Kitchen Lecture In this, the first of Wakaka’s series of Edinburgh Annuale Kitchen Lectures I will explore the idea of a Scottish Kulturkampf that literally translates from German to English as "culture struggle".The very word "struggle" denotes a continuous effort through time.
Everything we perceive, know, think, value and feel is learned through participating in a cultural system The word culture has many different meanings. For some it refers to an appreciation of literature, music, art, or even food and drink. For a biologist, it is likely to be a colony of bacteria or other microorganisms growing in a laboratory Petri dish.
However, for anthropologists and other behavioural scientists, culture is the full range of learned human behaviour patterns. And it is an anthropological framework that I want to view culture through in this kitchen lecture.
From social anthropology to present day cultures and subcultures, leisure activities and shopping, football hooliganism, andthe political culture of groups and organisations are just a few of the areas that the intellectual tradition that has become known as cultural studies have become interested in.
I have described this exploration as kitchen-sink pseudologiafantastica of Scottish cultures. By this I refer to a mythomanic journey that will trace the configuration of Scottish cultures. The material offered for interpretation in this lecture is images that I have garnered from the walls of Scottish pubs.First and foremost this lecture is inherently a mythomanic culturing of Scottish histories since all histories are fake…AND real. So it is important that we should keep the validity of all positions. There is a school of thought that contends that academic and popular histories should be kept separate, despite this and the fact that neither can over-ride the other, here I present a culturally saturated ‘narrative truth’ merged with ‘historical truth’.
Historically the Kitchen Sink artists celebrated the everyday life of ordinary people and that of course carries implications of a social and political comment. In the tradition of working class Scots living in rented accommodation and spending their off-hours drinking in pubs, I want to explore some of the social issues and political controversies of the Scottish Kulturkampf. And of course its fitting that its taking place in a kitchen.
You will realise that this soon begins to sound like other similar cultural stories in its cast and type of characters, sequence of events, story line, and the motivational enquiry ofwhy characters did what they did.The ‘events’ become woven into often competing discourses, diagnosis or interpretation.And certain cultural categories emerge as part of a recognisable taxonomy.
In discussing culture I do so from the position that it is a hotly contested concept. That said there are specific characteristics that I want to engage with.Firstly that culture is a set of rules and conventions that govern social behaviour. Culture comprises the material artefacts that societies utilise and produce when they are going about the business of daily life. Culture is an abstraction that exists only in the mind. And finally, culture is something that is learned and something that is shared.Its important to make the point that culture and society are not the same thing. While cultures are complexes of learned behaviour patterns and perceptions, societies are groups of interacting organisms. People are not the only animals that have societies. Schools of fish, flocks of birds, and hives of bees are societies. In the case of humans, however, societies are groups of people who directly or indirectly interact with each other. People in human societies also generally perceive that their society is distinct from other societies in terms of shared traditions and expectations.While human societies and cultures are not the same thing, they are inextricably connected because culture is created and transmitted to others in a society. Cultures are not the product of lone individuals. They are the continuously evolving products of people interacting with each other. Cultural patterns such as language and politics make no sense except in terms of the interaction of people. If you were the only human on earth, there would be no need for language or constructs such as government.
Fundamental to our understanding of cultures, and in particular representations of cultures is the fact that things that strike us as ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ or ‘common sense’ or ‘human nature’ are often cultural
The way that we interact and do things in our everyday lives seems "natural" to us. We are generally unaware of our culture because we are so close to it and know it so well. For most people, it is as if their learned behaviour was biologically inherited. It is usually only when we come into contact with people from another culture that we become aware that their patterns of behaviour are not universal.
The anthropological argument posits that each culture gives meaning by classifying things. Classification means emphasizing the differences, meaning that when you classify something there is a principle according to which you decide it is different or similar - so it has to go into this class of things. The idea here is that difference is created by those principles of classifications. Though it makes it look like those principles are 'natural', 'logical' and 'immutable', they are in fact social conventions
UNTHOUGHT KNOWN is a term coined by the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas in his book, The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. This term describes how an individual's life or, by extension, a culture can be organised around a past event or experience that is so enigmatic or traumatic that it is repressed, denied and relegated to the depths of the unconscious. It is therefore 'unthought' - unacknowledged on a conscious level - yet is still in a deep way 'known' and formative.All the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities grapple with the question of ‘How do I know something?” or even “How do I NOT know something?”The ‘unthought known’ pertains to the idea that cultures are formed without conscious design.
