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Durham University

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Publication details for Prof Mikhail Epstein

Epstein, Mikhail (2009). Transculture: A Broad Way Between Globalism and Multiculturalism. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology 68(1): 327-351.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper develops a concept of transculture as a model of cultural development that differs from both leveling globalism and isolating pluralism. While culture frees humans from the material dependencies of nature, it also creates new, symbolic dependencies—on customs, traditions, conventions, which a person receives as a member of a certain group and ethnos. Among the many freedoms proclaimed as rights of the individual, there emerges yet another freedom—from one's own culture, in which one was born and educated. Transculture is viewed as the next level of liberation, this time from the “prison house of language,” from unconscious predispositions and prejudices of the “native,” naturalized cultures. The case of the Japanese poet Araki Yasusada (1903–1972), a survivor of Hiroshima, demonstrates how transcultural creativity, though cast in the form of a literary hoax, can produce an internationally recognized achievement. Transculturalism is especially needed in world politics, where the factor of fixed cultural identity based on race, ethnos, religion, or ideological commitments turned out to be a source of conflict and violence. This paper argues that the categories of opposition and identity do not preclude the significance of the third category, which is difference. The differences complement each other and create a new interpersonal transcultural community to which we belong, not because we are similar but because we are different. The transcultural perspective opens a possibility for globalization not as homogenization but, rather, as further differentiation of cultures and their “dissemination” into transcultural individuals, liberating themselves from their dependence from their native cultures. The global society can be viewed as the space of diversity of free individuals rather than that of fixed groups and cultures. It is an alternative to the clash of civilizations and a hope for lasting peace.