Definitions: Culture, Cultural Geography, and
Cultural Landscapes

Culture is mostly easily defined as "learned behavior" and consists of several critical elements:

  • language -- sounds and signs
    Optional: student project of signs in Eau Claire
    Optional: create USA language maps by county
  • religion,
  • race (historically defined by biological features, e.g., skin color, noise size & shape, type of hair, body size, etc.) and its sub-category, ethnicity (defined by cultural traits of a minority defined by nationality, language, religion, etc.) For example, Germans in the U.S. are an ethnic group but the Germans in Germany are not an ethnic group but they are a nationality (a cultural group occupying a specific territory). Ethnicity is expressed in a continuum from authentic, such as the Hmong in Eau Claire, to ethnic tourism.
  • food,
  • clothing, and
  • politics.
  • Culturally, what really is a 100 percent "American"?


    Cultures are

  • specific,
  • located in space,
  • purposeful,
  • rule-following,
  • rule-making, and
  • communicating and interacting with people.

    A good example of culture is the Arab community of Dearborn, Michigan.

    Society and college students have particular ideas about college life. These cultures are expressed in the landscape. What does the Eau Claire on-campus (dormitory) and off-campus (ghetto) student cultural landscapes look like?

    Cultural geography consists of

    • cultural area,
    • cultural history, and
    • cultural ecology.

    Cultural landscapes consist of

  • The seasons and sunrises and sunsets are also an important aspects of human experiences and do alter the appearance and biological and human dynamics of landscapes. While weather changes continually, climate results in repeatable patterns which affects vegetation cover and what people can grown; thus climate becomes a permanent feature on cultural landscapes.

    Snow, for example, on an Amish farmstead or a skyscraper does not alter the fundamental differences between these two profoundly different cultural landscapes. Yet, forest fires dramatically alter vegetative and built environments, as the California fires of October 2003 illustrate -- the most destructive wildfire in history: 20 deaths, 1,800 homes burned, 567,000 acres (about 890 square miles) burned from Mexico to Los Angeles.