Re: Abstract definitions

Stephanie Wilson (swilson@BIGCAT.MISSOURI.EDU)
Fri, 4 Feb 1994 16:38:11 -0600

On Wed, 2 Feb 1994, James G. Carrier wrote:

> 2 February, 1994
> Dear Folks,
> Periodically the people on anthro-l go through a bout of trying to define
> `culture'. And just as periodically I find myself suspecting that the
> exercise is wrong-headed.
> In short, the recurrent debate about the definition of culture seems
> relatively useless absent any detailed application of the proposed definition
> (or absent any invocation of work that has used the proposed definition to
> produce interesting results). In other words, it looks too much like
> arm-chair theorizing.
> Yours,
> James G. Carrier

First of all, I think anthropology does need more of a working definition
of culture than `that thing which we study.' But also, I think an
anthropologist's idea of what culture is/is not will be represented in
his/her work. I see it as analogous to the theories of will
include/exclude those things which you see as important/unimportant
according to your own definition of what culture is.

Second, instead of "arm-chair theorizing" maybe we can work out a
hypothesis of what culture is/is not and figure out a way of testing this
in the field. Maybe something along the lines of Biosphere 2. This
example may have limited scientific value, but it is posing an important
question of what is necessary to include when one is defining an
environment/ ecology...

Just some more thoughts before I sign off for the weekend...
Stephanie Wilson