WHY THIS BLOG?

This is a humble endeavour to collect study materials on anthropology and then share it with interested others. The blog has different sections (See pages) like "theories", "Development related" etc. these are meant for broad categorisation of the materials available in the blog. One can see materials together by clicking on "pages" or can see it in sections by clicking archives which is arranged chronologically. I have not tried to be exhaustive, but its just elementary materials which will help newcomers to build up their materials better.

You can write me about the posts, send materials to make this endeavour better. I will publish them with your name and details. Feel free to write me at snsuman21@yahoo.com
Best, Suman

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Psychological Anthropology

Psychological Anthropology

Psychological Anthropology approaches the comparative study of human experience, behavior, facts, and artifacts from a dual socio-cultural and psychological most often psychodynamic   perspective. It emerged in the early twentieth century as an attempt to understand our common humanity, led by such figures as Franz Boas and his students Edward Sapir, Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, Melville Herskovits. Psychological anthropology displays an arc of theoretical approaches ranging from scientific positivism, which embraces objectivity and the scientific method, through various hermeneutic humanisms that emphasize the role of subjectivity in fieldwork and writing (Suárez-Orozco 1994). Psychological anthropology, or the study of individuals and their sociocultural communities, helps us to understand what Jackson (1998: 21) refers to as “the many refractions of the core experience that we are at one and the same time part of a singular, particular, and finite world and caught up in a wider world whose horizons are effectively infinite.”
While critiques of ethnocentrism have brought attention to the politics of identity and equality, as well as to the mutual recognitions and attunements that are necessary for coexistence, the relationship and balance of the particular and the universal, the individual and the global, as examined through various life processes, vary dramatically among individuals and across communities. Psychological anthropologists bring unique approaches to these dynamic relations. Ethnopsychological research, in-depth case studies, studies of transference and counter-transference, person-centered ethnographies, and ethnographies of communication, enable psychological anthropologists to draw out the experiential lives of subjects and informants who shape, and are shaped by, their communities.

Psychology and cultural anthropology: Issues and Challenges


There are certain assumptions that make the ground for the disciplinary convergence of psychology and anthropology:
1.       We cannot explain cultural meanings unless we see them as created and maintained in the interaction between the extra-personal and intrapersonal realms. The force and stability of cultural meanings, as well as their possibilities for variation and change, are the outcome of this complex interaction.
2.       Intrapersonal thoughts, feelings, and motives, on one side of this interaction, are not simply copies of extra-personal messages and practices, on the other side, and the dynamics of these realms are different.
3.       Therefore, we need to know how the mind works in order to understand how people appropriate their experience and act on it, sometimes to recreate and other times to change the public social world.
4.       We need to examine socialization in greater detail to learn the concrete forms of extra-personal culture in learners' worlds and to examine what learners internalize at different points in their lives from experiencing these things.
Anthropologists who work at the interface of psychology and anthropology are by and large committed to anthropology as science. Because of the separate epistemological domains of anthropology, psychology, sociology, linguistics, philosophy, ad biology scientists in the latter half of the twentieth century found themselves having to work hard to put the pieces back together again – body and mind, for example. As is often the case, however, new subdisciplinary domains intended to overcome conceptual difficulties served rather to entrench them. The 1970s saw the invention of psychological anthropology, the 1980s brought us cultural psychology, in the 1990s we rediscovered the body and phenomenology, and at the same time witnessed the resurgence of cognitive anthropology which, during the first decade of the twenty-first century would appear to dominate the field, contribution to the development of what is today called cognitive science. Even after all of the fascinating works that has been done in the various sub-fields of anthropology, and despite the explosion of knowledge in other sub-disciplinary domains- neurobiology and neuroscience, for example – the interface between anthropology and psychology at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century continues to throw into relief a question that remains fundamental to the human sciences, including anthropology: how are we to conceive of human beings? The answer we give to this question is important because it structures not only what we currently know about ourselves and others but also what we are capable of finding out.

