There is always a risk when setting up debates such as this one. The danger lies in attempting to produce compelling arguments without yielding to the tendency to create contrived oppositions. As such, the only real indemnity lies in the participation of the audience whereby participants may be able to launch informed positions of their own and which affords us an opportunity to introduce new ideas .

 

(Questions that were submitted that do not appear here will be proposed in subsequent debates.)

 

SERIES ONE: ETHICAL DEBATES

 

Ethics (defined as): The philosophical study of moral values and rules; the principles of right and wrong that are accepted by an individual or a social group.

 

QUESTIONS:

 

Are markets (or states) on the whole a good or a bad thing?

 

Is money the root of all evil?

 

Do all human beings want to be good?

 

SERIES ONE:  METAPHYSICAL DEBATES

 

Metaphysics (defined as): The philosophical study of being and knowing.

 

QUESTIONS:

 

Are we social creatures before individuals?

 

Is development of the world's poor regions to a level comparable with the rich sustainable?

 

Is the mass killing of the twentieth century likely to be a historical aberration?

What is (are) the parameter(s) of good and bad, holy and evil, sacred and profane, development and underdevelopment, poverty and prosperity?

 

Are we connected to the past by our similiarities or by the overall historical process of social life?

 

SERIES ONE: ANTHROPOLOGICAL DEBATES

 

Anthropology (defined as): The science that studies the origins and social relationships of human beings.

 

QUESTIONS:

 

Is it likely that anthropology's future will outshine its past?

 

 

One of the crucial problems that exist in anthropology is the lack of understanding in terms of the manner in which we  perceive social or cultural life and the way in which we represent it.  At the heart of this problem is the dichotomy between the academy or theory that is produced by way of academic practice, and the kind of knowledge that is the practice and experience of fieldwork. In an attempt to present this profound problem, I will pick up where we left off on the recent discussion concerning reflective analysis.

 

Jacob began with;

 

Recently I posted a link to a very interesting essay by Alan Fiske "Learning a culture the way informants do: observing, imitating, and..." (2000). The paper generated a fair amount of back and forth on whether or not members of any culture reflect on their own cultural practices in equal degree, so much so that Alan Fiske was asked by Neil Turner to justify some of Fiske's observations and arguments presented in the paper.

 

Fiske states:

"In some cultures, people do describe and discuss their rituals with each other. However, like many other peoples in Africa, the Moose have no indigenous tradition of reflective analysis of their own practices. They have a rich, elaborate religion, but no theology. They have a complex society, but no ethnosociology. Like many other African peoples, they have virtually no mythology or cosmology. They have a sophisticated political system, but no political science. They live their lives in practice, but without any great interest in reflecting on it, analyzing it, or trying to explain it."

 

I immediately asked my friend Scott Scott MacEachern for his views on the matter.

 

(Scott has been  doing archaeology and ethnoarchaeology in the northern Mandara Mountains of Cameroon and Nigeria since 1984, with work ongoing: this included 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the late 1980s among Plata and related Mandara montagnard communities, and approximately 3.5 years of fieldwork in the area in total. I was reasonably capable in Plata at that time, although my skills in that language have deteriorated as I worked in other areas of the mountains and switched back to doing mostly archaeologyHe offered the following viewpoint to be published at the OAC in response to this discussion, the essay, and Fiske's aforementioned response.)

 

”There’s no doubt that Plata and related populations reflected on lives that were often difficult and sometimes tragic. I was among other things interested in montagnard religious conceptions, because these are reflected in particular realms of material culture. I talked to montagnard people about their religious beliefs, in conversations that ranged from the silly to the not-so-silly: about where gods and spirits came from, and why they would want to inflict suffering on humans; about why good and bad fortune are distributed unevenly among people; about whether, if twins are so dangerous, a woman can humanly bear triplets; and about why certain supernatural forces are indentified so strongly with particular places. In the course of those conversations, montagnard people reflected upon those questions with at least as much insight and inquisitiveness as I’ve seen when I’ve had similar conversations in the West. (Perhaps more so: what the original author [Alan Fiske] seems to be doing is mistaking professionalisation for reflective analysis: under his terms, the vast majority of people in Western societies arguably have no theology, no cosmology, either.)”

