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1
The Cultural Frames Approach as an Alternative
View to the Ethnocratic Idea of Culture.
Josep Martí
Spanish Council for
Scientific Research (CSIC),
Barcelona
jmarti@bicat.csic.es
To the current important question of intercultural
relations and communication, the concept of culture
undoubtedly belongs. It is not only because of its importance
as a technical analytical tool but because today the idea of
culture -in the anthropological sense- goes beyond the
interest of the academic milieu. The concept of culture has
powerfully erupted in the political arena; discourses about
preservation of determined cultural traits or about the need
for cultural integration of immigrants today belongs to daily
life. In all discourses regarding ethnic minorities,
nationalism, immigration, multiculturalism, intercultural
relations, etc. culture clearly appears as a key concept.
But the question is now: what are we speaking about
exactly when we refer to culture? Until what point is the
concept so drenched of romantic ideologies, concretely of the
Herderian idea of the Volksgeist, really operative in
understanding our current reality in a more and more
globalized world?
Every day, anthropologists become more conscious that
"the concept of 'cultures' and 'societies' as our central
units of investigation increasingly seem outdated as
regulative ideas, since they indicate a stability and
boundedness in social systems which is unwarranted" (Eriksen,
1993: 2). Or in the words of Roger M. Kessing:
"I will suggest that our conception of culture almost
irresistibly leads us into reification and
essentialism. How often, still, do I hear my

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colleagues and students talk as if 'a culture' was an
agent that could do things; or as if 'a culture' was a
collectivity of people. Of course, we profess that we
don't really mean that 'Balinese culture' does or
believes anything, or that it lives on the island of
Bali (it is all a kind of 'shorthand'); but I fear
that our common way of talk channel our thought in
these directions. Moreover, attributing to 'Balinese
culture' a systematic coherence, a pervasive
sharedness, and an enduring quality -so that Bali
remains Bali through the centuries, and from south to
north, west to east (even nowadays, despite the
tourists)- commits us to essentialism of an extreme
kind. Balinese culture is the essence of Bali, the
essence of Balineseness." (Kessing, 1994: 302-303)
If it is true that today anthropologists call more and
more into question the dominant paradigm in the discipline
which still defines all societies as unique, virtually self-
sustaining systems to be understood primarily in their own
terms, according to their own, presumably unique cultural
logic (Eriksen, 1993: 3-4), the fact is that this dubious view
is well implanted in the population in general and especially
also still has great importance in the practice of policy.
The Herderian idea, which assigned to each Volk its own
ethnic spirit represented basically by its language and
traditions, was a progressive idea for that time. From that
point on, people granted each ethnic group its own personality
and intrinsic value. Furthermore, the erudite invention of the
Volksgeist justified the existence of ethnocratic states once
que monarchs had lost divine justification. Each nation
corresponded to a spirit and, in the same way, to an ethnic
culture as well. Moreover, the first folklorists, among
others, were entrusted to demonstrate this. In this way,
people began to collect songs, fairly tales and traditions.
Evidently, not all what was sung, narrated or belonged to the
daily life accomplished the requirements of what was
considered the ethnic spirit. However, the erudite Europeans
of that time, believing in a Volk idealized by romanticism and
in a spirit which nobody could actually see, built their
selective criteria. The erudite ones took care of cleansing