A genealogy of psychological anthropology:

As early as the mid-1800s, psychology and anthropology shared an interest in the relationship between culture and psychology, and by the 1870s German anthropologists such as Waitz and Bastian joined British anthropologist Edward Tylor in efforts to link culture to psychology. In 1888, Franz Boas was hired by Clark University, where he began his long study of the “mind of primitive man.” Empirical research on this topic soon followed. British psychologist W. H. R. Rivers took part in Cambridge University’s Torres Straits Expedition in 1898. He showed that the same optical illusions that puzzled Europeans had little effect on the native peoples. German psychologist Wilhelm Stern and anthropologist Richard Thurnwald soon after carried out similar research in the South Pacific.

The Freudian impact:

The first theoretical orientation to have an impact on this field came from Freud’s psychoanalytic work. In 1900, he published his first great book, The Interpretation of Dreams. By 1910, Freud had turned his interests to a demonstration of how psychoanalysis could help to explain how cultural institutions arise and how they function. His book Totem and Taboo, published in 1913, had a dramatic impact, attracting to psychoanalytic theory such influential “Freudians” as Erich Fromm, Ernest Jones, J. C. Frügel, Geza Róheim, George Devereux, and Erik Erikson. In arguing that social prohibitions – “taboos” – were comparable to the self-imposed inhibitions of “neurotic” individuals, Freud sought to explain why taboos such as those surrounding rulers and the dead came into being and how they were maintained.
The Freudian impact focused psychological anthropologists on child training, including such often criticized topics as toilet training, and on the general question of the relationship between personality and culture. In 1928 one of Freud’s disciples, Hungarian Geza Róheim, went to the Aranda of Central Australia to describe what he called “delayed infancy,” the length of time that humans are dependent on adults. He argued that each culture is founded on a specific childhood trauma which produces the type of personality of people in that society. Other Freudian scholars such as Weston LaBarre, Bruno Bettleheim, and George Devereux produced influential work as well, but their psychoanalytic writings were soon eclipsed by an emerging field known as culture and personality.

Culture and Personality School:


