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Cultural Turns
 

Cultural Turns

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Lecture slides for MA Contemporary Art Theory and for MFA Visual Culture students at Edinburgh College of Art.

Lecture slides for MA Contemporary Art Theory and for MFA Visual Culture students at Edinburgh College of Art.

http://www.eca.ac.uk/pdf/getCourse.php?id=88

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  • This module seeks to explore the ‘cultural turn’ in history in a diverse series of lectures on the history of ‘stuff’, peoples and cultural phenomenon that historians might once have ignored or thought trivial.This lecture will introduce three key themes involved:‘Metahistory’‘The Cultural Turn’‘Culturalism’Postmodern Historiography was an attempt to examine the philosophy of history from a position of scepticism about historian’s claims towards objectivity and transparency: History's claims to objective knowledge have recently been critiqued by many who argue that facts cannot exist outside of the \"prison house\" of language.
  • WHAT WAS HISTORY?: METAHISTORIESThe discipline of history has come under great scrutiny in the past twenty five years. Major philosophers and historiographers have questioned the objectivity of the historian, asking difficult questions about the wisdom of separating facts from values. At the same time, the reproduction of histories that focus on grand themes such as empires and economics have been challenged by historians who focus on aspects of everyday culture, using them to examine wider issues in gender, ethnicity, class and ideology. e.g. What was History by Kenny Hunter vs. work by Jonathan Furmanski born 1972 Los Angeles studied Reed College, Art Center College of Design
  • 1. METAHISTORY Hayden White - Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (1973).Rejects causality in favour of literary readings of historical texts.White suggests that History writing is a form of literature; it could be said that it began as such. Historical narratives lay claim, both rhetorically and actually, to a validity of correspondence to the public processes of the real world. Thus the central reference of an historical work is the past about which it speaks, which is in some ways subverted as well as furthered by the mode of expression, historiography, that the writer has chosen. Does this therefore mean that History writing then can be said to be comparable to the production of other forms of narrative such as Holywood films, drama, fairy tales, The Communist manifesto, paintings by Renaissance artists? History is not fiction, yet it takes the same form as fiction. In Metahistory (1973), White argued that History writing reveals tropes – figures of style – , that underlying every historian's writing of history. The tropes of Historical narrative constitute meanings not reducible to the factual content they engage with. [There are many ways to express the same basic factual content.]A sense of Historical writing style is in its own right historically determined. The historiography of every period is defined by a trope specific to its time and place.For example in the Historiography of Thirteenth-Century France there is a tendency to Romancing the Past via the use of Vernacular Prose This could be seen as comparable to the literary trope of Courtly Love which was a popular genre of the era.White thus created a growing interest in the status of narrative itself and the presence of the authorial voice. He insisted that voice and the personal presence of the historian in the text was unavoidable. This is true also of non-literary models of narrative ‘history-telling’ such as museums and paintings or silent movies.White did not see tropes as incompatible with the historian's freedom in his actual writing of history. He placed himself within the ironic historiographical tradition, one that allowed certain elements of the absurd and of contradiction.
  • PRO- Michel de Certeau (1926-1986) de Certeau examines the West's changing conceptions of the very role and nature of history itself, de Certeau interprets historical practice as a function of mankind's feelings of loss, mourning, and absence.The Writing of History (1975) looks at the origins of Western history from Europe's first encounter with America to the West's desire to have the past function as a model meditating and explaining the present, and our sense of the past as a reflection of death irreducible to the present. Following Freud, he argues that there is a tension between familiarity and strangeness, the Same and the Other, which characterises the writing of histories. Freudian idea of the Uncanny – The past is as an unstable or impossible reflection of death which he describes ambiguously as a “strange familiarity” or “familiar strangeness”.In psychoanalysis, this past always uncannily appears in the present. It haunts the patient, taking the shape of a phantom. Traditional historiography looks at history as a set of manageable events, systems and discourses. The present is our subjectival now and on the other side of the wall lies the objectival past.Certeau argues that historiography should speak with the dead by adopting a psychoanalytic approach.Certeau analyses how written history has created a manageable past, at the cost of a massive exclusion of popular and oral forms of culture that did not fit the rationalist framework. Certeau, this cannot totally hush the disturbing and haunting voices of the other. The more you try to bury the dead, the harder they whisper.The factory of history suddenly has to face its industrial waste. In psychoanalytic terms, we could speak here of the return of the repressed. Underneath the familiar reality of the history of countries, kings and civilisations, there is an enormous reservoir of anonymous and other voices pushing and sometimes emerging at the surface of things.
