Culture: The Anthropologists' Account (Google eBook)
Suddenly culture seems to explain everything, from civil wars to financial crises and divorce rates. But when we speak of culture, what, precisely, do we mean?
Adam Kuper pursues the concept of culture from the early twentieth century debates to its adoption by American social science under the tutelage of Talcott Parsons. What follows is the story of how the idea fared within American anthropology, the discipline that took on culture as its special subject. Here we see the influence of such prominent thinkers as Clifford Geertz, David Schneider, Marshall Sahlins, and their successors, who represent the mainstream of American cultural anthropology in the second half of the twentieth century--the leading tradition in world anthropology in our day. These anthropologists put the idea of culture to the ultimate test--in detailed, empirical ethnographic studies--and Kuper's account shows how the results raise more questions than they answer about the possibilities and validity of cultural analysis.
Written with passion and wit, "Culture" clarifies a crucial chapter in recent intellectual history. Adam Kuper makes the case against cultural determinism and argues that political and economic forces, social institutions, and biological processes must take their place in any complete explanation of why people think and behave as they do.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
As Kuper states, “The core of this book is … an evaluation of what has been the central project in postwar American cultural anthropology” (x). More explicitly, in the first part of the book, he details the French and German ideals of culture that grew out of the Enlightenment. “Part Two: Experiments” looks at how Clifford Geertz, David Schneider, and Marshall Sahlins respectively have constructed anthropologies of culture in response to various intellectual influences. As he explains in the moving introduction, he lived through South Africa during the Apartheid when the very concept of culture was used to legitimize the most inhumane kinds of violence and racism imaginable. Because of this, Kuper is very much a skeptic when it comes to any kind of belief that use of the word “culture” communicates any objective, essential quality about people or the way they live their lives. As I hinted at above, the argument starts in Europe, and migrates across the Atlantic Ocean. Kuper suggests that German intellectuals (Mannheim, Jaspers, and Mann more recently, but the concept dates back to Herder) believed in Kultur or Bildung – a kind of “cultured state by way of a process of education and spiritual development” which is “bounded in time and space and is coterminous with a national identity” (30). The French version of culture, with its haughty, transnational cosmopolitanism and materialism was perceived to be a direct threat to local distinctive cultures. Kuper then goes on to detail Talcott Parson’s conception of culture as a tripartite endeavor between the psychologist, anthropologist, and sociologist, each of whom would understand culture as a semiological system of how we use symbols. He calls Geertz a Parsonian, and takes him to task for analyzing signs and symbols outside of social structure. He gives a detailed account of Geertz’s hermeneutical account of the Balinese cockfight in his book “The Interpretation of Cultures,” suggesting that Geertz’s lack of sociological concern in his anthropology leaves only an idealist approach to interpretation which is radically separated from social conditions. David Schneider, the second anthropologist Kuper takes up, is known for his study of kinship relations. However, he completely divorced this pursuit from anything like an idea of “relationship” or “blood lines.” It should be noted that this is a fairly extreme version of relativism that not even many anthropologists adopt, and Kuper goes to lengths to point this out. Schneider makes the somewhat peculiar statement that “since it is perfectly possible to formulate … the cultural construct of ghosts without actually visually inspecting even a single specimen, this should be true across the board and without reference to the observability or non-observability of objects that may be presumed to be the referents of the cultural referents” (133). For Schneider, culture is wholly symbolic and arbitrary. The best part of the chapter on Marshall Sahlins is Kuper’s retelling of Sahlins’ debate with Gananath Obeyesekere, the Princeton professor of anthropology. At the heart of the debate was the nature of rationality of “native peoples” (the debate specifically focused around Captain Cook and the Hawaiian Islands). Obeyesekere maintained that anything short of admitting that native people and Westerners think similarly is another way of saying that they are hopefully different, irrational, and uncivilized. Sahlins, however, holds that the rationality of native peoples is wholly and completely unknowable to those in the Occident. The closing chapters of the book are scathing rebukes of postmodernism, and especially its influence on the American anthropological tradition in the 1980s and 1990s, claiming that it has “a paralyzing effect on the discipline [of anthropology]” (223). The twentieth century has certainly given the reader plenty of reasons to look askance at the very notion of culture. However, I am not sure that I am ready to completely do away with it as a powerful...
