Culture Concept

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Culture may be defined, through the aid of Schneider, as a complex "system of symbols and meanings" (p. 197). As symbols and meanings, not to mention the values upon which they are predicated, tend to be culture-specific, cultures may find one another unintelligible…

Introduction


In his exposition of the role of anthropology in the communication and explication of culture, Geertz emphasises the imperatives of cultural relativism. As he quite explicitly states in his Interpretation of Culture, the role of the anthropologist in the communication and exposition of culture is that of the ethnographer whose responsibility is to "first grasp and then render" (p. 10). Engagement in the "thick description" of culture is predicated on the anthropologist's assuming the role of an ethnographer and within the context of that role, to understand the culture's codes and symbols from the inside. The point here is, according to Geertz, that loci of culture are the hearts and minds of its natives and this imposes the imperatives of entering the hearts of minds in order to understand culture and communicate it, not from the anthropologist's subjective point of view but, "from the native's point of view" (Geertz, Local Knowledge, p. 56).
Cultural relativism is the optimal approach, not just to the study of cultures but, to their accurate comprehension. Geertz's "thick description" of culture, which translates into understanding culture "from the native's point of view" implies the comprehension of cultures from an internal perspective. ...
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