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Culture from the Bottom Up



The culture concept has been severely criticized for its top-down nature in TESOL, leading arguably to its falling out of favor in the field. But what of the fact that people do live culturally (Ingold, 1994)? This article describes a case study of culture from the bottom up—culture as understood and enacted by its individual users. Findings suggest that culture is an emergent phenomenon for the research participant, who actively interprets, resists, and strategically appropriates the cultural materials at her disposal to fashion a cultural identity—actions reflecting both the individual nature of culture and the cultural nature of the individual. The researchers briefly discuss the implications of this bottom-up approach to culture for TESOL research and teaching and offer the approach as one solution to the dilemma of being either “for” or “against” culture in TESOL.