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the folklore collections of all which was not ethnic enough
1
.
In this manner, people began to speak of "one nation: one
culture".
This idea of culture is the reason that, if necessary,
the term culture can be used as a synonym for nation, state,
people (in the sense of Volk) or even race. That is why we can
speak of French, Italian or German culture, for instance. Here
we can see that, actually, the use of the term culture
sometimes is not so far away from the use we gave to the term
race some decades ago, a term that today has lost all
credibility as an analytical tool for anthropology. It is also
clear that through this use, we give mystical and unreal
components to culture, unreal components which, nevertheless
are easily used in power struggles; in part also because of
their very vagueness: "Symbols are effective because they are
imprecise" (Cohen, 1992: 21).
This manner of understanding culture is, evidently, a
consequence of the marked ethnocratic conception we have from
our societies, a conception which had a notable thrust through
romanticism and which today still has great force. We are used
to dividing the earth in discrete units of nations or states,
each of them with a different color on our maps; and we do the
same with culture. It is as though culture, in general, could
be fragmented according to these categories, in this way
showing different organic, systemic and discrete units.
According to our ethnocratic comprehension of the world,
we speak very easily of Basque, Spanish or English culture,
for instance, without knowing very well what these labels
truly signify. We do this in relation to a territory whose
culture is then organized conceptually and practically through
collections of objects, texts and rituals through which
distinctive signs are affirmed and reproduced (García
Canclini, 1995: 92). For anthropologists it will be very
difficult to define the culture of a particular country
exactly, but they will easily see that, according to the

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bearers of the culture in question, the different constitutive
elements of the culture can be classified into three different
groups:
A. Representative elements
B. Neutral elements
C. Rejected elements
A. Representative elements. The idea of representative
culture is narrowly related to the ethnicity phenomenon and to
those cultural products, which have to do with the expression
of ethnicity. When people are talking about Sardinian, German
or Catalan culture, for example, generally the anthropological
idea of culture is not meant. When within anthropology we
speak of the culture of a certain society, we are referring to
the totality of cultural elements which belong to this
society. However, in the case of the representative culture,
it is a question of determined cultural elements which have
been selected according to the criteria of concrete
narratives. Such elements, to a large extent, are based on
criteria not only of declared cultural paternity -that which
has been created by autochthonous or what proceeds from a
blurred antiquity and is supposed to have been created by our
forbears- but are also marked by value and exclusivity
criteria. It is a question of cultural elements, which can
proceed from the so-called high culture and also from the
popular one. In short, we have to deal with those cultural
elements appearing in publications which treat the culture of
a particular country. The stereotypical reproductions of these
cultural elements very often appear on the shelves of
souvenirs shops and, of course, these cultural elements always
play an important role in ceremonies with representative value
for a given country. If we take the example of Catalan
culture, for instance, it is easy to find numerous examples of
cultural elements which have a high representative value: the
Catalan language, the architecture of Gaudí, some dances or
foods, etc.

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B. Neutral Elements. This group is the most numerous.
There are cultural elements important for us but because they
do not have exclusivity traits; or because they are clearly of
foreign origin in spite of assimilation by the society; or
because of a lack of social value; we do not relate them
directly to a given culture. If we continue with our former
example, Beethoven, tango, the habit of wearing necktie, the
practice of skiing... It is clear that nobody would relate all
these elements directly to Catalan culture. Still, they
undoubtedly belong to the Catalan culture of every day.
C. Rejected elements. These are cultural elements which
are also relevant for a given culture, but they are in
contradiction with the idea of representative culture. People
do not accept them as their own cultural elements. Thus, the
introduction of these elements into society is always
attributed to immigration or modern communications systems.
All societies have plenty of examples for these kinds of
cultural elements which, because of ideological reasons, are
refused: For instance, the fight against the introduction of
English language in France, or the well-known theses of
Huntington in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the
Remaking of World Order. One of the main conclusions of the
book is that the rulers of the Western countries have to
safeguard the purity of the Western values with exclusively
European roots. Since Western culture is seen to be threatened
through immigration. Regarding the United States, Huntington
attacks multiculturalist policy because it puts U.S. national
identity in danger. According to him, this identity
historically has always been defined through the legacy of
Western civilization (Huntington, 1998: 304-305).
The representative and rejected cultural elements are, in
quantitative terms much less important than the neutral ones.
Still, they are very important in the configuration of
reference points for people's cognitive orientation, which is
very important for constructing ethnicity.

