Seeing the Field

"Culture" is the modern world's standard for righteousness. It is pre-eminant. It is caught up in its own debates over 'determinism' vs. free will. It is caught up in how to 'redeem' academic discplines on its terms. It answers all our questions on where we come from, who we are, and how we should see each other. And there is lots of denominationalism in how to understand what culture is. Whereas the base-line for a standard of thinking used to be God, displaced for Reason, then displaced for History... History is now being displaced for Culture as the foundational standard for authoritative appeal. (Dichronic for synchronic...) How can we be bridge builders if we can't filter the world with a view for how others are seeing it? Kathryn Tanner is a progressive theologian who wrote a book called "Theories of Culture" that we are reading in one of my classes. In one chapter, she lists 9 points of definition for modern thinking about culture that strike me as more clear than any of the other books on culture I'm reading. Every one of the points is currently being debated by some faction of academia, but in general, Tanner calls these the points of reference for agreement or disagreement in approaching the modern concept of culture. What do we think? (Pre-criticism) Elements of Modern Culture (9 Points) 1. Culture is a human universal. - animals are biologically driven - humans are culturally driven 2. Culture's universality highlights human diversity. - "anthropology justifies its existence as a discipline by a distinctive account of such differences" (p26) 3. Culture varies with social group. - differences of culture are based in association to different networks of social interaction - if differences are not 'associable' (the exception), then they are counted as physiological or an idiosyncrasy of personal experience 4. Culture is conceived as an entire way of life. - total body of beliefs, behaviors, knowledge, sanctions, values, and goals 5. Culture is associated with social consensus. - spread equally over all members of the group to whom it's ascribed - subgroups can maintain institutional distance and form its own consensus, though only within a limited geography and not soas to redefine an overarching consensus (ex. Amish) 6. Culture constricts human nature. - it is a "constitutive medium" and not a secondary influence - ie. culture is the filter through which human nature passes 7. Culture makes humans, but it is also made by humans. - it is the cumulative effect of human interactions over time - it is human driven 8. Culture's particularity and purpose are arbitrary. - no culture can claim inevitability - no matter how longstanding or uncontested, any culture could have been otherwise 9. Culture suggests social determinism. - society shapes membership characteristics - culture's particularity is arbitrary, but one's conformity to it is not


Post a Comment

<< Home