 

Nicholas Sarkozy’s little lecture to ‘the Africans’ in Dakar from a few years ago (translated from the French)

“The tragedy of Africa, is that the African man has never really entered history. The African farmers, who for millennia, living with the seasons, including the ideal life is to be in harmony with nature, knows only the eternal cycle of time punctuated by the endless repetition of same gestures and the same words. In this imaginary world where everything again always there is no place for human adventure, nor the idea of progress. In this universe where nature commands all, man escapes the anguish of history that grips modern man but the man remains motionless in a fixed order or seems to be written in advance .... "

 

Fiske also states:

 

“However, a good advanced education certainly trains people to reflect, analyze, theorize, and ask probing questions.  Obviously some people in all cultures obtain such an education in the modern world.  What I wrote about was village or band or camp life in traditional societies, not the experience, practices, or cognition of the educated elite. “

 

QUESTION:  Do traditional societies in Africa or other parts of the world reflectively analyze their cultural practices; and if so, is that process limited only to the more educated of those societies?

 

tchau...

 

 

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“The tragedy of Africa, is that the African man has never really entered history." - An astonishingly ignorant statement!

Nimrud was a great kingdom builder and a Kushite.
The Jebusites, who controlled Jerusalem, originated in West Africa.
Eredo in Nigeria is the 1000 year old boundary of an extensive Ijebu (Jebusite) kingdom.
Some of the easliest rulers of Eygpt were Sudanese.
The Sudra of southern India came there from Sudan, bringing their binary worldview to India.
The oldest known monoliths are in southern Africa.
The oldest known mining operation, involving thousands of miners is in the Lebombo Mountains of southern Africa. This is also where the oldest known counting device has been found.
The Afro-Asiatic languages are the oldest languages traced and the alphabet appears to have originated in Egypt.
Regarding Sarkozy, it seems to me that there are a few relevant things to consider. First, Sarkozy is a wealthy, powerful and influential man. My experience of people like Sarkozy is that they feel a strange epistemic freedom by mistaking their particular kinds of success with automatic success in general. That just seems to be part and parcel of the tautologies of authority, as rank as it is. Second, like all politicians, Sarkozy is caught up in a certain rhetorical context that helps to shape and lead his outlook.

Regarding Neil's question, I'd say yes and no at the same time. (Sorry to be so evasive).

In my mind, the question should be framed less in terms of "do people reflect on their own cultures" and rather in terms of "what effect does reflecting in their own cultures produce on their awareness of that culture?”

Another question that I'd like to pose: is culture and condition the same thing? I'm inclined to say that human conditions are always formed within the contexts of culture; but it seems to me that condition and culture are not necessarily the same phenomenon.

It seems to me that people won't necessarily reflect on beliefs, behaviors and practices when everything is going along just fine. Why scrutinize the gendered division of labor if no one feels set upon because of gender? It seems to me that people will reflect most intensely on a given subject when it is problematic. If I lose my keys, I'll think on it for a while (at least until I find them); if I lose a loved one to a disease for which there is a cure or treatment, I'll definitely think hard about access to health care in my society (even if I don't put it in those terms).

My own view of the beginnings of anthropology tells me that it started when previously isolated Europeans struck out from what was familiar to them. They encountered people that both do and do not look like humans as the Europeans of the time knew them to be; they acted in ways that were familiar, yet in combinations and differences that were beyond any wild imaginations of those Europeans; and they were living in environments that were sort of recognizable, but not really. This whole new set of encounters drove a very simple set of questions: what does it mean to be human? If these people are human, what does that mean for our definition of "human;" If they aren't, what does that mean?

My point isn't really to point back to anthropology, but I think there's something very important to consider. To me, there seems to be a direct relationship between reflection and what we might call exigency.

To appropriate M's example from elsewhere, people might not be inclined to wonder about using pumpkins to carve jack-o-lanterns, as opposed to watermelons; yet if somehow the use of pumpkins became problematic, it might be more likely that someone would muse on it. The concept of “culture” can provide a framework upon which the problem is then laid.

So, are there things that people will experience in their own cultures that are troublesome enough to make them reflect on things? You betcha (yes).