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The problem comes when representative culture and culture
are seen to be the same. This is namely the rhetoric of
culturalist ethnicist discourses. They take the part for the
whole. In this way, people give much importance to what, in
fact, is conjectural and depends on concrete narratives very
often related to struggles of power. This, in turn has to do
with the symbolic construction of reality. In the same way, we
create the representative culture of our immigrants as well.
To take this into account is also very important for the issue
of multiculturalism and intercultural relations. The most
important conclusion which we can draw from these reflections
is that the cultural competence of any person will only
coincide in small part with the explicit contents which people
usually assign to the representative culture of their society.
In every society, the real culture and the representative
culture occupy two different levels:
REPRESENTATIVE CULTURE
Selection processes
rhetorical
CULTURE
narratives
Selection processes
REJECTED CULTURE

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This manner of seeing reality is what, in short, has led
to the idea of national cultures; that is to say to the
concept of culture as this concept is understood in colloquial
language, when it is used further as a synonym for race or
nation. The main problem in using the idea of culture in this
way is that the idea is based more in ethnicist
presuppositions than in ethnic ones, the two being completely
different from one another. Thus, as it has been said,
"Defining a Culture is a question of defining boundaries that
are essentially political" (Wallerstein, 1997: 94). Moreover,
as already stated at the beginning of this paper, the concept
of culture represents a category not only with potential
analytical value for the social and humanistic sciences but
has also a wide social relevance.
Concretely, four clearly negative aspects derived from
the fact of understanding culture under the ethnocratic point
of view can be mentioned:
1. The trend of understanding the representative culture
as though it were really the true culture of society.
2. The standardizing view of the social system from the
cultural point of view.
3. Cultural determinism.
4. The importance given to culture over and above its
bearers.
The idea of the existence of a national culture distorts
reality because: (a) This culture will only be a small part of
the total culture of the population. (b) People assign social
relevance of this (representative) culture to the whole
population, which occupies a given territory. However, we now
know very well that it is impossible to speak of a given
culture as something concrete and well-defined or of "one
nation, one culture". The idea of a national culture always
gives a unifying image hiding the real cultural heterogeneity

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of a social system. These ways of seeing reality are not the
most appropriate -not in order to understand an ever more and
more globalized world, nor in order to know the true nature of
culture: which is always subjected to modifications as a
continuous process of negotiation; which is not given by
nature but constructed day by day by the individual.
The determinism inherent in the concept of national
culture is particularly important in the perception of the
other; that is to say in the perception of individuals
belonging to or coming from different social systems. The
notion of national cultures suggests that the individuals of
the society x have specific characteristics. This can have
pernicious social consequences, especially in the case of
societies with high rates of immigration. We shall remember
that basic premise of symbolic interactionism, so as William
Thomas formulated it: "If an individual defines a given
situation as real, it is real in its consequences" (quoted by
Joseph, 1982: 231). Obviously, if according to what we have
already said that the idea of national culture will never
coincide with reality, the danger of this determinism is
clear. Actually, we often fall back on the idea that "they do
what they do because they are what they are". And as Friedman
wrote, the key term here is essentialism (Friedman, 1994: 73).
We could mention many examples from our daily life through
which the deterministic character of our idea of culture
appears very clear. For example, Susan Miyo Asai discusses the
rejections suffered by an American Nisei (second generation of
Japanese immigrant) as an opera singer after having completed
his academic training in Chicago. He was refused simply
because he was identified with Japanese culture, in spite of
the fact of having been born and educated in the United States
(Miyo Asai, 1995: 434).
According to the ethnocratic view, culture is perceived
rather as a supra-subjective entity, which has attributes such
as persistence, homogeneity, continuity and territoriality
(Wicker, 1996: 20). The concept of culture experiences a clear

