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Re: culture ... (aka there are/no cultures)
by Threehegemons
11 August 2003 11:59 UTC
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In a message dated 8/11/2003 6:35:06 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 
tganesh@stlawu.edu writes:
> For those who read "the culture studies people", I suppose culture becomes 
>suddenly of importance on the agenda.  So what?  >>
The point is not 'for those who read "the culture studies people"'--the point 
is that the production of cultural studies has generated a crisis/shift of 
paradigm across virtually the entirety of the humanities, and within several 
social sciences--most notably anthropology, where graduate students these days 
pay far more attention to Stuart Hall or Foucault than to Mauss or Durkheim, 
and, to a much lesser extent, sociology.  Futhermore, cultural studies sets the 
tone of most of the post-68 'studies' that have emerged--queer studies, gender 
studies, postcolonial studies.  It is hardly some form of special pleading to 
note their importance.  As I mentioned earlier, Wallerstein represents a good 
effort from within sociology to come to terms with this development.  See his 
"Social Science and the Quest for a Just Society".
Anthropology used to emphasize the study of coherent 'cultures' (this was 
closely related to the colonial roots of the discipline, and the desire for 
knowledge that could be employed to control subaltern subjects).  It was mostly 
the cultural studies people, reworking the traditions I mentioned earlier, who 
have been responsible for dethroning this notion.  Their critique has been 
widely incorporated and amplified within anthropology.  
<<That does not detract from the fact that it is anthropologists who have done 
the most painstakingly creative work on culture and on cultures.>>
Again, I'm not sure why you want to dismiss the contributions of Thompson, or 
Williams, Benjamin, Foucault, etc.

 < The point I raised referred as well to the fact that at certain times, 
rather than at other times, cultural studies start blooming as it were.  It is 
this that I argue ought to be an object of investigation.  I think that culture 
is an over-inflated concept - its inflated status is re-affirmed in the 
statement that 'culture is everything, it is everywhere'. >>
Yes, well, the current blooming of the concept of cultural studies has a lot to 
do with the concept of 'culture is everywhere', affirmed by Thompson, Gramsci, 
Althusser, Foucault, Williams et al.  What it meant to them was that 'culture' 
was not some group of ideas, texts, images sprinkled atop a 'material' 
'structure' but being constantly produced everywhere.  I think the knowledge 
produced by following this direction has been highly fruitful, and this, rather 
than whether or not you or I like the phrase 'culture is everywhere' is what 
matters.  There ideas clearly paralleled some that had been around anthropology 
for a long time, but for the most part, anthropology clouded issues of power 
and domination that were a central concern of all these writers.  Thus for the 
most part, they drew on works outside the anthropological tradition.  The idea 
that culture is everywhere has also been highly influential in shaping an 
agenda for finding power and resistance everywhere.

 <<<To say that produces, for me at least,  no informational value. Just as the 
concept of 'Western civilization' or 'Western culture' in its monolithicity is 
an empty term, hiding more than it reveals, hiding for instance all those 
borrowings and refusals that Braudel points out (actually quite 

The way 'culture is everywhere' is used in cultural studies is the exact 
opposite of the way 'Western culture' is used that you are critiquing.  If you 
are unaware of this, I strongly suggest you read more in the cultural studies 
tradition--it will become readily apparent.
Steven Sherman  

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