How is the knowledge embedded in a global institution such as psychiatry integrated into taken-for-granted understandings and everyday medical practice in a non-Western setting such as Japan? How can ethnographic research address this question without simplifying institutional complexity and cross-cultural variations? This paper argues that the ethnography of apprenticeship can resolve these tensions between global and local sources of cultural knowledge. Recent work in cognitive anthropology and practice theory has demonstrated the value of examining apprenticeship as a window onto dynamics of institutional production and reproduction. As an ethnographic strategy, the study of apprenticeship makes the processes through which knowledge crosses cultural boundaries accessible to research. Drawing on two years of ethnographic research on the training of Japanese psychiatrists, I describe the institutional structure in which psychiatric knowledge becomes embedded in newly trained psychiatrists. This system, known as the ikyoku system, reproduces many characteristics of Japanese organizational patterns. Examining the details of this system offers additional insight into the particular way in which psychiatric knowledge becomes situated in contemporary Japanese society. The theory of apprenticeship, however, has a much broader potential for informing ethnographic research strategies for studying contemporary global institutions.
Learning Japanese Psychiatry
Anthropological studies of spirit possession in Theravada Buddhist worlds continue to be strongly shaped by many of the theoretical presumptions embedded in the analytic models proposed by the earliest generation of scholars. The ability of subsequent theoretical developments in the discipline to influence analyses of spirit possession, Theravada Buddhism, and the relationship between them has been hindered in recent decades by the limited institutionalization of the anthropology of Buddhism as a shared, comparative research agenda. This article re-examines anthropological models of spirit possession in Theravada Buddhist South and Southeast Asia in light of three theoretical developments in anthropology in the final decades of the twentieth century—the critique of culture, the rise of practice theory, and the historical turn. Incorporating these developments more fully will, it is argued, advance a more analytically robust and empirically nuanced framing of both Buddhism and spirit possession as objects of future anthropological study.
Françoise Bartiaux and Luis Reátegui Salmón
Based on empirical data on “green” practices according to household size, this article questions the role, if any, given to close personal relationships by social practice theories in sustaining or not daily life practices. Data are mainly drawn from an Internet survey conducted in Belgium in 2006 by WWF-Belgium on daily practices, related to food, energy consumption, mobility, and tourism. Results show that smaller households carry out more numerous “green” practices than larger ones. The concluding discussion underlines the relevance of including social interactions—namely within the household—into the conceptual framework derived from the social theories of practices, to take into account the rearticulating role of social interactions and domestic power claims when carrying out a practice or a set of practices, and when changing it.
Marianne Ryghaug and Marit Toftaker
This article focuses on the introduction of electric vehicles in Norway and how electrical cars are understood culturally in relation to conventional car use. Theoretically, elements of social practice theory and the analysis of processes of domestication are combined to frame practical, cognitive, and symbolic dimensions of electric car use. The empirical data consists of individual and focus group interviews with electric car users. The analysis unpacks the implications of user-designated meaning in driving practices, competencies considered necessary when driving electric cars, and the material aspects regarded as critical features of electric car driving. Preliminary findings suggest that the practice of electric car driving alters user habits by making transportation needs more salient and raises both the technological and energy consumption awareness of users.
Today, the insight that material objects are an important part of social life is widely recognized in the social and cultural sciences. But how exactly do things affect the microlevel of social interaction? And by which methodological means can their significance for it be explored? Based on a study of Catholic liturgy, an ethnographic approach is developed that allows for systematic investigations into the role material objects play in social situations. Using Erving Goffman's frame analysis as a theoretical tool, it assumes that things are constitutive of social situations while in turn helping participants make sense of these situations. Conversely, the impact of things is considered closely tied to their particular situational involvement. In order to explore the connections between materiality, meaning, and use, I suggest investigating a number of closely related aspects: the contribution of things to the specifics of the situation in question; the bodily practices in which they are involved; the physical environment in which they are embedded; the physical qualities they possess; and the social definitions tied to them.
Community Engineering for Sexual Assault Prevention
Day Greenberg and Angela Calabrese Barton
This article explores the efforts of two girls to use STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) knowledge and practice to empower themselves and their peers amid threats of sexual violence against them. Drawing on the feminist construct of intersectionality and social practice theory, we examine how these girls called on intersecting knowledge, practices, people, and scales of activity (different scopes of action) to reclaim space, voice, and peace in the face of violence and fear, scaffolded by adults who became their partners for change.
Catherine Butler, Karen Anne Parkhill, Fiona Shirani, Karen Henwood and Nick Pidgeon
It is widely recognized that a major challenge in low carbon transitioning is the reduction of energy consumption. This implies a significant level of transformation in our ways of living, meaning the challenge is one that runs deep into the fabric of our personal lives. In this article we combine biographical research approaches with concepts from Bourdieu's practice theory to develop understanding of processes of change that embed particular patterns of energy consumption. Through an analysis of “case biographies” we show the value of biographical methods for understanding the dynamics of energy demand.
One of Roy Wagner’s consistent positions is that meaning (or culture) does not simply exist as something out there in the world, but that it is elicited and created, something that people do and make. Anthropologists create culture as a more or less plausible account of what we think people are up to, and one of Wagner’s complaints is that the anthropologist’s success in this task often comes at the expense of recognizing the creativity of those we study. In our notions of culture-as-system we invent “rules” (conventions) and models of seamless wholes that leave precious little for people to do apart from being rule-abiding or occasionally deviant, when in fact they are improvising their way through life, making it up as they go along. Although this might sound a bit like Bourdieu’s practice theory, Wagner sees something else at work, a flow of innovation that leverages meaning out of the dialectic between the realm of the innate and the realm of human responsibility and action. Discontinuous but constantly impinging on one another, these realms provide the dynamic that moves culture along.