Is that the same as reflecting on "culture," a term that might very well be a Western conception, with its own etymology and ideological history?

M: in your own native language, is there a word that corresponds to culture? If so, what is the etymology behind it? Anybody else want to weigh in on cognates to the term “culture” in non-European languages? Especially native speakers?
In my own language, Culture is called Samskriti, derived from Samskirt (meaning: purified) language that means purification. Hindu Brahmins and Kshetriyas are called twice born (dwij) (some times Vaisyas also claim to be dwij) that means purified by holy rights and rituals. Shudras are not purified so they are untouchables. The Hindus have 16 and Buddhists have 7 rights (and rituals) which are completed as rites de passage. It is called 'samskar' in Nepali. That means Culture is the way to purify individuals. In other way, It is the way of life of the natives.



Joel M. Wright said:
Regarding Sarkozy, it seems to me that there are a few relevant things to consider. First, Sarkozy is a wealthy, powerful and influential man. My experience of people like Sarkozy is that they feel a strange epistemic freedom by mistaking their particular kinds of success with automatic success in general. That just seems to be part and parcel of the tautologies of authority, as rank as it is. Second, like all politicians, Sarkozy is caught up in a certain rhetorical context that helps to shape and lead his outlook.

Regarding Neil's question, I'd say yes and no at the same time. (Sorry to be so evasive).

In my mind, the question should be framed less in terms of "do people reflect on their own cultures" and rather in terms of "what effect does reflecting in their own cultures produce on their awareness of that culture?”

Another question that I'd like to pose: is culture and condition the same thing? I'm inclined to say that human conditions are always formed within the contexts of culture; but it seems to me that condition and culture are not necessarily the same phenomenon.

It seems to me that people won't necessarily reflect on beliefs, behaviors and practices when everything is going along just fine. Why scrutinize the gendered division of labor if no one feels set upon because of gender? It seems to me that people will reflect most intensely on a given subject when it is problematic. If I lose my keys, I'll think on it for a while (at least until I find them); if I lose a loved one to a disease for which there is a cure or treatment, I'll definitely think hard about access to health care in my society (even if I don't put it in those terms).

My own view of the beginnings of anthropology tells me that it started when previously isolated Europeans struck out from what was familiar to them. They encountered people that both do and do not look like humans as the Europeans of the time knew them to be; they acted in ways that were familiar, yet in combinations and differences that were beyond any wild imaginations of those Europeans; and they were living in environments that were sort of recognizable, but not really. This whole new set of encounters drove a very simple set of questions: what does it mean to be human? If these people are human, what does that mean for our definition of "human;" If they aren't, what does that mean?

My point isn't really to point back to anthropology, but I think there's something very important to consider. To me, there seems to be a direct relationship between reflection and what we might call exigency.

To appropriate M's example from elsewhere, people might not be inclined to wonder about using pumpkins to carve jack-o-lanterns, as opposed to watermelons; yet if somehow the use of pumpkins became problematic, it might be more likely that someone would muse on it. The concept of “culture” can provide a framework upon which the problem is then laid.

So, are there things that people will experience in their own cultures that are troublesome enough to make them reflect on things? You betcha.

Is that the same as reflecting on "culture," a term that might very well be a Western conception, with its own etymology and ideological history?

M: in your own native language, is there a word that corresponds to culture? If so, what is the etymology behind it? Anybody else want to weigh in on cognates to the term “culture” in non-European languages? Especially native speakers?
Thank you Ranjan. This example demonstrates something that I'd like to point out.

On first impulse, my English-speaking mind goes: "What?! What does ritual purity and religion have to do with the general concept of culture?" Yet, from Ranjan's cultural background, there is a whole different set of underlying structures that inform what "culture" means: samskriti is embedded in a totally different web of signification. As such, are we even really talking about the same thing?

However, a cognate doesn’t have to be a direct correlation. Indeed, given that the terms are embedded in different cultural contexts, they can be equivalents without being the same thing.

As such, when we ask if people from other cultures reflect on their culture, we may be implying a phenomenon that is only a possible value in that culture, and not an actual cultural entity.

