Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Interp of Cultures by C. Geertz 1973

The Interp of Cultures by C. Geertz 1973

4-e.b. tylor’s concept of culture as “most complex whole” led to unlimited defs w/ many facets

5-says his own concept of culture “is essentially a semiotic one”; agrees w/ weber that culture is where man is “suspendended in webs of significance he himself spun”

-operationalism as a methodological dogma “is largely dead” but can still be useful to understand what science is

-anthros practice ethnography

7-difficult b/c of large amounts of possible and layers of meaning

9-and adding in researcher who comes w/ diff ideas so even when he appears to b simply observing “the factual base, the hard rock, in so far as there is any, of the whole enterprise, we r already explicating: and worse, explicating explications”

-analysis “is sorting out the structures of signification”

10-“once human behavior is seen as… a symbolic action…the ? as to whether culture is patterned conduct or a frame of mind…the thing to ask…is not what their ontological status is…they r things of this world. The thing to ask is what their import is”

12-Geertz criticizes cognitivists, behaviorists and idealists for believing that mental phenomena should b analyzed by formal methods similar to those of mathematics and logic—quoting Stephen tyler—geertz calls it “destructive”

13-b/c even after u learn the signs, often us till can’t understand them fundamentally

-ethnographers/antrhos r not seeking to mimic them or become natives, but to converse w/ them—aim is “enlargement of human discourse” (14)

15-when we describe/analyze other cultures, those descriptions r not endemic to those cultures (even if we repeat what they say), they r “part of a dvlping system of scientific analysis. They must b cast in terms of the interpretations to which persons of a particular denomination subject their experc, b/c that is what they profess to b descriptions of; they r anthropological b/c it is, in fact antros who profess them”

-tho this distinction tends “to get blurred”

-levi-strauss point out that it becomes more difficult when native informants make “second order” itnerps, using “native models”

-they all are thus “fictions,” “not that they r false, unfactual”, but “something made”

16-anthros have not always been aware of that, but it is still useful b/c of “the power of the scienfific imagination to bring us into touch w/ the lives of strangers”

17-criticizes hermetic approach for sealing culture off as a system of symbols as opposed to behavior

18-and criticizes tight dexriptions as being to o tight

19-the anthro inscribes/writes down the “meaning of the speech event, not the event as event” –(ricoeur)

-say common def of anthros’ actions (observe, record, analyze) is wrong—it should b “guessing at meanings, assessing the guesses, and drawing explanatory conclusions from the better guesses, not discovering the Continent of Meaning and mapping out its boundiless landscape”

20-4 descriptions of ethnological description: “it is interpretive,” it interprets the “flow of social discourse”; interpretive consists of putting what is “said” into perusable terms; and it is microscopic (can’t make big generalizations)

22-“the notion that one can find the essence of ntl societies, civilztns, great rels, or whatever summed up and simplified in so-called ‘typical’ small towns and villages is palpable nonsense”

-and the idea that being w/ natives is a “natural laboratory” is false b/c none of the parameter r manipulated (which is not even possible anyways)

23-assertions about cultures r not “scientifically tested and approved” hypothese, they r interps or misinterps—to say anything else distorts the 2

24-the biggest “sin of interpretive approaches to anything…is that they tend to resist, or to b permitted to resist, conceptual articulation and thus to escape systematic modes of assessment, u either grasp an interp, or u do not, see the pt. of it or u do not…it is presented as self-validating, or, worse, as validated by the supposedly developed sensitivities of the person who presents it,” any attempt to cast what it says in terms other than its own is regarded as a traversty—or, the anthros severrist term of moral abuse, ethnocentrism

25-other studies should not simply take previous ones for granted, they should “plunge more deeply into the same things” and b more incisive

26-and gen theories r not as important as specifications

-“rather than beginning w/ a set of observations and attempting to subsume them under a governing law, such intefrences [generalizations w/in specific subjects] begin w/ a set of (presumptive) signifiers and attempts to place them w/in an intelligible frame. Measures r matched to theoretical predictions, but symptoms (even when they are measured) r scanned for theoretical peculiarities—that is, they r diagnosed. In the study of culture the signifiers r…symbolic acts or clusters of symbolic acts, and the aim is not therapy but the analysis of social discourse. But the way in which theory is used—to ferret out the unapparent import of things—is the same [as in other sciences]”

