Beyond cultural wholes? Introduction to part 2

Otto, Ton, and Bubandt, Nils (2010) Beyond cultural wholes? Introduction to part 2. In: Otto, Ton, and Bubandt, Nils, (eds.) Experiments in Holism: Theory and Practice in Contemporary Anthropology. Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, UK, pp. 89-101.

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Abstract

It is probably no exaggeration to say that no concept has been more centrally discussed in twentieth-century anthropology than the concept of culture (Kroeber and Kluckhohn 1963 [1952]; Barnard and Spencer 1996: 136; Brumann 1999). Its continued popularity as well as contestation are predominantly linked to the uniquely influential American tradition of anthropology, with its German antecedents, while the concept has not had the same central place in British and French anthropology (Kuper 1999; Parkin 2005). In a simplified way, one could say that the French tradition has been more interested in the notion of symbolic structure (see Chapter 10, this volume) and the British tradition has largely opted for a focus on society or social structure (see Chapter 14). The concept of culture is undoubtedly one of the key holistic notions of anthropology, although we will see that the nature of the wholes to which it supposedly refers has varied greatly between authors and theoretical traditions. The particular anthropological usage of culture, which employs the concept in the plural to refer to the different life worlds characteristic of different peoples instead of in the singular to indicate a state of being more or less "cultured" or civilized, derives from the German Romantic nationalism of the late eighteenth century. Especially influential were the works of the philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803), who emphasized the principle of equality of all peoples and their cultures, equally deserving of respect for their individual spirit and design (see Chapter 7). The perhaps earliest and most cited anthropological definition of culture with a holistic connotation to it, E. B. Tylor's notion of culture as a "complex whole," does not follow this German tradition. Rather, it is derived from the English and Continental notion of "civilization." Culture, considered synonymous with civilization in his definition,1 is here used in the singular, as something that the whole of humanity has a part in but at different levels or stages of development. The plural notion of culture, as characteristic of different peoples or nations, entered American anthropology via another route, namely, via the German migrant Franz Boas, who, originally trained as a physicist and geographer in his country of birth, became the founding father of cultural anthropology in the US (Stocking 1968).

Item ID: 15821
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-1-4443-3323-7
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2011 21:36
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 100%
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