One more thing: I bet that both the Brahmins and Kshetriyas on one side, and the Shudras on the other, reflect about their being. I wonder, though, if musing on a metaphysical level (such as we are doing here) is not a privilege and a leisure afforded to the upper classes/castes.

@ M: Wow! So there are at least 6 different ways, lexically/semantically to say what I only have one word in English to say. On top of that, the English word "culture" can take on the meaning that we have here, but it can also mean something like art and literature.

Your etymology of the contemporary Indian conception of culture is interesting as well, in that it denotes belonging to a specific culture? Is there a particularly American "desiness?"

So, to re-state what I'm getting at, change the language and culture, change the thing that you are reflecting on. Is there reflection? Sure; but are they doing the same thing that anthropologists do? Hmmm...
Rajan,

Please explain more about this statement: "Shudras are not purified so they are untouchables. "

Are you saying that the Shudra have no tradition of ritual purification?



Ranjan Lekhy said:
In my own language, Culture is called Samskriti, derived from Samskirt (meaning: purified) language that means purification. Hindu Brahmins and Kshetriyas are called twice born (dwij) (some times Vaisyas also claim to be dwij) that means purified by holy rights and rituals. Shudras are not purified so they are untouchables. The Hindus have 16 and Buddhists have 7 rights (and rituals) which are completed as rites de passage. It is called 'samskar' in Nepali. That means Culture is the way to purify individuals. In other way, It is the way of life of the natives.



Joel M. Wright said:
Regarding Sarkozy, it seems to me that there are a few relevant things to consider. First, Sarkozy is a wealthy, powerful and influential man. My experience of people like Sarkozy is that they feel a strange epistemic freedom by mistaking their particular kinds of success with automatic success in general. That just seems to be part and parcel of the tautologies of authority, as rank as it is. Second, like all politicians, Sarkozy is caught up in a certain rhetorical context that helps to shape and lead his outlook.

Regarding Neil's question, I'd say yes and no at the same time. (Sorry to be so evasive).

In my mind, the question should be framed less in terms of "do people reflect on their own cultures" and rather in terms of "what effect does reflecting in their own cultures produce on their awareness of that culture?”

Another question that I'd like to pose: is culture and condition the same thing? I'm inclined to say that human conditions are always formed within the contexts of culture; but it seems to me that condition and culture are not necessarily the same phenomenon.

It seems to me that people won't necessarily reflect on beliefs, behaviors and practices when everything is going along just fine. Why scrutinize the gendered division of labor if no one feels set upon because of gender? It seems to me that people will reflect most intensely on a given subject when it is problematic. If I lose my keys, I'll think on it for a while (at least until I find them); if I lose a loved one to a disease for which there is a cure or treatment, I'll definitely think hard about access to health care in my society (even if I don't put it in those terms).

My own view of the beginnings of anthropology tells me that it started when previously isolated Europeans struck out from what was familiar to them. They encountered people that both do and do not look like humans as the Europeans of the time knew them to be; they acted in ways that were familiar, yet in combinations and differences that were beyond any wild imaginations of those Europeans; and they were living in environments that were sort of recognizable, but not really. This whole new set of encounters drove a very simple set of questions: what does it mean to be human? If these people are human, what does that mean for our definition of "human;" If they aren't, what does that mean?

My point isn't really to point back to anthropology, but I think there's something very important to consider. To me, there seems to be a direct relationship between reflection and what we might call exigency.

To appropriate M's example from elsewhere, people might not be inclined to wonder about using pumpkins to carve jack-o-lanterns, as opposed to watermelons; yet if somehow the use of pumpkins became problematic, it might be more likely that someone would muse on it. The concept of “culture” can provide a framework upon which the problem is then laid.

So, are there things that people will experience in their own cultures that are troublesome enough to make them reflect on things? You betcha.

Is that the same as reflecting on "culture," a term that might very well be a Western conception, with its own etymology and ideological history?

