Brock Webb argued that a particular phenomena dominates the cultural landscape. He considered religion to be the largest dominant cultural trait which defines the other cultural traits of a region. Above all, he argued that the cultural distinction is lost once the effect of the religion is withdrawn. Webb divided the world into four major and two minor cultural realms. These cultural realms of the world have fundamental similarity in their outlook towards the world. These are as follows.
1. Occidental Realm
- Important Regions: West Europe, Continental Europe (Slavic), North America, Latin America, Mediterranean Coast and Australia.
- Christianity is the main religion of this realm.
- Main languages of this region are Germanic, Italic, Hellenic, English, Slavic, Celtic and Albanian. These languages are part of the Indo-European language group.
- There are regional variations in urbanization, polity, language and economic development within this realm.
- The religious beliefs have been sidelined because of renaissance and modernity.
- Now, it has become a rational and individualistic society.
2. Islamic Realm
- Important Regions: Pakistan, West Asia, Central Asia, Northern Africa from Egypt to Morocco.
- These are sparsely populated areas.
- River banks, coasts, oases etc. are the important settlement locations.
- People of this realm are highly orthodox in religious matters.
- Women have a lower social status than men, therefore, there is low female literacy in Islamic realm.
- People have high per-capita income because of mining of petroleum and natural gas.
- Persian and Arabic are the most used languages.
3. Indic Realm
- Main Regions: Indian Subcontinent.
- It is also known as subcontinental or paddy culture.
- This area has a well defined geographical boundary, so, this culture stayed protected from foreign invasions for a long period of time.
- People live in joint families and large village communities.
- Further, the people are divided into caste groups.
- Feudal lords manage the agricultural sector and revenue collection. Agriculture is primarily monsoon based.
- Hinduism is the largest religious group of this realm.
- Women have a lower social status than the men.
4. East Asian Realm
- Main Regions: China, Japan and Korea.
- Buddhism, Taoism and Shintoism are the main religions.
- The family system is traditional.
- Women have lower social status in these regions than men.
- These regions have a high level of industrialization.
The Two Minor Cultural Realms are as follows.
- Southeast Asia
- These regions include Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Philippines and Singapore.
- It is a region with many intermixed cultures.
- Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity equally influence this region.
- It was primarily a tribal region but people changed their way of lie under the influence of religious missionaries.
- Meso-Africa or Sub-Sahara Realm
- Primarily, it includes the tropical regions of Africa.
- Further, it is a tribal culture with Animism as their main religious belief.
- The people of this region have remained isolated throughout most of human history. Therefore, it could not spread to other parts of the world.
- It is a rural culture with little use of modern scientific knowledge. Hence, their agriculture and lifestyle is traditional.
In conclusion, one can say that religion determines the way of life of people. It determines the dress, food, status of women, economic activities and other aspects of culture. For example, in Islam, it is unethical to lend money on interest. Similarly, Hindus consider it unholy to kill cows. There are few problems with this classification. Firstly, religious beliefs originate from the man-environment relationship. Religious beliefs are part of culture and do not form the culture itself. Secondly, Webb ignored many cultural regions such as Aztec, Inca, Maya, Aboriginals etc. Thirdly, this division of cultural realms does not incorporate cultural change as a factor.
Kulwinder Singh is an alumni of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and working as Assistant Professor of Geography at Pt. C.L.S. Government College, Kurukshetra University. He is a passionate teacher and avid learner.