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reification process, as if culture could exist on the margin
of its bearers or social agents. So, for instance, very often
we speak of preserving traditional cultures, giving them an
intrinsic value without asking us if this always corresponds
to the general interest of society or of individuals.
With all those reflections, I do not pretend to deny the
possible existence of certain cultural traits, which can be
characteristic for a given collective, which can be defined as
a nation. It cannot be denied that there also exist cultures
in this sense. The problem lies in giving too great of an
importance to this notion of culture and at the same time of
ignoring or at least undervaluing other cultural
configurations in which people are immersed. Anthropology has
the duty of changing, gradually, the ethnocratic view of
culture through indicating different perspectives, which can
be more adequate for the reality in which we live. One
possibility is, for instance, to think in terms of cultural
frames (CFs).
A cultural frame (CF) is constituted by different facts
and cultural elements, which are articulated among one
another. In addition, a CF presupposes the existence of a
systemic code, which is shared by the social agents who
participate in the frame. All culture -in the singular and
anthropological sense of the term- is organized through a
countless whole of such frames. These frames can reach large
dimensions transcending state borders; for instance, Western
medical practice, military industry or universalistic
religions. Yet these frames can also be infinitely more
reduced, such as the frame constituted by a family, a company
or a hiking club. In short, a CF is all which can be
considered a system and which includes the active presence of
social agents. Its main characteristics are the following:
1. The focal point, which constitutes, in fact, the defining
trait of each CF. The focal point can be of a diverse nature:
an ideology, such as nationalism; a human collective such as

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organized groups of homosexuals; politicaly administrated
borders such as the state, etc.
2. The existence of social agents -individuals- who create and
participate in these frames.
3. The existence of a polydimensional whole of facts and
cultural elements, which are articulated among one another.
The life of any person can be culturally defined through
the participation of such person in the different CFs. It is
precisely because of this reality that, actually, all persons
are culturally different. For reasons of birthplace, gender,
age, profession, etc., we could hardly find two people with
identical participation in their respective CFs. Thus,
culturally, a person should be defined not by means of the
ethnocratic sense of culture that we use to label this person
(Catalan, Spanish, German culture, etc.), but by means of the
whole of CFs in which he or she participates. A particular
person, for instance will be culturally defined through the
facts of being born in Barcelona, a woman, belonging to the
60's generation, being a lawyer, etc. In addition to these CFs
of indubitable importance in the structuring processes, this
particular person participates in many other frames of greater
or lesser importance in defining her life: she belongs to the
ambit of opera followers, the internauts, the hiking scene...
The addition of all these participations in the different CFs
which form the vital space of the person constitutes his or
her cultural definition. Moreover it is obvious that within
the same country we will never find two persons, who according
to these criteria, respond to the same cultural definition. In
the same way, in the current globalised world, a person who,
for instance, has been born in the Netherlands will share many
CFs with people of many countries. Within this perspective,
returning to the above mentioned case of the frustrated opera
singer who was the son of Japanese immigrants, it becomes
easier to understand the nonsense underlying the rejection of
him in his profession. Competence in a given field, such as

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the opera of the previous example, should not be measured by
the culture to which a person is socially ascribed but by the
degree of identification which that person has reached within
the CF in question, by the ability of negotiating the meanings
of the frame and of acting efficiently according to its
inherent set of values.
As has already been stated, one of the basic conditions
for speaking about a CFs is the existence of social agents,
which create a frame and participate in it. This implies a
certain degree of identification among the different people
who share a given system; with the whole set of meanings,
norms and rules of behaviour which the system presupposes.
Obviously, this does not mean that all social agents
participate in the same manner in a given CF simply because of
the fact that, as already stated, there are not two
individuals who correspond to the same cultural definition. In
the music field, for instance, a jazz devotee will have many
things in common with other people who also identify
themselves with this musical style. But these people will
manifest enough differences so that their respective manners
of living and experiencing jazz will be never identical. A
person who has studied composition in a music high school will
never experience jazz in the same manner as some one without
any kind of technical knowledge in music. A person who
inhabits a big city and can frequently attend musical
performances will not live jazz in the same manner as a person
from the countryside.
Every CF is built by a polydimensional set of facts and
cultural elements which belong to the ambit of ideas, concrete
products and actions. We can understand the CFs in terms of
habitats of meaning as expressed by Ulf Hannerz, according to
the ideas of the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman (Hannerz, 1998:
41-42). The CF which is constituted by classical Western
music, for instance, is built by all those sets of ideas
(theory, meanings, values, etc.) which imply the creation of
concrete products (from varied musical forms to instruments,

