The Dictionary of Global Culture Summary

The Dictionary of Global Culture

It is not surprising that two scholars who have spent their careers exploring questions of race and racism should turn to educating a newly emerging global public. Skillfully directing a team of international scholars, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. have highlighted 1200 of the most essential features of a variety of world cultures, with an emphasis on contributions of the non-Western world. Readers of this work will find a remarkably wide-ranging collection of articles on writers, musicians, deities, rulers, philosophies, and literary forms, a collection ideally suited for illuminating references and concepts raised in television news, documentaries, and international literature.

This is not a work for specialists, who will find the inevitable omissions and inconsistencies. Room is made for the Nuer ethnic group of Africa, for instance, but not for the more diplomatically significant Hutu or Tutsi, while population figures are provided for the Dogon, but not for the Nuer. It is a book, however, that every personal and public library ought to own. Despite its suggestions otherwise, THE DICTIONARY OF GLOBAL CULTURE does not slight the western contribution, nor does it adopt a condescending tone toward western achievement. The Berlin Wall, Plato and Francisco Pizarro figure as prominently here as in any general reference work, but this time alongside assessments of the Ifa oracle, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Confucius. In an age characterized by the mixing of high and low, as well as western and non-western, cultures, it was perhaps inevitable that Babe Ruth and Confucius would turn up together. Appiah and Gates have produced a stimulating overview of this kind of global culture, and at the same time have elevated the tone of cross-cultural discourse.