Culture and personality was a broad and unorganized movement that brought together anthropologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists who agreed on the mutual relevance of their disciplines but lacked a common theoretical position, an acknowledged leader, and an institutional base. Its founders were Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and Edward Sapir, all students of Franz Boas, whose influential concept of culture had implied a psychological dimension they attempted to spell out and translate into research. They argued that culture played a role in individual psychological development (Mead) and in the emotional patterns typical of particular cultures (Benedict), and also that individuals of a particular society realized its culture in different ways (Sapir). They criticized psychological theories that posited universals for the human species without taking into account human variability as revealed by anthropological fieldwork in diverse cultures. At the same time, they were influenced by those psychological and psychiatric theories that emphasized social influences on the individual, such as the neo-Freudian formulations of Karen Horney and the interpersonal psychiatry of Harry Stack Sullivan. Although the movement had no formal organization, its anthropological founders were joined at seminars, conferences, and in publications by sociologists, psychologists, and psychoanalysts   including W. I. Thomas, John Dollard, Erik Erikson, Abram Kardiner, Henry A. Murray   and by a growing circle of anthropologists   Ralph Linton, A. Irving Hallowell, Gregory Bateson, Cora Du Bois, Clyde Kluckhohn, and John W. M. Whiting, to name but a few. The field of culture and personality studies was very active during the 1930s and in the postwar period 1945-50, as a new generation of anthropologists conducted studies among Native American peoples and in the Pacific.
Edward Sapir was the first to describe the unconscious configuration of grammar and sound, and his work led to the study of how personality and culture were configured. In her book Patterns of Culture, published in 1934, Ruth Benedict compared the basic configurations of culture and personality among the Pueblo and Plains Indians, the Kwakiutl of the Northwest Coast, and the Dobu of Melanesia. Portraying the Pueblo Indians as “Apollonian,” the Plains Indians as “Dionysian,” the Dobuans as “Paranoid,” and the Kwakiutl as “Megalomaniac,” Benedict argued each culture had its own personality and that because some individuals could not cope with their culture’s demands they became alienated and frustrated. Her book was enormously popular, making her one of the best known anthropologists of all time.
Benedict’s friend and colleague, Margaret Mead, was also a major psychological anthropologist. She helped to found configurationism, but went on to make important contributions to many other areas of psychological anthropology, including childhood development, sex roles and temperament, personality and culture change, national character, and cross-cultural socialization. Her first three books were based on her fieldwork in the South Pacific: Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), Growing Up in New Guinea (1930), and Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935). Mead also wrote numerous articles in popular magazines, her name becoming a household word.
While Mead was having her early impact on psychological anthropology, anthropologists Cora DuBois, Ralph Linton, and Thomas Gladwin joined psychoanalyst Abram Kardiner in the study of “basic” and “modal” personality. They posited a causal chain from primary institutions such as household form, subsistence activities, and child training to basic personality and then to secondary institutions including religion, ritual, and folklore. Cora DuBois put this paradigm to the test with 18 months of fieldwork in the Dutch East Indies in 1938–9. The result was The People of Alor (1944), in which she argued that not everyone in such a society developed the same basic personality. Instead, she spoke of a “modal” or most frequent form of personality.
The attempt to measure modal personality led to the widespread use of projective tests, especially the Rorschach and Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). During the 1940s and 1950s the Rorschach was widely used. One of the most widely known uses of this test was by A. F. C. Wallace among the Iroquois Indians in New York.
He found that only 26 of the 70 individuals tested fell into a modal class, although another 16 were close to this class (Wallace 1952).
A year after Wallace’s study was published; anthropologist Thomas Gladwin and psychiatrist Seymour B. Sarason collaborated to produce a projective test study of people on the island of Truk. In a 650-page book, Truk: Man in Paradise (1953), Gladwin and Sarason described the many anxieties about food and sexuality, as well as the pressure of much gossip and fear of sorcery. They strongly recommended the use of the Rorschach and the TAT as means of identifying personality attributes that might otherwise be missed.

National Character Studies:

The next major development in psychological anthropology was the study of national character – the personality of most members of an entire nation. Characterizations of the national character of the British, Germans, French, Italians, and other Europeans go far back in history. In 1928, for example, Salvador de Madariaga wrote Englishmen, Frenchmen and Spaniards, contrasting English “action” with Spanish “emotion” and French “thought.” But it was the eruption of World War II that initiated the empirical study of the national character of our enemies and even our allies. As early as 1939, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Eliott Chapple, and other anthropologists tried to devise ways that psychological anthropology could support the war effort. After the United States entered the war, others moved to Washington, where they attempted to analyze the national character of the Japanese
and the Germans.
Ruth Benedict did much research on the Japanese, trying to reconcile their restrained aestheticism with their fanatical militarism. Although her book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946) has been roundly criticized by Americans and Japanese alike, it was studied by our military leaders and used by the postwar MacArthur occupation forces. Benedict considered it her finest work. In Escape From Freedom (1941) Erich Fromm tried to explain the appeal of Nazism to the German people in terms of their national authoritarian personality. Such a person is obedient and subservient to superiors, but overbearing and scornful to social inferiors. Walter C. Langer wrote The Mind of Adolf Hitler for the American Office of Strategic Services soon after the war broke out, but it was not published for the public until 1973. Erik Erikson also studied Hitler for our military, characterizing him as a superhuman leader who created terror among his followers and involved them in crimes which they could
not deny.
After the war, national character studies focused on the Russians. British anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer and his collaborator John Rickman wrote The People of Great Russia (1948), arguing that Russian infants were tightly swaddled and unable to move except for a brief period each day when they were released, cleaned, and
actively played with. This phenomenon was to produce the Russian propensity for mood swings between long periods of introspective depression and brief spurts of frantic social activity. The need for strong authority was also learned and symbolized through swaddling. Clyde Kluckhohn followed Gorer and Rickman by comparing
traditional Russian personality with the new ideal Soviet personality type. There were many differences. The traditional personality was warm, trusting, expansive, and responsive, while the Soviet ideal was formal, controlled, distrustful, and conspiratorial (Kluckhohn 1962).

