The Divisions of Culture

The ‘Divisions of Culture’ is a planning tool that can help teachers and students to think in divergent ways about a subject or context. It is quite easy to use but can be extremely generative: opening up new paths for exploring and studying a subject, as well as suggesting new activities and opportunities for study.

The tool is usually presented as a grid of 18 sections or divisions, each division representing a different dimension of culture and society.


War Family Shelter
Work Child Rearing Embellishment
Worship Myth & Memory Nourishment
Learning Travel Celebration
Law Health Clothing
Leisure Environment Territory


It can be used in a number of ways, for example as a curriculum-mapping tool:

1. Start with a theme: The Romans
2. Think of an inquiry question: What were the effects of the Roman invasions on Britain?
3. Use the divisions of culture to map out the areas of study:

War Roman legions & their organisationThe Iceni Revolt – its origins, events, and implicationsThe aftermath – the subjugation of the British tribes
Family The importance of family & their roles in Roman & Celtic cultureRoman & Celtic attitudes to women (Boudicca as a queen)
Shelter Roman cities & Celtic settlements – their differences & similaritiesHomes, villas, temples, etc. – building materials & design
Work Roman attitudes to work – soldiers building the wall etcThe role of slaves & slavery in Roman & Celtic culture


And so on. Many of these divisions are the kinds of themes common in the study of a subject like the Romans, but some, such as embellishment and myth and memory, might not be so common and generate new thinking on a subject. For example:

Embellishment Study the different iconography of Roman & Celtic culturesTheir different use of shapes, themes, and motifsWhat might this tell us about their beliefs, values, and society?
Myth & Memory How did the Romans & Celts remember? What stories did they tell?What happened to the stories of the Celts? None of the tales of the Iceni were written down. What might they have been like?Perhaps stories such as Beowulf might give us clues.


In this way the Divisions of Culture tool can help create new and interesting lines of thinking, study, and understanding. As well as suggest possible activities for developing and applying the students’ knowledge.

The Divisions of culture can also be used to develop an imaginary context, for example:

1. Start with a theme: Animals
2. Think of an inquiry question: What responsibilities do humans have to the care and protection of animals?
3. Think of a context: A team of animal experts running a wildlife park for endangered animals, preparing to open the park to the paying public.
4. Use the divisions of culture grid to plan activities and areas of study:

Child rearing Life-cycles for different species of animalsDifferent kinds of gestations, birth, & rearing for different speciesFor example, reptiles, mammals, fish, birds, etc.
Health Learning about the respiration, circulation, the importance of heat, etcKeeping animals health, happy, & comfortableShould they be returned to the wild?
Nourishment Different kinds of diet for different speciesHealthy eating, the importance of water & correct nourishmentHow to feed animals safely, routines, methods?


And so on. It can also be used to suggest activities and areas of study around the running of the park as an attraction:

Learning How could we tell people visiting the park about the animals? – Booklets, guides, interactive resources, information boards etc.Should we have a study centre, for children visiting from schools? What should we provide for them? – Study sheets, question boards etc
Environment How can we create an environment in the park that will allow people to look at the animals close up, but keep them safe and ensure the animals are not disrupted?What about places for people to eat, relax, and keep dry if it rains?How do we keep the environment clean and free of litter?


Ref: The Divisions of Culture grid is adapted from the work of Edward Hall – Beyond Culture


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