  • DOMINICK LACAPRA.EXAMINES THE WRITING OF POST-TRAUMATIC HISTORIES. HOW DO WE WRITE ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST? HOW DOES MEMORY EFFECT OUR RECOLLECTION OF SUCH TRAUMATIC EVENTS IN HISTORY?
  • ANTI- Many historians dislike White's alledged cavalier disregard of how historical facts limit what the historian might wish to say about the past. If, as many historians and theorists now believe, narrative is the form proper to historical explanation, this raises the problem of the terms in which such narrative are to be evaluated. White uses narratives to assess other narratives (just as I am doing right now.) How can we tell which story is worth following?Without a clear account of evaluation, the status of historical knowledge obscure. Evans's analysis of the link between postmodernist theory and Holocaust denial is particularly insightful. The idea that no historical \"theory\" is more valid than another, combined with the American notion that both sides of any issue must receive \"fair\" play, brings Holocaust denial dangerously close to legitimacy.
  • 2. ‘THE CULTURAL TURN’ [known sometimes within art and design as the ‘linguistic turn’]The belief that culture powerfully shapes human histories.The idea that key aspects of life can best be understood by exploring the fundamental beliefs and assumptions of a culture (e.g. its music, language or visual art) The idea that scholars and practicioners of all disciplines should examine the cultural implications and assumptions of their practice.The cultural turn describes developments in cultural studies and the sociology of culture. It describes a shift in emphasis towards meaning. Whereas the central preoccupation of critical social analysis has traditionally been the way in which economic rationality dominates culture, contemporary social theory has been increasingly concerned with the central role of cultural processes and institutions in organising and controlling the economic. The claim is that the economy itself, and the ‘things’ that follow through it, is now largely constituted through informational and symbolic processes.Across the humanities and the social sciences, disciplinary boundaries have come into question as scholars have acknowledged their common preoccupations with cultural phenomena ranging from rituals and ceremonies to texts and discourse. Literary critics, for example, have turned to history for a deepening of their notion of cultural products; some of them now read historical documents in the same way that they previously read \"great\" texts.
  • e.g. Raymond Williams was an early pioneer in the field of \"cultural studies\" -- something he was doing cultural studies before the term was even coined. In 1958 he wrote an essay, entitled \"Culture is Ordinary.\" Williams here took the term ‘culture’ away from exclusively referring to the privileged spaces of artistic production and specialist knowledge [eg. \"high culture\"] , into the lived experience of the everyday\".“Culture is ordinary: that is the first fact. Every human society has its own shape, its own purposes, its own meanings. Every human society expresses these, in institutions, and in arts and learning. […] We use the word culture in these two senses: to mean a whole way of life--the common meanings; to mean the arts and learning--the special processes of discovery and creative effort. Some writers reserve the word for one or other of these senses; I insist on both, and on the significance of their conjunction. The questions I ask about our culture are questions about deep personal meanings. Culture is ordinary, in every society and in every mind.”Anthropologists have turned to the history of their own discipline in order to better understand the ways in which disciplinary authority was constructed. As historians have begun to participate in this ferment, they have moved away from their earlier focus on social theoretical models of historical development toward concepts taken from cultural anthropology (in the early 70s) and later from literary criticism (in the 80s).In the early 70s, despite the presence of people like Raymond Williams Literary criticism was largely still interested in examining the Canon while Cultural Studies was in its infancy (Birmingham) As such, many people interested in the study of culture turned to Anthopology for guidance. Of particular importance were the ideas of: AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST CLIFFORD GEERTZ (change slide)
  • Geertz’s Interpretation of Cultures (1973)Clifford Geertz (1926-present) is best known for his ethnographic studies of Javanese culture (Java is an Indonesian island south of Borneo) and for his writings about the interpretation of culture. The most influential aspect of Geertz's work has been his emphasis on the importance of the symbolic -- of systems of meaning -- as it relates to culture, cultural change, and the study of culture.\"The concept of culture I espouse. . . is essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning. It is explication I am after. . . . (pp. 4-5)\"Geertz compares the methods of an anthropologist analyzing culture to those of a literary critic analyzing a text: \"sorting out the structures of signification. . . and determining their social ground and import. . . . Doing ethnography is like trying to read (in the sense of 'construct a reading of') a manuscript. . . .\"This kind of ‘symbolic anthropology’ was a reaction against materialism and Marxism. Symbolic anthropologists viewed culture in terms of symbols and mental terms. They argued that Marxism brought with it too many historically specific Western assumptions about material and economic needs and thus cannot be properly applied to non-Western societies. By the early 80s, this focus on meaning rather than on economics was commonplace as French theory had opened up the canon of texts examined in literature to include legal tracts, soap operas, talk shows, pulp novels, in order to examine crossovers or ‘intertextualities’. Similarly in the field of art history, the canon was opened up to allow the examination of all visual aspects of culture, notably advertising, graphics, fashion, and digital media.The focus in the 80s was less on the culture-producing institutions (a concern of 70s sociology) and more on the place of meaning with social life (society) generally.These changes began to pick up speed in the 1960s, with the period's new sympathy for the styles and values of various groups, and then firmed up with a growing interest in the findings of cultural anthropology and in various theoretical formulations from gurus like Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes,
  • Roland Barthes‘The Discourse of History.\" (1967) Barthes applying concepts of structural linguistics to historical narrative:“Does the narration of past events, which, in our culture from the time of the Greeks onwards, has generally been subject to the sanction of historical 'science', bound to the unbending standard of the 'real', and justified by the principles of 'rational' exposition - does this form of narration really differ, in some specific trait, in some indubitably distinctive feature, from imaginary narration, as we find it in the epic, the novel, and the drama? And if this trait or feature exists, then in what level of the historical statement must it be placed?”Broadly speaking, Barthes here was applying the concepts of structural linguistics to the particular conditions of 'utterance' which characterize the historical narrative. In this sense, he has much in common with Hayden White who also saw History primarily as a form of narrative discourse.
