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					What does it mean to be human?
            Culture

 1. Is the concept of   1. Is “human” a
 “human” a cultural     natural category,
 category?              just out there in
                        the world?
                        2. How much of
 2. How much of
                        what we are is due
 what we are is due
                        to our biology
 to our culture?
   1. Is “human” a cultural category?
• To reason intelligibly about these questions, we’ll
need to learn more about the “culture” concept -- and
that’s the purpose of today’s class.
• To reason intelligibly about these questions, we’ll
need to learn more about the “culture” concept -- and
that’s the purpose of today’s class.
• But an initial observation: the parallel here to the
“brown eyes/blue eyes” problem.
• To reason intelligibly about these questions, we’ll
need to learn more about the “culture” concept -- and
that’s the purpose of today’s class.
• But an initial observation: the parallel here to the
“brown eyes/blue eyes” problem.
   - Is “human” something picked out by different
peoples around the planet?
• To reason intelligibly about these questions, we’ll
need to learn more about the “culture” concept -- and
that’s the purpose of today’s class.
• But an initial observation: the parallel here to the
“brown eyes/blue eyes” problem.
   - Is “human” something picked out by different
peoples around the planet?
   - How is the term actually used by people?
• To reason intelligibly about these questions, we’ll
need to learn more about the “culture” concept -- and
that’s the purpose of today’s class.
• But an initial observation: the parallel here to the
“brown eyes/blue eyes” problem.
   - Is “human” something picked out by different
peoples around the planet?
   - How is the term actually used by people?
• These are questions we can study. In fact,
anthropology insists that we study them.
Note:
Many people have heard that various American
Indian peoples have a auto-designation of the group
that translates as “human being.” The Cheyenne
Indians, for example, are said to call themselves the
“human beings.”


Since this course is about discernment in relation to
real world phenomena, helping you to make
judgments about what you see, hear, read, let’s look
at one popular culture representation -- the move
“Little Big Man” from 1970.
1970 American movie: “Little Big Man”

   “The ‘Human Beings’ my son, they believe
   everything is alive, not only men and
   animals, but also water, earth, stone, and
   also the things from them like this hair…”
   “But the ‘Whitemen’, they believe
   everything is dead, stone, earth, animals and
   people, even their own people….
   that is the difference.”
The concept of “man” = “human being”?

   • Geertz’s article uses one of the existing
   definitions, but challenged within feminist
   interpretations as encoding an implicit bias:


   man (man) n., pl. men (men).
   1. An adult male human being.
   2. A human being regardless of sex or age; a
   person.
“… all men are created equal.”

• Used in the American Declaration of
Independence -- 1776
• A product of Enlightenment thinking and
discourse.
• Questioned in the 19th century.
 - Did it include “women”?
 - Did it include non-property holders?
 - What about “slaves.”
2. What is culture and how much
of what we are is due to our
culture?


General definition of culture = those ways
of (1) behaving in the world (including
speaking); (2) cognizing the world
(including beliefs); and (3) valuing the world
insofar as they are socially learned, socially
transmitted.
Concept of “replication of culture” and of the “trait.”


                        ~
                        =

              e1               e' 1
       A                B               C




 e1 = element of culture; referred to in the older
 literature as a cultural "trait." Examples of traits:
 a song, a myth, a basket weaving style, a belief, a
 technique for hunting, a hair style, etc., etc. A way
 of speaking: Valley Girl talk. “Excellent” from
 “Wayne’s World.”
         It was not easy for thinkers to tease apart
         the transmission of culture (as social
         learning) from biology (as genetic
         learning).
Second
         We have the classical notion, going to
Nature   back to Cicero, of "second nature". The
         medieval dictum was: consuetudo altera
         natura est, translated repeatedly into
         English as "habit (or custom) is second
         nature."

