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RE: still posting for Andrew

Oh! From what you say I noticed that I had misinterpreted you! I had read
your message as proposing that cultural-ness is born from the self
affirmation of distinctivennes. But, from your example, which is quite good,
I can understand that you were talking about some sort of metalinguistic
dialogue, which may be or not mabe harmonious.

David D. Preiss
home page: http://pantheon.yale.edu/~ddp6/

-----Original Message-----
From: Eugene Matusov [mailto:ematusov@udel.edu]
Sent: Thursday, July 01, 2004 2:00 PM
To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
Subject: RE: still posting for Andrew

Dear David--

Can you elaborate on "...how to build 'cultures of tolerance'. From what you
say sounds like impossible", please? I do not understand why and how from
what I said about relational and dialogic nature of such social construction
as "culture", it follows that it is impossible to build 'cultures of

You wrote,
> How
> cultures capitalize on this ability can make a difference in the way they
> manage cultural disruptions and process them in early socialization and
> schooling.

This is a point of invention of "culture discourse" to see some disruptions
in communication, relations, values, and practice as "cultural." For
example, when a student promises to fulfill an assignment for my class but
does not do that, I, as her instructor, often do not treat this disruption
in our relations as "cultural." However, when I speak with Americans, some
of them move away from me which makes me (and I assume them) uncomfortable
because it communicates me that the person does not like me and what to get
away from me. However, I use a discourse on "culture" to conceptualize this
disruption and mini-breakdown in our relations as "cultural": I came from a
"culture" that promotes closer proximity among interlocutors than a
"culture" from which my American friend came. Thus, although it is true that
in my "culture", moving away from a person signals hostility, I should not
read this intention in my American friend because his move away from me
signals his zone of proximity comfort. What follows from our "non-verbal
dance" (moving our bodies while talking) and its silent interpretation and
negotiations will define how much my "culture discourse" is successful and
successful for what. It is important to notice that "the truth" does not
pre-exist the consequences of our "non-verbal dance" and the negotiation of
its meaning but rather emerges from the consequences (our reflection on

I put the term "culture" in quotation marks not to show that "it does not
actually exist" but to emphasize its nature as a social construction. Social
constructions can be no less real than any material reality: for example,
money can kill as real as knife.

"Culture discourse" does not necessary harmonize relations as in my example
above seems to suggest (although we still do not know the consequences of my
use of "culture discourse" to know that it did harmonize our relations), but
it can "balkanize" them as well. For example, treating disagreements on
teaching evolution in schools as "cultural" can balkanize some of the
participants of the conflict (e.g., professional biologists).

What do you think?


> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Preiss [mailto:davidpreiss@puc.cl]
> Sent: Thursday, July 01, 2004 11:48 AM
> To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> Subject: RE: still posting for Andrew
> Nice point, Eugene. It opens the point of how to build "cultures of
> tolerance". From what you say sounds like imposible. Following up on the
> interaction between evolutionary and cultural approaches, I do believe
> however, that, we have an evolved capacity for empathy (inborn in what
> Tomasello calls our ability to acknowledge intentions in others). How
> cultures capitalize on this ability can make a difference in the way they
> manege cultural disruptions and process them in early socialization and
> schooling.
> David
> David D. Preiss
> home page: http://pantheon.yale.edu/~ddp6/
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Eugene Matusov [mailto:ematusov@udel.edu]
> Sent: Thursday, July 01, 2004 12:28 PM
> To: xmca@weber.ucsd.edu
> Subject: 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
> territory."
> 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."
> http://humwww.ucsc.edu:16080/~james_clifford/pages/pubframe.html
> I.e., not on "internal territories of cultures" but on dialogic
> conjunctions
> constituting "culture" phenomena ("translations").
> What do you think?
> Eugene
> > -----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
> > LSE
> > 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
> >