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architectonical spaces for auditions, etc.) as well the
actions which are produced in associated manner in the
elements just mentioned (concerts, recordings, teaching,
musical critique, etc.).
In each CF, as in the above example of classical music,
the existence of an ideational basis which emically justifies
and explains the frame in question is very important. This
basis involves history, understood as a set of narratives;
myths, theories..., so as well the existence of a specific
code or symbolic frame which testifies to the established
relationship between concrete realities and the human
cognitive system. From the perspective of social agents, the
fact of participating in a given CF means to share with others
a particular world of objectivities (Berger, 1999: 25). The
clearest manifestation of this characteristic of the CF is the
existence of particular linguistic expressions. In the CF
formed by the world of classical music, we find a rich set of
lexical expressions which, proceeding from different languages
have often become independent even from their original
meaning: vivo, andante, bravo, cluster, suite, sarabanda, etc.
A Russian, Catalan or Japanese composer, for instance, knows
the meaning of the word cluster within the domain of
composition techniques, in spite of the fact that this
composer may not master the English language and does not know
to what this term exactly refers in the quotidian conversation
of English.
The existence of a whole or set of values and meanings
only understandable within the system which constitutes the CF
entails reference points constituted by those system elements
which accomplish, to a high degree, the particular horizon of
expectations of the CF: in the field of a musical CF, for
instance: the great composers, musicians, the famous concert
halls, recording companies, etc.
The CFs do not necessarily have to be identified with a
given territory; we have to think much more to the contrary.

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The reality of increasing globalisation causes
deterritorialization to be even the rule. This evidently
breaks down that idea inherent to the ethnocratic concept of
culture, which identifies cultures with territories. Regarding
our previously mentioned example of classical Western music,
we find social agents who participate in this frame in
Germany, Portugal, Argentina as well in determined social
sectors of Nigeria, etc. In contrast, this participation -
regarding territorial boundaries- never occurs in an automatic
or uniform manner. In all these countries just mentioned,
there are many people who, because of diverse reasons, do not
participate in the CFs of classical music.
The transnational enterprises which today consolidate
within the globalisation processes may be seen as
illustrations of the deterritorialized CF. Kenichi Ohmae,
specialist in the functioning of these companies in the global
market states it very clearly: the companies have to lose the
links which bind them to a concrete country; they have to
create a value system shared by the company directors from the
all over the world. "You have to be plenty convinced that
people can work in different social milieus even though these
people do not belong to these milieus; they belong to the
global enterprise" (quoted by Hannerz, 1998: 141-142).
Similarly, the same happens in the musical scene with
reference points such as Beethoven, the Beatles or Kitaro, for
instance. There is no doubt that within the nationalist view,
these musicians can be glorified as German, English or
Japanese. Yet what actually results pertinent is the
musician's importance within a given CF -classical music, rock
or New Age-, which transcends national borders. The musicians
are reference points for the consumers of Western classical
music, rock or New Age from all geographic corners of the
planet.
The CFs form a complex web; although we can grant them a
certain coherence and autonomy, they obviously interact
continuously between one another. The infinite possibilities

