- continued, part 2b -

CRITIQUE OF TERM CULTURE

- More in details -


MULTI EXTENSIVE

The term culture can relate to intracultural groups or phenomenons, like the culture of a certain social group, the cultural contribution of music, etc.. Further, it is used collectively, e.g. hinting to the culture of a particular state or nation. In its most extensive use, meaning culture in a general human sense as different to the life condition of animals, it gains an enormously wide and heterogenous field of contents.

EVALUATING

Culture expresses an inherent value system. Culture can mean "high" culture in contrast to mere civilisation or barbarism. Note the arrogant undertones of the French word "culture". A word which has to be defined anew for each discussion is not apt for scientific work.

COMPOSED OR CLASSIFIED TERM

The term culture is a composed or collective term. There is not such a thing like "culture", except what we account for it: art, literature, music, religion, philosophy,law, etc.. Thus the European outlook is facetted from the beginning. Best example: get a dictionary of any culture (Chinese, Japanese, Indian, etc.)

CONSTITUTING ELEMENTS ARE OVERLAPPING

Different subfields constituting theoretically the term culture may have very different geographical extensions. Thus it is difficult to define culture in a spatial and temporal sense.

CULTURAL ELEMENTS OF WESTERN "SCIENCE" ARE EUROCENTRIC

If we speak of religion, we do not think, that the contents of this term have grown out of the European history of thought. Thus, using the same word with the same contents for "Chinese religion" might be quite inadequate, even basically wrong. Similarly with art. African masks in our European Museums-vitrines are taken out of the vital complex. We call them beautiful, describe them as art. A bushman would throw them away. In his system setting up such masks in a mausoleum-vitrine lacks what is vital for him: the dance, the movement, the grassy robes of the non-identifiable dancer, the exstatic music, the excitement of the villagers around him etc. The two systems are absolutely incompatible. Most of what science describes to us in the humanities can in this sense be considered distorted: huge Eurocentric projections!

DIFFERENCIATION: THE SCIENTIFIC DESCRIPTION OF CULTURE

Western science is differenciating. It proceeds with its basic instruments: "definition", "analysis" and "judgements" (A OR B). Its outlook is thus deeply prejudiced: It necessarily differenciates all what comes into its view, the result: "different" cultures". How, if we would like to know what is common in man in spite of different cultures?


ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY AS A METHOD FOCUSSES ON BASIC COMMON TRAITS IN DIFFERENT CULTURES.


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TRADITION AND ACCUMULATION


'Tradition' and 'accumulation' are very important terms of architectural anthropology. Traditional transmission of constructive processes and production of highly valued objects is considered as a very stereotype behavior in traditional society. It often represents a highly constant factor, particularly if it appears in the context of cults and rites related to the ontology of a particular traditional society. Thus, if deep rooted tradition is taken as the 'parallelistic' element of culture, accumulation stands for acquisitions from outside, as a result of diffusion. Any cultural situation can be viewed in this sense as an evolutionary dialogue between traditional roots and intercultural relations, whether in a smaller or larger scale.

Architectural Anthropology

rejects the term "culture"

as a reliable working base

It looks in any culture

for autochthonous (parallelistic)

TRADITIONAL SUBSTRATES

and isolates them from superseded

(diffusionistic)

ACCUMULATIONS

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FOCUS: THE HUMAN SETTLEMENT


Architectural Anthropology focusses on a particular and well defined cultural element, the human settlement. It does not dissect this unit into disciplines, but considers it phenomenologically neutral as a highly complex relational system.

THE SETTLEMENT

is described

with its material outfit

with its spatial layout in the local environment,

with its sacred topography

and its rites and cults

and other traditional behaviour,

with its social structure

and its local history.