Modal Personality studies:

Other scholars studied American modal personality. Margaret Mead wrote And Keep Your Powder Dry in 1942 as a wartime morale booster. Geoffrey Gorer wrote The American People in 1948, arguing that the American and British national characters contrasted dramatically. David Riesman, Nathan Glazer, and Reuel Denney followed with The Lonely Crowd in 1950, describing Americans as “other-directed, constantly scanning their environment for cues to the correct attitudes and behaviors. They also emphasized perceived American behaviors of rivalry, jealousy, and individualism. Philip Slater, in his book The Pursuit of Loneliness (1970), suggested that our core of individualism must be replaced in our value system if our society is to remain viable, while the Chinese-born anthropologist Francis L. K. Hsu argued American national character is one of self-reliance, the search for political, economic, and social equality.
There were other studies of national character as well, but this kind of approach increasingly came under fire from many quarters for its political prejudice and lack of objectivity, as well as its assumption that there was a causal relationship between culture and personality. The most powerful criticism came from someone within culture and personality itself, Melford E. Spiro. In 1951 he wrote a detailed article in the journal Psychiatry entitled “Culture and Personality: The National History of a False Dichotomy,” arguing persuasively that the field of culture and personality had failed to show any causal relationship between culture and personality because the development of personality and the acquisition of culture were a single process. In response to criticisms like that of Spiro, the study of culture and personality fell by the wayside to be replaced by a new cross-cultural comparative research strategy championed by G. P. Murdock, who possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of world ethnography. Murdock established the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) at Yale, making available a host of cross-indexed data on hundreds of non-Western societies. One of Murdock’s students was John W. M. Whiting, whose earliest field research in New Guinea provided rich empirical data about the process of socialization. Joined by psychologist Irvin L. Child, Whiting then employed what they called the correlational method of testing hypotheses utilizing HRAF data. This work resulted in their influential book Child Training and Personality (1953). Other correlational research appeared as well. At the same time, Robert A. LeVine and Melford E. Spiro, both of whom were trained in anthropology and psychoanalysis, carried out ethnographic field research on various ways in which people adapt psychologically to the world in which they live. Spiro focused on Burma and LeVine worked in East Africa. While they produced their stimulating findings, John Whiting and his wife Beatrice were developing their highly influential “Six Cultures Project.” Six pairs of investigators, usually husband and wife teams, were sent to six different societies to observe the behavior of children aged three to eleven as they interacted with infants, other children, and adults, in an effort to learn in what ways culture impacts children’s lives. Their findings were presented in three major books: Six Cultures (1963), Mothers of Six Cultures (1964), and Children of Six Cultures (1974). The research was the most meticulous yet conducted and it continues to attract attention. However, it did not lead to any conceptual breakthroughs. At the same time that the Whitings were carrying out their intensive data collection, a team organized by Walter Goldschmidt was conducting controlled interviews and observations with samples from eight populations in East Africa, searching for psychological and behavioral differences between farmers and pastoralists. The Individual in Cultural Adaptation: A Study of Four East African Societies (1971) is Robert Edgerton’s assessment of the changing lives of individuals living in four of these eight East African societies. He demonstrated the variability of psychological adaptations within and across social and cultural settings.