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of this interweaving produce the great diversity of cultural
phenomena. It has been stated above that deterritorialization
is a characteristic of the CFs, but we cannot speak in this
sense, in an absolute way. In addition, nationalistic
movements constitute powerful CFs and their overlapping with
other CFs create precisely the image of national cultural
elements. When we speak of national musics, national foods,
national architecture, etc., we have to see all of this as the
product of the interweaving of the CFs of nationalism with
other CFs such as music, culinary traditions and architecture.
Understanding the cultural production of humankind
through the idea of the CF allows as to avoid the fallacy in
which we, for so much time, have believed; that is putting
culture and society in the same basket. They are two concepts
that, although used in determined contexts sometimes as
synonyms, must not be blurred. This is for a very simple
reason: it is clear that in our current world, all society
generates specific cultural traits. However, it is not true
that the culture of this society has to be limited to such
cultural traits or that the culture of this society has to
appear in a uniform manner for all its members. The idea of
culture as a synonym for society lends itself to reinforcement
and justification for the idea of the cultural fact as a
"means of marking out and limiting group entities", as non-
Western anthropologists have accurately criticised (Gupt,
1997: 139), especially for the implications which this idea
has had in Western colonialist history. This ethnocratic view
is, definitively, what allows us to understand culture in
terms of national cultures. This also very often implies the
danger of understanding or conceiving of culture as a system
which can even be seen to exist at the margin of its creators
and bearers: the social agents.
I think, then, that it might be interesting to think more
in terms of CFs rather to speak of cultures in the sense of
national ones. All these considerations lead in short to take
force away from the ethnocratic character inherent in the

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concept of culture and gradually reach other views which can
result much more suggestive and above all more useful. The
idea of nation and all that it implies (national culture) does
not correspond in reality to one culture in the holistic and
all englobing sense of the concept but constitutes simply one
CF more. The world of a person, a city, a society is built by
many different CFs. Society x will have its own CF, which in
quality of construct, can determine a nation, as an imagined
community in the terms of Benedict Anderson (1983).
Furthermore, this same society will have a myriad of different
CFs which, taken as a whole, will allow this society to live
as such. The very diverse CFs within one society interweave,
overlap among themselves and very often also contradict each
other and generate struggles.
When people speak of national cultures, the trend seems
to be understand them as closed or self-sustaining systems,
which in fact define the ideal and idealized bearer of these
cultures. But what people understand as a national culture can
aspire, at most, to be representative culture but never the
total culture of the country's population. How could we really
confound culture -in the holistic sense of the term- with
national culture, now that we are more conscious than ever
that each nation is an imagined community?
As it is obvious, that all changes radically when we
understand society as a whole of very different CFs, national
culture being only one CF more among them. It is evident that
two Italians, for instance, might feel between them a higher
degree of proximity than between an Italian and an Australian.
There are CFs such as sharing the same language or the same
political administration, which have a great importance for
the structuring processes. But these CFs, in spite of their
importance, will never have an absolute validity. This greater
proximity which these persons of our first example might feel
is not due to the fact that they share the same national
culture but to the fact that they might share a major number
of CFs than in the case between an Italian and an Australian.

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According to this perspective, thus, the real culture of
a given territory, city or whole country will simply be the
addition of all CFs that we can detect in this ambit. Yet in
this regard, the idea of real culture for this geographical
ambit will be very weak. It is weak in the sense that the
concept of culture which we use in this case does not allude
to a well-integrated and internally articulated whole, as the
ideologies of an ethnicist nature imply when they speak of
national cultures. Instead, it alludes to diverse set of
different elements which will never be explainable only
through the particular characteristics of the territorial
system in which they occur.
The CFs generate personalities; in other words, coherent
manners and characteristics of behaviour according to the
contents and values of these CFs. However we should not
understand this important aspect as if the individual were
exclusively a product of these CFs, because on an other level,
they are the persons who, in fact, precisely create, choose
and modify the CFs. As already stated, to think in terms of
CFs signifies to understand the person plunged into a myriad
of CFs which, as a whole, will never be the same as the
national culture. In fact in daily life, the different kinds
of CFs help to define the kinds of relationships, which can be
established between people. Consider for instance: our reality
as Westerners when a Moroccan enters our life because he has
married our sister; or we share the bench with a Philippine in
a Catholic church every Sunday; or we have an Algerian as a
colleague in our work. We know these people as social agents
from some CF in which we also participate: the CF of family,
the frame of the religion, the frame of work. From this point
on, we will know people by their proper names. Thus, the
diffused ideas previously held which we could have about the
Maghrebi or Philippine cultures lose importance. This is
unless we have internalized racist discourses to such a degree
that the interpersonal relationship results fatally poisoned.

