Cultural Regions of the World

The fundamental characteristics of human population co-relates to its cultural identity. This in turn includes religious beliefs, racial/ethnic groups, fundamentalist/cosmopolitan ideology, nature of economic activity, along with the constituents like dietary habit, clothing culture, as well as language spoken.

For the study of cultural identities of global population, the formal regionalization is done on the basis of the classification outlined by the historians ‘Boak & Webb’ - they have applied all the basis, except the language, in classifying cultural regions of the world.

The approach of Boak & Webb demarcates Major & Minor cultural regions in global profile.

  • Major Regions – reveal more coherent homogeny in cultural characteristics.
  • Minor Regions - magnitude of similarity is comparatively less than that in case of major regions.

Now, let’s study these Major and Minor cultural regions.

Table of Contents
  • Major Cultural Regions
  • Minor Cultural Regions
  • Pitfalls in the cultural categorization by Boak and Webb

Major Cultural Regions

Four prominent categories or realms of global cultures are:

  • Christianity Cultural Realm
  • Islamic Cultural Realm
  • Indic Cultural Realm
  • East Indian Cultural Realm

Christianity Cultural Realm

Christianity forms the largest cultural realm with maximum geographical expanse covering the new world (Australia, New Zealand, North and South America), entire Europe, as well as South Africa.

In the interpretation of cultural characteristics of this realm, i.e. when we go deeper and try to study its sub-parts, we take into account:

  • ideology
  • chronology of the development
  • economic development

Ideology and Chronology

In terms of ideology, Roman Catholic Christianity and Protestant Christianity form the basis of major demarcation (they also demarcate the chronological sub divides to some extent).

Protestant Christianity Sub Realm

It represents the scientific oriented ideology. In accordance, the regions identified with this realm prominently reveal cosmopolitan and economically developed status.

Western Europe forms the source region of this cultural sub-realm, which includes the added characteristics of intensive culture where demographic attributes primarily reveals over populated, ole age cohort. This source region is also identified with conclusion of demographic cycle with significant threat of depopulation for most of the countries.

Compared to it, Anglo America with Australia and New Zealand make the destination of this sub realm, though revealing the similarity of religious ideology and social composition (that is Caucasoid race). These destinations showcase the disparity in terms of extensive culture with demographic attributes still revealing growing profile of population with stability.

Roman Catholic Christianity Sub Realm

The ideological subdivide Roman Catholic Realm, in combination with Eastern orthodox Christianity, relates to the rest of Europe as its source region.

At its elementary level these Christianity ideologies reveal fundamentalist orientation, justifying the restriction in the level of economic development compared to northern counterpart. Primarily revealing the threat of declining population with Caucasoid race, this realm justifies the similarity with Western European protestant realm.

In the chronology order, Southern Europe designated to be source area of Roman Catholic realm, includes Latin America as the destination.

The Latin American realm, geographically extensive between Rio Grande River to Punta Arenas, makes the only Negroid Christianity cultural realm of the world.

Economic Development

Another defining difference relates to the levels of economic development, as all the Latin American countries represent “developing status”, unlike most of the European counterparts (which are developed).

Islamic Cultural Realm

It forms the second realm demarcated on the lines of religious ideology, geographically extensive as a continuous belt from Northern Africa to South West Asia. This Realm is also referred to be Dry Cultural realm / Desert cultural realm.

Collectively this realm reveals fundamentalist ideology with the common profile of Caucasoid race. Demarcation of characteristics of this realm is primarily outlined on Economic parameters.

  • Economically backward: This realm includes economically backward category, e.g. Afghanistan and Yemen, that also reveals most backward demographic attributes, i.e. highest crude birth rate, high Infant mortality rate and low life expectancy.
  • Economies in Transition: Compared to them, the economies in transition e.g. Iran and Iraq incorporate the combination of agrarian and industrial development, denoting moderate economic and demographics attribute. All the constituents of North Africa largely reveal the status of economics in transition with agrarian and Industrial growth.
  • Rich countries: All gulf countries are rich, representing hidden clauses of religion fundamentalism. The only exception is Turkey – it’s distinguished as the only culturally and economically developed country of West Asia that is a secular country.

It is with disintegration of USSR that the 5 central Asian countries, with 3 Caucasus states were added to the list of Islamic realm. Revealing fundamentalist approach, these constituents of Islamic realm also denote the distinction in the economic front. From among central Asian countries, Kazakhstan is only culturally, economically and demographically favorable state, whereas all the 3 Caucasus states (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia) are the transitional state between true Islamic and true eastern orthodox Christianity realm.