  • French cultural critic Michel Foucault.The cultural turn has helped cultural studies to gain more respect as an academic discipline. With the shift away from high arts the discipline has increased its perceived importance and influence on other disciplines.Foucault is known for his critiques of various social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, and the prison system, and also for his theories on the history of sexuality. His general theories concerning power and the relation between power and knowledge, as well as his ideas concerning \"discourse\" in relation to the history of Western thought, have been widely discussed and applied.Madness and Civilization (1961) ideas, practices, institutions, art and literature pertaining to Madness. Foucault discusses the way in which madness was dealt with within the different discourses developed from the middle ages through the birth of science and medicine and when ‘madness’ was made other through the attempt to rationalize and order the world.Discpline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) Foucault also compares modern society with Jeremy Bentham's \"Panopticon\" design for prisons (which was unrealized in its original form, but nonetheless influential): in the Panopticon, a single guard can watch over many prisoners while the guard remains unseen. The dark dungeon of pre-modernity has been replaced with the bright modern prison, but Foucault cautions that \"visibility is a trap\".The History of Sexuality (1984)In this volume he attacks the \"repressive hypothesis,\" the very widespread belief that we have, particularly since the nineteenth century, \"repressed\" our natural sexual drives. He shows that what we think of as \"repression\" of sexuality actually constituted sexuality as a core feature of our identities, and produced a proliferation of discourse on the subject
  • 3. CULTURALISM WAYS OF REPRESENTING AND RESEARCHING THE PAST:
  • PRO-Peoples’ HistoryA people's history is a type of historical work which tries to look at historical events from the perspective of the \"common\" people: the disenfranchized, oppressed, poor, non-conformist, or otherwise forgotten, as opposed to that of the power structure.“Kings, queens and politicians don't shape the world, the actions and struggles of millions of people like us do. In text books and TV documentaries, the rich and powerful write history - but this is our version!”There is a greater focus on the Everyday and the idea, (Raymond Williams) that culture and therefore history is ordinary, within peoples’ history. e.g. of Peoples’ Histories:A History of Racism, 800BC-Today Radical Puppetry - 17th-today.Revolutionary Song in France, 1789-1989 The Radical History of Aussie Rules Football Skinhead Culture, 1960-Today Italians in Northern Ireland
  • Peoples’ HistoriesIn de Certeau’s psychoanalytic terms, People’s History is the return of the repressed. Can be written by amateur historians or gathered as oral / folk histories from the ‘people’ themselves. Often local histories, or micro-histories emerge from communities themselves and are vanity or community published. (This can be good and bad).Are potentially limitless - leads to proliferation of histories, debates and alternative voices. Archival aspect is useful for alternative visual and oral forms of education and education through material culture and museums.
