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By James Bau Graves

Cultural Democracy explores the problem of our nationwide cultural energy, as entry to the humanities turns into more and more mediated via a handful of businesses and the slender tastes of rich elites. Graves bargains the idea that of cultural democracy as corrective - an concept with vital ancient and modern validation, and an alternate pathway towards moral cultural improvement that's a part of an international shift in values. Drawing upon a number of scholarship and illustrative anecdotes from his personal studies with cultural courses in ethnically different groups, Graves explains in convincing aspect the dynamics of ways conventional and grassroots cultures may perhaps live on and thrive - or now not - and what we will do to supply them possibilities equivalent to these of mainstream, Eurocentric tradition.

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There are the step dancers—young girls in short skirts doing Riverdance imitations. They have no interest in ceilidh dancing—a form of called social dance. And neither steppers nor ceilidh fans make common cause with the set-dance fanatics—that’s a fast and complicated social dance performed by clusters of four couples much like an American square dance. By the time you’ve layered these various divisors over your population base in the attempt to determine how the community defines itself, you may have whittled your core participants down to a relatively small group.

1 Ethnicity is the expression of these traditions that combine to create distinct cultures, usually based on shared racial characteristics, language, locale, and religious system of belief. These broadly inclusive ethnic traditions are fundamental, like the communities that sustain them, lying at the root of most of the world’s cultural output. Second, traditions are supple, constantly shifting fields; though they embody vestiges of times past, living traditions are dynamic forces that reflect their own present.

The Cambodian meeting that opened this chapter was an early and important experiment in democratizing our culture-making process. My own position as a curator was eclipsed by a new role as community action facilitator, a role that is a recurrent motif in these pages. Our organization opened its doors and its budget to a dozen different ethnic communities and in the process completely altered our position in the cultural life of our city. We abandoned life as a small concert presenter and moved into a new realm, in which our programs play a significant role in forming and sustaining communities through the practice of cultural democracy.

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