‘Kultura’ in the 21st Century Filipino Language: Revisiting the Western Critique of ‘Culture’

Sheila Tampos Cabazares, Janus Cabazares


The critique of culture as a colonial objectification of the ‘other’ appears to remain oblivious that it is also a category shaped by forces other than Western discourses. This paper presents a view of culture articulated in 21st century Filipino language through contemporary academic and non-academic texts. Using linguistic analysis software to organize a combined total of 600 word occurrences of kultura into a corpus, we show how Filipinos use the term to denote ideas of unity and sharedness, especially in the non-academic context. Unlike the colonial use of the category to describe the subjugated ‘other,’ Filipinos use culture to refer to themselves as a collective, particularly in casual non academic discussions. Interestingly, in the academic context, the term is employed primarily as a lens or perspective through which social phenomena are viewed. In this domain, it is also used to talk about the ‘other.’ These nuances in academic, non-academic, Western, and non-Western discussions prove the category’s rich semantic content. Such richness is worth exploring further beyond Western hegemonic discourses and merits attention rather than renunciation.


contemporary Filipino, corpus analysis, culture, kultura, Western hegemony

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