Post-structural and Postmodernist studies in Psychological anthropology:

Claude Lévi-Strauss’s “structuralism” posited human activity as constructed, rather than natural or essential, with culture as a system of organization and of structural differences homologous to Saussure’s concept of “langue.” Jacques Lacan’s theory of the unconscious organized like a language also had affinities to structuralism, drawing together psychoanalytic and linguistic perspectives on psychology. A revival of psychoanalytic anthropology brought new approaches to dreams, sexuality, religious symbolism, and psychopathology, integrating psychoanalytic, linguistic, and social, historical perspectives.
In Black Skin/White Masks (1967), Franz Fanon, a psychiatrist born in Martinique and schooled in France, described his personal experience as a black intellectual in a white world and the ways in which the colonizer/colonized relationship became normalized as psychology. Fanon wrote that being colonized by a language is to support the weight of a civilization that identifies blackness with evil and sin. To escape this, colonized people don a white mask so as to consider themselves universal subjects equally participating in colonial and world societies. The cultural values of the colonizers, internalized or “epidermalized” into consciousness, created a  fundamental disjuncture between a black man’s consciousness and his body. Fanon integrated Jung’s psychoanalytic notion of “collective unconsciousness” with embodied experiences of colonization and racism in Algeria, locating the historical point at which certain psychological formations become possible and begin to perpetuate themselves as psychology.
During the 1960s and 1970s, “madness” and “badness,” as defined by medical establishments and criminal justice systems, became early sites of struggle for selfexpression, identity, and agency. Robert Edgerton, in The Cloak of Competence (1967), highlighted individual motives and the social adaptations of people with mental retardation to expose the frailty – even cruelty – of institutionalized forms of psychological assessment that fail to consider one’s individuality in cultural life contexts.
In The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca (1969), A.F.C. Wallace traced the dramatic revitalization of a demoralized people living in a shattered culture. The struggle for life by terminally ill children received attention, as the work with leukemic children by Myra Bluebond-Langer poignantly illustrates: The Private Worlds of Dying Children (1978). There was also a growing concern with child abuse and neglect, as an edited volume by Jill Korbin in 1981 illustrates: Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Work on this same issue has continued to the present time with perhaps the most dramatic example coming from Nancy Scheper-Hughes in her powerful book
Death Without Weeping (1992), in which she explored the mechanisms used by women in a Brazilian “shanty-town” to cope with the high death rate of their children. Psychological anthropologists continued with familiar topics such as dreaming, altered states of consciousness, possession, trance, shamanism, fantasy, emotion, and mental illness. Puberty rites and adolescence came under study as well, and so did shame, guilt, and bereavement. Research on conceptions of personhood and self continued. An influential example was provided by Geoffrey M. White and James Kirkpatrick in their edited volume Person, Self, and Experience: Exploring Pacific Ethnopsychologies (1985). While research interests in the self, perception, cognition, emotion, language, learning, decision-making, and other psychological concerns continued, a new focus emerged as more and more psychological anthropologists turned their attention to cultural change and urbanization, including global issues relating to modernization.
Marc Manganaro describes a shift in the 1960s from fieldwork based on principles of “science” to postmodern, discursive processes of “text-making”: Modernist Anthropology: From Fieldwork to Text (1990). Repudiating the claims of “objectivism,” postmodern and poststructural theorists began to address such issues as authorship, ideology, power, and readership, contributing to a general trend toward meaningcentered, self-reflexive, narrative accounts of people and their cultures (Geertz 1973; Rosaldo 1989). “Experience-near” approaches to intersubjectivity, identity, and other relational forms emerged as scholars recognized the primacy of lived experience, meanings, and significance over analytic categories (Csordas 1994; Desjarlais 1992; Hollan and Wellenkamp 1994; Kleinman and Kleinman 1991; Levy 1973; Lutz 1990; Wikan 1991). Many psychological anthropologists shifted from Darwinian, Marxist, and Durkheimian groundings of individual experience in ecological adaptations and institutions toward ethnopsychological, sociolinguistic, phenomenological, and symbolic approaches. In contrast to standard ethnography, psychocultural scholars developed “person-centered ethnography” to “represent human behavior and subjective experience from the point of view of the acting, intending, and attentive subject, to actively explore the emotional saliency and motivational force of cultural beliefs and symbols (rather than to assume such saliency and force), and to avoid unnecessary reliance on overly abstract, experience-distant constructs” (Hollan 2001: 49). This approach was not meant to displace the power of ecological adaptions and institutions in shaping one’s life, but to address the tensions between individual agency and culturally hegemonic forms.