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THE URBAN/RURAL DICHOTOMY

- Urban settlement and autonomous/rual/traditional settlement -


For a long time ethnology cultivated the dream of the far off island having preservd the primordial conditions of man and culture. Gradually it was realised that such culturally isolated 'islands' do no more exist. But this does not imply that we have to give up the idea to reconstruct 'primordial' conditions. We can give up the strict difference between ethnology and history, scriptless tradition and script and shift our interest to non European 'high cultures' like India, China, Japan etc. and study the relation between local tradition and central diffusion. In the following some categories that can be used for inter-cultural comparison.

Some important contrasts between rural and urban are:

RURAL ---------- URBAN
localism ---------- centralism
cyclic time ---------- linear history
conservative ---------- progressing
cult provides eschatology ---------- ideals projected into future
ontology empirically related ---------- ontology based on scholastic
to physical environment .......... interpretation of history
stable ---------- dynamic
residence ---------- mobility
very strong local imprints ---------- no roots, high degree of virtuality
highly autonomous ---------- increasingly dependent
traditional learning ---------- education at schools
focussed on local existence ---------- on profession, universals
elementary social hierarchy ---------- theocratic hierarchy
based on settlement foundation .......... based on monuments and myths
archived in cyclic cults .......... archived in historical texts

If thus 'rural' and 'urban' are taken as two distinctly different settlement related complexes of cultural history one will realise immediately to what extent the development of the 'urban' is genetically dependent of the 'rural' complex, a perspective which is generally lacking in the modern historian's view. One will also become aware to what extent the urban societies have propagated their own worldviews without really knowing the existential conditions of their rural counterparts. They simply used cultural value systems (cultural history and anthropology as perennial 'urban propaganda'!). This continues into our modern "scientific" world: 1st world, 3rd world. Cultural theory can thus in new ways be revised, now including - anthropologically - urban and rural ontologies. In Egyptology this step from historistic interpretation of imperial myths to the increasing awareness of the importance of predynastic settlements (villages and provinces) and the discovery of the mutual interdependence of 'rural' and 'imperial' took nearly 100 years, in fact, the whole of our 20th century. But, the implications of these discoveries are still not taken into account in many other related disciplines, because they could question many modern urban historisms.

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THE ORIGINS OF EARLY CITIES AND EMPIRES


Max Weber explained the origins of the early cities and empires economically on the basis of large scale organisation of agriculture. But this does not provide the arguments for the socially hierarchic and theocratic structure of early cities and empires. These most important stuctural traits can only be understood, if the disciplinary view is given up in favour of a phenomenological description of nuclear (territorial) demarcation and how it evolved from pre-urban to urban scale. Or, using the rural-urban dichotomy in an evolutionary sense.

Some important structural elements of "urban" are:


NOTE:ALL THESE CONSTITUTIVE CRITERIAS CAN BE DERIVED FROM PRE-URBAN, PRE-DYNASTIC SUBSTRATE OF AUTONOMOUS SETTLEMENTS


Some important structural characteristics of pre-(or para-)-urban "rural" settlements are:


RURAL SETTLEMENTS HAD THEIR OWN HISTORY. IT WAS NOT WRITTEN WITH LETTERS ON PAPER. IT WAS WRITTEN WITH HIGHLY VALUED SIGNS (SEMANTIC ARCHITECTURE) DIRECTLY INTO THE INHABITED LANDSCAPE. WE CALL IT ALSO "NUCLEAR DEMARCATION". CONVENTIONALLY RELIGION REPORTED ABOUT SUCH PHENOMENA, BUT COULD NOT UNDERSTAND THEM FROM A DOMINANTLY SPITIRUAL OUTLOOK. THEY WERE CALLED "FETISHES", "SPIRIT HUTS", "SACRED SHRINES", "HOLY PILLLARS", "LIFETREES", "PRIMITIVE TEMPLES" ETC. THE DOMINANT CATEGORY WAS "BELIEF", "SUPERSTITION", "PRIMITIVE RELIGION". THE TERRITORIO-LEGAL ASPECT OF SUCH 'NUCLEAR DEMARCATIONS" WAS NOT TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT.


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