M: in your own native language, is there a word that corresponds to culture? If so, what is the etymology behind it? Anybody else want to weigh in on cognates to the term “culture” in non-European languages? Especially native speakers?
No, Alice! This is not my opinion but of the Brahmins. They are Shudras becuase their rituals are not based on vedic/Brahmanic/Hindu rights/rituals. Even many times Buddhists/ Jains: non-Brahmanic people are called Shudras by Brahmins. The Hindu Shudras have no rights to perform these Brahmanic rights and rituals, no right to study Vedic/Brahmanic/Hindu scriptures. But in practice it happens, and it has been theorized as samskritization by Prof. Srinivas where the lower castes try to acheive higher status by performing so called Vedic rights and rituals.

Alice C. Linsley said:
Rajan,

Please explain more about this statement: "Shudras are not purified so they are untouchables. "

Are you saying that the Shudra have no tradition of ritual purification?



Ranjan Lekhy said:
In my own language, Culture is called Samskriti, derived from Samskirt (meaning: purified) language that means purification. Hindu Brahmins and Kshetriyas are called twice born (dwij) (some times Vaisyas also claim to be dwij) that means purified by holy rights and rituals. Shudras are not purified so they are untouchables. The Hindus have 16 and Buddhists have 7 rights (and rituals) which are completed as rites de passage. It is called 'samskar' in Nepali. That means Culture is the way to purify individuals. In other way, It is the way of life of the natives.



Joel M. Wright said:
Regarding Sarkozy, it seems to me that there are a few relevant things to consider. First, Sarkozy is a wealthy, powerful and influential man. My experience of people like Sarkozy is that they feel a strange epistemic freedom by mistaking their particular kinds of success with automatic success in general. That just seems to be part and parcel of the tautologies of authority, as rank as it is. Second, like all politicians, Sarkozy is caught up in a certain rhetorical context that helps to shape and lead his outlook.

Regarding Neil's question, I'd say yes and no at the same time. (Sorry to be so evasive).

In my mind, the question should be framed less in terms of "do people reflect on their own cultures" and rather in terms of "what effect does reflecting in their own cultures produce on their awareness of that culture?”

Another question that I'd like to pose: is culture and condition the same thing? I'm inclined to say that human conditions are always formed within the contexts of culture; but it seems to me that condition and culture are not necessarily the same phenomenon.

It seems to me that people won't necessarily reflect on beliefs, behaviors and practices when everything is going along just fine. Why scrutinize the gendered division of labor if no one feels set upon because of gender? It seems to me that people will reflect most intensely on a given subject when it is problematic. If I lose my keys, I'll think on it for a while (at least until I find them); if I lose a loved one to a disease for which there is a cure or treatment, I'll definitely think hard about access to health care in my society (even if I don't put it in those terms).

My own view of the beginnings of anthropology tells me that it started when previously isolated Europeans struck out from what was familiar to them. They encountered people that both do and do not look like humans as the Europeans of the time knew them to be; they acted in ways that were familiar, yet in combinations and differences that were beyond any wild imaginations of those Europeans; and they were living in environments that were sort of recognizable, but not really. This whole new set of encounters drove a very simple set of questions: what does it mean to be human? If these people are human, what does that mean for our definition of "human;" If they aren't, what does that mean?

My point isn't really to point back to anthropology, but I think there's something very important to consider. To me, there seems to be a direct relationship between reflection and what we might call exigency.

To appropriate M's example from elsewhere, people might not be inclined to wonder about using pumpkins to carve jack-o-lanterns, as opposed to watermelons; yet if somehow the use of pumpkins became problematic, it might be more likely that someone would muse on it. The concept of “culture” can provide a framework upon which the problem is then laid.

So, are there things that people will experience in their own cultures that are troublesome enough to make them reflect on things? You betcha.

Is that the same as reflecting on "culture," a term that might very well be a Western conception, with its own etymology and ideological history?

M: in your own native language, is there a word that corresponds to culture? If so, what is the etymology behind it? Anybody else want to weigh in on cognates to the term “culture” in non-European languages? Especially native speakers?
Dear M, would you like to say the name of your mother tongue?