Over all, Islamic realm recognizes similarity in terms of religious ideology, while all the other parameters denote the differences persisting between the states.

Indic Cultural Realm

It represents the South Asian cultural realm that is largely depicted as the Indian subcontinent - common historical genesis and growth, with prevalence of well demarcated physiographic boundary.

This realm represents strong cultural homogeneity only in the perspective of rural agrarian setup. All the political constituents of this cultural realm reveal multi-lingual and multi-social characteristics.

Even in terms of religion, secular states of India and Nepal are distinguished from Islamic states Pakistan and Bangladesh (Though Nepal was a Hindu state till recently). Follower of Animism, Bhutan, and follower of Buddhism, Sri Lanka reveal the persisting diversity.

The homogeneity of this cultural region is thus outlined in similar history of cultural evolution and domination of agrarian economy, with maximum population residing in rural areas.

The Indic realm forms one of the prominent examples of Oriental cultural realm. The oriental realm, i.e. the eastern cultural realm, denotes the characteristics of rural setup, agriculture based economy, joint family norms justifying the prevalence of strong societal and cultural bonding with progressive ideology. It is in the same category as East Indian Cultural Realm.

East Indian Cultural Realm

East Indian Cultural Realm forms the East Asian cultural realm, that apart from including big economic nodes like China and Japan, also includes Mongolia, North & South Korea, and Taiwan.

This realm reveals dominating oriental characteristics, barring the exception of Japan, which is oriental in its location but has Occidental Cultural Traits. Fundamentally occidental cultural is identified with sound economic development (like the Western Culture), urban industrial living, nuclear families with restricted societal and cultural bondings. Japan reveals the combination of economically occidental but culturally oriental region of the world, which also includes the distinction of being “Rice & Fish” cultural region of the world.

The other demarcating characteristic of this cultural realm is the diversities in religious ideology, with Shintoism of Japan, Confucius of China, Shamanism of Mongolia, distinguished from Buddhist hubs of Korea and Taiwan.

The highlighting point of similarity for this realm is its social composition, i.e. Mongoloids.

Minor Cultural Regions

This category incorporates those cultural regions/realms of the world which reveal lesser interactive inter-relations – thus weak development of cultural homogeneity.

It includes:

  • South East Asian Realm
  • Meso-African Realm or Negro African Realm
  • Minor Ocean Realm

South East Asian Realm

It forms an example of oriental realm. Geographically and culturally it is divided into Mainland and Island, denoting distinctive cultural traits.

  • Mainland dominated with Buddhism, reveals strong religious homogeneity, barring the exception of Laos (Animism), Malaysia (Islamic), and Singapore (Cosmopolitan).
  • Island Archipelago – fragmented Island group justifies the prevalence of weak homogeneity, with largest country Indonesia being Islamic, whereas Philippines being Eastern orthodox Christian.

Homogeneity of this realm is depicted in terms of Mongoloid race and oriental cultural parameter.

Meso-African Realm

It drives its name from African continent. As these tribal communities form the example of closed systems, they represent variable cultural traits distinguished from each other. This lack of interactive relation makes Meso-African realm a minor cultural realm.

Though this realm attains its name from the continent of Africa, this realm includes all the fourth world communities existing in the world. Some of them have been listed below:

  • Bedouins of Sahara
  • Masai of African Savannah
  • Hausa of West Africa
  • Pygmies of Congo basin
  • San Bushmen and Hottentots of South Africa

Among other constituent of this realm, not residing in Africa, are:

  • Eskimos of Canada
  • Lapps of Europe
  • Chukehi of Siberia
  • Bindibu of Australia
  • Kazaks, Mongols of Central Asia

Minor Ocean Realm

The minor cultural realm of the world also includes fragmented islands of Oceania, which in terms of global analysis are isolated, negroid realm, with Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian culture.

Pitfalls in the cultural categorization by Boak and Webb

The cultural categorization by Boak & Webb favorably outlines all the geographic parameters in interpreting the global cultural realm.

However, the two prominent lacunae in this approach, which restricts its dominance in complete analysis are:

  • Complete ignorance of Linguistic analysis, and
  • Ignoring the cultural parameters of South Africa - Protestant Christianity, Developing Destination, etc.
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