This chapter introduces South Africans’ popular and high cultures, their intellectual preoccupations, and their everyday arguments and debates. We investigate the country’s traditions of music, theatre, dance, film, and art; the character of everyday social interaction in cities, suburbs, and townships; and the most lively elements of contemporary intellectual life. Finally we address some of the most highly charged issues in popular debate and the media: racism and ‘decolonisation’, crime, corruption, HIV/AIDS, and sport. A seemingly innocent idea, ‘culture’ evades easy definition. Social scientists sometimes talk of cultures to refer to the ‘maps of meaning’ through which people make sense of their world: an accepted practice in one culture may not make sense in another; a traveller may experience ‘culture shock’ when unfamiliar experiences do not correspond to their expectations. The everyday use of the term is equally contested.
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