M Izabel said:
Joel, we have the following for culture:

National language:

Kinamulatan - from mulat meaning to see - what has been seen since birth
Kabihasnan - from hasa meaning to get used to - what has been done for awhile
Kalinangan - from linang meaning to nurture - what has nurtured and been nurtured

Local Dialect:

Kiyamatahan - from mata meaning eyes - what has been seen since birth
Kiyatigaman - from tigam meaning knowledge - what has been known ever since
Kabilinan - from bilin meaning inheritance - what has been left by those who are gone


Indian conception of culture is very interesting and telling. Indians have a classical and a contemporary terms for culture.

Traditionally, it is called Sanskriti, meaning, refined, from Sanskrit, which means refined language. Culture, classically, is based on knowledge grounded on religion and manifested in many cultural elements and practices such as rituals, literature, arts, food, medicine, etc. The fact that sanskriti is about knowledge, I think it is reflective.

The contemporary Indian conception of culture is desiness or being desi-- from Sanskrit desh/des/deshah meaning homeland. It can mean people, character, food, looks, etc. It is a semantically inclusive word that means anything Indian or from India. The concept of desi is also reflective as it classifies, defines, and separates what are Indian or what are from India.
Certainly, Joel, anthropological notion of culture is really diffirent from Samskirt explanation. I was just saying the derivation of the term samskriti. Obviously, ritual purity and relgion are just one part of broader concept of culture.
In my village, culture has another notion too. General dancing and singing etc performation are also called cultural program which denote narrow diffinition from the Vedic and anthropological notion. As somewhere else, Neil has asked, can we discuss here 'what is culture in anthropology'? Thanks

Joel M. Wright said:
Thank you Ranjan. This example demonstrates something that I'd like to point out.

On first impulse, my English-speaking mind goes: "What?! What does ritual purity and religion have to do with the general concept of culture?" Yet, from Ranjan's cultural background, there is a whole different set of underlying structures that inform what "culture" means: samskriti is embedded in a totally different web of signification. As such, are we even really talking about the same thing?

However, a cognate doesn’t have to be a direct correlation. Indeed, given that the terms are embedded in different cultural contexts, they can be equivalents without being the same thing.

As such, when we ask if people from other cultures reflect on their culture, we may be implying a phenomenon that is only a possible value in that culture, and not an actual cultural entity.

One more thing: I bet that both the Brahmins and Kshetriyas on one side, and the Shudras on the other, reflect about their being. I wonder, though, if musing on a metaphysical level (such as we are doing here) is not a privilege and a leisure afforded to the upper classes/castes.

@ M: Wow! So there are at least 6 different ways, lexically/semantically to say what I only have one word in English to say. On top of that, the English word "culture" can take on the meaning that we have here, but it can also mean something like art and literature.

Your etymology of the contemporary Indian conception of culture is interesting as well, in that it denotes belonging to a specific culture? Is there a particularly American "desiness?"

So, to re-state what I'm getting at, change the language and culture, change the thing that you are reflecting on. Is there reflection? Sure; but are they doing the same thing that anthropologists do? Hmmm...
Dear M, do you mean Austric language instead of Tamil? I think Austric language and culture have influenced entire nations through out India to Japan.

M Izabel said:
Ranjan, Tagalog. Yes, it has minor influences from Pali, Sanskrit, and Tamil.

Yes, Ranjan, I was told there are ways for shudras to be come brahmins and for brahmins to become shudras. If a Brahmin marries a shudra, their child exclusively marries a brahmin, and the exclusive marriage is repeated upto seven generations, the descendants will alll be brahmins. The same thing holds true for a mixed child that exclusively marries a shudra.
I think Tamil and Samskrit, Pali and Prakirt encluding their offshoots have Austric influence. It is assumed that Austric is older than all these languages.

Happy Buddha Full Moon Day!


M Izabel said:
I used Tamil to be specific. Austric is too vast a super language family.
Neil,

I don't know what the debate is about and from the posts above, it seems that no-one else does. Shouldn't the debate take the form of a clearly posed question?
'In India, Shudras, particularly dalits, are not allowed to enter the conservative Hindu temples that still exist particularly in Orissa.."

That's interesting especially since it appears that the Sudra (Sudanese Indians whose origin is west central African and Sudan) brought many of the elements that constitute Hinduism to Orissa from Africa (Orissa, Nigeria). I've written about this here:
http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2010/05/african-religion-predate...

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