‘Where or what is the intercultural?’, wondered theory


It is not terribly sexy to talk about the brain or mind in cultural anthropology. In many ways I think this is because anthropology is in love with the mystery or mystique of the explanatory gap between culture and action. If nothing else it affords us (as a discipline) a generous margin of interpretation (which means we can make stuff up, appear experts in or while doing so, and thus so stake a proprietorial claim with regard to that aspect of the mystery of the Other). Yes, it appears someone has their cynical pants on this morning.

When used alongside other anthropological theories and methods, as I have mentioned hereon before, an approach that pays heed to the mind, I think, affords a genuinely humanist or ‘humanistic’ approach – we are all human beings who learn about the world in ways that shape who we know and feel ourselves to be – on an individual and collective level – which motivates us to do what we do, to pursue the life we know and feel to be right and desirable for ‘people like us’.

I was a little cheeky just now and only gave ‘theorising’ the intercultural the space of one paragraph in the introductory section of Chapter 1. as follows (I made an executive decision to spend that time otherwise writing a cynical blog post instead):


‘I infer from a cognitive anthropological approach that individual and shared understandings of the self and others are meaningful and motivating concepts at the heart of intercultural relations. The intercultural exists or arises, I suggest, in contexts in which two or more collectivities or groups of people share the same ‘social fields’ and yet have and retain somewhat different or variously contrasting understandings of the ‘self’ – who they know and feel themselves to be, what kind of life they know and feel to be normal, right and desirable for people like them. Individual and shared self-understandings – the type of person we feel ourselves to be, and the associative understandings of what we know to be ‘normal, right and desirable for people like us’ – while relational, polyvalent and subject to change, comprise the most durable and motivating schemas we learn (Burbank 2007; Quinn 2003).’




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Filed under Anthropology, Thesis/Yolngu related writing

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