evans - ORALITY, STORY AND CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION: THE...

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ORALITY, STORY AND CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION: THE CRITICAL ROLE OF STORYTELLING IN AFFECTING WORLDVIEW AND VALUES A. Steven Evans, International Center for Ethnographic Studies, USA [email protected] Theme: Social Transformation Research Domains: Cultural Diversity and Resilience / Community Vitality ABSTRACT Cultures are dynamic and are always in flux. What happens, however, when cultural changes are not good – when there is evidence of an eroding values system? Can a particular culture’s worldview 9intentionally and substantially change? It is unarguable that one’s worldview, culture and values are entrenched and to influence the alteration of these is difficult. However, the idea that affecting one’s worldview, culture and values to the point of change is not impossible. What this article proposes is that worldviews, cultures, and values can indeed be changed, resulting in not only the transformation of an individual’s life, but an entire culture as well. Storytelling in particular is a catalyst that can bring about substantial changes in worldview, culture and values. INTRODUCTION What is written in ink can fade away by a single drop of water; what is written on the heart will last an eternity. [1] Once the story leaves your mouth, it is carried away in the hearts of your listeners. [2] Cultures are dynamic and are always in flux. They might be equated with languages in that a static unchanging language becomes a classical language, no longer living but only studied within the halls of academia. Language is dynamic; it changes over time or else it dies. That is why there are differing versions of Portuguese in Portugal, Brazil and the Portuguese speaking nations of Africa. Likewise, the English of Britain, Australia, and America is considerably different. Just as languages change, over time cultures change; they are not static. What happens, however, when cultural changes are not good – when there is evidence of an eroding values system, or when self-centered materialism creeps into the mainstream of
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society? Is the idea of intentionally affecting cultural transformation possible? Can, in fact, a particular culture’s worldview substantially change, and, if so, how? It is unarguable what cultural anthropologists say about how entrenched are one’s worldview, culture and values. To influence the alteration or changing of these is extremely difficult. What can be challenged, however, is the idea that affecting one’s worldview, culture and values to the point of change is next to impossible. Two popular Buddhist folktales are Empty Cup Mind and A Monk with Heavy Thoughts . Empty-Cup Mind illustrates the value and, sometimes, necessity of changing worldview, that of replacing the old with the new. A Monk with Heavy Thoughts takes one from the mind to the heart, emphasizing the necessity of speaking to the heart and not just the mind. Empty Cup Mind
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This note was uploaded on 10/24/2011 for the course UNIV 2201 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at University of Georgia Athens.

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evans - ORALITY, STORY AND CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION: THE...

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