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RE: still posting for Andrew

Dear David and everybody--

I like your point about the dialogic nature of culture. I agree with Bakhtin
and Clifford that cultures are constructed through dialogue and as Bakhtin
argued, culture does not have internal territory. 

Let me illustrate this point with a metaphor. There is an international
saying about fish learning about water only when it is out of water in the
air. It appears that although fish learns about water in the air, the water
itself exists without air. However, any physicist can explain that it is not
true. Liquid water is constituted by air pressure -- it cannot exist without
air pressure. In that sense, water does not have "internal territory".

Similarly, cultures do not just reveal their "cultural-ness" at a contact
through disruptions of communication, relations, values, and practices (the
Greek work "barbarian" comes from "bar-bar-bar" Greek imitation of
"unintelligent" sounds produced by foreigners for Greek ears when the
foreigners spoke), but they actually construct their "culture-ness" (or
"culture discourse") as a way of managing these disruptions.

The notion of culture is so fluid and so illusory-real exactly because it is
not "IT" but rather "THEY-and-US". It is like the term "friend" which an
abstraction that can only exist within relationship of friendship. There is
never one friend. "Friend" like "culture" does not have "internal

This is what anthropologist James Clifford writes about his vision of
anthropology and culture:

"The anthropology I have in mind is no longer part of a unified "science of
man," a science which sorted out the world's cultures, synchronically and
diachronically, from a privileged standpoint at the end, or cutting edge of
history. Rather I want to affirm another strand of anthropology which points
toward more tentative, dialogical, but still realist, ethnographic
histories: a work of translation which focuses not so much on cultures as on
conjunctures, on complex mediations of old and new, of local and global."

I.e., not on "internal territories of cultures" but on dialogic conjunctions
constituting "culture" phenomena ("translations").

What do you think?


> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Preiss [mailto:davidpreiss@puc.cl]
> Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 2:32 PM
> To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> Subject: RE: still posting for Andrew
> The issue of the interaction between cultural psychology and evolutionary
> psychology is quite relevant for me. I share Mike's problems with
> Nisbett's
> approach. I see culture more as a dynamic phenomenon than as a static
> consequence of belonging to a group such as "the south", north and
> whatever.
> I see culture as dynamic and permeable to multiple influences. The notion
> that "culture" is something that you take with you because you are born in
> the South, North, West or whatever makes little honor to the fact that
> however the differences cultures are in constant dialogue. We move through
> cultures and do not carry those cultures immune to any influence. I also
> have problems in buying some of the core domain theory approaches as they
> may lead us to conclude that culture does not exist (as in Pinker) or that
> culture is just the blossoming of our biological dispositions. (A friend
> of
> mine with a sense of humor spoke of this approach as believing that the
> university departments match the modules of the mind.) Indeed, some of
> these
> authors make quite a jump from genetics to contemporary cognition without
> taking in consideration the socio interactive process that gave birth to
> what they think is a module. Still, I do believe that evolutionary
> psychology is relevant. But would like to see the contemporary
> "rationalistic" approach towards these issues replaced by one that takes
> in
> consideration the interaction between phylogeny, social history and
> ontogeny
> seriously.
> David D. Preiss
> home page: http://pantheon.yale.edu/~ddp6/
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mike Cole [mailto:mcole@weber.ucsd.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 1:24 PM
> To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> Subject: still posting for Andrew
> First, thanks a lot Professor Cole for helping me post and offering the
> reading suggestion.
> Second, to address your clarifying question... I was referring to
> Hirschfeld
> and Nisbett's group at U of M that studies cognition and culture. At the
> I studied a lot about cognition and culture from this basically
> evolutionary
> psychological perpsective, which differed slightly from a Maurice
> Bloch/Rita
> Astuti "anthropology of learning and cognition" perspective.
> In my doctoral studies at U of M I'll continue to explore this interest in
> whether or not cultural psychology and the evolutionary perspective on
> development are compatible. It remains to be seen how I'll fit this in to
> my
> main project, however, which is looking into how computers and the net
> have
> and will allow users to engage in new and possibly improved educative
> processes.
> Best,
> Andrew
> --------------
> Just a quick answer.
> Your are packing a lot of different topics into this question, Andrew.
> Hirschfeld does very different work than Nisbett et al. And the
> Bloch and Astuti work, while well known perhaps at the LSE, is less
> likely to be known to XMCA members (I know a little of it). Could
> you provide some references on the latter.
> Regarding the former. We have not, to my knowledge, ever discussed
> the issue of cognitive styles and cultural variation on xmca. I
> personally have difficulty with both the forms of experimentation
> used in the work of Nisbett, Kitayama, et al, which treats culture
> as shared very broadly (the West and Rest kind of characterization)
> because I do not believe that culture is so uniformaly shared. Nor
> do I believe that the experimental tests are as generalizable as
> the authors would like us to believe. The question of mixing
> core domain theory and essentialism (Hirschfeld) and cultural
> variation is one that I believe bears some potentially useful
> ways to think about the intertwining of natural and cultural
> lines of development in Vygotsky.
> I simply don't know the extent to which these issues are of
> interest to xmca members. But by asking, you and I will find out!
> mike
> -----Original Message-----
> >From: Mike Cole [mailto:mcole@weber.ucsd.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 11:59 AM
> To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> Subject: question for Andrew
> Andrew-- I am not sure what you mean by the culture and cognition school.
> Do you mean cross-cultural approaches to the study of culture and
> cognition?
> A general article on this topic can be found at http://lchc.ucsd.edu on
> the
> publications page.
> mike