Sie sind auf Seite 1von 10

The Politicization of 'Culture'

Author(s): Susan Wright


Source: Anthropology Today, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 7-15
Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2783092 .
Accessed: 27/09/2013 11:28

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve
and extend access to Anthropology Today.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Fri, 27 Sep 2013 11:28:05 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Belonging. Identityand and this is not because children do not make sounds: in itself could invite the reader to, as it were, say her/his
social organisation in fact, children make lots of sounds; but these sounds or piece during the break. I believe that such a text would
British rural cultures,
Manchester ManchesterU P. expressions are often depicted, or indeed heard, as be what Kit Davis, with Umberto Eco, has called an
-1988, The Genderof the 'noise': children are muted, not by way of silencing, 'open work' (Davis 1993): in the 'open work', the audi-
Gift, ManchesterU.P.
Toren, C. 1983. Thinking
but by the absence of a listening will. It might be flat- ence becomes the performance.With every new reader,
Symbols. A Critiqueof tering to think of myself as working towards a repre- or new reading,the account is re-written.
Sperber(1979). Man (n.s.) sentation of smaller voices, but all I can in fact do is I cannot claim to have understood individual child-
18, pp.260-268.
-1990. Making,Senseof provide an account of how I sought to listen. ren's particularexperiences, nor to have felt the imme-
Hierarchy.Cognitionas I have argued that whilst, in discussing fieldwork diacy with which they lived their daily lives as 'small
Social Process in Fiji, practice, it is important to acknowledge the field- people'. I can only write an account of and from my
London:LSE Monographs
on Social Anthropology, worker's political and historical conditioning, it is own perspective. And I believe that it is through the
no 61. equally important,in the productionof ethnography,to involvement of an audience that such an account
-1993. Making history
the significance of childhood
seek to escape the dictates which autobiographicalauth- would, if at all, be meaningful; in the same way as it
for a comparative ority might impose. I have, moreover, suggested that was only through the children's presence that I began
anthropologyof mind. Man the dialogue between past and present, the distinction reinventing own concepts of self, and it was through
(n.s.), 28, pp.461-478.
Whiting, B. & C. between autobiographyas tool and autobiographyas this re-memberingof a smaller, less authoritative,me
Edwards. 1988. Childrenof perspective, and the tension between participationand that I could begin to approacha group of people who I
Different Worlds.The observation, could be made visible in a text which, so hope will one day read, re-open, and challenge my ac-
Formationof Social
Behavior. HarvardU.P. to speak, interruptsitself. And a text which interrupts count. C:

The politicization
of 'culture'
SUSAN WRIGHT

The author is a senior In the early years of modem social anthropology, warrantexplanation and too deep to be delved into by
lecturer in cultural anthropologists announced their most important find- non-anthropologists.How are decision-makers(whether
studies at the University
ings and theoretical advances to Section H of the Brit- they be anthropologistsor claiming legitimacy from an-
of Birmingham.She is a
social anthropologist ish Association for the Advancement of Science. As thropology) politicizing 'culture' and deploying the
who has researched 1997 president of this Section, I chose to address con- concept in a range of fields of power? How can anthro-
political culture and temporarydevelopments in one of our oldest concepts, pologists use their new theoretical approachesto 'cul-
processes of governance 'culture', as a way of continuingthat tradition.1 ture' to explore and reveal the effects of the current
in the U.K. and Iran. Why be so bold as to engage with a word which Wil- uses of this concept in contemporarypolitics?
liams (1976: 87) declared was one of the two or three I will startby discussing what I am calling 'old' and
most complicated in the English language and which in 'new' anthropological approaches to 'culture'. I will
British, North American and European anthropology then use these approaches to examine how, and with
has had complex, contested and very differenthistories? what effects, decision-makershave introducedand de-
By mid-century, Kroeber and Kluckhohn had found ployed 'culture'in three different 'fields' the last fifteen
164 definitions in their famous review of what anthro- years. First I will examine British right wing politi-
pologists meant by culture (1952: 149). By the 1970s, cians' use of 'culture' to talk about nationalismin such
when culturalanthropologywas well established as one a way that they can distance themselves from the taints
of the four fields of anthropologyin the USA, in British of biological racism, yet reintroduceexclusive practices
anthropology 'culture' had nearly disappeared from in an insidious cultural guise. Second, I will review
view. In the last ten years, with the help of cultural how writers and consultants in organizationalmanage-
studies, 'culture'has resumedcentre stage in British an- ment use ideas of 'culture', which they attribute to
thropology.The aim of this paper is not to tally up how anthropology, to propose new forms of organization.
many definitions of 'culture' anthropologists have They claim 'de-layering' and 'flattening hierarchies'
generated by the end of the century. Rather, the paper and the formation of 'flexible teams' of continually
pursues Kroeberand Kluckhohn's observationthat 'the self-reskilling 'portfolio' workers will permit grass-
occurrenceof these [definitions] in time is interesting- roots creativity and workers' self managementand em-
as indeed the distributionof all culturalphenomena in powerment.I will explore the unacknowledgedcosts of
either space or time always reveals significance' (ib.). such 'empowerment'and how under the rubricof 'em-
The aim is to treat the prominence (or 'distribution'in powering corporateculture', there lurks an older idea of
Kroeber and Kluckhohn's terms) of 'culture' in the organizationalculture as a tool of top down manage-
1990s as itself a culturalphenomenon. What is the sig- ment control. The third field is overseas development
nificance of culture's recent reappearanceas a central where 'culture' is just entering the discourse (Wright
concept in British anthropology?The issue is not con- 1997). Largely this is as a result of a UNESCO report
fined to internaldisciplinarydebate. In the last decade, Our CreativeDiversity. This reportwas meant to do for
politicians and decision-makers have introduced 'cul- 'culture'what the BruntlandReportdid for the environ-
ture' into the discourse of many different 'fields' ment and development, but the report has so far gone
(Bourdieu 1991) of contemporary society. Decision- largely unnoticed. Anthropologistsplayed a major role
makers and media commentatorsoften claim legitimacy in formulating the ideas of culture which this report
for their discourses by referring to 'culture, in an an- proposes should be the basis for world ethics and de-
thropologicalsense' - a phrase which closes off further velopment policy. Anthropologistsof developmenthave
exploration by claiming that there is one (their) long sought such influence. Some would see the aims
meaning of culture which is at once too self-evident to of anthropology as understandingthe local, national

ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 1, February1998 7

This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Fri, 27 Sep 2013 11:28:05 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
and international processes by which impoverished In a great flood of criticism, the components of this
people are marginalizedand disempowered,in order to idea of culture were unpacked. British functionalists,
influence those processes, or promote the perspectives for example, were criticized for having treated a 'cul-
of those who are silenced, or enable them to speak and ture' as a small scale, boundedentity organizedthrough
act more effectively for themselves. When anthropolog- economic, social and political institutions which inter-
ists had an opportunity to act as policy makers and acted as a self contained 'whole' sustained in a static
steer the culture bandwagon themselves, did they de- equilibrium.This had clearly been a fiction when most
ploy a concept of 'culture' which would make any of of the places studied, however remote, were being
these aims more achievable? In all three fields, politi- visited not just by anthropologists,but by merchants,
cians, officials and academic advisers are using 'cul- missionariesand colonial administrators.Societies were
ture' as a political tool. Whetherthe concepts are being neither unchanging nor bounded, but part of a world
deployed by anthropologists directly involved in in- orderdominatedfirst by colonialism and later by nation
fluencing and writing policy (as in the thirdinstance) or states, internationalcapitalism and internationalagen-
whether ideas are being attributedto anthropologyfor cies. These had been left out of a picture of 'cultures'
legitimation,in all instances, anthropologyis implicated as ahistorical,self-containedentities (Gough 1968).
in the politicization of 'culture'. How can we use our Anthropologists of various persuasions were also
understandingsof political processes to reveal the ways criticized for treating 'culture' as if it were a set of
decision-makers are using 'culture' in a growing num- ideas or meanings which were sharedby a whole popu-
ber of 'fields', and analyse its effects on those who are lation of homogeneous individuals- which empirically
marginalizedand impoverished? was not the case.2 Asad (1979) criticized British anthro-
pologists for seeking the unique 'authentic culture' of
Old meanings of culture another society in the form of an integratedsystem of
In the early 20th century, ideas of 'culture' advanced consensual 'essential meanings' which self-reproduced
by anthropologists took on a radical tone. Tylor's regardless of economic and political change. If anthro-
(1871) notion of culture as a whole way of life of a pologists constructedthe social order out of 'essential
group or society marked a point of departurefor mod- meanings' which did not change in new historical and
ern social anthropologists: economic conditions, how would social transformation
'Culture' is that complex whole which includes knowl- occur? Instead, he argued, 'essential meanings' were
edge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capa- discourses which some people in the society had man-
bilities and habits acquired by man [sic] as a member of
society (Tylor 1871:1:1). aged to make authoritativeby continually pre-empting
If this was a point of departure,it was not a basis for the space of radically opposed discourses. The problem
consensus: anthropologists set off along divergent Asad thought anthropologistsshould address is how an
paths. Tylor's own approachwas to combine Herder's authoritativediscourse is producedin particularhistori-
romantic idea, that nations, groups within nations and cal circumstances.In a paper which I take as a point of
peoples at different periods have distinctive cultures, departurefor the development of what I am calling
with the enlightenmentidea that each of these cultures 'new' approachesto culture,3Asad argued that anthro-
was at a different stage in the evolution of civilization pologists had mistakenly endorsed, as 'authentic cul-
or in a progression towards Europeanrationality.Boas ture', historically specific dominantideologies or auth-
rejected Tylor's social evolutionism. He stressed the oritative discourses which were neither timeless nor
particularityof each culture as a result of the group's uniformlyshared.
responses to environmentalconditions and their specific Although anthropologistshave developed new ways
historical development. By treating 'culture' as the pro- of thinking about 'culture', these 'old ideas of culture'
duct of historical and social forces, not biology, he have percolated out from academic discourse and, as
criticized racial determinism (Stocking 1974: 221). In will be shown below, are still in widespreaduse in pub-
Britain, Malinowski and his studentsadvanced a differ- lic parlance.The main features of this, still-current'old
ent critique of the rationalisticVictorian conception of idea of culture' are:
'man' by arguing that far from being 'savage' and il-
- bounded,small scale entity
- defined characteristics(checklist)
logical, each of the 'peoples' in Africa, South Asia and - unchanging,in balancedequilibriumor self-reproducing
the Pacific had a distinct, rationaland legitimate way of - underlyingsystem of shared meanings: 'authenticcul-
life which should be valued: 'emphasizing the authen- ture'
ticity and coherence of distinct cultures was a way of
- identical,homogeneous individuals.
resisting the civilising mission fundamentalto the Euro-
pean colonial project' (Merry 1997). Anthropologists New meanings of culture
differed profoundly in their theories and in the aspects The changing political and economic conditions to
of western thoughtthat they questioned,but they shared which Asad referredwere the end of Europeancoloni-
an idea of the world as made up of 'peoples', each with alism and the continued expansion into new areas of
a coherentway of life, or 'culture'. relations of productionand exchange based on capital.
By the 1970s, far from being radical, this idea of 'a Most recently, they would include the internationalor-
people' having 'a culture', was seen to have been a cru- ganization of production and consumption, the spread
cial element of colonialism. To critics, this idea of 'cul- of global communication networks, and the interna-
tional integration of financial systems. These changes
ture' created fixed entities in which the West could in-
tervene. By measuring, categorizing, describing, repre- have provoked labour movements within countries and
senting and thereby supposedly 'knowing' others, the from the south to the northof the globe, as exemplified
objects of that knowledge were made the subjects of by a woman I met in my South Tottenham park re-
new forms of power and control (Asad 1973, Said cently. She is an Asian who grew up with an English
1978). This once progressive idea was also taken up in education in Trinidad and has worked in England for
regressive ways by extreme nationalistswho used it not 15 years in nursing and administration.She is learning
simply to championclaims for independenceand sover- Hindi at night classes so that she can converse with
eignty but also to pursuethe politics of xenophobia,ex- relatives she visits in India. Her and her family's ex-
clusion and ethnic cleansing. perience of colonial labour migration, post colonial

