Morris 1 Chris Morris - 213925177 Professor Tanya Taylor-Cherry HUMA 2195 Defining Europe: An Introduction to European Studies 24 October 2014 Europe: A Culture Area Tackling the definition of Europe is by no means an easy task. Terry Jordan argues that Europe is a human entity rather than a physical one; that the cultural and historical distinctiveness of Europe is what defines it as a region. When one considers culture it is the beliefs, customs, traditions of a particular society, group, place, or time that come to mind. Therefore, Jordan’s outlook collects criticism for its generic and eurocentric approach. If Europe can be defined by a cultural area, can the same argument be implemented for every other continent, country, or even city? Jordan’s thesis of Europe as a cultural area can unquestionably be proved correct; it is not difficult to reason that only the Europeans and European culture entails a true history in the sense of a diverse, dynamic past, distinguishing it from and elevating it above all other cultures of the globe. Terry Jordan defines the requirements an area must have to be considered a culture group as "any large area inhabited by people of a particular culture, a land upon which the visible imprint of that culture has been placed". As briefly noted above, these have been disparaged for their broadness and prejudice. Jordan set out two separate distinctions of a culture area, one being the old world, and the other is the modern Europe we know today. When describing the old world culture area of Europe, Jordan brings into play three requirements: must have a Morris 2 religious tradition of Christianity, speak one of the numerous related Indo-European languages and be of the Caucasian race. At first glance this would seem entirely unreasonable-surely there must be more to defining an area than language, religion and skin color. However, it is essential to remember that culture is contextual-one generation’s understanding and perception of culture, or of a culture area is different than another. At this specific period in history, it would not be intolerant nor would it be unreasonable to conclude that Terry Jordan's designation of the old world culture area is a suitable one. Upon examination of Jordan's definition of the modern day European culture area, one will notice it consists of numerous generic factors-factors which are arguably present in all firstworld countries on the globe today. These factors include a well educated, healthy and well-fed populous. Jordan also mentions the requirement of political, social and economic relevance with percentages that must surpass the world average. These aspects are broad and could potentially be applied to every developed country in the modern world. However, if we take a glance at the top twenty-five countries of the 2014 Human Development Index reported by the United Nations we will notice an interesting trend which complements and supports Terry Jordan's thesis. The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistical tool utilized to measure a country's overall achievement in its social and economic dimensions. The social and economic dimensions of a country are based on the health of people, their level of education attainment and their standard of living(The Economic Times). What the HDI assesses countries on is an accurate comparison to what Jordan requires of the modern day European culture area. From the top twenty-five countries found on the 2014 Human Index Report, fifteen of these countries reside in Morris 3 continental Europe. Six of these countries are currently, or were at one time in modern history colonized by the Europeans. Out of the top twenty-five countries on the HDI, there are only three countries that are not in Europe nor assisted in development by the Europeans. Now this may appear as a eurocentric observation, a way to proclaim European excellence, but these are merely facts that have been examined and reported by an unbiased source. Yes, Jordan's definition is no doubt broad and unspecific. However, after taking the previous facts into consideration it is not hard to deem his proposal an accurate one. Let's set aside Terry Jordan, and consider a culture area on its own. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary a culture area is "a contiguous geographic area comprising a number of societies that possess the same or similar traits or that share a dominant cultural orientation". When referring to this definition it becomes evident that this culture area can be applied virtually everywhere, whether it be a continent, country, or city. Nevertheless, European culture-a culture which is present all over the globe in today's world, has a right to possess its own exclusive cultural area and definition. Europe symbolizes a set of standards which has advanced over the last two centuries into a grand meta-narrative: a story that traces the long march of Western civilization from its genesis (Peckham 64). Referring again to the results of the 2014 Human Development Index it demonstrates the continuation of European excellence in the modern world with fifteen of the top twenty-five countries residing in Europe. Although a number of grand civilizations have exis5ted throughout time, it is the civilisation of Europe which has made the deepest and widest impression, and which set the standard for all peoples of the Earth (cited in Davies 17). Again, Morris 4 permitting Europe its own specific culture area is certainly a eurocentric approach. However, Terry Jordan is not the first to define Europe as a distinct cultural area. The Ancient Greeks originally divided the world into continents as a way of setting themselves above what they considered to be the inferior, or barbaric cultures of Africa and Asia (Mikkeli 7). While this perspective in the modern world would be extreme and likely considered discriminatory, it is again imperative to remember context. The Ancient Greeks division of Europe from the rest of the globe is on par with Terry Jordan defining Europe as a culture area. It is only natural to endeavour in the preservation of European uniqueness and exceptionalism by pronouncing ways to differentiate Europe from all other cultures. Europe has always and currently does stand above other cultures of the globe with political, social and economic influence. Europe can be defined as a homogeneous culture area because of its remarkable history, it's unique merits, and what Europe symbolizes and provides to the modern world. Morris 5 Works Cited Jordan, Terry G. “Europe Defined.” The European Culture Area: A Systematic Geography. 2nd Edition. New York: Harper and Row, 1988. 1-20. "Human Development Index Definition | Human Development Index Meaning - The Economic Times." The Economic Times. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. Peckham, Robert Shannan. Rethinking Heritage: Cultures and Politics in Europe. London: I.B. Tauris, 2003. Print. Mikkeli, Heikki. Europe as an Idea and an Entity. New York: St. Martin's, 1998. Print. Davies, Norman. Europe: A History. London: Pimlico, 1997. Print. Webster, Inc. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 2004. Print. "Human Development Index Reports." United Nations Development Programme. 2014. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.