Narratives that conform to a largely projective cultural aesthetic become as coercive as any art form. Part of the psychological function of the standardisation of the historical/cultural accounts is to prevent anything vital form being missing; an equally vital part is to ensure that any missing parts incompatible with the narrative will be neglected.
How the Scots define themselves in terms of nationhood then becomes a moot point, subject to the influence of personal political and cultural aspirations. With the rise of "new nationalism" in Scotland, and subsequent devolution, Scotland is caught up in an emotional dialogue between two camps; the reinvention of Scottish nationalism and the attempt to restore faith in British identity in Scotland. Emotion, for this reason, is a fundamental issue, as identity and allegiance are available to be commandeered by whoever is most successful at invoking an emotive responseIn Scotland this is often perceived as a faux misery manifested as self-pity, the dangerous emotionalism of the endlessly rehearsed national historical narrative.
Language is an important attribute if a population, and Scots has a considerable literary heritageIntonationaldiglossia defines the struggle for linguistic identity
Diglossia refers to the instance whereby two definite varieties of the same language exist side by side. One is used to perform official functions and the other for every-day communication.
With regards to looking at concepts to do with identity it useful to look at the writing of Stuart Hall. He is a cultural theorist and sociologist and discusses the idea of identity as produced rather than retrieved or accomplished. “Identity is not as transparent or unproblematic as we think. Perhaps, instead of thinking of identity as an already accomplished historical fact…we should think, instead of identity as a “production,” which is never complete, always in process, and always constituted within, not outside representation”
Culture is a powerful human tool for survival, but it is a fragile phenomenon. It is constantly changing and easily lost because it exists only in our minds. Our written languages, governments, buildings, and other man-made things are merely the products of culture. They are not culture in themselves. For this reason, archaeologists can not dig up culture directly in their excavations. The broken pots and other artifacts of ancient people that they uncover are only material remains that reflect cultural patterns--they are things that were made and used through cultural knowledge and skills.
The cultural theorist and sociologist Stuart Hall underlines the idea that identities are narratives (stories) and histories and not single, one-dimensional labels when he writes…“I was aware of the fact that identity is an invention from the very beginning, long before I understood any of this theoretically. Identity is formed at the unstable point where the ‘unspeakable’ stories of subjectivity meet the narratives of history, of a culture.”
what does it mean to be a nation in an era of globalisation when we might expect that the physical/geographical bases of marginality may have become increasingly fluid and uncertain.
The theme of the Scottish scenery, dramatic mountains, windswept moors, and shimmering lochs is reflected in the various representations of the Scottish landscape, a domain of political and environmental struggle, and of mythic renewal. This is the untamed landscape…This notion buys into the idea of re-establishing a connection with the landscape and is one that recurs with the Scottish Highlands as a place of healing where you can renew yourself, escaping from the ‘contemporary’ world.
Artists approach culture from an adversarial position.Representations of culture, however 'realistic' they may seem to be, are constructed representations rather than simply transparent 'reflections', recordings, transcriptions or reproductions of a pre-existing realityI hope it is clear from the points of view that I have presented that I too do not defend any one way of thinking about or representing culture.
Scottish Kulturkampf: A kitchen-sink pseudologiafantastica of Scottish cultures<br />
Culture and Society<br />Culture and society are not the same thing. While cultures are complexes of learned behavior patterns and perceptions, societies are groups of interacting organisms.<br />Raymond Williams was the founding father of cultural studies<br />‘culture includes the organisation of production, the structure of the family the structure of institutions which express or govern social relationships, the characteristic forms through which members of society communicate’<br />
Things that strike us as ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ or ‘common sense’ or ‘human nature’ are often cultural<br />
For most people, it is as if their learned behaviour was biologically inherited.<br />
Two definite varieties of the same language exist side by side. One is used to perform official functions and the other for every-day communication.<br />
“Identity is not as transparent or unproblematic as we think. Perhaps, instead of thinking of identity as an already accomplished historical fact…we should think, instead of identity as a “production,” which is never complete, always in process, and always constituted within, not outside representation” <br />Stuart Hall, Cultural Identity and Cinematic Representation in Framework 36 (1989): 68-81<br />
Our written languages, governments, buildings, and other man-made things are merely the products of culture.<br />
“I was aware of the fact that identity is an invention from the very beginning, long before I understood any of this theoretically. Identity is formed at the unstable point where the ‘unspeakable’ stories of subjectivity meet the narratives of history, of a culture.”<br />Stuart Hall<br />