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If the fact of seeing and understanding people according
to the schemes of the CF through we establish mutual contact
is something often practiced by the common sense of our daily
life, we can think that this is what anthropology also has to
pursue. This would help us to liberate individuals of those
constructs which represent national cultures. The most
important differences between understanding the individual
basically as a social agent of a national culture or according
to the view of the CF are the following:
1. National culture is easily understood as a
determinative for individuals. This determinism disappears or
at least loses intensity if we understand the person as a
subject of many different CFs; not because other CFs could not
also present determinative traits (gender for instance), but
above all because of diversification. In this manner, then, in
front of the idea of perceiving a person basically as having
Zulu, Moroccan or German personality, we are confronted with a
person configured by many different personalities. This allows
us much better to understand the social agents as individuals
2
.
2. A given person participates in many of these CFs, but
not all people of the same society share the same CFs. This
allows us to have more present the culturally heterogeneous
character of every society.
3. Within the perspective of the CF, the idea of national
culture has also its place. In this case, we have to
understand national culture as a CF with its own ideational
contents through which the society in question would
subjectively define its own national characteristics. Still,
we must always understand this CF as one more among the many
CFs in which the person participates. This allows us to
relativize the importance of such a kind of construct.
4. This perspective of the CFs allows as to grasp much
better the arbitrariness of the political borders regarding
the cultural facts. The CFs move clearly through the

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boundaries of a concrete society, an aspect that is increasing
with the current globalisation processes.
Understanding a person as a subject of many CFs, and each
given person with his or her particular constellation of CFs
allows us to come nearer to the sociological theses of
methodological individualism. According to these theses, all
social questions, especially the functioning of institutions
should always be understood as the result of decisions,
actions, attitudes, etc. of the individual. We should not
conform with explanations on the basis of the so-called
collectives (states, nations, races, etc.) (Karl Popper,
quoted by Esser, 1980: 15); or in words from Esser: "Human
behaviour can not be explained through the belonging to
collectives and the characteristics of the framework in which
the individual is set but through the knowledge of his or her
individual history, of psychological circumstances and his or
her particular situation" (Esser, 1980: 15). The person is
plunged into many different CFs and evidently these CFs imply
conditioners of a sociocultural nature. Yet in any case, "they
limit the possibilities of what is possible but do not
determine the reality" (Boudon and Bourricaud, 1992: 224). In
the area of intercultural relations we should never forget
that actually "Cultures do not meet, but people who are their
carriers do" (Broom, Leonard et alt, 1954: 980). Furthermore,
the perspective of the CFs can help us to have this important
fact more present.
The central idea of the CFs approach is that the view of
a culture as built by an innumerable quantity of different
frames can substitute the old ethnocratic conception that
gives an absolute pre-eminence to a national culture: a
culture conceived as a subject which, although people admit
the possibility of the influence of external elements through
transcultural processes, is viewed above all as a cohesive and
integrated system; as a direct result of the Herderian idea of
the Volksgeist. This is an idea, therefore, that we implicitly
or explicitly carry for far too long already. There is not one

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country's culture that is an ontological reality. What in fact
constitutes the culture of the country is the combination of
many CFs as they have been described in this paper. There are
CFs with their focal points inside or outside of the country;
with their reference points inside or outside of the country;
with a whole of social agents who participate in them who can
be from inside or outside of the country as well.

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NOTES:
1
All this is perfectly illustrated by the dynamics of folklorism. See for
instance: Martí, 1996.
2
This also has consequences for the question of the potential universal
relevance of discourses about human rights. See about this: Martí, 1999.
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