8 ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 1, February1998

This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Fri, 27 Sep 2013 11:28:05 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
economic diaspora and 'roots' tourism speaks of what negative stereotypesof gay people available to children
Hall called 'dislocated histories and hybridised eth- in their schools. Their local opponents exercised their
nicities' (1993: 356). As anthropologistshave argued links to ConservativeMembers of Parliament,who ap-
for many years (Cohen 1974, Macdonald 1993), and propriatedand invertedthe meaning of the key terms of
more recently Hall and other exponents (Morley and the debate. The word 'promoting'was first used by the
Chen 1996) of cultural studies in Britain have made campaign to 'promote positive images' of homosex-
clear, cultural identities are not inherent, bounded or uality; MPs accused them of 'promoting homosex-
static: they are dynamic, fluid and constructedsituation- uality'. In successive parliamentarydebates 'promote'
ally, in particularplaces and times. This is not just a was made to mean seduction of 'normal' children,
Western urbanphenomenon of the 1990s. In a tribe in which was equated with an attack on 'the family', the
Iran where I did fieldwork in the 1970s, the population basis of order in the state, and thus with 'subversion'.
was made up of layers of refugees. Multiple identities The group of MPs succeeded in inserting a new clause
were constantly negotiated; links with people in tribes into currentlegislation on local government outlawing
from which they had fled were maintained or rein- actions or use of resources which would 'promote' the
vented: there was no bounded, consensual, authentic, acceptability of homosexuality as a 'pretendedfamily
ahistoricalculture.Theoreticaldevelopmentsin cultural relationship'.This new meaning of 'promoting'and its
studies, and in post-structuraland feminist anthropo- associated cluster of terms, made authoritativethrough
logy, have led us to understandthat 'cultures' are not, state legislation, had material effects: negative stereo-
nor ever were, naturallyboundedentities. types were endorsed,and local authoritiesbecame timid
The fracturingof social anthropology's central con- about spending on services or issues for gay people
ceit has sent us back to look again at colonialism. Ort- which might possibly be interpretedas coming under
ner (1984) questioned the original image of colonial the legislation in a test case. Reinhold (1993: 471-2)
power and 'the juggernautof capitalism' impacting on, points to similarities between the contest over positive
and inserting themselves into, an indigenous 'local cul- images and other campaigns against minorities during
ture'. She and others have been critical of the way both the Thatcher government. Right wing Conservatives
colonialism and 'local culture' appearas unitaryentities used the authority of parliament to project negative
in this image (Asad 1993: 5). What better choice of a meanings of key terms and symbols concerning ethnic
site to challenge this image than the kind of location in minorities,miners and other categories which they mar-
which the old concept of 'culture' was founded: a ginalized, excluded from their dominantnotion of 'Brit-
remote island mid way across the Pacific Ocean? Merry ishness' and demonized as a danger to order and sub-
(1997) studied 18th and 19th century Hawaii, and versive to the state.
found a dizzying arrayof people from Norway to China Three stages in these contested processes of meaning
were present in what she calls not a 'local community' making can be identified in the above examples. The
but a 'contact zone'. In an unboundedsite, this medley first is overt attempts by identified agents to redefine
of people drew on the practices of their various places key symbols which give a particularview of the world,
of origin, in the light of their currentinterests, to work of how people should be and behave and what should
out how to organize labour, trade and social relations. be seen as the 'reality' of their society and history: in
Contests took place between people in asymmetricalre- short, an ideology. A second stage is when such a view
lations of power, over their multiple and contradictory of the world becomes institutionalized and works
cultural logics. Each actor endeavouredto manoeuvre, through non-agentive power. Foucault has documented
in unpredictablepolitical and economic situations, to how knowledge about mental health, sexuality and
define or seize control of symbols and practices. Sym- criminality in the 18th and 19th centuries became the
bols and ideas never acquired a closed or entirely basis of new practices on which institutionswere built.
coherent set of meanings: they were polyvalent, fluid These institutional practices shaped perceptions, ca-
and hybridized.Key terms shifted in meaning at differ- tegories, values and behaviour.
ent historical times. When a coalition of actors gained A third stage is when a key term which carriesa new
ascendancy at a particularhistorical moment, they in- way of thinking about one aspect of life enters other
stitutionalizedtheir meaning of key terms in law. domains (outside the activities of the state) and
Merry's is a good example of the new idea of culture becomes a diffused and prevalent way of thinking in
as a contested process of meaning-making.The contest everyday life. For example, Emily Martin(1994) found
is over the meaning of key terms and concepts. How that 'flexible' first became a key term when people re-
are these concepts used and contested by differentlypo- acted to the AIDS/HIV virus by rethinkingthe immune
sitioned actors who draw on local, national and global system and the defence responses of the body. Surpris-
links in unequalrelations of power? How is the contest ingly, 'flexible' and images of the immune system
framed by implicit practices and rules - or do actors quickly entered the domain of employment to describe
challenge, stretchor reinterpretthem as part of the con- the attributes of post-Fordist, self-managed, self-im-
test too? In a flow of events, who has the power to proving and team-forming workers and companies.
define? How do they prevent other ways of thinking Within a short time, extreme versions of these flexible
about these concepts from being heard? How do they attributes,which had been symptoms of a mental ill-
manage to make their meanings stick, and use institu- ness, were reinterpretedpositively as employmentskills
tions to make their meanings authoritative?With what (Martin 1997). 'Flexible' moved quickly across three
materialoutcomes? different areas of U.S. life - immunology, employment
Sue Reinhold (1993) poses these questions in order and mental health - and become a prevalentimage of a
to reveal in detail the process of ideological struggle in new kind of self.
1980s Britain.The contest was over the power to define At its most secure, an ideology appearshegemonic.
the state's attitude to homosexuality in Britain and That is, it becomes so naturalized,taken for grantedand
make authoritativethat definition throughlegislation. In 'true' that alternatives are beyond the limits of the
the context of an atmosphereof homophobiaand physi- thinkable. As Comaroff and Comaroff (1992) suggest,
cal 'queer-bashing'attacks in London, a group in Har- in its hegemonic dimension, culture appears coherent,
ingey campaigned for 'positive images' to counter the systematic and consensual. It tries to look like an ob-

ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 1, February1998 9

This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Fri, 27 Sep 2013 11:28:05 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
ject, a thing beyond human agency, not ideological at into an essentialist concept to reassert boundaries:the
all: in short, like the old idea of authentic culture. As distinctivenessof Englishness must be defended.
mentioned above, anthropologiststhemselves had pre- As Gilroy (1987: 60) pointed out, the New Right
viously mistaken hegemonic ideologies for authentic defined 'Englishness', as the hegemonic core of British-
culture and in the process, endorsed those in the com- ness, through culture. They agreed with the anthropo-
munity with the ascendantpower to define the charac- logical idea that nations and cultures are historically
teristics of their 'culture' and project it as timeless and constituted, not biologically or ontologically given.
objective. However, they used this idea not to erode but to rein-
No ideology, however hegemonic and entrenchedin force exclusiveness. National identity was defined as a
institutions and in everyday life, is beyond contest; feeling of loyalty to persons of one's own kind (Seidel
'culture' is a dynamic concept, always negotiable and 1987: 50 quoting Casey). One's own kind, or 'we' was
in process of endorsement,contestationand transforma- defined as those for whom a list of 'English' activities
tion. Differently positioned actors, with unpredictable had pleasant associations or aroused enthusiasm. A
inventiveness, draw on, re-work and stretch in new di- quote from T.S. Eliot is used frequently:
rections the accumulated meanings of 'culture' - in- [Culture]includes all the characteristicactivities and inter-
cluding old and new academic ones. In a process of ests of a people: Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the
1. I thankthe Royal
twelfth of August, a cup final, the dog races, the pin table,
AnthropologicalInstitutefor claiming power and authority, all are trying to assert the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boiled cabbage cut
sponsoringmy President's different definitions which will have different material
Day programmeof speakers into sections, beetroot in vinegar, nineteenth-centuryGo-
on the 'Politicizationof outcomes. In sum the characteristicsof new ideas of thic churchesand the music of Elgar (Eliot 1948:31 quoted
"Culture"' and the cultureare: in Williams 1958: 230 and Casey 1982).
initiative, led by the 'culture is an active process of meaning making and The problem with such a list is not just, as Williams
Vice-President,Delphine
Houlton,to try and improve
contestationover definition,including of itself' (Street observes (1958: 229-30), that Eliot is purporting to
the coverage of 1993: 2) adopt from anthropology the notion of culture as 'a
anthropologyin the media. I people, differently positioned in social relations and
whole way of life' yet is only concerned with 'sport,
am gratefulto Jane Cowan, processes of domination,use economic and institutional
Nancy Lindisfarneand Cris resources available to them to try and make their defini- food, and a little art' - characteristic of 'English
Shore for very constructive tion of a situation 'stick', to prevent others' definitions leisure'. More to the point, these customs and practices
comments on an earlierdraft from being heard, and to gamer the materialoutcome are presented as expressions of homogeneous nation-
of this paper. sites are not bounded- people draw on local, national,
2. I will not try to ality (Gilroy 1987: 69) whereas, as Seidel points out,
global links
summanze all the debates of
the way clusters of concepts form is historically spe-
this list is decidedly white and Christianand frequently
the 1970s in American, gender and class specific. Tebbit, the former Conserva-
British and French cific, and ideas never form a closed or coherent whole
anthropologyabout where in its hegemonic form, cultureappearscoherent,syste- tive party chairman, turned pleasure at the sound of
'culture'resided- in a matic, consensual, like an object, beyond human leatheron willow into a test of nationalallegiance when
structureof actual social agency, not ideological - like the old idea of culture. he asked, which side would Afro-Caribbeansapplaud
relations(Radcliffe-Brown),
in an underlyingset of when the West Indies was touring Britain?The Tebbit
Cultural racism
values, ideas and principles Test threatenedto make sentiments of attachmentinto
which informedall domains In British politics, this new view of 'culture' has itself
of social, economic and
instrumentsof policy. Hall discerned a danger that the
been appropriatedand redefinedby the New Right. Led
political organization answer to a question of identity would be used as a
(Evans-Pritchard),in a by Margaret Thatcher, the New Right represented an
basis for conferringor withholdingrights of citizenship.
superorganicpatternof alliance between liberal economic and conservativepol-
forces abstractedfrom He was scathing at the idea of allegiance to the va-
itical theories (King 1987). In economic affairs the state
observed events and garies of English batting form being the price for draw-
behaviour(Kroeber),in a should promote private enterpriseand encourage- even
ing family allowance:
plane of systems of cultural invent - markets.In political affairs the authorityof the It should not be necessary to look, walk, feel, think, speak
symbols (Schneider),in the 'age-old' institutions of the central state should be up-
processes of the human exactly like a paid-up member of the buttoned-up,stiff-
mind thatproduceformally held, supportedby 'traditional'values in education and upper-lipped,fully corsetted 'free-bornEnglishman' cultu-
similar symbolic systems family life. In a study of the Salisbury Review, a prin- rally to be accorded either the informal courtesy and re-
(Levi-Strauss),in the minds spect of civilized social intercourseor the rights of entitle-
of individuals,as an
cipal journal of the New Right, Seidel (1985: 107) ar-
ment and citizenship (Hall 1993: 358).
ethnographicalgorithmof gues that the New Right appropriatedone of the found- To the New Right, England stands or falls on the
what they need to know to ing inspirations of cultural studies, Gramsci's ideas of
operateas membersof a hegemony of a particularculture.MargaretThatcherfa-
society (Goodenough)or as hegemony. That is, (as set out above), ideology mously expressed a sense of threatof being 'swamped'
interworkedsystems of becomes hegemonic not only throughthe institutionsof by alien cultures that would dilute this exclusive ver-
construablesigns through the state but by being diffused through all areas of
which public symbolic sion of Englishness. However, never could members of
action can be interpreted everyday life. To unsettle and replace the dominantide- ethnic minorities be so attached to sentiments and
(Geertz).There are ology since the Second World War, the New Right values of Englishness that the New Right would accord
numeroussuch summaries, realized that they had not just to be active in politics,
e.g. Keesing 1974. them the right to participatein their definition and de-
3. In contrastto the usual but to make interventionsin 'culture'.They consciously velopment. When some British Asians acted in terms of
delineationof a shift in engaged in the manipulationof words, especially the one of the professed core values of Englishness - toler-
anthropologyfrom structure process of renaming and redefining key concepts. In
to meaning, by focusing on ance and respect for differentpoints of view - by prop-
Asad's article I am giving particularthe New Right focused on appropriatingand osing changes to the blasphemy laws during the Rush-
significance to a shift from reformulatingthe meanings of one semantic cluster - die Affair, they soon found that their rights did not ex-
'essential meanings' to
'contestation'
'difference', 'nation', 'race', 'culture"'4 tend to shapingthose core values. John Patten,the Min-
4. Othersemanticclusters New Right authors seem to agree with the idea that ister of State at the Home Office, published an open
were similarlyreformede.g. the world can no longer be seen as a mosaic of discrete
'individual', 'freedom',
letter through the press to British Muslims 'On Being
,choice', 'citizenship',
cultures, and that migration and diaspora have gener- British'. In a tone Asad finds reminiscent of colonial
'consumer'and previous ated populations with multifaceted differences. They administratorsaddressing alien populations under their
associationswith 'society', appropriatedthe anti-racistlanguage about the need to
'public' and 'collective' protection, Patten set out the essential components of
were diminished(Shore and respect culturaldifference. This did not mean that they Englishness at the core of British identity which he said
Wnght 1997: 20). rejoiced in cross-cuttingdifferences and fluid identities, they should learn. Apartfrom faith and family which he
5. ClaudeLevi-Strauss or celebrated the creativity inspired by such hybridity,
was an honorarymemberof considers they already share, these are fluent English,
the World Commission on as Hall enjoined (1993). Instead, they inverted this understandingof the democratic processes, laws and
Cultureand Development. meaning of 'difference'. They opposed the dilution of system of government in Britain and the history that
He and MarshallSahlins separatenesswhich Hall relished, and turned difference
wrote paperson which the lies behind them - knowledge which few white Brit-

