Cultural Eccentricities

Posted by: | January 13, 2009 | Comments Off on Cultural Eccentricities

Williams’ article proved to be a challenge for me, primarily because I found my interest waning as my reading progressed. At first, the links between all the descriptive imagery and his argument of culture being ordinary seemed to be juxtapositions; he described the countryside, the hills, the teashop, the history of his upbringing including stories from two generations in his family, all events that are particular to him, so how could they possibly be just ordinary? (all this talk of “ordinary” reminds me of American Beauty). Only with further reading was I able to engage in his words and extract (in desperation) some sort of meaning from the text. Williams’ comments on how “culture is common meanings, product of a whole people and offered individual meanings”, the importance of preserving national institutions and disgust at how the organization of mass culture is involved with a capitalist society all have a resonating theme about how culture should be accessible. Presenting culture as ordinary serves to highlight how accessible it is, and how it should not be a consumer product where it is fabricated, packaged, and sold to a consumer’s tastes. With the depiction of culture as ordinary enhances its accessibility, how it is “simple and natural” and places it out of the reach of those who want to monopolize it (since rarely do people ever desire something ordinary) and manipulate it. In this sense, Williams’ emphasizes the commonality more than the distinctions, where “our specialisms will be finer if they have grown from a common culture”, to safeguard the unity of a population who should be able to make individual “offerings” to a culture’s definition.
Keesing presented many interesting notions, not limited to the “radical alterity”, the Marxist views, the Feminist views, etc. I didn’t agree with the coral reef analogy, and the marginalization of a culture’s history as being irrelevant, in fact, I think it’s the collection of all these “minute deposits” that produces the idea of a culture. If you look at futbol it is prominent in almost every country of the world, and the countries which are passionate about it have a population that is unrelentingly fanatical concerning the topic. What makes one country that incorporates futbol into its definition of its culture different from another? Its collective eccentricities. Keesing’s comments on essentialisms and boundaries also feed into the importance of the ‘minute deposits’ in the fabric of culture. To a certain extent national boundaries do not contain aspects of one culture within those lines. Aspects of Middle Eastern culture bleed into many nations, and cross geographical confines. However, a culture is not particular to one nation unless you incorporate that nation’s history, and the communal perceptions of that history. I do agree with Keesing on how culture seems to be set in the past, especially considering modernization. In Turkey, kahve traditions are rapidly being replaced through massive advertising campaigns by corporations, where urbanites will choose Starbucks over taking pleasure in homemade kahve and baklava at the local café.


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