The course is organized in four main parts.

  1. 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:
    1. 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 condition? link to lecture
    2. 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? link to lecture
    3. 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? link to lecture
  2. 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.
    1. 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)
      1. 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? link to lecture
      2. 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? link to lecture
    2. 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?)
      1. 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? link to lecture
      2. What can be done through language and in language? link to lecture
      3. How does this work, actually, in face to face interaction? link to lecture
  3. 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.
    1. The making of artifacts link to lecture
    2. Gender (race...) as the embodiment of culture in bodies with consequences. link to lecture
    3. (Dis-)Abilitylink to lecture
  4. 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.
    1. On the inevitable deliberate activities that always accompany and reconstruct local dominance. link to lecture
    2. On the inevitable resistance against hegemony as people use what they cannot escape. link to lecture
    3. The play of myth in popular culture link to lecture
    4. The fate of ideologies in political culture. link to lecture


Some quotes from students' comments after taking the course