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Sc2218 lecture 12 (2010)


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Lecture 12: The Poetry of Culture (Poststructuralism and Discourse)

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Sc2218 lecture 12 (2010)

  1. 1. SC2218: Anthropology and theSC2218: Anthropology and the Human ConditionHuman Condition Lecture 12: The Poetry of CultureLecture 12: The Poetry of Culture (Poststructuralism & Discourse)(Poststructuralism & Discourse) Eric C. ThompsonEric C. Thompson Semester 1, 2010/2011Semester 1, 2010/2011
  2. 2. Where Are We Going?Where Are We Going? • Part 1: What is Anthropology? – Strangers Abroad, Race, Culture • Part 2: What do Anthropologists Study? – Kinship, Gender, Economy, Community • Part 3: Current Debates and Trends – The “Crisis of Representation” – Local and Global Ethnography (Zhang Juan) – The Poetry of Culture – World Anthropologies YOU ARE HERE
  3. 3. Zhang Juan: Local and GlobalZhang Juan: Local and Global Ethnography (Highlights)Ethnography (Highlights) • Local Ethnography – Business, Sex and National Identity – A small border town, but “globally” connected • Global Ethnography – Transnational performance of “Chinese” national identity (Olympic anti-boycott protest) • Positionality – Gender; Nationality/Race
  4. 4. The “Anthropological” PerspectiveThe “Anthropological” Perspective in Zhang Juan’s Workin Zhang Juan’s Work • Detailed ethnography of a “local” place but speaking to broader theories of society and culture (economics, gender, nationalism) • A “holistic” perspective; not describing a “whole” culture – but seeing connections across multiple domains (Sex, Business Nationalism) • A focus on qualitative issues of meaning. (Rather than quanitative measures)
  5. 5. Anthropology and the Human ConditionAnthropology and the Human Condition Part 3: Anthropology NowPart 3: Anthropology Now • For Lectures 10-13 you should understand: • The “Crisis of Representation” (from 1980s) – Postcolonialism, Positionality • Local and Global Ethnography – “Opening Up” (Kaifang)… of China and Anthropology! • The shift from Society-Culture to Discourse • World Anthropologies
  6. 6. Today’s Lecture: OutlineToday’s Lecture: Outline • What is “Structural-Functionalism”? • What is “Discourse”? • What is “Poststructuralism”? • Examples of poststructuralist analysis: – Bedouin Poetry – Malaysian Rock-and-Roll – Ju/’hoansi Complaint – Singaporean Culture… Does it exist?? • Culture: A Complex, Adaptive System
  7. 7. CULTURE & SOCIETYCULTURE & SOCIETY in 20in 20thth Century AnthropologyCentury Anthropology • Culture = systems or structures of meaning (“webs of significance”) • Society = systems or structures of (exchange) relationships • Structural-Functionalism – Cultures and societies have a structure, different parts related to each other. – The different parts have functions, they “do” something in the structure/system.
  8. 8. The Problem with StructuralismThe Problem with Structuralism • Fixed stereotypes & categories • Problem of change. – If structures (e.g. kinship, language) are persistent, how do we account for change? – Is a culture (e.g. “Chinese culture”) always the same at different times, in different places? • Problem of human agency. – Are people’s lives determined by culture?
  9. 9. Post-structuralism and Agency How do we move beyond analytical structures, categories, and stereotypes that limit our ability to see an understand contemporary realities? How do we account for human agency – the potential of people to affect and change their social conditions of life? POST-STRUCTURALISM: an attempt to move anthropological analysis beyond the analytical confines of structures and categories.
  10. 10. Here’s the Problem . . .Here’s the Problem . . . If language & culture are changing all the time, how do we ever know what anything means??
  11. 11. “. . .There's glory for you!" "I don't know what you mean by 'glory,'" Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't--till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!" "But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,'" Alice objected. "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less." “The question is,“ said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--that's all." Do Language and Meaning really work like this? Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll 1871 ““Humpty-Dumpty” MeaningHumpty-Dumpty” Meaning
  12. 12. Encoding and DecodingEncoding and Decoding • Discourse is a matter of ongoing exchange. • Discourse is back-and-forth, not one-way. • Speakers/listeners; writers/readers cannot fix meaning.
  13. 13. Language, Culture, DiscourseLanguage, Culture, Discourse • Language and Culture are closely related. • Culture includes Language and Linguistic systems of meaning; but also many systems or elements that we do not usually think of as “Linguistic”, for example: – Flags, Maps, Architecture, Food – Skin Color, Eye Shape and other “Signs” of Race – Body Language and Gestures • Discourse can refer to both Language and/or Culture “in use” (process)
  14. 14. The Idea of “Discourse”*The Idea of “Discourse”* Language as a System “Langue” (language) Form Structuralism Culture (mid-20th c.) Language in Use “Parole” (speech) History Poststructuralism Discourse (late-20th c.) *These ideas come from Ferdinand de Saussure, Jacque Derrida, and others.
  15. 15. Structure and MeaningStructure and Meaning Consider the following sentences:Consider the following sentences: (1) Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. (2) Sleep ideas green furiously colorless. Are either of these sentences meaningful? Why or Why Not?
  16. 16. Structure and Meaning:Structure and Meaning: Colorless Green IdeasColorless Green Ideas (1) Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.* – Structurally (grammatically) sound. (2) Sleep ideas green furiously colorless. – Structurally unsound. Are either of these sentences meaningful? Why or Why Not? *Famous example used by linguist Noam Chomsky.
