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Other titles in the Samuel and Althea Stroum Book series:
Seeing Culture Everywhere, from Genocide to Consumer Habitsby Joana Breidenbach
Synopses & Reviews
Today's world is shaped by an obsession with cultural difference that penetrates everyday life and matters of state in unprecedented ways. Culture and cultural difference are commonly used to explain everything that's in the news - from wars to economic development and consumer behavior. This fuels the belief that our world is shaped by clashing cultures, a view that is counterproductive when it assumes falsely that culture is a timeless container that traps nations and ethnic groups.
Seeing Culture Everywhere challenges the misguided and dangerous global obsession with cultural difference and directly critiques the popular notion that world affairs are determined by essential civilizations with immutable and conflicting cultures. The book offers an alternative view of a world in which cultural mixing, not isolation, is the norm, but where several historical trends have come together at the beginning of the twenty-first century to produce the current wave of "culture think." Brimming with concrete examples that move from genocide in Rwanda to schools in Berlin, from the Chrysler boardroom to the war in Iraq, it contemplates how ethnic identity can be mobilized in the service of all kinds of goals - violent or nonviolent, laudable or despicable - and the unintended effects such mobilization invariably produces. The authors suggest ways to remain sensitive to the cultural impacts of policies and decisions without falling into the traps of determinism, essentialism, and misrepresentation.
Seeing Culture Everywhere will be useful in the fields of anthropology, law, intercultural communication, and international relations, as well as for general readers interested in ethnicity and travel.
Joana Breidenbach, an independent anthropologist, journalist, and social entrepreneur who lives in Berlin, is author of Tanz der Kulturen (The dance of cultures) and coeditor (with Nyiri) of China Inside Out. Pal Nyiri is professor of history from an anthropological perspective at the Free University (VU) of Amsterdam. He is the author of Scenic Spots: Chinese Tourism, the State, and Cultural Authority and Chinese in Eastern Europe and Russia.
"One rarely finds scholars who have an overview of the use of culture concepts in all fields. Seeing Culture Everywhere deals with academic and non-academic materials in a balance and to a degree that is a rare achievement." — Ulf Hannerz, Stockholm University
"This delightful book needed to be written, and Breidenbach and Nyíri have done the job admirably. Seeing Culture Everywhere is so much more readable and comprehensive than anything I've seen in the field." — Thomas Hylland Eriksen, University of Oslo
Book News Annotation:
The authors view the growing use of "culture" as an explanatory frame for understanding everything from individual interactions to the "clash of civilizations" as often misleading and frequently dangerous. They prefer a process-centered view that provides information not about "cultures" but about the forces that stand behind cultural claims. In this work, they trace the consequences of various cultural claims from the level of interstate relations down to the functioning of institutions and the lives of individuals. They include chapters that look at the US "war on terror" and how ideas about culture have helped shape relations between the US, Russia, and China; the impact of the rise of culture in development institutions and discourse; cultural interpretations of local conflicts such as the wars in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Iraq; the role of culture in national public realms such as regulating immigration, urban planning, education, and the courts; cultural justifications concerning debates over property involved in cases such as contesting rights to the ownership of American Indian dances, Aboriginal land titles in Australia, and whaling by the Makah Indians of Canada; the paradigms of culture found in the intercultural communication industry advising business and government; and the rise of cultural marketing. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This engagingly written, jargon-free challenge to the misguided and dangerous global obsession with cultural difference critiques the popular notion that world affairs are determined by civilizations with immutable and conflicting cultures. Culture is too often understood as a straightjacket of values that make people act in a certain way. A more accurate and constructive approach is to see culture as a changing system of meaning, which individuals deploy selectively to make sense of the world. PAAEAAl NyAAEAA-ri is senior lecturer in anthropology at Macquarie University. Joana Breidenbach is an independent anthropologist and journalist living in Berlin.
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History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology