Cultural Selection and Ethnic Identity in the Hellenistic Age

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.3, 2015


Cultural Selection and Ethnic Identity in the Hellenistic Age



Xu Xiaoxu


Scholars have used cultural assimilation, segregation, acculturation, antinomy, and transfer to explain the relationship between Greek and non-Greek culture in the Hellenistic age. It would seem that a new model of “cultural selection” should be put forward. We use ethnicity to explore identity in the Hellenistic world, with particular reference to the relationship between the construction of ethnic identity and cultural interaction. This model sees culture as a database: in constructing an identity, the subject can call on various cultural resources—whether his own or external—in accordance with the demands of given social settings, and can process these resources as his motivation, desires or claims suggest. The methods of “little history” are best suited to exhibiting the complexity of cultural selection and the construction of identity. Writing a “little history” of the ethnic identity of the Greeks and non-Greeks in Egypt and Palestine in the Hellenistic age shows the reasonableness of the “cultural selection” model.