December 4, 2009


Just to put this out there. I am not sure what camp this puts me in, but I think there is a serious difference between the analytical categories we (anthropologists and social scientists) create, and the phenomena those categories are meant to describe. To me this is a critical point, but for some others this is mere semantics. What I mean is that I do not think that "culture" is some real force or process out there that exists. We can't really see or touch culture, because it's a concept that has been created and implemented to try to explain a whole series of complex social processes. But that does not mean that the process of culture that we are trying to define, understand, and describe does not have real, material effects. It does. I feel the same way about concepts like "ethnicity," "power," "agency" and "habitus". They all sound great in papers, but I think we should avoid reification--assuming that ideas are real things.

Concepts only capture so much, and for me this is good to keep in mind. I don't "believe" in social theory; I use it as a means to try to understand social processes. It's a toolkit, not a church. This is where I stand on this at present. I reserve the right to completely dismantle this position at a later date, based upon new information.*

*Isn't that how it's supposed to work? Just asking.

1 comment:

Colleen said...

Yup. Middle range theory ftw.