Cultures and Dovey

Anonymous's picture

How fitting and compelling, then – on a show available to anyone on the planet with an Internet connection – were Ceridwen’s comments at 38:40 where she spoke about the interconnectedness of all people on the planet, the undeniable rise of globalization – and yet, at the same time, our alienation from “everything,” by which I took her to mean, perhaps incorrectly, at least the roots, identities, and functions of our own cultures, never mind, for the moment, other peoples’.
I may not know much about anthropology but I know my Lévi-Strauss (well, sort of), and her comments brought to mind one of the things he wrote, presciently in 1978, which speaks to the loss of our individuality in modern industrial society, that “[w]e are now threatened with the prospect of our being only consumers, able to consume anything from any point in the world and from every culture, but of losing all originality." [Myth and Meaning: Cracking the Code of Culture]
In addition, I don’t know if Ceridwen reads Chomsky, but he came to mind when she said, at 39:07, “we’re all complicit in these myriad of things every single day that we do and yet, those things have become invisible to us,” referring, perhaps, to those of us who don’t consider ourselves complicit because (it is true) “we are not doing anything” to [intentionally] harm the earth or other people on it. I think Chomsky’s point, which Ceridwen seems to endorse, is that it is precisely by “not doing anything” that we contribute to, for instance, the physical degradation of the planet or, politically, human suffering and death in places that seem very far off but, in a globalized 21st century perspective (of course, Chomsky began writing about this in the 1960s), in fact are not.
This admittedly is taking large guesses at what Ceridwen meant, since her comments were brief, but I think they are reasonable guesses. My point is that what I am experiencing is similar to what happens in a college classroom. There is no replacement for being in that classroom – but this is the first time I have ever had even close to such an experience on the Web. And, for me, the fact that I thought about these issues and posted a comment to try to foster conversation about what we all watched is the clearest evidence that this is indeed a great new program.

Ceridwen's picture

Thank you, knapper, for such

Thank you, knapper, for such a thoughtful and stimulating response. You've understood exactly what I was trying to say, and I think Levi-Strauss and Chomsky are excellent anthropological examples of how this point has been theorized in interesting ways. I would add Pierre Bourdieu to that list, in particular his conception of 'misrecognition' and the 'symbolic violence' to which it leads. In my (perhaps flawed) understanding of misrecognition, I see it as the end result of our socialization into a particular cultural habitus, or way of being in the world, with its attendant assumptions about how things should be, how institutions should work, what is the natural way for things, people, governments, humanity as a whole to act. As a result, the abuses of power that occur within our social worlds become invisible to us because of our enculturation into a particular way of being, seeing, thinking, feeling, and it is this refusal (or inability) to acknowledge those structures of power that can lead, in Bourdieu's argument, to symbolic violence being committed, which is particularly nefarious because it is invisible, spreading, and linked inextricably to our daily rituals and behaviors. Misrecognition is crucial to institutional or political legitimacy and to the justification of all sorts of suspect things, and I've found it very powerful because it really gets at the nature of power and wrong-doing and how we are all implicated in ways we do and don't acknowledge.