few things only, sickness and misery. Their connection to the world suffers, their mental frame gets lopsided.

The third influence is our daily language, news reports, television, schools, lectures, entertainment, etc. Culture this, culture that, National culture, military culture, minority culture; an unending list …

So then, what is the difference between the three ways culture is interpreted?

First, a cultured person is intelligent, educated (not necessarily by formal means), interacts with his surroundings in a positive way, because of that he can transcend economic and social classes. In contemporary societies many people qualify. In several countries formal education usually interpreted as being cultured.

When people with similar frame of mind or physical characteristics get together within their jobs and occupations, they develop a fairly standard way of thinking, behavior, devotion and preferences. A societal unit could be looked at as an example for that such as the organization of physicians as it was seen by the psychologists. Abstract ideas can also be a base for group cultures like work culture, culture of devotion to the death, etc.

Then comes the third category. A general attitude of people similarly educated with similar historical background such as the culture of nations, minorities, cities, ethnic regions, large social organizations. There is a time relationship due to changing political and social activities responded in a similar manner by the members of that large and permanent unit. At times language characterizes that group.

Looking over these categories one notices a distinct, common characteristic: a qualifier. Culture, standing on its own, means very little. We always speak of culture of something.

These three categories can be divided into sociologic and general educational categories. A broadly educated person is considered cultured. He stands on his own. He can have credentials and general acceptance. This meaning of culture indicates status.

The other meaning of culture is group behavior of two kinds: limited and broad. Eastern, Western, religious, political cultures are a few examples. While the driving force for the first definition is the individual and his education, the second and third definition is driven by the group and its behavior.

There is one aspect of culture that is not discussed here. That type of culture is historical and does not operate in our present society. Example: Mississippian culture, Woodland culture, 19th century culture etc. These types of cultures are mentioned here only to show the complexity of the language and the possibility of several interpretations of the concept. They are descriptive and used by historians.

Disculturation occurs when the function of a person either as an individual or a group member no longer meets the expectation linked with that status, meaning that he/she no longer can fully belong to his or her category. Prior experiences become of historical significance. The narrower the world of a person or society becomes, the more disculturation (loss of previously acquired or practiced culture) takes place.

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