         Note that one question surrounding the
         taboo article is: how much of athletic
         performance is linked to training
         (second nature) versus genes (nature)?
                But the idea of custom was
Conflation of   nevertheless conflated with
                nature in practice, precisely
nature and      because (as mentioned in the first
culture         class) the pathways of culture and
                genes are often the same ones --
                namely, family relationships.
                Partly for this reason that we'll be
                talking about marriage and
                descent later in the semester.
                What is the relationship of social
                parenthood to biological
                transmission?
The latter part of the 19th century
and the first half of the 20th century
saw an explosion of interest in the
                                         Explosion of
variability of habits and customs        interest in
around the globe. Careful
observation of local patterns,
                                         culture
coupled with a growing awareness
that people could acquire new
habits by virtue of social interaction
and learning (migration), led to the
concept of culture.
 “C”ulture ------------> “c”ulture

The prior notion of culture, going back to the
early 19th nineteenth century, was of Culture
with a capital "C." This is the idea of culture as
cultivation. Only some ("cultured") people had
it. Edward Burnett Tylor in 1871 referred to
"Primitive Culture." Especially in the early
twentieth century in Germany and in the U.S.,
the term "culture" came to be employed for
socially transmitted habits among the various
peoples around the globe. There was a
proliferation of interest in culture, in this sense.
            How did researchers make
            sense of the diversity of
            customs? Prior to late
Unilinear   nineteenth century, societies
evolution   organized into unilinear
            evolution schemes (for
            example, the stages of band,
            tribe, chiefdom, state; or
            savagery, barbarism,
            civilization; or primitive
            communism, feudalism,
            capitalism, true communism).
            The idea was that every
            "people" had to pass through
            the same stages.
The idea of unilinear evolution
preceded Darwin, and is distinct
from the Darwinian evolution         Unilinear and
discussed by Prof. Mann. The
latter is not unilinear, but tree-   non-unilinear
like and branching. The notion       evolution
of unilinear evolution was
associated with the conflation of
genetically and culturally
transmitted learning.
Assumption that a "people" had
to pass through the various
stages. Was this an evolution in
their biology or their culture?
The distinction was not clearly
made.
Diffusionism        The idea of cultural diffusion
                    arises with the rejection of
rejects unilinear   unilinear evolution in
evolution           anthropology in the late 19th and
                    early 20th centuries. Diffusion
                    involves invention of a cultural
                    trait (for example, the plough or
                    the wheel), and then its copying,
                    through processes of replication,
                    by neighboring people.
                    Invention spreads in wave-like
                    fashion. Hence, by plotting the
                    occurrence of traits on a map,
                    can figure out where the center
                    of diffusion was.
                   Trait frequency
                   diminishes with distance
                   from the locus of
                   invention



       Locus of
       invention




Geographical diffusion
of culture traits
               As opposed to evolutionary
Culture area   stages, diffusionism introduced
               the idea of the culture area, a
concept        geographically defined region
               within which intensive sharing
               of cultural traits has occurred.
               Many traits clinal (as Dr. Mann
               described in the case of
               genetics), so that boundaries
               cannot always be readily
               distinguished. The culture area
               concept is a way of dividing up
               the globe into regions based on
               the diffusion of traits, but the
               boundaries are not sharp.
              Diffusionism assumed that
              invention of traits was extremely
Culture and   difficult and that replication was
              easy. In fact, culture tends to
linguistic    change as it is replicated, and it is
drift         extremely difficult to replicate traits
              with precision. Language (like
              culture generally) changes through a
              process of drift over time, as Dr.
              Liberman will tell us about
              subsequently. The notion linguistic
              drift first developed by the
              anthropologist and linguist Edward
              Sapir. The notion of cultural drift
              develops shortly thereafter. Sapir's
              ideas prior to the development of
              the concept of genetic drift (by
              Sewall Wright) in biology.
As traits or elements are
transmitted, they tend to be
                                        Cultures as
reshaped in conformity with other       internally
aspects of culture carried by people.
Hence, the culture within a group       structured
tends to exhibit certain
characteristic patterns or styles or
structures. These observations gave
rise to the notion of a culture as a
structured whole, shared throughout
a group of people. Culture, in this
sense, is the property of a group.
“We are, in sum, incomplete or
unfinished animals who complete or
finish ourselves through culture..." (49);   Clifford
"Between what our body tells us and
what we have to know in order to
                                             Geertz
function, there is a vacuum we must fill
ourselves, and we fill it with information
(or misinformation) provided by our
                                             Is he right to
culture" (50);                               downplay the
"Our ideas, our values, our acts, even our   concept of
emotions, are, like our nervous system       “human”?
itself, cultural products — products
manufactured, indeed, out of tendencies,
capacities, and dispositions with which
we were born..." (50).

				
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posted:3/25/2013
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