10 ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 1, February1998

This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Fri, 27 Sep 2013 11:28:05 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
first chaptersof the report
were based The Mexican ishers could confidently claim to possess (Asad 1993: tioners has increased in the 1990s as managers have
anthropologist,Lourdes 242). Others add to such core values of Englishness a called on researchersand consultantsto provide 'train-
Arizpe, was designatedby canon of literatureand respect for authority. ing' to change organizations.It is not unusual for an-
UNESCO's
Director-Generalfor Culture This reformulation of nation in terms of culture thropologists researching organizations to find man-
to supervisethe work of ratherthan race was part of the New Right's attemptin agers asking them for references to publications which
secretariatfor the
the 1980s and 1990s to redefine racism out of exist- would extend their repertoireof metaphorsto manage
commission, until herself
being appointedAssistant ence. Like Enoch Powell before them, the New Right by (Martin 1994) and staff referringto anthropological
Director-Generalfor professed a revulsion for racism. They ridiculed the ideas acquiredthroughtrainingcourses.
Culture.Many
anthropologistswere invited
idea that the mosaic of human groups formed a fixed Companies are using both old and new ideas of 'cul-
to give papers at meetings of hierarchybased on grades of biological inferiority. By ture' as tools of management.Some managementsem-
the Commission, and some redefining race as a feeling of loyalty to people 'of phasize that the company is a clearly demarcatedentity,
to preparepapersto
influence particularchapters, one's own kind', they claimed race to be a moral and with a boundary against its environment, containing
such as Deniz Kandiyoti's noble idea. To defend one's 'culture' from attack from specified groups of people, organized hierarchically,
paperon gender and people not 'of one's own kind' was legitimate self each with a checklist of the behaviourswhich constitute
development.
6. I thankThomas Hylland defence. In a neat inversion or denial of power relationscompany culture. For example, McDonalds marks out
Eriksenfor this point and (a form of blaming the victim), writers in the Salisbury its space and identity with the golden arches logo and
for a very helpful discussion Review accused people who sought equality for ethnic standardizeddecor and food containers. The core be-
of the UNESCO report.
7 Maybe, given that the minorities of provoking racism by attacking whites. liefs of the company culture - Quality, Service, Con-
United Nations is a body of State institutions and 'traditional'values, for example venience and Value - are drummed into managers at
nation-states,to emphasize
contestationwithin state
in education, were at the core of the 'culture' which HamburgerUniversity to bond the far-flung franchisees
borderswould have been was to be defended. Those multiculturalistsand anti- together (Deal and Kennedy 1982:193). Counter staff
inadmissible.The racists who sought to change the workings of state in- have to follow a checklist of standardizedbehavioursin
Commission did however
include a very expenenced
performingeach task - right down to when to make eye
stitutions or laws in the interests of treatingall citizens
ethnic politician,Ole-Henrik more equally, did not recognize the distinction that contact and at what points to smile at a customerduring
Magga, Presidentof the Tebbit reiterated at the 1997 Conservative party con- a transaction.In this example, the old idea of 'culture'
Sami Parliamentin Norway.
ference, between nationality defined by culture and by as a bounded entity with a fixed identity and checklist
Asad, Talal (ed ) 1973. political rights: between 'the English' and 'foreigners of characteristicsis deployed in a centralizedsystem of
Anthropologyand the holding British passports' (Independent 8 October commandand control.
Colonial Encounter. 1997). Multiculturalism,Tebbit claimed, was divisive In other industries, managers are using new ideas of
London. IthacaP.
-1979. Anthropologyand (ib.). To writers in the Salisbury Review, anti-racists 'culture' as an image for new forms of organizing.This
the analysis of ideology. were also subversive, attacking 'our' institutions and is especially in industrieswhere products are designed,
Man 14: 607-27. values and threateningthe orderof 'our' nation. As Sei- manufactured,distributedand marketedall in different
-1993. 'Multiculturalism
and British identity in the del points out, the use of 'we' and 'our' as a definer ofcountries.To stay competitive, productsare continually
wake of the Rushdie Affair' nation drives a clear white wedge between black and redeveloped, and the sites of production, the em-
in Genealogies of Religion.
Baltimore:John Hopkins
anti-racistpeople, and the rest of the community (1985: ployees, and relations between them are forever chang-
UP. 115). Writersin the SalisburyReview adamantlydenied ing. Harvey describes companies 'whose material
Bateson, G. 1972. Steps to racism, yet their framingof nationalismin terms of 'our presence might be no more than a box of contracts,the
an Ecology of Mind. New
York:ChandlerPublishing culture' cued a choice of policy recommendationsfor enumerationof those people who belong, temporarily
Co. ethnic minorities - complete assimilation, retrospective and for the durationof a particularservice, to the net-
Bourdieu,Pierre. 1991. guest worker status, or removal by repatriation- which work which generates wealth and power for another
Language and Symbolic
Power. Cambridge:Polity P. were in implicationand effect racist. equally disparate and dispersed group of investors'
Calas, M. B. and In summary, the New Right appropriatedthe new (1996: 6). Where is 'the organization'?No longer does
Smircich, L. 1992. 'Using ideas of 'culture' from culturalstudies, anti-racismand an architecturalmonument symbolize the company or
the 'F' word: feminist
theories and the social to a lesser extent social anthropology,and engaged in a contain the workforce. Work is organized through
consequences of process of contesting and shifting the meanings of 'cul- teams or alliances, operating across boundaries and
organizationalresearch'in ture', 'nation', 'race' and 'difference'. They mobilized rapidly reforming in new circumstances. Such com-
Mills, A. J. and Tancred,P
(eds) Gendering 'culture' to reinforce exclusion, using it as a euphem- panies look for staff who are preparedcontinually to
Organizational Analysis. ism for renewed racism, with profoundimplications for 're-skill' themselves, engage in 'personal reinvention'
London-Sage.
public policy and people's lives (Kahn 1995: 6). to cope with risks and new situations, and acquire a
Casey, J. 1982. One
nation:the politics of 'portfolio' of experiences and contacts to help them
race. SalisburyReview 1 Corporate culture 'hop' from job to job (euphemisms for workers on
(Autumn):23-8.
Cohen, Abner (ed.) 1974.
In the early 1980s, 'culture' became a buzz word in short-term contracts with no job security or career
UrbanEthnicity.ASA management studies. Deal and Kennedy (1982) dis- structure,who have periodically to retrainat their own
Monograph12, London: covered 'corporate culture' and Peters and Waterman expense and are handlinghigh stress levels). In orderto
Tavistock.
Comaroff,John and Jean. (1986) claimed that excellent companies were those harness workers' knowledge, managers want staff to
1992. Ethnographyand the that had a 'strong' culture. Soon a corporate culture, feel empowered to participatein mixed teams of man-
Historical Imagination. often equatedwith a mission statement,had become the agers and workers and to put forward new ideas for
Boulder:Westview P.
Deal, T. and Kennedy, A. sine qua non of any serious organization.This literature productsor ways of organizing.
1982. CorporateCultures. attributedthe culture concept to anthropology:Geertz In this context, the idea of differently positioned ac-
The Rites and Rituals of
CorporateLife.
(1973), Turner (1974), Bateson (1972) and Douglas tors being active participantsin a process of meaning-
Harmondsworth:Penguin. (1987) were the most frequently quoted. Both re- making - a version of the new idea of 'culture' - is
Douglas, Mary 1987. How searchers in organizationalstudies and practising man- attractive to managers. The image is associated with
InstitutionsThink.London-
Routledge and Kegan Paul.
agers looked to anthropologicalideas of 'culture' for a rhetoric about empowerment. Workers and managers
Eliot, T. 5. 1948. Notes metaphor for new forms of organizing in the 'post are 'trained' to make decisions in teams taking every-
Towardsthe Definition of modern' political economy. There has always been a one's perspective into account. Their attention is also
Culture.London:Faber
Eriksen,Thomas Hylland.
close relationshipbetween academic researchon organ- 'trained' on this highly visible, apparentlytransparent
1997. 'OurCreative izations and the thinking of practising managers, such decision making, as if power were dispersed and the
Diversity' paperto that organizationresearchershave played a central role organization decentred. Martin's work in the United
conference on 'Cultureand
Rights' Sussex University, in 'making' organizations (Calas and Smircich 1992: States (1994) and my work (Wright 1991) and students'
15-16 July. 223). This interchange between academics and practi- dissertationsin the UK indicate that workers are often

ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 1, February1998 11

This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Fri, 27 Sep 2013 11:28:05 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
GDAT 1996 'Cultural
StuLdieswill be the death of ambivalent, experiencing empowerment in some re- tion has', rather than 'something an organization is'
anthropology'Manchester- spects, yet perceiving the gap between corporate (1983: 347). To advance this view, she describes
Groupfor Debates in rhetoric and the frequent reorganizations, 'shakeouts', Geertz's approachwhich, she accuratelyconcludes, en-
AnthropologicalTheory
Geertz, Clifford 1973. 'de-layering' and re-locations, imposed from the top ables organizationalanalysts to problematize the con-
TheInterpretationof down. Just as the rhetoric of 'organizationas culture' cept of organization 'for the researcher seeks to
Cuiltures.New York- Basic
Books
highlights participationand empowerment,yet workers examine the basic processes by which groups of people
Gilroy, Paul. 1987. There see another material reality in the shadows, so Harvey come to share interpretationsand meanings for experi-
Ain't No Black in the Union noticed that at the Expo'92 corporations highlighted ence that allow the possibility of organized activity'
Jack. London-Hutchinson.
Gough, Kathleen. 1968.
certain aspects of their 'culture' for the consumer, yet (1983: 351). At this point, there is a sliding from new
'New proposalsfor other aspects were obscured. Corporations used new to old ideas of culture. She claims Geertz's focus has
anthropologists'Current technologies to display transparentlyand reflexively much in common with organizationalleaders', as both
Anthropology9 403-7
Hall, Stuart 1993. how 'culture' was constructed through multiple per- are concernedwith 'how to create and maintaina sense
'Culture,community, spectives, connectedness and networking. What they of organization,and how to achieve common interpreta-
nation' CulturalStudies 7: excluded from the representationof this world, where tions of situations so that coordinatedaction is possible
349-63
Harvey,Penelope. 1996 according to Fujitsu 'the only frontiers are in your ... leadershipcan best be understoodas the management
Hybrids of Modernity. mind' (Harvey 1996:111), was the organizationof rela- of meaning and the shaping of interpretations'(ib.).
London-Routledge tions of production. Similarly, the use of 'culture' in Geertz has been appropriatedas a tool of management
TheIndependent 1997
Tebbit questions the organizationalmanagement has a partial effect: it en- and his idea of 'culture' which had some of the ele-
loyalties of 'two-nation' courages reflexive analysis of the supposedly empower- ments of contestation and process developed by the
immigrants 8 October
Kahn,Joel S 1995
ing relations between workers, but does not analyse new ideas of 'culture', has been converted into the old
Culture,Multiculture, how these relations are situated within an international idea of 'culture'as an entity to be acted on from above.
Postculture London Sage. organizationof capital and power. Where ideas of 'culture' are being used to manage self-
Keesing, Roger. 1974
Theones of culture. Annual
This relationshipbetween the highlighted foreground motivated, flexibly-networkingand team-forming staff
Review of Anthropology3- of localized participation and empowerment and the throughideas of empowerment,it is even more import-
73-97 not-completely-obscuredpolitical and economic back- ant that analysts should not, as organizationalstudies
King, Desmond. 1987.
The New Right: Politics, ground, is echoed in the management literature.Even have tended to do in the past, take a manager'sperspec-
Marketsand Citizenship. among those writers who most avidly espouse 'organiz- tive on workers as the objects of study (Wright 1994).
London:Macmillan. ation as culture' (e.g. Schein 1991, Smircich 1985) The focus should be on how managers are deploying
Kroeber,A. L. and
Kluckhohn,Clyde. 1952. there is a sliding of definitions, from the new idea of both old and new ideas of 'culture' in order to gain
Culture A Critical Review 'culture' as a continuous process of meaning making workers' active participationin new ways of organizing
of Conceptsand Definitions into the old idea of 'culture' as a 'thing' which man- production,profit and power.
Cambridge,MA. Papersof
the Peabody Museum agers could define from above and act upon in a system
XLVII:1. of command and control. I will examine how Geertz, Culture and development
L6vi-Strauss,Claude. 1973
[in English 1997]. 'Race and
the anthropologist most quoted in organizational In my third case, 'culture' is entering a new domain,
history' in Structural studies, is used in this literaturein order to indicate overseas development,with the help of anthropologists.
AnthropologyII London how this elision occurs and what are its effects. Two examples are used, which both refer to old ideas
Allen Lane
Macdonald,Sharon(ed)
One phrase from Geertz is used above all in organiz- of 'culture'. In the first example, an international
1993. Inside European ation studies and by trainingconsultants: agency, UNESCO, in its vision of a new ethical world
Identities.Oxford. Berg man [sic] is an animal suspended in webs of significance order, maps out a world made of 'cultures' as discrete
Martin,Emily 1994. he himself has spun. I take cultureto be those webs (1973:
Flexible Bodies Boston entities, without engaging with the issue of contestation
5).
Beacon P. over the power to define. In contrast, in the second
-1997. 'Managing Geertz used the above phrase in an article about a
example Kayapo leaders have used ethnographicfilm to
Americans policy and sheep raid in Morocco. His aim was to interpret the
changes in the meanings of assert their own definition of their 'culture' and used
different constructions that the actors - a Jewish mer-
work and the self' in Shore, the strategies others have used against them to chal-
Cris and Wright,Susan (eds) chant, Berber tribesmen and a French colonialist -
lenge the processes that have marginalizedthem.
Anthropologyof Policy placed on a sequence of events. Each sought to make
London:Rouledge. UNESCO's (1995) report Our Creative Diversity
their interpretationof events definitive as they 'tripped
Merry,Sally Engle. 1997 marksthe culminationof the UN decade for cultureand
Law, cultureand cultural over' one another'spurposes:pursuingtrade, defending
development. This was an opportunityfor anthropolog-
appropriationYaleJournal honour and establishing dominance. The three actors
of Law and the Humanities ists to have an overt influence on the use of the concept
were in unequal relations of power and had different
(forthcoming) 'culture' and several world famous anthropologistscon-
Moore, Rachel 1994. personal abilities to impose their meanings on events.
tributedto its definition.5The reportargues for two de-
'Marketing alterity' in Geertz makes clear that he was studying the interaction
Lucien Taylor (ed ) finitions of 'culture'. First, it takes up the argument
VisualizingTheory.London.
between three ways of making significance from one
made by development anthropologiststhat 'culture' is
Routledge sequence of events. He specifically was not trying to
Morley, David and Chen, not just one domain of life (like economics, politics,
isolate the elements of 'a culture', nor specify the rela-
Kuan-Hsing.1996. Stuart religion) but is 'constructive,constitutive and creative'
Hall. Critical Dialogues in tions between those elements, nor characterize the
of all aspects of life including the economy and devel-
CulturalStudies London: whole as a system organized around core symbols
Routledge. opment. Second, it argues that the world is made up of
(1973: 17). He was not suggesting that all three actors
Ortner,Sherry. 1984 discrete 'cultures' or peoples. The neglect of 'culture'
Theory in anthropology were caught in the same way in one web.
in the first sense within 'cultures' in the second sense
since the sixties. Geertz used this sequence of events to illustratehow
ComparativeStudies In has caused development efforts to fail (1995: 7). Frus-
a merchant and dissident tribes challenged yet suc-
Society and History 26 (1). trated expectations coupled with globalization, and the
126-66. cumbed to French dominance at the early stages of co-
collapse of the bipolar world order (1995: 9, 28), it is
Peters, T. and Waterman, lonialism. It is appropriate for organizational re-
R. 1986. In Search of argued, have led to confrontations between narrow
Excellence. Lessonsfrom
searchersto refer to this article when looking to anthro-
group identities over scarce resources (1995: 9) which
America's Best-Run pology for new ways of analysing 'organizationas cul-
have been manipulated into violence (1995: 16).
Companies.New York- ture' in a period of equally momentous global econ-
Harperand Row. Whereas failed development gives rise to this destruc-
Pondy, L and Mitroff, I. omic and political change. However, in this literature
tive aspect of culturalidentities of 'peoples', successful
1979 'Beyond open system an anthropologicalfocus on contestation and power is
models of organization'in development would result in a flourishing of culture,
absent. For example, Smircich (1983) starts off in lan-
Cummings,L. and Staw, B. creativityand progress.
(eds) Research In guage precursiveof Street's (1993, quoted above) when
she suggests that that 'cultureis something an organiza-