-second characteristic: it is not predictive, tho “it also has to survive realitites to come”

27-if theories cease being useful, they stop being used (tho it’s difficult in anthro where a lot of theores live long

30-it is tru that complete objectivity is impossible, but that does not justify letting “sentiments run loose”, that’s like saying since no OR is perfectly sterile, might as well operate in a sewer

-the danger is it can lose touch w/ the “hard surfaces of life”—poll, ecoc, stratisfactory realities, biological and physical necessities—which need to be studied by the anthro too

-goal is not to answer deepest ?s, it is to make available other answers to those ?s that man has said

33-levi-strauss said science is substituting a complexity more intelligible for one which is less, geertz adds it could even substitute complex for simple one

34-says science went against enlightenment idea that man was simple. Enlightenment thot man was a piece of nature and shared w/ it gen uniforminty of composition—tho their clothes and laws may appear diff, ppl have same desires and passions, quotes enlighntmnt historian mascou as common

35-and even tho the idea is still around in anthrogy, but that may b an illusion and recognizing this fact led to “the decline of the uniformitarian view of man” and the concept of culture—“what man is may b so entangled w/ where he is, who he is, and what he believes that it is inseperable from them”

37-but also wants to avoid strict determinism and cultural evolutionism

-most attempts to understand man have come in “stratigraphic” form: man is a composite of “levels” (biological, psycholgcl, social, etc), all superimposed on ea other, and peeling them back reveals man’s tru nature

38-this helped ensure diff academic disciplines

-and after filtering out everything, what was left would b culture

39-the idea of universal essence, that all men will agree on some things as “rt, real, just or attractive” has been around in all ages of man, but was dvlped in mod anthrogy beginning w/ clark Wissler (20s) thru bronislaw Malinowski [made genrlztn that all rels had Providence p 40] in early 1940s, up to gp Murdock in wwII—murdock said it’s 50/50, universal-culture

-says that this universal idea fails when they r put up to 3 demands: 1) the universals r not empty categories (eg marriage, rel, or property) 2) they r specifically grounded in particular bio, psych, or soc processes, “not just vaguely associated w/ ‘underlying realities’” 3) they r convincingly shown to b superior everywhere, make all other cultural factors as secondary

40-hes not saying there r no universals and that anthrogy can not uncover any, but that the baconian search, “a kind of public opinion polling of world’s ppl in search of a consensus gentiumthat does not in fact exist”, cannot unvocer these universals, and “the attempt to do so leads to precisely the sort of relativism the whole approach was expressely designed to avoid”

42-#2, referring to the layering style (eg parsons, luckhohn, etc) , is critiquing that for that syle “there is no way to state in any precise and testable way the interlevel relationships that r conceived to hold”, only “mere correlation”—tho others disagree w/ geertzy (43)

43-anthros have shied from cultural particularities and moved towards universals for fear of relativism—in benedict’s popular patterns of culture (44), which (44) said anything popular in culture is worth of respect by antoehr—should not b freared b/c we can indeed get universals after learning particularites

-“in short, we need to look for systematic relationships among diverse phenomena, not for substantive idys among similar ones”—and need to end layer style and look at all those aspects as variables—so we need to integrate diff fields

--says have to work at culture as both behavior patterns and as instructions

45-“and out of such reformulations of the concept of culture and of the role of culture in human life comes, in turn, a def of man stressing not so much the empirical commonalities in his behavior, from place to place and time to time, but rather the mechanisms by whose agency the breadth and indeterminateness of his inherent capacities r reduced to the narrowness and specificity of his actual accomplishments. One of the most significant facts about us may finally b that we all begin w/ the natural equipment to live a thousand kinds of life, but end in the end having live only one.”

-“the ‘control mechanism’ view of culture begins w/ the assumpt that human thot is basically both social and public—that its natural habitat is the house yard, the marketplace, and the town square. Thinking consists not of ‘happenings int eh head’ (tho happenings there and elsewhere r necessary for it to occur), but of a traffic in what have been called, by g. h. mead and others, significant symbols—words for the most part but also gestures, drawings, musical sounds, mechanical devices like clocks, or natural objects likejewels—anything, in fact, that is disengaged from its mere actuality and used to impose meaning upon experc. From the pt. of view of any particular indv, such symbols r largely given. He finds them already current in the community when he is born, and they remain, w/ some addititons, subtractions, and partial Alterations he may or may not have had a hand in, in circulation after he dies. While he lives he uses them, or sometimes deliberately and w/ care, more often spontaneously and w/ ease, but always w/ the same end in view: to put a construction upon the events thru which he lives, to orient himself w/in ‘ the ongoing course of exercd things, ‘ to adopt a vivid phrase of john dewey’s.”

