Culture in Light of American Anthropology of the Contemporary
The paper addresses one of the claims shared within the American anthropology of the contemporary developed by Paul Rabinow, George E. Marcus, James Faubion and Tobias Rees. The claim in question is that there is no need to appeal to culture as a bounded whole so that it vanishes as an object of study. It is possible and desirable, however, to maintain the cultural as a particular plane of the contemporary. The anthropologists in question claim to use a new way to describe the contemporary. They therefore propose the technological vocabulary including terms like “apparatus”, “assemblage” and “contraption” to present the eventful and interrelated but disjoined nature of the realm studied, where modernity clashes with other sorts of ethos. The author of the paper understands the anthropologists’ moves but guesses they are not consistent. It is not only unnecessary to do away with something that can still be useful. If one maintains the cultural while erasing culture, then how can one find the conceptual foundation of the former? And if this foundation is lost, why to stick to the cultural? He therefore formulates an original view according to which culture is a set of the propositional attitudes that is changeable and possibly abstracted from a carrier. Such an entity is free to join and disjoin one with another, and make both the groups and individuals identify themselves in motion. Such a move is to propose an alternative vocabulary which not only allows one to analyse the contemporary in a flexible way but also to save a precious tool called culture.
Instytut Kulturoznawstwa, Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
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