12 ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 1, February1998

This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Fri, 27 Sep 2013 11:28:05 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Kayapo warriors This argumentrests on a particularview of cultural diversity in the world should be protectedby a code of
performa war dance to diversity. An introductoryquote from MarshallSahlins global ethics, on which the reportthinks the world can
protest at Brazilian defines culture as 'the total and distinctive way of life reach consensus. In setting out the parametersof this
governmentpolicies - a of a people or a society' (1994 quoted in UNESCO global ethical code the undefined voice of the report
still taken during the
filming of The Kayapo, 1995: 21). This old view of 'culture' is supportedby a begins to make value judgments. Only 'cultures' that
the Granada Television paper by Levi-Strauss(initially writtenfor UNESCO in have 'tolerantvalues' (whose idea of tolerance?)would
'Disappearing World' 1952 and revised in 1973),6 from which the title of the be respected and protected by the global code. Of
film screened in 1987, reportis drawn. Levi-Straussput forwardwhat Eriksen course, 'repulsive?(in whose view?) cultural practices
made by Michael (1997) calls an archipelagovision of the world as made should be condemned (1995: 54). A reportedcriticism
Beckhamwith Terry
Turneras the up of 'peoples' each with a radically different 'culture' of human rights for fostering an individualismwhich is
anthropologist- like a string of separateislands (the view contested by alien to non-westernvalues, receives the reply 'Human
available for hire in the Merry, above). In the report, sometimes a 'people' is rights is not unduly individualistic[by whose criteria]-
UKfrom the RAIFilm equated with a country, although it is also said that the it is just an appropriateway to regard all humans as
and Video Lending world consists of 10,000 distinct societies in 200 states equal' (1995: 41). UNESCO's vision of a code of glo-
Library(ref.
(1995: 16). Unfortunately, according to the report, bal ethics to order a plural world rests on a contradic-
RA/VHS189),and see
review by John people are mixing as never before (1995: 9). Instead, tion between respecting all culturalvalues, and making
Hemmingin A.T., their distinctiveness should be encouraged, as it is by value judgments about acceptable and unacceptable
August 1987. looking across boundariesbetween distinct culturesthat diversity.
people gain ideas for alternative ways of living. The In contrastto UNESCO's top-down grand plan for a
report's recipe for creativity, experimentation,innova- pluralism of bounded cultures, even these old ideas of
tion and the dynamic of progress is a diversity of dis- 'culture' work very differently when their definition is
tinct entities with clear boundaries(1995: 15). Human in the hands of indigenous people. Wagner (1975) ar-
civilization depends on creative diversity. gued that in the very act of fieldwork anthropologists
Levi-Strausshas provided UNESCO with a map of a 'invent' a 'culture' (in the old sense) for a people. An-
flat world. The mosaic of cultures is reminiscent of thropologists plunge into situations which are beyond
1930s social anthropology. It misses the dimension of their interpersonaland practical competence. To cope
'culture' as a process of contestationover the power to with this, they encourage themselves by thinking that
define organizing concepts - including the meaning of they are dealing with a 'thing' and they can learn how
'culture' itself. In the reportan unidentifiedvoice does it 'works'. Some people in the host society gain insight
the defining and disguises or disclaims its own power into the anthropologist's perspective - often whilst
as common sense. It is envisaged that in this plural trying to control and domesticate her or him - and for
world, nation-states,ratherthan trying to create nation- the first time perceive their daily life as a thing that
wide cultural homogeneity, should encourage diverse works in patternedways. The anthropologistproceeds
ethnic groups within their borders to contribute to a as if what is being studied is 'a culture'. In the process,
civic community with shared values. Similarly, cultural what people had hitherto experienced as an embedded

ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 1, February1998 13

This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Fri, 27 Sep 2013 11:28:05 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
OrganizationalBehaviour.
GreenwichCT: JAI P.
way of life becomes objectified and verbalized - in which deflect attention from questions like how is
Reinhold, Sue 1993. Wagner's terms, invented - as 'culture'. author-ity constructed, who controls the technology,
Local conflict and Terence Turnerprovides an example from his field- who holds the camera, who is depicted as active and
ideological struggle:
'positive images' and work among the Kayapo in Brazil. Twenty-five years who as passive and marginal?(Moore, R. 1994). They
Section 28. Unpublished ago, he found 700 of the 800 members of one group presented themselves as a homogeneous and bounded
D.Phil thesis, U. of Sussex. had died of disease. Missionaries provided medicine in group, 'the Kayapo', so successfully that even the an-
Sahlins, Marshall.1994.
'A brief culturalhistory of exchange for the Kayapo's adopting western clothes, thropologist, who should have noticed the process by
"culture"', paperprepared building their village along a street, and suppressing which they contested and constructed their communal
for the World Commission their ceremonials. A state organizationcontrolled their 'authenticvoice', does not mention it.
on Cultureand
Development,August trade and communicationwith the outside, and embez- They defined 'culture' for themselves and used it to
Said, Edward.1978. zled their cash from the nut crop. The Kayapo felt de- set the terms of their relations with the 'outside world'.
Orientalism.
Harmondsworth:Penguin.
pendent and in a situation over which they had no con- In a history spanningforty years, missionaries, govern-
Schein, E 1991 'What is trol. ment officials, the Kayapo, anthropologists, interna-
culture9 in P. Frost, L Turnersaw his role as an anthropologistas 'uncover- tional agencies and non government agencies had all
Moore, M. Louis, C.
Lundbergand J. Martin
ing the authenticsocial and culturalsystem beneath the competed for the power to define a key concept, 'cul-
(eds) Reframing corrosive underlay' (1991: 291). He found his authentic ture'. Missionaries and government agencies initially
OrganizationalCulture. culture in the surviving social and ceremonial rituals had used the concept to define an entity that could be
London. Sage
Seidel, Gill. 1985. which, to him, reproducedKayapo as social persons in acted upon, producing disempowerment and depend-
'Culture,nation and "race" a moral universe. The Kayapo did not see it like that: it ency among the Kayapo. The Kayapo strategy to wrest
in the Britishand French was just the way they did things. They did not have a control of this concept from missionaries and govern-
New Right' in Levitas, Ruth
(ed.) TheIdeology of the concept through which to objectify and label their ment officials and turn it against them was part of a
New Right. Oxford. Polity. everyday life as a 'culture'. He arguedthat they needed struggle not just for identity but for physical, economic
-1987. 'The white such a concept to deal with their situation:to give them and political survival.
discursive order:the British
New Right's discourse on an identity and distinguish themselves as a 'culture' on Turnershows that 'culture' can be used to very dif-
culturalracismwith a par with other indigenous people and vis-ia-vis the ferent effect, depending on who is doing the defining.
particularreferenceto the
dominant national society in an inter-ethnic state sys- The UNESCO Report, Our CreativeDiversity, seems to
SalisburyReview' in Zavala,
Iris, van Dijk, Teun and tem. be seeking the positive outcomes from the autonomous
Diaz-Diocaretz,Miriam Turner says that the Kayapo were visited by many definition of culture evident among the Kayapo. How-
(eds) Approachesto
Discourse, Poetics and
anthropologists25 years ago who respectfully sought to ever it neglects to see7 that the flows of creativitythat it
Psychiatry.Amsterdam: learn and record Kayapo 'culture'. He says that anthro- associates with vigorous 'cultures' is a product of con-
John Benjamins. pologists were innocent of the political implications of tinuous assertion of the power to define in a political
Shore, Cris and Wright,
Susan (eds) 1997 their participant observation. However, the Kayapo process involving local, national and internationalac-
Anthropologyof Policy. realized that what missionaries and state administrators tors. This political dimension of meaning making, well
Critical Perspectiveson used as justification for subordinationand exploitation, understoodby Kayapo politicians, is a dynamic which
Governanceand Power.
London Routledge. another set of Westerners valued highly. 'Culture', is absent from the UNESCO report.
Smircich,L. 1983 which had seemed an impediment, now appearedas a
'Conceptsof cultureand resource to negotiate their co-existence with the domi- Conclusion
organizationalanalysis'
AdministrativeScience nant society. I have distinguished between two sets of ideas about
Quarterly28 (3): 339-58. After a Disappearing Worlddocumentarywas made, culture in anthropology: an older set of ideas which
-. 1985. 'Is the concept
of culturea paradigmfor
the Kayapo sought furtherdocumentariesso as to reach equates 'a culture' with 'a people' which can be deli-
understandingorganizations the sympathetic elements in the west. When they ar- neated with a boundary and a checklist of charac-
and ourselves?' in Frost, ranged to meet the Brazilian governmentto oppose the teristics;and new meanings of 'culture', as not a 'thing'
Peter, Moore, Larry,Louis,
Maryl Rees and Lundberg,
Altamira dam, they choreographedthemselves for the but a political process of contestationover the power to
Craig (eds) Organizational western media in order to gain support of the western define key concepts, including that of 'culture' itself.
Culture.London:Sage. audience and add pressure on the government. Gone Earlier this century, anthropologistsused the old ideas
Stocking, George. 1974.
The Shaping of American were the shorts, T-shirts and haircutsthat had appeased of 'culture', the constructionof an objective classifica-
Anthropology,1883-191]: A the missionaries; with men's bare chests, body orna- tion of people, as a strategy for appearing outside of
Franz Boas Reader New ment and long ritual dances, the Kayapo performed politics. Now anthropologistswho adopt new ideas of
York:Basic Books.
Street, Brian. 1993. their 'culture' as a strategy in their increasingly confi- 'culture' are compelled to recognize that academic de-
'Cultureis a verb: dent opposition to the state. finitions of 'culture' are themselves positioned and pol-
anthropologicalaspects of The Kayapo were exceptional in the Amazon area in itical and therefore a resource for anthropologistsand
language and cultural
process' in Graddol,D., not only obtaining funding for their own video cameras others to use in establishingor challenging processes of
Thompson,L. and Byram, and training for their film crews, but also in surviving dominationand marginalization.
M. (eds) Language and
Culture Clevedon, Avon:
in sufficient numbers and having the economic and 'Culture' in both its old and new senses has been
BritishAssociation for physical strengthto resist their oppression. Turnersays introduced into many new domains in the 1980s and
Applied Linguistics in that by the 1990s the Kayapo had obtained videos, 1990s, including cultural racism and multiculturalism,
associationwith
MultilingualMatters radios, pharmacies,vehicles, drivers and mechanics, an corporateculture and culture and development. Some-
Turner,Terence. 1991. aeroplane to patrol their land, and even their own times anthropologistshave been directly involved, as in
'Representing,resisting, missionaries. Supported by machinery hitherto associ- preparingthe UNESCO report or filming the Kayapo.
rethinking'in Stocking,
George (ed.) Colonial ated with dependency, these now-consummate ethnic Sometimes politicians or managers have appealed to
Situations.Madison, politicians had learnt to objectify their everyday life as 'anthropologicalideas of culture' for legitimacy. Either
Wisconsin: U. of Wisconsin 'culture' (in the old sense) and use it as a resource in way, anthropologistsare implicatedin the politicization
P.
Turner,Victor. 1974. negotiations with government and internationalagen- of 'culture'.
Dramas, Fields and cies. In the political strategies explored in this paper, ac-
Metaphors.Ithaca,NY: Kayapo politicians seem to have been fully aware of tors have deployed 'culture' in a number of different
Cornell U. P.
Tylor, EdwardB. 1871. the constructedness of 'culture'. They seem to have ways and with different material effects. British New
PrimitiveCulture.New dealt with contests among themselves over the power to Right politicians have appropriatedthe new idea of
York: Harper
UNESCO. 1995 Our
define. They exploited the way the old idea of 'culture' 'culture', turnedit into a euphemism for race, and mo-
CreativeDiversity Reportof masks power differentials within groups and they bor- bilized it to reinforce exclusion and marginalization.In
the World Commission on rowed western filmic tropes of realism and authenticity 'corporateculture', old and new ideas of 'culture' have

