Re: What's it all about?

Stephanie Wilson (swilson@BIGCAT.MISSOURI.EDU)
Thu, 27 Jan 1994 09:09:21 -0600

On Wed, 26 Jan 1994, John L. McCreery wrote:

> Combining these two views leads me to the premise that
> (1) The existence of "us" vs. "them" distinctions is prima-facie evidence
> that a culture exists, and
> (2) That job No. 1 for ethnographrs is trying to sort out the
> assumptions behind the existence of "us."
> (3) The evidence from which we infer the assumptions that constitute a
> culture includes everything we can see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and
> feel about the members of the group in question. Deciding which
> particular bits of evidence either support or contradict our
> interpretations is the basic epistemological problem we face in planning
> research and assessing its results.
> Yours truly, John McCreery.

Another question I would raise about a definition of culture refers back
to the question of whether two patients in a psychiatric ward who devise
their own language, reality expectations, etc., constitute a culture.
What is the definitional difference between a culture and a
personal relationship?
How many people does it take to create a culture? 2? 3? more?

As to the second example you give (the distinction of "us" vs. "them" in
terms of clothing, behavior, etc.), what is the difference between a cult,
a culture, and a fad? According to this definition, would "punk" be a
fad? would Heavy Metal be a cult? would homosexuals constitute another

Can culture be analygous to a species in nature? There are precise
definitions of species in nature (i.e. must be interbreeding), that fade
into gray areas. The canine species, for example, has hundreds of breeds
and hybrids. And horses and donkeys can interbreed producing mules. How
different do two cultures have to be before they are designated as
separate cultures? What are the factors involved?

Just some food for thought,
Stephanie Wilson