The course is organized in four main parts.
- The first three lectures set the stage for what I consider to be
the main issues confronting current thinking about the relationships
of culture and communication:
- Do theories of sociability and community require assumption
of sharing and consensus? what has our traditional concern with
sharing and consensus prevented us from understanding about our
- What was powerful about the anthropological tradition of understanding
"culture" that might still be helpful for us, even as
we get to understand their dangers?
- How are we to take seriously the idea that all human beings,
in all conditions, are always actively involved in the production of (high, low, popular, ...) culture?
- The following five lectures explore classical statements from
the most powerful theorists to sort out what we must keep of
intuitions and statements that often led followers and critics
astray. In the process I will make my own case for an understanding
of culture through systematic communication that does not require
assumptions about the mental states of participants.
- We first discuss two versions of the fundamental pragmatist
intuition about the place of persons within their world: the concern
with the self and the concern with culture (community)
- What are we to do with the evidence that groups of people
evolve different ways of performing both trivial and essential
tasks from the way the same tasks are performed by neighbors?
- Where is the source of meaning? in the act, the response
to the act, the field within which the act is performed? Can
'I' escape the self others make for 'Me' at this moment?
- We then explore four ways of attempting to think and study language
as a communication tool, that is as something that happens within
and among people constructing their life together (community?)
- How are we to deal with the fact that the forms of our language are both arbitrary (given how other forms would also be functional)
and necessary (we all have to use the forms of our most significant neighbors)? What can 'I' say?
- What can be done through language and in language?
- How does this work, actually, in face to face interaction?
- If the issue with culture and communication is the production and control of consequences on future action (an alternate way to think about "meaning"), then we can look at central issues that emerged in
the past twenty years as matters of thing-like objects. Three lectures addresses some of these issues.
- The making of artifacts
- Gender (race...) as the embodiment of culture in bodies with
- However, artifacts, however powerfully, can only constrain, they cannot end cultural production. The final four lecture focus on the processes of production building on various evidence.
- On the inevitable deliberate activities that always accompany
and reconstruct local dominance.
- On the inevitable resistance against hegemony as people use
what they cannot escape.
- The play of myth in popular culture
- The fate of ideologies in political culture.
Some quotes from students' comments
after taking the course