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Europe and Culture

Anthropological Perspectives on the Process of European Integration

Hana Horáková

After the fall of the Iron Curtain a new concept of Europe as a socially relevant object of study emerged in the social sciences challenging the model of Europe as historical entity, or a philosophical or literary concept. This concept provoked an upsurge of interest in the study of European identity among anthropologists who began to study how Europeanness is constructed and articulated both by the architects of the EU themselves and at a grass-root level. Drawing on notions of European culture and identity, this text examines the image of Europe/the EU in post-communist Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic, from two different perspectives. First, how the institutionalisation of Europe as a cultural idea is viewed by some of the Czech political commentators, and second, from an ethnographically grounded anthropological perspective, focusing on how and at what levels a Czech local community identifies with Europe and the EU. Drawing on a broad range of data, the text attempts to provide new insights into the pitfalls of collective European identity in the making, with the emphasis on its cultural dimension in the post-communist Czech Republic.

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David Graeber

Many aspects of culture that we are used to interpreting in essentialist or even tacitly evolutionist terms might better be seen as acts of self-conscious rejection, or as formed through a schizmogenetic process of mutual definition against the values of neighbouring societies. What have been called 'heroic societies', for instance, seem to have formed in conscious rejection of the values of urban civilizations of the Bronze Age. A consideration of the origins and early history of the Malagasy suggests a conscious rejection of the world of the Islamic ecumene of the Indian Ocean, effecting a social order that could justifiably be described as self-consciously anti-heroic.

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Softening culture, opening Europe

The European Civil Society Platform for Intercultural Dialogue

Jeff Katcherian

This article examines the development of cultural policy recommendations, in the form of “soft law,” by the Civil Society Platform for Intercultural Dialogue, a nascent European civil society collaboration aiming to make culture a separate political endeavor within the context of European integration. Drawing on fieldwork among European bureaucrats and members of European civil society in Brussels, Belgium, the article offers an alternative discussion from common understandings of soft law, paying close attention to law as an aesthetic form that challenges dominant modes of policy-making. An investigation of soft forms of law provides a useful perspective to those who attempt to define, locate, and create European identity.

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Sonia Sikka

This paper criticises the concept of culture as deployed within debates on moral relativism, arguing for a greater appreciation of the role of power in the production of a society's purportedly 'moral' norms. The argument is developed in three stages: (1) analysis of the relation between ideology and morality, noting that the concept of morality excludes self-serving moral claims and justifications; (2) analysis of the concept of culture, drawing attention to an ambiguity in its usage and to the hierarchical social structures within which the actual bodies of cultures are produced and reproduced; and (3) contention that (1) and (2) provide the basis for a radical and socially effective species of immanent critique: the exposure of existing norms and institutions purported to be morally justified as masks for the self-interest of elite groups.

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Simeon Mitropolitski

Modern political theory, while defining a democratic political regime, puts an emphasis on institutions and procedures. According to this view, whether a particular country is democratic or not depends on the ability of the opposition to oust the incumbent government without leaving the framework of existing institutions and procedures. Cultural values that sustain the democratic polity, including the spirit of political equality, are given much less attention. These values are assumed to be already present, either as a reflection of our similar physical constitution or as a reflection of the presence of democratic political regimes. This research challenges both the monopoly of the procedural understanding of democracy and the lack of particular interest regarding the construction of egalitarian political culture. I claim, first, that the rise of an egalitarian political culture contributes to the establishment of a democratic political regime and, second, that the establishment of modern schools in the late sixteenth century contributed to the construction of this egalitarian political culture.

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Alice L. Conklin

Post-Colonial Cultures in France, Alec G. Hargreaves and Mark McKinney, eds. (London: Routledge, 1997)

Jean-Loup Amselle, Vers un multiculturalisme français, l’empire de la coutume (Paris: Aubier, 1996)

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Aidarbek Kochkunov

This article analyses one of the most important components of Kyrgyz culture - the tradition and ritual of hospitality. Features of traditional and modern hospitality are examined on the basis of literary sources and the author's fieldwork. The hospitality ritual and the norms associated with guests are discussed first in their traditional and then in their modern aspects. The author argues that ethnic specificities have been maintained on a large scale. Gender and age in the organisation of meals, as well as the prestige of meat dishes, continue to have traditional character, and the importance of hospitality has been imparted to younger generations. The author concludes that the interaction of innovations and traditions constitute the main content, development and present characteristics of Kyrgyz customs and hospitality rituals.

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Larissa Mellor

This article explores the relationship between my cultural inheritance and its impact on my work as a visual artist. Questions in the work related to language and geography are tied to my lived experience. These themes led me to explore the contemporary context of German clubs in the United States. I found the art process of collage – cutting and pasting to rearrange parts on a surface – to be an apt visual for the position of the German clubs today, arriving at the term ‘collaged culture’. Similarities between visual art and life reveal that both carry histories. By investigating the relationships between these, we can better perceive the current state of the work of art.

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Katie Kirakosian, Virginia McLaurin and Cary Speck

In this article, we discuss how adding a final film project to a revised ‘Culture through Film’ course led to deeper student learning and higher rates of student success, as well as increased student satisfaction. Ultimately, we urge social science educators to include experiential projects in their courses that connect to all learning styles. Such projects should also challenge students to ‘create’, a task that requires generating ideas, planning and ultimately producing something, which, according to Bloom’s revised taxonomy, engages students in the highest cognitive process (Anderson and Krathwohl 2000). Although this class focused on the intersections of culture and film and was taught at an American university, we believe these lessons apply more broadly.

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Explicating Ecoculture

Tracing a Transdisciplinary Focal Concept

Melissa M. Parks

Ecoculture is an emerging focal concept reflecting the inextricability of nature and culture. It is applicable to and employed in many disciplines, yet it is rarely defined, cited, or interrogated, causing potential inconsistencies in scholarly operationalization. In the present analysis, I use Steven H. Chaffee’s method of explication to develop an analytical review of ecoculture. I explore the primitive terms—ecology and culture—before assessing the scholarly use of the derived, compound term. I trace ecoculture across multiple disciplines, synthesizing operationalizations into one transdisciplinary theoretical framework. I find that ecoculture connotes interconnectedness and place relations, and has been critically operationalized in ways that problematize dominant human-centered ideologies, making it a productive scholarly frame that emphasizes the relationships between humans, their cultures, and their ecologies.