  • We can detect crossovers between ‘culturally turned’ discplines and mircohistories e.g.Discursive Psychology. contends that, instead of looking at inherent or invariant human reactions, scholars should probe how different cultures generate quite different psychological reactions. Discursive psychological studies highlight the way people construct versions of 'mental', 'social' and 'material' events as narratives. These narratives are often competing or conflicting. In doing so discursive psychology challenges forces within mainstream psychology that help sustain unjust political, economic, and other societal structures.This calls for a kind of eclectic therapy, not one settled on one set of rules as a universal guide. As Jean Francois Lyotard puts it:Postmodern knowledge is not simply a tool of the authorities; it refines our sensitivity to differences and reinforces our ability to tolerate the incommensurable. Lyotard, 1984, The Postmodern Condition, xxvLyotard is suspicious about grand narratives or theories that pertain to explain everything, instead he proposes what he calles a 'paralogy'. Paralogy is the kind of conversation that helps us navigate a situation without having a rule book. So rather than stick to the idea that `scientific' psychology must rely on an experimental methodology, discursive psychology places emphasis on discourse and difference.This open ended approach is backed up by culturalist approaches to new histories of psychology:
  • e.g.History of Medicine and Emotion: (Medicalization and Demedicalization)GRIEFVarious approaches to the history of emotion have shown how basic formulations have altered, with significant implications for the ways that emotions are handled by society and experienced individually. Indulgence in grief in 19th-century America turned, by the 1920s, into aversion, so much so that deep feeling denoted a need for therapy. [engendered? What is the difference in experiencing grief for men and for a women?]ANOREXIAMany diseases, as well, have at least partially been explained through cultural construction. Work on the emergence of modern anorexia nervosa has shown how changing beliefs about mother-daughter bonds promoted new forms of rebellion around food as a cherished family symbol, with new standards of beauty supplementing those reactions. NOSTALGIA Originally coined in 1678 by Jean-Jacques Harder (1656-1711), Swiss physician, Nostalgia was used to refer to \"the pain a sick person feels because he is not in his native land, or fears never to see it again\". This neologism was so successful that people forgot its origin. Moreover, its original meaning--referring to a serious medical disorder--has been lost as the word nostalgia entered everyday language.During the period, from the late seventeenth century to the late nineteenth century, that doctors diagnosed and treated nostalgia. Cases resulting in death were known and soldiers were sometimes successfully treated by being discharged and sent home. By the 1850s nostalgia was losing its status as a particular disease and coming to be seen rather as a symptom or stage of a pathological process. The phenomenon of nostalgia did not disappear with its demedicalization. Nostalgia is now more commonly referred to not as a medical condition or a field of study, but as a feeling that any normal person can have. Nostalgia can often be associated with a fond childhood memory, a certain game or a treasured personal object.BOREDOMA brilliant 1995 literary study, by Patricia Ann Meyer Spacks, Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind, first showed how awareness of boredom, including the term itself, emerged as part of Western modernity. Now, we can also trace the change from using boredom as a warning to potential perpetrators, as part of the constraints of etiquette, to emphasizing the capacity to claim boredom as a legitimate complaint, even, or perhaps particularly, among children.

Cultural Turns Cultural Turns Presentation Transcript

  • Cultural Turns
  • This lecture will introduce two key methodological issues key to this module: 1) Metahistory 2) The Cultural Turn
  • Metahistories
  • 1. METAHISTORY Hayden White - Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (1973). o Literary readings of historical texts / History writing is a form of literature. o The historiography of every period is defined by a trope specific to its time and place.
  • Roland Barthes ‘The Discourse of History“ (1967) Barthes applying concepts of structural linguistics to historical narrative: “Does the narration of past events, which, in our culture from the time of the Greeks onwards, has generally been subject to the sanction of historical 'science', bound to the unbending standard of the 'real', and justified by the principles of 'rational' exposition - does this form of narration really differ, in some specific trait, in some indubitably distinctive feature, from imaginary narration, as we find it in the epic, the novel, and the drama? And if this trait or feature exists, then in what level of the historical statement must it be placed?” In this sense, he has much in common with Hayden White who also saw History primarily as a form of narrative discourse.
  • Michel de Certeau The Writing of History (1975) Freudian reading of History writing in relation to the Uncanny – o In western histories the past explains the present. o In psychoanalysis, the past haunts the patient, its is a phantom in the present. o Hence, the past is read as an unstable or impossible reflection of death which de Certeau describes ambiguously as a “strange familiarity” or “familiar strangeness”. o Rather than manage events, Certeau argues that historiography should speak with the dead by adopting a psychoanalytic approach. o de Certeau argues that written history’s manageable past is at the cost of a massive exclusion of popular and oral forms of culture that did not fit the rationalist framework.
  • David Wojnarowicz Arthur Rimbaud in New York (1978-79)
  • Dominick LaCapra Examines the writing of post- traumatic histories. o How do we write about the Holocaust? o How does memory effect our recollection of such traumatic events in history?
