> First, I'm sure that you can enlighten us with your obviuosly superiour
> wisdom and knowledge, why people find the concept of "American (US)
> Culture" so problematic. As a trained professional in the field of
> cultural study, I'm sure that I don't have a clue what I'm talking about.
> As far as "human nature" goes, I'm surpised when Politically Correct
> ivory towerists think there is not such thing. Despite Culture, humans
> are still biological animals, with common thought processes. I also
> believe that millenia of human behaviour, that has never "significantly"
> changed is on my side. I'm sure that you either revile or have never
> heard of Desmond Morris.
> As to your basic take on the development of culture (which falls under
> the theoretical label of Marxist Conflict Theory), that's just fine. I
> happen to follow it myself; however, it alone in no way explains cultural
> development or the definition of culture on it's own. You can NEVER
> explain human behaviour with only one social theory.
> "Obvious", "Official Culture"? Ms Piccini, I never mind discussing theory
> and such with people. However, when ever I "battle" with someone on
> theoretical levels like this, I cetainly like the have my oppenent using
> a loaded weapon. I don't argue geographical theory with you, becaue my
> knowledge is limited in that field.
> I also fully understand why people fine the idea of "American (US)
> Culture" problematic. It's predominantly due to our obssesion of
> individual freedom and rights, and it is also based on the way the human
> mind catagorises it's environment. All I was ever saying was that there
> is a solution, and a fairly simple one.
> Think what you will of culture and the theories and ideologies of
> anthropologists, but do not condescend me in my field with populist and
> singular notions.
> Iain Barksdale | WWW: users.aol.com/omkensey/home
> Lecturer | Email: [log in to unmask]
> Anthropology, Archaeology, | Snailmail: Madisonville Community College
> Comparative Religion | 2000 College Drive
> | Madisonville, KY 42431
first of all, i have to come clean again with the confession that i'm
not a geographer, i'm an archaeologist with primary research interests
in culturally anthropological readings of contemporary material
culture (media). be that as it may, most disciplines like
anthropology, archaeology, geography and sociology are all using each
others' ideas so there really aren't sharp disciplinary boundaries.
and i'd just like to add that even if i had no academic
qualifications, i could still be fully capable of taking issue with
your arguments. our positions within universities don't necessarily
signify that we know more than those outside the academy, as i'm sure
i'm sorry if i offended you, but i still hold with my assertion of
surprise--i have not met another anthropologist who writes about
american culture and human nature as you do--now that in itself isn't
a problem, but then again, i was only expressing my personal
surprise. your position within an academic hierarchy does not
intimidate me sufficiently to result in my refraining from taking
issue with some things you say (and hopefully the reverse is true
as i'm implicated in that hierarchy too).
but i wasn't intending to sum up the entire american nation with
one sentence. clearly people make myriad, alternative readings of the
dominant culture as it is expressed through media, etc. when i refer
to 'official culture' i am referring to those very things which
people identify as 'american' (the representativeness of that
labelling is another question altogether). but it is that
stereotyped, generally white, middle-class image that blankets the
differences. that's not to make any superficially marxian statement
that everything in america boils down to middle-class white
patriarchy, but that is the most *dominant* image of american culture.
and because no cultures are statically expressed, but are always in
a state of construction/reproduction, you do get constant play
between how people define their cultures and how they behave within
i fully agree with you that 'the right to' has become one of the more
divisive mantras of the west--however i still have a big problem with
telling all those many different peoples who live in the US that they
should get with it and adopt being american as a primary identifying
label. The united states are a political unit--if people live by the
unit's laws and excercise their rights to vote, that reinforces the
union. you can't really hope for anything more than that as people do
have the funny habit of making oppositional readings and doing things
no one can predict. also the fact that so many people now are so
defensive and will immediately approach any argument as a
personal attack (shows like Ricki Lake, Oprah Winfrey, presidential
debates, even this list) is an aspect of that 'rightist' frame of
mind, don't you think?
our understanding of biology and biological determinism is structured
by the way in which we have come to see such things as important.
yes we are biological animals because we are alive, but that
biological side of us is as cultural as the cultural is biological.
you still can't explain why we do the things we do by saying it's
human nature--our understanding of human nature is always restricted
by our understanding of ourselves in the world. as we cannot think
outside of ourselves, any grand statement about what all people do
(other than that we all eat, drink, have sex, sleep and die) is
untenable, and the only sweeping statements we can make are so
general as to be meaningless. how we construct meaning around these
basic impulses, both individually and collectively, is what's
interesting for me.
BTW, i have seen desmond morris several times on television. it's my
understanding that although his programmes are entertaining, they are
not generally anthropologically current--but if we're talking
physical anthropology, we should take the discussion over to arch-
theory or something.
again, i apologise if i came across as patronising but look, i
disagreed with you and i disagreed with you on several points that
touch the heart of how you define youself. the fact that i work in a
geography department, however, (or that i write confidently as a
woman, or that i'm young, or, etc. etc.) doesn't necessarily mean i'm
trying to convey a sense of friendly discourse
Adran Daearyddiaeth/Geography Department
Prifysgol Cymru Abertawe/University of Wales Swansea
Parc Singleton Park
Abertawe/Swansea SA2 8PP
Tel. 01792 228295
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