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MIT21A_226F09_lec09 - Oct 7 2009 9 CULTURE DEFINITIONS Read...

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Oct. 7, 2009 9 CULTURE: DEFINITIONS Read: Ara Wilson, 1988. American catalogues of Asian brides Nagel, Constructing culture, 43-54; Deconstructing ethnicity, 60-72 Richard Handler, 1985. On having a culture: nationalism and the preservation of Quebec’s patrimoine. I. Definitions A. DISCUSS: Your definition of culture? 1. As is the case for most of our other analytic terms, “culture” is polysemic—it has multiple, related meanings a. Think of the various concepts of culture portrayed in the pieces by Wilson, Nagel, and Handler 2. Related to the “culture” in agriculture; or “culturing” microbes in a petri dish 3. DISCUSS: connections between earlier meaning and your definition? a. The piece we’ll read by Malkki later on discusses agricultural metaphors, for example, a culture is “rooted” in a place b. Nagel says that one image of Native Americans is that they’re “rooted.” B. One definition: culture is beliefs and practices shared by a group C. Another definition: high culture: literature, ballet, opera, poetry: C ulture D. Another: the notion of a culture: Eskimo culture, Polynesian culture, African- American culture, Norwegian culture 1. Note that only one of these examples of “culture” is coterminous with a nation-state 2. But three are located in space—the exception is African-American culture a. Anthropologists (and others) have traditionally seen an unquestionable division between cultures 1) Originally located in a place 9 Culture, Definitions Wilson, Nagel 43-72, Handler 2009 1/19/10
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2 2) Although some members may have left: “overseas Chinese” b. Assumed isomorphism of space , place , and culture 3. What are the problems we encounter if we link culture with space and place? a. How does a space achieve a distinctive identity as a place? (p. 8) b. What is “the real England,” and what relationship does it have to a particular bounded place? c. By the end of 20 th century it’s more an imagined state of being or moral location than an actual place d. Related concepts: “native land,” “real American,” “American culture” 4. This definition ( a culture) also highlights the fact that culture, like ethnicity, is relational : it exists because there is something not-it: it can be compared to something a. This is the idea behind saying “it’s a difference of culture” b. We can say “MIT culture” and people know we’re talking about MIT culture, not Harvard culture c. This relational feature is especially important to keep in mind
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MIT21A_226F09_lec09 - Oct 7 2009 9 CULTURE DEFINITIONS Read...

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