Psychological anthropology: contemporary concerns


More recent concerns of psychological anthropology explores dimensions of mind and socialization from several newer perspectives. In the following section such issues are discussed in details.

The unified model of human being:


It is fundamental to give emphasis on the living aspect of human beings and not to see human beings are information processing devices. The new models for psychological anthropology as developed by Christina Toren (2002, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2012) starts with human physical actuality: the fact that each one of us is, like other libing things, biologically speaking autopoietic[1] - self-creating, and self –regulating. A new born baby, infant or young child requires other humans to look after its primary needs, making its ontogeny a social process. Indeed, as living systems that are human, each and every one of us needs others if we are to maintain our autonomy over the course of our own lives and contribute to lives of others. There is nothing paradoxical about this: rather it is given to us as human beings that the particular nature of our autonomy resides precisely in the history of our relations with one another. Or to put it another way, our uniqueness in evewry single case is given in the fact hthat each one of us has a personal history that makes us who we are.
A propensity for making sense of the environing world is a crucial aspect of human being. It follows that ‘making sense’ or in other words learning is a dynamic, spatio temporal process that at any given point inevitably locates humans historically in relation to particular others in particular places at particular times in the peopled world. Or to put it in other way, any given human is, in every aspect of his or her being, the dynamic transforming produyct of the past he or she has lived and is, at any given time placed in relation to all those others whose ideas and practices are contributing to structure the conditions of his or her present existence. ‘Any given human’ here means any fetus, neonate, infant, child, adolescent, adult or old person, because autopoiesis is a process that begiuns at conception and ends only with death. We can think of ourselves therefore, as living and manifesting the historical processes that engage us in literally every aspect of our being. Therefore, in this model, mind is a function not of the brain, nor of the embodied nervous system, but of the whole human being in intersubjective relations with others in the environing world. Therefore consciousness cannot be a domain or a level of psychological functioning, rather, it is that aspect of mind that posits the existence of the thinker and the conceptual; self0evidentiality of the world as lived the thinker. Intersubjectivity is shorthand for “I know that you are another human like me, and so I know that you know that because I am human, I know that you are too.” It is this capacity for recursive thought that makes human learning (in its broadest sense) a microhistorical process. Our intersubjective relationship to one another is always bound to be historically prior because, whenever we encounter one aohter, we do so as carriers of our own, always unique history. I make sense of what you are doing and saying in terms of what I already know: any and all experience is assimilated to my existing structures of knwing. This goes for everyone – newborn babies and geriatric patients included. Masking sense of the peopled world is a material, self-organizing process that at once transforms new experience in the course of its assimilation and transforms my existing structures of knowing in the course of their accommodation to new experience.
It is important to note that this model assumes every ideas and practices of human being are social. The world of people and things that this human inhabits crucially informs his or her entire constitution, specifically the continuing constitution over time of those processes we call mind. It takes for granted that intersubjectivity is emotional, that perceiving and feeling are aspects of one another, and that intentionality is given in an openness towards, and a felt engagement in, the peopled world.  This model also argues for the fact that understanding our biological substance is crucial to understanding not our physical but also our psychological make-up; it makes a difference whether the phenomena of mind are conceived of as neuorophenomenological[2] processes or as computational programs. However, recent works are more inclined towards the neuorophenomenological approach simply because computers do not change its own physical substance over time.