46-man needs these symbolic sources of illumination b/c his animalistic behavior patterns and response capacities r far more general than other animals, so he is not as naturally regulated as them. So, “undirected by culture patterns—orgzd systems of significant symbols-man’s behavior would b virtually ungovernable, a mere chaos of pt.less acts and exploding emotions, his experc virtually shapeless. Culture, the accumulated totality of such patterns, in not just an ornament of human existence but—the principle basis of its specificity—an essential condition for it”

-evidence for this in anthro: 1)discarding of sequential view of physical and cultural evolution for an overlap and interactive view 2) the discovery that the bulk of the biological changes that produced mod man took place in CNS, esp brain 3) the realization that what sets men off from nonman is his ability to learn and continue to change—not what he has to know

47-1) says there was simply a pt. when men started having culture (Edward tylor), but no one can find that pt. b/c australopithecines, had tools/hunted

48-culture was dvlpd step by step, symbols became more significant—hunt together, family, emotions, needed long—“quite literally, tho quite inadvertently, he created himself”

49-says “there is no such thing as a human nature indpndnt of culture”, not lord of the flies animals, not “intrinsically talented apes” unable to “find themselves”

-ice age forced ppl to start to b more flexible in adapting, and forced ppl to rely more heavily on cultural sources—“the accumulated fund of signifcnt symbols”

50-“btwn the basic ground plans for our life that our genes lay down—the capacity to speak or to smile—and the precise behavior we in fact execute—speaking English [etc]…lies a a complex set of significant symbols under whose direction we transform the first into the second, the grounded plans into the activity”

-even emotions r cultural

51-in enlightnmnt and Greeks—they stripped away culture and came up w/ “nat man”, classical anthros took off commonalitites and came up w/ “consensual man”—typological approaches

-indvlity is seen as eccentric, accidental—tho only legit object of study is the “underlying, unchanging, normative type”

52-but geertz’s view is that the same thing that makes culture, also makes indvs

55-in the behavioral sciences that use physical science, the mind has been seen as “contaminated w/ the subjectivity of consciousness,” cf scheerer 54, notes esp psychology interp

56-but others who see behavioral sciences as changing theories, say mind is all encompassing, vague (allport critiqued contaminated view)

58-says “’mind’ is a term denoting a class of skills, propensitites, capacitites, tendencies, habits”

60-and this does not go against biological, psy, soc or cultural ideas, b/c u can’t reduce “capacity” to do something any further

61-freuds view of evolution of human mind: primary (substitution, reversal, condensation, etc) before secondary (directed, logical) thot was based (in anthrogy) on the assumption that it is possible simply to idfy patterms of culture and modes of thot” and therefor is a culture was not “scientifically” “directed”, it was simply primitive—those ppl couldn’t do what we’ve done b/c they r inferior

-note #16 says research has begun to show that primary processes “r not even ontogentetically prior to secondary ones”

62-in reaction to this, ppl began (around 50s) saying all men had some psychic abilities—tho most thot it happended at at particular moment

65-for use of tools as foundation of culture cf wasburn? “speculations” 59 in the evolution..

68-and tho there no doubt has been some evolution since mod man came, genrlly, man’s creating of comfort has prevented him from evolving organically

-therefor man’s psychic capacity is about =, citing mead “cultural determinant” in culture and… 58

72-pts to scientific studies that say evolution is caused by neurological advancements gaining more reflec xompeltities

-recommends reject idea of levels tho

75-that’s why there r varietites of fear, rage,a dn sex—culturallly determined—and fact that ranges appear in animals too (esp apes) supports this

79-research has shown human nervous system “demands a relatively continuous stream of optimally existing envrnmntl stimuli as a precondition to competent performance”…tho not too much to fuct effectively

88-sees study of rel in a state of gen stagnation, repetitions of durk, weber, freud and Malinowski

89-he wants to use parsons and shills idea of the “cultural dimension of relus analysis” cf toward a gen theory 51