  17. 17. `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe. Is “Jabberwocky” meaningful, or just nonsense? Structure and Meaning:Structure and Meaning: JabberwockyJabberwocky Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll 1871
  18. 18. What “Structures” areWhat “Structures” are found in Jabberwocky?found in Jabberwocky?
  19. 19. What “Structures” are found inWhat “Structures” are found in Jabberwocky?Jabberwocky? • Poetic structure • English language (words and grammar) • Adventure story • Kinship (!) – Father & Son • Others? He took his vorpal sword in hand: Long time the manxome foe he sought. Beware the Jabberwock, my son! Come to my arms, my beamish boy! These STRUCTURES allow us to interpret Jabberwocky’s “nonsense”
  20. 20. Structure, Discourse, MeaningStructure, Discourse, Meaning • Structure enables meaning, but does not (completely) determine it. • Meaning emerges through discourse – between subjects (it is “intersubjective”). – Encoding and decoding. – Speaking and interpreting. – Writing and reading. • Because it is intersubjective, meaning is never fixed.
  21. 21. Post-StructuralismPost-Structuralism • Examining the emergence of meaning. • “Post –” (after, beyond, out of). • Poststructuralism is a mode of analysis, not a quality of things (such as cultural practices, social relationships, etc.). • Examples of poststructuralist analysis . . .
  22. 22. Bedouin PoetryBedouin Poetry • Abu-Lughod examines “traditional” Bedouin Poetry. • Are the women reciting these poems merely echoing hundreds of years of tradition? • What about Abu-Lughod’s analysis is “poststructural”?
  23. 23. ELLAELLA: Malaysia’s: Malaysia’s Ratu RockRatu Rock (Queen of Rock-and Roll)(Queen of Rock-and Roll) • Is Ella’s music just a copy of American rock-and-roll? • What structures is she drawing on? • How is she transforming those structures? • What does USA stand for?
  24. 24. Ala AmerikaAla Amerika • Semalam kau kata kau cinta • Hari ini sudah lain pula jadinya, • Kau kata kepadaku kita bercinta • Ala Amerika . . . • Kita hidup dengan budaya • Jangan terpengaruh dengan • Cara mereka, • Barat dan Timur jauh berbeza . . . • Yesterday you said you were in love • Today it’s (another story) • You say to me that we are in love • A la America (American style) • We live with culture, • Don’t be swayed by • Their ways, • West and East are far different . . .
  25. 25. USA…USA… Unik Sugoi Asli "When I use a word . . . it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."
  26. 26. Ju/’hoansi Complaint DiscourseJu/’hoansi Complaint Discourse • What does complaining among elderly Ju/’hoansi have to do with poetry and song? • Complaint (and styles of complaint) is a cultural resource among Ju/’hoansi. • Elderly Ju/’hoansi draw on this resource discursively to express their feelings and influence their kin.
  27. 27. Culture and DiscourseCulture and Discourse • CULTURE is a Complex Adaptive System • DISCOURSE is the Process through which Culture Changes • “It’s a mistake to name a process after a product… you can still go fishing if you never catching a fish…” (from “Sight Unseen”)
  28. 28. 1st Generation Cultural Structures (Grammars, Words, Styles, Signifiers) 1st Generation Agents (Subjects/Individuals) (Drawing on the Structures to relate to others, influence action, interpret meanings – their own and others) Culture as an Iterative Process Agents are “Subjects” of (“subject to”) cultural structures – they cannot operate meaningfully outside of the structure. Cultural Structures are emergent structures, dependent on the agents for their existence.
  29. 29. 1st Generation Cultural Structures 1st Generation Agents (Subjects) 2nd Generation Agents (Subjects) 2nd Generation Cultural Structures Culture always changes, because agents never reproduce it “perfectly”
  30. 30. Singapore… Ain’t Got No Culture?Singapore… Ain’t Got No Culture? • “In the old days… you had the time and the isolation to develop your own (culture) and create something distinctive… Now you have to synthesize all the time… • “The basis of our culture is what we inherited from our original countries, our original cultures. So every Chinese Singaporean takes that as his heritage. It doesn’t belong to China, it belongs as much to you as to me…” • MM Lee Kuan Yew
  31. 31. What is Authentic Culture?What is Authentic Culture? • What is Authentic Chinese, Malay, Indian or Other Culture? • What is Authentic Singaporean Culture? • Culture is what we make it and make of it.
  32. 32. What is “authentic Chinese culture”?What is “authentic Chinese culture”? What is “authentic Singapore culture”?What is “authentic Singapore culture”? Royston Tan – director of “15” and other films. Li Po (701-762); T’ang Dynasty Poet
  33. 33. What is “authentic Malay culture”?What is “authentic Malay culture”? What is “authentic Singapore culture”?What is “authentic Singapore culture”? • Malay Culture... Singapore 2007 • MALAY MASTERPLAN: – Ketupat + Hang Jebat + Wau Bulan + Sampan + Minah + Kebaya + Vespa + Soccer + Guitar + Void Deck + Laid Back + Aim Hereafter + Humble + Modest + Kampung + Sopan + Adat + Gotong + Royong + Peaceful + Loving + Siti . . . That’s Malay to Me…
  34. 34. Yesterday’s Innovation Tomorrow’s Tradition Today’s Innovation Culture always changes, Yesterday’s Innovation is Today’s Tradition; Today’s Innovation is Tomorrow’s Tradition Today’s Tradition
  35. 35. Final Thoughts…Final Thoughts… • In your project interviews… did you focus on each other’s actual experiences and how they used and performed “culture” (discourse) or on cultural traditions (structures)? • How do you use culture in your everyday life? How do you reproduce culture? How do you change it? Can you think of specific examples? • You cannot “escape” culture, but you can live it intentionally and creatively not just passively.