Cultural models, schema theory and their problems:


"Cultural model" is not a precisely articulated concept but rather it "serves as a catchall phrase for many different kinds of cultural knowledge" (Shore 1996:45). Also known as folk models, cultural models generally refer to the unconscious set of assumptions and understandings members of a society or group share. They greatly affect people’s understanding of the world and of human behavior. Cultural models can be thought of as loose, interpretative frameworks. They are both overtly and unconsciously taught and are rooted in knowledge learned from others as well as from accumulated personal experience. Cultural models are not fixed entities but are malleable structures by nature. As experience is ascribed meaning, it can reinforce models; however, specific experiences can also challenge and change models if experiences are considered distinct. Models, nevertheless, can be consciously altered. Most often cultural models are connected to the emotional responses of particular experiences so that people regard their assumptions about the world and the things in it as "natural." If an emotion evokes a response of disgust or frustration, for example, a person can deliberately take action to change the model.
A closely related concept is that of schemata developed by cognitive anthropologists and has been one of the most important and powerful concepts for cognitive anthropology in the past twenty years. Bartlett first developed the notion of a schema in the 1930s. He proposed that remembering is guided by a mental structure, a schema, "an active organization of past reactions, or of past experiences, which must always be supposed to be operational in any well-adapted organic response (Schacter 1989:692). Cognitive anthropologists and scientists have modified this notion somewhat since then. A schema is an "organizing experience," it implies activation of the whole. An example is the English term writing. When one thinks of writing, several aspects come into play that can denote the action of guiding a trace leaving implement across a surface, such as writer, implement, surface, etc. However, a particular person’s schema may differ. When I think of writing, I may envision someone using chalk to trace a series of visible lines onto a chalkboard, but when you think of writing, you may envision someone using a pencil to trace a series of visible lines across a piece of paper. The point is that there is a common cultural notion of writing, but the schemas for each individual may vary slightly. It is the commonality that cognitive anthropologists are looking for, the common notions that can provide keys to the mental structures behind cultural notions. These notions are not necessarily culturally universal. In Japanese, the term kaku is usually translated into English as writing. However, whereas in English, nearly everyone would consider writing to imply that language is being traced onto a surface, the term kaku in Japanese can mean language, doodles, pictures, or anything else that is traced onto a surface. Therefore, schemas are culturally specific, and the need for an emic view is still a primary force in any ethnographic research (D'Andrade 1995:123).
The idea of schema-as-mental-representation has been later on in 1990s incorporated in the connectionalist ‘neural network’ models of psychological functioning. Connectionist models of mind attempt to make computational theory consistent with what we know of the workings of the human brain; they employ an idea of parallel distributed processing that allows for a cognitivescheme that is always emergent, never quite fixed and thus provides for a model of how cognitive processes respond to their own environment and are modified by it. Nevertheless, as representation and as a component of the more complexly configured ‘cultural model’ the schema that figures in works by Holland and Quinn, D’Andrade and Shore is peculiarly static. Shore’s attempt to distinguish between ‘conventional models’ and ‘personal models’ manifests neatly the problem with the schema-as-representation idea of mental processes. Because, the schemas that compos cultural models are conceived of as mirroring mental representations of the world inside the human head, Shore’s cultural model cannot intrinsically allow for the fact that in so far as we understand and embrace what is conventional and the personal are bound to be aspects of one another and that continuity over time is likewise an aspect of transformation.
Recent approach are more of the idea of continuity-in-transformation approach. An example would be to note changes in a person (whole person) including his/her ideas about the world is a dynamic system of transformations, effect of aging so is reading a book or having a conversation. It is interesting to note that even after the development of cultural psychology in 1990s the objective approach in the representational model did not go away.
However adopting a constructionist model, it is important to note Shweder 1991: 156
“The constructive parts of a social construction theory are the idea that equally rational, competent and                     informed observers are, in some sense free… to constitute for themselves different realities, and … that         there are as many realities are the way “it” can be constituted or described. … The “social” parts of a social      construction theory are the idea that categories are vicariously received, not individually invented; and are transmitted communicated and “passed on” through symbolic action (Shweder 1991: 156).
Interestingly in locating the constructive process in the person and what is social in an abstract space between persons social constructionists reproduce the very theoretical impasse they seek to dismantle[3].