  • Against-Metahistory Many historians, such as Richard Evans, dislike the disregard of how historical facts limit what the historian might wish to say about the past. Metahistorians use narratives to assess other narratives. How can we tell which story is worth following? Is there, as Richard Evans suggests, a link between postmodernist theory and Holocaust denial?
  • Microhistoriography: Examines historical events from the perspective of the microcosmic, from the vantage of the ‘common’ people: the disenfranchized, oppressed, poor, non- conformist, or otherwise forgotten, as opposed to that of the power structure. e.g.s of People’s Histories: • A History of Racism, 800BC-Today • Radical Puppetry - 17th-today. • Revolutionary Song in France, 1789-1989 • The Radical History of Aussie Rules Football • Skinhead Culture, 1960-Today • Italians in Northern Ireland Casalattico is home to many Italians in N.Ireland
  • People’s Histories • In de Certeau’s psychoanalytic terms, People’s History is the return of the repressed. Can be written by amateur historians or gathered as oral / folk histories from the ‘people’ themselves. • Often local histories, or micro-histories emerge from communities themselves and are vanity or community published. (This can be good and bad). • Are potentially limitless - leads to proliferation of histories, debates and alternative voices. • Archival aspect is useful for alternative visual and oral forms of education and education through material culture and museums.
  • Co-Op The co-operative movement that flourishes all over the world today was started in 1844 with a shop in Rochdale by 28 men, known as the Rochdale Pioneers.
  • Football Football became a professional game in the 1880s with players being paid a wage. Attempts were soon made to form a union and in 1907 the Players Union was formed.
  • The People's Palace is Glasgow's social history museum and a chance to see the story of the people and city of Glasgow from 1750 to the present.
  • Rory MacBeth Jeremy Deller Ruth Ewan
  • Aleksandra Mir Beauty Free, Cold War Hot Stuff and Real Real Estate Flowers (2005)
  • Khalil Rabah, The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind, 2005. Multimedia installation. 9th Istanbull Biennial
  • Michael Blum, A Tribute to Safiye Behar, 2005. Installation: mixed media. 9th Istanbull Biennial
  • 2. THE CULTURAL TURN: THEORIES AND METHODS [known often within art and design as the ‘linguistic turn’] o The hypothesis that culture powerfully shapes human histories (cultural determinism). o The idea that key aspects of life can best be understood by exploring the fundamental beliefs and assumptions of a culture (e.g. its music, language, visual art, etc.) o The idea that scholars and practitioners of all disciplines should examine the cultural implications (the meaning) and assumptions of their practice.
  • USA - SYMBOLIC ANTHROPOLOGY Clifford Geertz Interpretation of Cultures (1973) quot;The concept of culture I espouse… is essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning. It is explication I am after…”p4-5.
  • France - Michel Foucault Enormous influence on Cultural Studies and historians interested in exploring cultural histories. Key texts are: • Madness and Civilization (1961) • Discpline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) • The History of Sexuality (1984)
  • UK (Birmingham School) CULTURAL STUDIES Raymond Williams, “Moving from High Culture to Ordinary Culture” in N. McKenzie (ed.), Convictions, 1958 “Culture is ordinary: that is the first fact. Every human society has its own shape, its own purposes, its own meanings. […] The questions I ask about our culture are questions about deep personal meanings. Culture is ordinary, in every society and in every mind.”
  • Cultural Turn – Science and Technologies Ways of representing and researching that emphasise the determining role of culture in any given situation or discipline. Cultural determinism replaces biological determinism?
  • Discursive Psychology contends that, instead of looking at inherent or invariant human reactions, scholars should probe how different cultures generate quite different psychological reactions.
  • History of Medicine / History of Emotion Which of the following are medical conditions; which are ‘emotions’? • Grief • Anorexia • Nostalgia • Boredom
  • Bas Jan Ader I’M TOO SAD TO TELL YOU, 1971 16mm film, 16mm film transferred onto DVD, silent 3 min, 21 sec Edition of 3 http://www.basjanader.com/
  • Laurie Anderson Institutional Dream Series NYC 1971
  • Komar and Melamid Moscow in Mickey's Eyes (1998)
  • Rod Dickinson The Milgram Re-enactment
  • ‘Soft Data’? (Critique of ‘Discursive Science’) Many cultural-turn partisans have committed a number of blunders that have called their approach into question. Some have, quite simply, pressed the cultural case too hard, ignoring evidence of constant or quot;naturalquot; features in the human experience. This approach also undermines the claims of current medicine and science to objectivity. Despite this, many social scientists would still view such cultural data as soft.
  • Cultural Turn – Politics and Economics Ways of representing and researching that emphasise the determining role of culture in any given situation or discipline. Cultural determinism replaces economic determinism?