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

  • Sheila Tampos Cabazares University of the Philippines Mindanao
  • Janus Cabazares UP Mindanao


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.

Author Biographies

Sheila Tampos Cabazares, University of the Philippines Mindanao
Sheila Tampos Cabazares is a faculty member of the Department of Social Sciences in the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She obtained her MA in Anthropology from the North Carolina State University. Her research interests include cultural studies relating to violence, killings, gender, and local concepts. Correspondences may be sent to stcabazares@up.edu.ph.
Janus Cabazares, UP Mindanao
Janus Cabazares is also a faculty member of the Department of Social Sciences In UP Mindanao. He took his MA Linguistics at UP Diliman. His research focuses on Philippine languages, semantics, lexicography, and the relation between language and culture. Correspondences may be sent to januscabazares@gmail.com


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