14 ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 1, February1998

This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Fri, 27 Sep 2013 11:28:05 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Cultureand Diversity, Paris
UNESCO Publishing been used as tools of management,often sliding from common sense or 'natural'.This strategy, like the old
Wagner,Roy 1975. The one to the other, in strategiesto harnessworkers' active anthropologicalstrategyof objectification,tries to mask
Inventionof Culture.
Chicago. U. of Chicago P participation in a process of meaning-making which or erase the politicizationof culture.
Williams, Raymond. 1958 managers ultimately reserve the power to define and It is disappointing that the opportunityprovided by
Cultureand Society, control. The Kayapo provide an example of indigenous the UNESCO report, for anthropologists to make an
1780-1950 Harmondsworth
Penguin politicians asserting their own definition of 'culture' impact on the political use of 'culture' in ways which
-1976 Keywords and using it to set the terms of their relations with the would benefit the disadvantagedand marginalized,was
London. Fontana
Wright,Susan 1991.
outside world. They were consciously using old ideas not used more effectively. If we aim to influence local,
'Evaluationof the of 'culture' with an appreciationof the politics of its national and internationalprocesses by which people
UnemploymentStrategy'. construction. The voice of Kayapo politicians, presen- are impoverished and disempowered, it behoves us to
Middlesbrough Cleveland
County Council.
ting an apparentlyconsensual 'authenticculture' of 'the reflect on our own anthropologicalanalyses of how pol-
-1994 'Culturein Kayapo', has succeeded in being heard in national and iticians, policy advisers and decision-makersare deplo-
anthropologyand internationalforums. The UNESCO report aspired for ying old and new ideas of 'culture'. We might learn
organizational studies' in S.
Wright(ed.) Anthropology 'cultures' in the old sense to have the creativity and from our analyses of the political strategies of others
of Organizations London: dynamism of the Kayapo. However, the report did not how to intervene more effectively ourselves in the pol-
Routledge. confront the central issue in the Kayapo case: that they iticization of 'culture'. In the context of recent laments
-1997 'Culturein
development', paperto were engaged in a struggle with the state and interna- about anthropology'sloss of authorityand diminishing
Social Development tional agencies over the power to define. Instead, both relevance to the study of contemporarycultural pro-
Advisers' International the UNESCO reportand the British New Right's cultu- cesses (due in part to the advance of cultural studies,
Network, Overseas
Development ral racism deploy a disembodied voice, 'we', to auth- GDAT 1996), such reflection might also help restore a
Administration,London, 28 orize a top down definition of 'culture' as if it were much needed critical edge to the discipline.DI
January.

HOW TO TRAP A GIRAFFE

i.m. Alfred Gell

Oppose the empty time of waiting


Against a sudden catastrophe.
Egg the giraffe on
To complete a jigsaw
When he comes like someone
Certainhe's not drunk
To the homely vicinities
Of the negative giraffe you've dug.

Convince the giraffe he's alone


By communicatinga deadly absence.
Use the distance
Between him and his water.
Crazy-pavea lake
So that any descending
Head will be broken.

See the giraffe as uprights


In a world of horizontals.
Employ the poised violence
Of dappledjavelins,
Broomsticks,ladders
And tent-poles,
Then pull away the rug.

Get the giraffe to be honest


About what he loves,
Then parodyit.
A shower of nets.
A tree of arrows.

Imagine you are a giraffe


And send yourself postcards
Homesick for the veldt,
Filled with wish-you-were-heres.
End with the one about
The man who slipped
Into his bed
And never came out.

Gerard Woodward

ANTHROPOLOGYTODAY Vol 14 No 1, February1998 15

This content downloaded from 142.150.190.39 on Fri, 27 Sep 2013 11:28:05 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions