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Being Cultural.pdf

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Darren De Lorey

21A100Professor James HoweBEING CULTURALSeptember 14 2004 The culture concept is fundamental to anthropology Years ago we used to have more trouble introducing the concept because people tended to think of the other meaning of culture ie high culture esp art music refinement But today the anthropological meaning is pervasiveAccepted all over the world It is used in the popular media to explain almost everything What was the problem with shuttle disasterThe culture at NASAOne hears of corporate culture academic culture the culture of just about anythingthBut it wasnt always soCulture concept arose mostly in 19 century as way to talk about systematic nature of human thought and actionPreviously many explanations of human actions and thought were put in terms of environmental determinismWhy do people in Alps believe in witchesbecause of the thin mountain airWhy are people in Latin America or Indonesia inferior to us EuropeansTheir hot unchanging climate doesnt challenge them like our cold winters doThe famous essayist Montesquieu said Northerners were brave vigorous insensitive to pain weakly sexed intelligent and drunkardsAnother Frenchman of the Enlightenment said Northerners faithful loyal to government cruel undersexedSoutherners were malicious crafty wise expert in science but bad in governmentAnother said northern languages have lots of consonants because people afraid to open mouths and let in cold airIt sounds silly now but was very common still pops up todayAt other extreme many things explained in terms of some basic traits common to all humans socalled human nature or else by traits thought to vary biologically from one population to anotherSomething innateWith development of racial and biological thinking human nature was thought to be in our blood or genesSo explanations of human action were caught between external nature the environment and internal nature heredityThere was a vague sense that there was something in the middle neither biologically nor environmentally determined called customtraditionlifewaymentalityhabitusos y costumbresBut unclear just what this middle area consisted of how to think about itthThen in the 19 century word culture adoptedBorrowed from artmusic expanded to encompass everythingMost often associated with early British anthropologist Edward TylorHe said it was a complex whole that humans carried with them and passed on nonbiologically
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