What Is Cultural Invention?

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    • A cultural invention, like any other type of invention, must be something new and innovative. Additionally, a cultural invention must originate from a human or group of humans. Cultural inventions tend to change society in intangible ways.


    • All human behavioral conventions are cultural inventions. This is not to pit nature against nurture. Rather, nurture, by way of cultural invention, tempers and controls natural instincts and impulses such as anger. Feminists argue that gender roles and behaviors are not innate, but are socially constructed cultural inventions.


    • Human institutions are cultural inventions. A system of laws, for example, is not a fact of nature present in all species groups, but is a particularly human invention that varies from culture to culture. Laws are among the influences on behavioral conventions, and therefore are cultural inventions. Even such constructs as "childhood" and "adolescence" are cultural inventions, though they may seem based on biological truths. J. Amos Hatch writes in "Qualitative Research in Early Childhood Settings" that "childhood" is a cultural invention because "there is no permanent or essential nature of childhood."


    • Definitions and social conventions change and develop depending on historical and cultural forces. Ian Hacking describes the development of the term "child abuse" in "The Social Construction of What?" The phrases "child abuse" and "abused child" arose in the 19th century in Western culture, but their definitions continue to change over time. Such behavioral definitions represent cultural inventions.

    "Real" and "Cultural"

    • Ian Hacking makes a distinction between "natural" categories seen in nature and "interactive" categories seen in human behavior. For example, most people refer to tomatoes as vegetables, although botanically they are fruits. Therefore, the categorization of tomatoes as fruits is cultural, or interactive. The category depends not on physical, natural facts, but on the way in which we use and describe the plant as a culture.

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