Call for ideas Lens

Cultural Identity


“[Culture is…] knowledge, beliefs, art, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [an individual] as a member of society” (Tyler)

“[Culture is a…] historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, by means of
which [people] communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life."' (Geetz)

“In joining these perceptions of culture, we can derive five fundamental dimensions of the construct: 

  1. The judgmental or normative dimension is a reflection of society's standards and values, which often provides the constraints within which thought is facilitated; 
  2. The cognitive dimension consists of categories of mentation (such as social perceptions, conceptions, attribution, and connotations) that are often expressed through language;
  3. The affective dimension refers to the emotional structure of a social unit and its common feelings, sources of motivation, and so on; 
  4. The skill dimension relates to those special capabilities the members of a culture develop in order to meet the demands of their social and techno/economic environment;' and, 
  5. The technological dimension refers not only to different or more highly developed technological practices, but, more importantly, it refers to the impact of the different information inherent in these practices on cognitive and affective behaviors.”  (Cultural Identity and Behavioral Change, Edmund Gordon, 1997)

Claiborne Avenue Relaxing. Claiborne Avenue, New Orleans. Near Circle Foods, pre-Katrina. Photography by Derek Bridges, c.2001-2002. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons license. 

Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.
The Voice Of The Wetlands Allstars - New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2012. Takahiro Kyono, 2012. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons license.  

Pud Brown's "Jazz funeral", New Orleans. Layton Martens, Andy Galbiati, Mike Owen on trombones Photo by Infrogmation, 1996.  Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons license. 



Scared and Hopeful

By Ashana Bigard

Ashana Bigard is life-long resident of New Orleans and long-time advocate for the health and wellness needs of children and families in Louisiana, working with a diverse range of youth, education, and juvenile justice-based organizations.

Read Ashana Bigard's Scared and Hopeful

Environment and Culture in New Orleans


Robert C. Tannen is multi-disciplinary artist, educator, and regional planner for research and development, architectural, and civil engineering firms.

Read Robert Tannen's Environment and Culture in New Orleans


“It’s a city where music is essential to place, and thus to a shared local culture. And while the big festivals like Mardi Gras and Jazzfest can be fun – more so in the lead-in than the finale, truth be told—it’s not really about the biggies. It’s about the everyday. “ —Kaid Benfield, CityLab
“To get to New Orleans you don’t pass through anywhere else. That geographical location, being aloof, lets it hold onto the ritual of its own pace more than other places that have to keep up with the progress.” —Allen Toussaint, Musician
“We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t.” —Chris Rose, 1 Dead in Attic, 2006
“I’m not sure, but I’m almost positive, that all music came from New Orleans.”  —Ernie K Doe, Emperor of the Universe
“New Orleans is the only place I know of where you ask a little kid what he wants to be and instead of saying, I want to be a policeman, or I want to be a fireman, he says, I want to be a musician.” —Alan Jaffe, Jazz Musician and Founder of Preservation Hall
“People don’t live in New Orleans because it is easy. They live here because they are incapable of living anywhere else in the just same way.” —Ian McNulty, A Season of Night: New Orleans Life After Katrina, 2008
“[...] Creolization is part of the cultural continuity of community life and recreation of the social order—especially in the face of social and economic pressures or natural and unnatural catastrophes.  In a broader sense this perspective views the relationship between the conservation and transformation of cultures we find symbolized in expressive forms as a potentially universal creative process. The results of continuous co-mingling and adaptation of traditions to one another may produce continuities from past to present and ultimately future cultural arrangements where national or global outcomes may vie with local needs. —Nick Spitzer, “Creolization as Cultural Continuity and Creativity in Postdiluvian New Orleans and Beyond”, Southern Spaces, November 28, 2011.

More Information

“The National and Cultural Groups of New Orleans”, George F. Reinecke, Louisiana Folklife

"African American Culture in New Orleans", Alexis Hlavaty, Museum of the City

"How New Orleans is in Danger of Losing its Identity", Peter Moskowitz, Vice News

"Rebuilding the Cultural Vitality of New Orleans", Maria-Rosario Jackson, The Urban Institute