[Reader-list] Re: [Urbanstudy] Re: Problematizing Definitions

anant m anant_umn at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Dec 21 19:24:48 IST 2005

hm. i hope i am not making an ass of myself in the
presence of a whole bunch of cultural studies folks. 
i think it is better to think of a geneology of
culture rather than define it. to my reckoning, the
first loaded use of the word culture was made by
mathew arnold.
some time in the second half of the 19th century. this
was just before the time colonial anthropologists were
seriously beginning to wonder if they had it all
worked out. for arnold, culture was high culture all
that is 'beautiful and intelligent' and he was
strongly opposed to the plebian and the ordinary. and
you must read his dismissive references to the irish!
education therefore had to be in the hands of the
cultured and not democratized. 
later on a whole range of marxist critics led by
raymond williams turned it on its head and argued that
culture is really the ordinary. this was a way of
challenging the ways in which high culture reproduces
power relations.
raymond williams and his work notwithstanding, culture
remained largely the domain of anthropologists first
the structuralists strauss and then bodley and geertz
types whose primary means of getting at culture was
via ethnography where one places oneself firmly in the
lifeworlds of those whose culture is being studied and
then withdraws to the library to reflect on the
ensembles of meanings and practices that are not one's
own. hence ideas like primitives, savages and noble
savages and then the ultimate 'thick descriptionists
and so on. 
Here is the cross that the scholar bears: she/he at
the moment of the ethnographic encounter and actually
coproduces meaning with an interlocutor but when she
or he withdraws to write about it for a diffferent
audience, she or he produces the culture of the
'other' for the consumption of scholarly kin. 
thus in your interaction with the woman whose child
you thought was being treated cruelly (at least at
firsy anyway) she and you together coproduced
meaning.but when you report it to us, the woman
remains outside of this conversation and it is her
culture versus our culture that we end up talking
well, that was an attempt at a rough and ready
geneology of culture. i have no idea what culturality
means. others please add or delete. 

--- zainab at xtdnet.nl wrote:

> I am still interested in understanding the 'general
> meaning' of the term
> culture? What constitutes culture? And what
> constitutes acts of
> culturality?
> Cheers,
> Zee

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