Cultural practice is the manifestation of a culture or sub-culture, especially in regard to the traditional and customary practices of a particular ethnic or other cultural groups.

The term is gaining in importance due to the increased controversy over "rights of cultural practice", which are protected in many jurisdictions for indigenous peoples[1] and sometimes ethnic minorities. It is also a major component of the field of cultural studies, and is a primary focus of international works such as the United Nations declaration of the rights of indigenous Peoples.[2]

Cultural practice is also a subject of discussion in questions of cultural survival.[3] If an ethnic group retains its formal ethnic identity but loses its core cultural practices or the knowledge, resources, or ability to continue them, questions arise as to whether the culture is able to actually survive at all. International bodies such as the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues continually work on these issues, which are increasingly at the forefront of globalization questions.[4]



The real question of what qualifies as a legitimate cultural practice is the subject of much legal and ethnic community debate. The question arises in controversial subject areas such as genital mutilation, indigenous hunting[5] and gathering practices,[6] and the question of licensing of traditional medical practitioners.[7][8][9]

Many traditional cultures acknowledge members outside of their ethnicity as cultural practitioners, but only under special circumstances. Generally, the knowledge or title must be passed in a traditional way, such as family knowledge shared through adoption, or through a master of that practice choosing a particular student who shows qualities desired for that practice, and teaching that student in a hands-on manner, in which they are able to absorb the core values and belief systems of the culture. The degree to which these non-ethnic practitioners are able to exercise "customary and traditional" rights, and the degree to which their practice is acknowledged as valid, is often a subject of considerable debate among indigenous and other ethnic communities,[10] and sometimes with the legal systems under which these communities function. The difference between bona fide non-native cultural practitioners and cultural piracy, or cultural appropriation,[11] is a major issue within the study of globalization[12] and modernization.[13]

Evolution of culture

The evolution of traditional cultures is a subject of much discussion in legal, scholarly, and community forums.[14] It is generally accepted that all cultures are to some degree in a continual state of sociocultural evolution. However, major questions surround the legitimacy of newly evolved cultural expressions, especially when these are influenced by modernization or by the influence of other cultures.

Also, there is significant debate surrounding the source of evolution: for example, an indigenous community may accept the use of store-bought materials in the creation of traditional arts, but may reject requirements to apply for a permit for certain gathering purposes; the central difference being that one is an internal cultural evolution, while the other is externally driven[citation needed] by the society or legal body that surrounds the culture.


  1. ^ "Cultural Practices in Conflict with Canadian Law". Archived from the original on 2007-06-12. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  2. ^ "United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-11.
  3. ^ "oneFish Community Knowledge Directory". 27 September 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27.
  4. ^ Robertson, Roland (1 January 2003). Roland Robertson; Kathleen E. White (eds.). Globalization: Culture and identity. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415236911 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Canada, Global Affairs; Canada, Affaires mondiales (26 June 2013). "Global Affairs Canada". Archived from the original on 26 August 2018. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  6. ^ Orebech, Peter (1 January 2005). The Role of Customary Law in Sustainable Development. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521859257 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Wang, Conrad (Fall 1996). "Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chinese-American Communities". Archived from the original on 2000-10-21.
  8. ^ Romero-Daza, Nancy (September 2002). "Traditional Medicine in Africa" (PDF). The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 583 (1): 173–176. doi:10.1177/000271620258300111. S2CID 146286646.
  9. ^ Dauskardt, Rolf P. A. (1990). "The changing geography of traditional medicine: Urban herbalism on the Witwatersrand, South Africa". GeoJournal. 22 (3): 275–283. doi:10.1007/BF00192826. S2CID 189890335.
  10. ^ "Yahoo - 400 Bad Request". Archived from the original on 2020-05-11. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
  11. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on 2005-09-03.
  12. ^ Koopman, Jerzy (2003). "Biotechnology, Patent Law and Piracy". Electronic Journal of Comparative Law. 7 (5).
  13. ^ "indigenous cultures". Caslon Analytics. Archived from the original on 2014-02-13.
  14. ^ "Earthdance: Chapter 20 - The Indigenous Way". Archived from the original on 2007-09-05. Retrieved 2007-09-08.