Culture: the anthropologists' accountUser Review - Book Verdict
Kuper (social anthropology, Brunel Univ., U.K.) takes a penetrating look at the concept of culture, moving from antecedents in 18th- and 19th-century thought to focus on its meaning within post-World War II social sciences in America under the leadership of Talcott Parsons. Kuper examines the mid-century ethnographic work of Clifford Geertz, David Schneider, and Marshall Sahlins to determine how they applied theories of culture in the field and concludes with observations on the generation of anthropologists who were graduate students in the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. Kuper concludes that "the more one considers the best modern work on culture by anthropologists, the more advisable it must appear to avoid the hyper-referential word altogether, and to talk more precisely of knowledge, or belief, or art, or technology, or tradition, or even of ideology." Written with verve and fascinating insight into the ins and outs of modern cultural anthropology, Kuper's book will appeal to students of anthropology and intellectual history.--Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L. ...
Part One GENEALOGIES
FRENCH GERMAN AND ENGLISH INTELLECTUALS 1930
TALCOTT PARSONS AND THE AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGISTS
Part Two EXPERIMENTS
CULTURE AS RELIGION AND AS GRAND OPERA
BIOLOGY AS CULTURE
JSTOR: Culture: The Anthropologists' Account
American Journal of Sociology Culture: The Anthropologists' Account. By Adam Kuper. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999. Pp. xv+ 297. ...
FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life
Culture: the Anthropologists’ Account. by jla Garcia. Copyright (c) 2000 First Things (March 2000). Culture is everywhere: moral (read: cultural) relativism ...
Culture: The anthropologists' account
Culture: The Anthropologists’ Account. Cambridge MA: Harvard University. Press, 1999. xv. 299 pp., index. $29.95. ISBN 0674179579. ...
doi.wiley.com/ 10.1002/ jhbs.10048
Adam Kuper, Culture. The Anthropologists’ Account Cambridge, MA ...
Adam Kuper, Culture. The Anthropologists’ Account Cambridge, MA-London, Harvard University Press, 1999, index, xv + 299 p., index Among the Anthropologists. ...
Culture: the anthropologists' account. - Anthropologie et societã ...
Adam KUPER, Culture : The Anthropologists' Account. Cambridge et Londres, Harvard University Press, 1999, 299 p., biliogr., index. ...
www.encyclopedia.com/ doc/ 1G1-30066894.html
An interview with Adam Kuper
Culture. The anthropologists’ account. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. Murdock, gp 1973. ‘Anthropology’s mythology’ (1973 Huxley Memorial Lecture), ...
journals.cambridge.org/ production/ action/ cjoGetFulltext?fulltextid=82854
(Adam Kuper, Culture: The Anthropologists' Account, Harvard University. Press, 1999, 6): `civilisation'. When one adds to this embarrassment of ...
jis.oxfordjournals.org/ cgi/ reprint/ 12/ 2/ 184.pdf
Human Rights Syllabi - Collective Rights and Cultural Politics
Culture: the anthropologists' account. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Chapter 1 'Culture and Civilization' pp.23-46. *Isaiah Berlin. 2000. ...
www.aaanet.org/ committees/ cfhr/ syl_wilson.htm
BBC Radio 4 - Thinking Allowed - 20 March 2002
Culture: The Anthropologists' Account Harvard University Press, 1999 ISBN 0-674-17957-9 Doctor Mukulika Banerjee The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition & Memory in ...
www.bbc.co.uk/ radio4/ factual/ thinkingallowed_20020320.shtml
aa American Anthropologist aa 0002-7294 1548-1433 American ...
... Book Reviews Culture: The Anthropologists' Account Aram A. Yengoyan ... Davis 01 06 2002 June 2002 104 2 681 682 Culture: The Anthropologists' Account. ...
www.anthrosource.net/ doi/ xml/ 10.1525/ aa.2002.104.2.681