Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How my idea of culture matches Stephen Long’s

Before reading through some of Stephen Long’s ideas, I was under the impression that there is no such thing as a concrete definition for the word culture. I found his argument pretty compelling and mostly true, aside from his last few pages.
Our ideas essentially matched when he illustrated the different prejudices that can prevent an accurate definition of the word culture. If a biologist approaches it, the term culture will be seen and defined in a much different light than if a theologist analyzes it. This therefore makes it impossible to form a single meaning of the word. This also coincided with what we discussed in class, as everyone seemed to struggle to find a single definition for science fiction. Now, it is clear that there can and should be multiple definitions for it.
What struck me toward the end of the text was Long’s argument regarding the different methods of cultural observation. On the one hand, according to Long, one cannot attain a full understanding of a culture by being the unbiased, outside observer. On the other hand, fully immersing oneself in a culture could ultimately prevent the observer from remaining unbiased. These arguments made sense to me, but what confused me was that he held the two theories as mutually exclusive. Wouldn’t it be possible to combine these approaches to gain a well rounded understanding of a culture?
Another problem I had with his argument was how he considered religion and culture inseparable. The evidence he uses is how religious figures made contact with God, requiring language and other factors inherent in culture. However, isn’t Long in some way limiting the definition of culture by only considering a few specific factors of culture?
Ultimately, I agree with most of Lang’s points, especially the argument that it is impossible to have a single definition for culture and that comparing different cultures is far more difficult than it may seem on paper.

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