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Distinguish culture from heritage

Many learners ask how is heritage different from culture? Indeed there is confusion between the two concepts, especially when they are used in everyday conversation.

To put it simply, heritage can be seen as one aspect, one component of culture.

Culture is a type of knowledge, a system of meaning as the anthropologist Clifford Geertz put it in his 1973 book on the interpretation of cultures.

Culture is the context within which behaviours, events, processes, and institutions are situated. Culture is the set of mental categories that we learn as we grow up and which help us organize our behaviour and interpret our experiences.

Thus culture is mostly about ideas and behaviour. However it has a close link with the material world. Culture – like intangible heritage – exists and is manifested in the interaction of people with one another and in connection to their material environment.

Heritage has a stronger material connotation than culture and is oriented towards the past. However both culture, as a system of meaning, and heritage, as a system of tangible and intangible objects and practices, contribute to forging the sense of belonging to a community.

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This article is from the free online course:

Cultural Heritage and the City

European University Institute (EUI)

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