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Who Owns “Culture”?

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Chapter Summary

Throughout its century-long struggle for academic respectability, anthropology has regularly insisted on its unique role as the proprietor of 'culture'. Some implications for cultural anthropology of the current obsession with interpretive approaches to its materials are considered. Focus is on further implications of the hermeneutic approach to culture study. Some alternative approaches to 'culture' are also listed. It has to be stressed that the proclivity of anthropology has also obscured the obligation of scientists to speculate, i.e., to formulate new theories. The study of religion, like the study of language, economy, and power, can stand as an identifiable sub-discipline within the overall social scientific enterprise. The concept of 'culture' is as notoriously vague as cultures themselves are notoriously difficult to study. The cognitive sciences provide both methodological and substantive inspiration. No one owns 'culture', because in science our best explanatory schemes face relentless pressure to improve.

Keywords: anthropology; cognitive sciences; culture



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