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I am looking for a word that implies the unique/non-translatable aspects of a specific place or culture. It's for an academic paper, so feel free to pull suggestions from theory etc.

The author argues that the text does not appeal to universality but, on the contrary, to {{what is local/not shared by others}}.

Current option is "locality" or "the local" but neither feel quite right.

  • Or perhaps combine your answers into "the particularity of a place/culture"....though not exactly one word... – Gwen H. Jul 13 '16 at 2:20
  • How “local” are we talking?. Is it too localized for regionality? – Jim Jul 13 '16 at 2:24
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Generally speaking, the opposite of universality is particularity, which means

The quality of being individual.

In your example, it reads:

The author argues that the text does not appeal to universality but, on the contrary, to the particularity of the place/culture.

If you really want to emphasize the "non-translatability" aspect, you might go with haecceity (/hek-SAY-ih-TEE/), which means:

The property of being a unique and individual thing.

It comes from the Latin word for thisness and strongly connotes a thing's (almost metaphysical) uniqueness.

In your example it reads:

The author argues that the text does not appeal to universality but, on the contrary, to the haecceity of the place/culture.

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I would go with specificity. An alternative is some form of the word context.

Here's a well-cited academic paper that uses universality and specificity in its title, for instance.

In your example,

The author argues that the text does not appeal to universality but, on the contrary, to specificity.

If this is what you're looking for, I'd also suggest adding what the text specifically applies to.

  • Thank you for the paper example! Very useful. And a variation on "context" is a good option, actually. – Gwen H. Jul 14 '16 at 17:33
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singularity

Oxford English dictionaries:

  1. The state, fact, quality, or condition of being (single or unique)

Singularity also has the added connotation of singular's definition of exceptionally good or great.


relativity

Oxford English dictionaries:

  1. The absence of standards of absolute and universal application: moral relativity

Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual person's beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual's own culture. ~ Wikipedia

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Did you consider something simple like idiomatic?

The author argues that the text does not appeal to universality but, on the contrary, to the idiomatic.

Another option you might consider is:

The author argues that the text does not appeal to universality but, on the contrary, to the parochial.

  • "Idiomatic" doesn't connote place, at least for me. "Parochial" is interesting (even if implicitly negative). – Gwen H. Jul 13 '16 at 2:19
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I've seen parochial frequently used as the opposite of universal- it too means local or regional. "...the text does not appeal to universality but, on the contrary, to parochiality" doesn't sound too awkward.

  • Hmmm, I still don't think I will use it (we are talking about something that doesn't make sense in a western context, so the heavily christian "parochial" just doesn't work) but will tuck away for future reference. – Gwen H. Jul 14 '16 at 17:31

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