definitions of culture

Fri, 9 Aug 1996 09:49:28 EDT

Always a pragmatist, I believe that, if a scientist is well
trained, one could make do <due? doux?> with what one has on
one's shelf. That is to say, ready references. As an undergraduate
sociology major (with two aborted attempts at grad school in
sociology prior to my current ABD in anthro), my training in (The)
Scientific Method required that one set forth one's assumptions and
definitions as a matter of course. Initiated into the social sciences at
Smith where courses in experimental psych/training rats, anthro courses
taught by visiting anthropologists (one M. Nigerian and one
F. Egyptian) in the early 60's, followed by wades though murky waters of
Chomsky and Whorf (the hardest stuff to swallow/follow), heavy dose of
social psych, several forays into the Amazon with Victor Fuchs (vagina
dentata stories and other myths of the >Guahero sp?), Kluckhohn &
Kluckhohn's Variations in Value Orientations gave an
<AHA!> at G.W.. BUT PRIMARILY steeped in Durkheim, Durkheim,
Durkheim, Weber, Parsons, Marx, von Bertlanffy and general systems theory
and geology and interior design. [more(sigh!) pomoAutobio aside: In
those days, I wanted to transform housing for <the poor> failing to
transform a damn thing]. More Anthropology reSchooling followed my BA by
15 years.

Accordingly, today's definition (8.9.96) is guided by
situation, context, available resources, and close at hand
library shelf (having books in at least three locations) and recent
trajectory. NowFinally getting into the fray: I'd say that Lowie wasn't
bad: "sum total of what an INDIVIDUAL (emphasis added) acquires from his
society, - those beliefs, customs, artistic norms, foodhabit, and crafts
which come to him not by his own creative activity but as a legacy from
the past, conveyed by formal or informal education" + Holloway's "AND IN
syncretic, coming from Tylor roots, that: "culture is taken for
granted.... culture is shared." and that there is some essential
encounter with the other> Peacock citing Mead "the study of man,
embracing women." Culture is pretty complicated, sticky stuff --
takes a grounding in psychology, biology, sociology, etc. to

I have a problem with Lowie's omission of invention/tesselation but
he presumed it to be subsumed. Language is an imprecise tool, as
study of the law or hermeneutical analysis of old texts demonstrate. I
want something that I can measure: my favored measurement form being
systematic observation and detailed description. The reader can always
choose to disbelieve either the substantive data or the
observer/scientist. Doesn't our faith in the Martian rock depend on
faith in Stanford and NASA... that is until we see their definitions and

Patsy Evans
Minority Affairs
American Anthropological Association
4350 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 640
Arlington, VA 22203-1620
703/528-1902/ext.3024;FAX: 703/528-3546
"There is no sea as restless as my mind." Derek Walcott
nb: opinions expressed are my own and do not represent my employer.