Embodiment and Nurophenomenology:

While issues of constructivism and essentialism is far from resolved anthropologists are gaining momentum with the publication of Evan Thompson’s (2007) Mind in Life[4] which argues for a
“Neurophenomenology… [whose] aim is to incorporate phenomenological investigations of experience       into neuroscientific research on consciousness. Neurophenomenology focuses especially on the temporal        dynamics of conscious experience and brain activity.” (2007:312)
One of the best things about neurophenomenology is that it is open to coming to grips with human historicity and, precisely for this reason, wants anthropological inputs.
“The idea that phenomenology could stand in an explanatory relation to biology… will sound odd to many               readers. What could phenomenology possibly exaplain in this domain? The answer is nothing less that how          certain biological processes are also realizations of selfhood and subjectivity (Thompson 2007:358)
Most writers belonging to this camp still faces the daunting task of building culture into their models, but this reintroduces the biology-culture distinction that has for so long interfered with our ability to produce a unified model of human being. It is important to note that intersubjectivity which has a big stake in explaining the dynamics of consciousness and body is not to e confused with ‘social interaction’, nor should the process of making sense intersubjectively of the world be confused with social construction.Where learning is understood as a microhistorical process, the peopled world – for all it operates according to its own dynamics – cannot ever be understood independently of history of the knowing subject. In other words, the validity of a given scientific study is itself an historically constituted judgement – which is not to say that scientific studies may not be arguably more, or less, valid. The point is that if our categories are to work analytically, they have to be rendered such by means of ethnographic analysis. They are not to be taken for granted, for they too warrant investigation- society, individual, biology, culture, self, mind and so on, and are cases in point.
Therefore, doing anthropological investigation in the realm of cognitive or psychological anthropology one should keep in mind:
A.      Because of temporality inheres in consciousness, learning instantiates the microhistorical processes that over time given rise to the phenomena of consciousness as always open to further differentiation.
B.      Because transformation and continuity are aspects of the microhistorical process of human autopoiesis, ethnographic analyses of ontogenty can provide a way in to theorizing the mutual connections between human evolution, history, contemporary lives, consciousness, and the neurobiology of consciousness.
Note:
This material is prepared from the following books:
Thompson, Evan 2007. Mind in Life. Biology, Phenomenology and the Sciences of Mind, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University.
Conerly Casey and Robert B. Edgerton. 2007.  A Companion to Psychological Anthropology Modernity and Psychocultural Change. Oxford: Blackwell
Toren, Christina. 2012. Anthropology and Psychology, in Fardon, R et al eds. Handbook of Social Anthropology. London: Sage.






[1] Autopoiesis" refers to a system capable of reproducing and maintaining itself.
[2] Neurophenomenology refers to a scientific research program aimed to address the hard problem of consciousness in a pragmatic way. It combines neuroscience with phenomenology in order to study experience, mind, and consciousness with an emphasis on the embodied condition of the human mind. The field is very much linked to fields such as neuropsychology, neuroanthropology and behavioral neuroscience (also known as biopsychology) and the study of phenomenonology in psychology.
The label was coined by C. Laughlin, J. McManus and E. d'Aquili in 1990. However, the term was appropriated and given a distinctive understanding by the cognitive neuroscientist Francisco Varela in the mid-1990s,[4] whose work has inspired many philosophers and neuroscientists to continue with this new direction of research.
[3] Read: Hacking, Ian 1999. Social Construction of What? Boston, M.A. Harvard University Press
Nussbaum, Martha C. 2001. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[4] Thompson, Evan 2007. Mind in Life. Biology, Phenomenology and the Sciences of Mind, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University.

No comments:

Post a Comment