Re: Intra-cultural variability

Matthew S. Tomaso (Tomaso@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU)
Sat, 29 Apr 1995 15:26:30 -0500

My fraction of a cent:

There are serious problems inherent in any statements about inter-cultural
and intra-cultural variability. Firstly, cultures are not bounded and
constrained entities about whose constitutions all participants can agree.
There is, thus, no objective or even consensually appropriate way to measure
variability. Secondly, innumerable levels of analysis of variability are
possible from the individual to the global, and each will yield different
results regarding the answers to the questions posed. (for instance, there
may be universal generalizations which can be made about subsistence
behavior, but there are less likely to be any universals regarding such
meaningful and abstract categories as ethics, psychology and morality).
Finally, culture is a model - an heuristic device only - such that one can
sensibly speak of the 'culture of motorcycle gangs' on the same page as the
'culture of capitalism' or the 'culture of the U.S.A.'. One can freely
decide how much variability is desired, depending on the subject and goal of
the research.

>>So, what is known about intra-cultural variability? Can it be ascertained
>>and how? Can these two be legitimately compared? Have they been?

For me, the answers to your questions are 1. very little. 2. yes and no.
3. no and 4. absolutely not.

Good luck on your presentation, it sounds like a very tall order.

Matt Tomaso, marginally human.
Anthropology. University of Texas at Austin.