Another question related to what it means to be 'part' of a culture is that of what it might mean to be a 'member' of a culture: this usage can be seen, for example, in Young ('Object appropriation occurs when the possession of a tangible work of art... is transferred from members of one culture to members of another culture' (Cultural Appropriation and the Arts, p. 6)) and in an introductory anthropology textbook by Jerry D. Moore ('For Kroeber... [c]hanges in some dimensions of a culture... may actually be governed by a superorganic oscillation that occurs unbeknownst to the individual members of a culture... For Benedict, cultures... have a distinctive essence because key values are learned by individuals as members of particular cultures.' (Visions of Culture, p. 63)). If cultures have parts, and cultures have members, then it seems natural to infer that a member of a culture is a part of that culture; but it seems also plausible that here we have become entangled in the multiple ways in which the word 'culture' may be used. Perhaps to refer to a group as a culture is a way of saying that it has a 'culture' in another sense of the word: that the group is defined culturally.
Do I, then, wish to say that a culturally defined group is distinct from the culture that defines it, or that the 'parts' of that culture include not only what the group's members do that characterises 'their' culture, but the doers themselves as well? When I try to bring to mind particular persons whom we might wish to say were constitutive of British culture, I find myself coming up with people whose 'cultural' credentials seem defined by their public roles: the Queen qua Sovereign; Churchill qua historical figure; Shakespeare qua author of the set of plays and sonnets we group together as 'the works of Shakespeare'; Morecambe and Wise qua much-loved comedians; and so on. These people – like artefacts, practices and so on – seem 'cultural' by virtue of the role they play for others, rather than on account of qualifying for 'membership' of British culture in the sense that Britons generally may be said to—British culture being shared amongst the population at large, including the altogether less famous majority of us.
Yet on the other hand, the place of Morecambe and Wise in our culture is clearly bound up with their particular personalities and accomplishments in a way that cannot be reduced to the role of 'comedian': nobody would say that another professional comedy duo was interchangeable with Eric and Ernie. That sort of inescapable particularity, moreover, seems to saturate the ways in which we encounter 'cultural' things generally: take this copy of The Book of Disquiet next to me, for example, which I know Jeff didn't care for but have suggested to Amanda that she might enjoy, wonder occasionally how Maria might appraise, and so on. It's such local reactions in aggregate, in which experience of the work itself is in no way divorced from one's particular situation and relations with other people, that make up the 'popular response' to a work. Of course, often it's the aggregate response with which we are concerned, and so we recall how Hume's Treatise 'fell dead-born from the press' as most of the world ignored it, and how Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther was received with a 'Werther fashion..., a Werther fever, a Werther epidemic, a longing for suicide' (Unseld & Northcott, Goethe and His Publishers, p. 21); but none of this goes on apart from individual responses to works and to each other.
If we want to say – and presumably we do – that what we understand 'culture' to be includes not only creative works themselves but also how a community defined by its culture receives, interprets, reinterprets, appraises, recommends, criticises, exchanges and otherwise uses them, then we do have a lot to say about how 'culture' includes the ways in which people whose culture it is live their lives—and I haven't even begun on practices not connected to the arts. Hence, of course, the diversity of usages which makes this enquiry problematic to begin with:
If you ask a simple question such as 'is toothpaste part of culture?' then [Johann Gottfried] Herder would say 'definitely not, though maybe it is part of civilisation'. [Matthew] Arnold would also say no, adding, however, that the toothpaste deployed by Pam Germ in her prize-winning 'Portrait of a Tape-Worm' is part, though perhaps a regrettable part, of the national culture. The professor of cultural studies will probably reply 'of course toothpaste is part of culture', since after all toothpaste is a way in which people form and express their social identity and the decision to use or not to use it is a decision directed towards others. (Imagine America without toothpaste!)
Roger Scruton, Modern Culture, p. 4
If it is an argument for the status of toothpaste as part of 'culture' that if we imagine a place, such as America, without it then we shall perceive such differences in people's ways of forming and expressing their social identities, then it seems to follow that we have an even stronger case for considering people themselves to be part of culture: imagine America without people! (Or merely – a Berkeleian restriction – without other people.) There is clearly a significant place for other people in our ways of forming and expressing our social identities, from family identity onwards.
So we have a prima facie case, if not yet a watertight one, for thinking 'culture' may not be wholly distinct from persons. It seems unlikely, however, that we shall soon see the Waverley Criteria invoked to impose an export ban on Alan Bennett, even though
[h]e is, according to the papers, a national treasure. Also a 'national teddy bear' (Francis Wheen), 'prose laureate' (David Thomson), 'curmudgeon laureate' (Mark Jones), and Oracle of Little England (Matthew Norman).
Obviously, we have independent grounds for not treating people like artefacts (and perhaps a slave-owning society would take a different view); but it is precisely the fact that we do resist treating people merely as resources – but can extend the title of 'national treasure' to Mr. Bennett nevertheless – that makes me continue to wonder whether our conceptions of personhood are indeed reconciliable with a view of people as parts of the stuff of culture. Although on the other hand, I'd be among the first to deny that cultural heritage in general amounts merely to a kind of resource.