-def of cultur: “it denotes a historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, and system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate , and dvllp their knowledge about and attitudes toward life”

90-begins w/ premise of a combo of durk and weber—rel functs as something to make sense out of life and it also shapes it

-def of re: 1) a system of symbols which acts to 2) establish powerful, pervatsive, and logn-lasting moods and motivations in men by 3) formulating conceptions of a gen order of existence and 4) clothing these conceptions w/ such an aura of factuality that 5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic

91-defines symbols explicity as “any object, act, event, quality, or relation which serves as a vehicle for a conception—the conception is the symbol’s ‘meaning’”

92-cultural patterns r “extrinsic sources of info”—“unlike genes, for exmpl—they lie outside the boundaries of the indv organism, but they provide the ‘blueprint or template in terms of which processes external to themselves can b given definite form’—similar to dna

94-symbols can b models for something (to imitate) or models of something (represents smthng else)—and symbols can b used as both, tho says “only humans use it for the latter” –induce dispositions

96-relus activities induce both moods and motivations. “a motivation is a persisting tendency, a chronic inclination to perform certain sorts of acts and exprc certain sorts of feeling in certain sorts of situs”

97-and relus moods and motivations vary across cultures

-diffc btwn 2 r mtoves, r vectoral (give direction) and moods r scalar (only change in intensity, not direction)—motives “mad meaningful” by ends to which they direct and moods r ade meaningful” w/ ref to the conditions by which something started

100-chaos—events which lack interpretability—encroach on men in 3 areas: limits of analytic capacitites, limits of power of endurance, and limits of moral insight—r, “if they become intense enough or r ststained long enough, radical challenges to the proposition that life is comprehensible and that we can, by taking tho, orient ourselves effectively w/in it—challenges w/ which any rel, however ‘primitive,’ which hopes to persist must attempt somehow to cope”

106-the rain falls on the just/ and on the unjust fella/ but mainly upon the just/ b/c the unjust has the just’s umbrella

108-rel serves to explain the unexplainable—give the 3 things meaning

109-relus beliefs r not obtained from a baconian induction, but by “a prior acceptance of authority which transforms that exprc”

111-says its not the scintist’s place in determining what “role” divine intervention may or may not play in the creation of faith, but “out of the conceret acts of relus observance that relus convitction emerges on the human plane”

113-relus performances r cultural performances—b/c they involve relus symbols which r cultural—tho it’s hard to distinguish btwn: other types of cultural performances, art, poll, etx.

119-rel only defines social order very “incompletely” and “very obliquely” but it really shapes it—shapes commonsense, cuz man is not always in a relus frame of mind

120/1?-distinguishes btwn ritual rel and the “pale remembered reflection” of relus thots during mundane activities—says most don’t

122-generalized classifications of rels (shamanism, totemistm) don’t really work cuz u can’t put a person from 1 into another of the same—he wont’ b comfortable

123-and effects even vary w/in cluture, also, u don’t know what is genuine—making scientific study difficult

127-ethos and worldview have never been observed to b separate

129- Javanese word for rel is same as word for science

131-so when put in a ritual, it appears to b ojective

141-2 understand values, u can’t just study theologies, logics, etc; must study actions

142-sociological approach (inspired by durk and Robertson-smith, used by Radcliffe-brown) emphasizes that rel reincofrce trad social ties—funtl approach

-so is the social-psycholgcl approach (frazer, tylor=pioneers, Malinowski had clearest use) emphasizes what rel does for indv

143-but they have been least impressive in accounting for social change

144-suggests begin by distinguishing btwn cultural and social aspects of human life (indpvariables yet—mutually intrdpndnt)

-cluture: “ordered system of meaning and symbols”, social: “pattern of social interaction itself”—borrowed from parsons and shills 51

146-can also b used for historical mats

182-balinese had a tribal society rel but when bali was taken over and givne mod instittns, they adapted thru “internal conversion”

185-their rel has to rtlz a little to maintain

-ppl started reading books on rel—knowledge leaving just priestly caste

193-the word ideology has come to b associated w/ facism, and passionate irrational social programs

194- Mannheim (ideology and utopia) ptd out that it’s difficult to tell where ideology (or things like sociology) ends and scenice begins

234-btwn 1945 and 68, 66 “countries” attained poll indpc from colonial rule—last freat struggle for lib (cept viet) was Algeria ‘62

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