Possibility in constraints: culture in structure-- II

Men and Women in India

This is the eleventh in a series of notes to fifteen lectures for my class TF5005: Interdisciplinary Study of the Family.
  1. Some issues that we have not explored in details: culture, personality, and the contributions of both to action
    1. an ethnography of a situation that we, as Euro-American, post-industrialized, individualistic, people both recognize and abhor:

      Benares (India) where one can fnd "joint families" (three generation households keeping together parents, brothers and their wives and children, and unmarried sisters) with strict controls on women in their relations to people outside the household and complex division of labor within the household.

      1. Note that the social situation within the household is more complex than the features would imply: structuring is not simply a matter of gender but certainly also one of age and the play of other "resources" (from the "honor" of the family of origin of each of the marrying in women, to education, etc.)
      2. One might want to identify this to what Parsons and others called the "traditional" family.  It is also one version of what Goody associates with "plow" agriculture.
      3. While some of the features can easily be generalized to large areas of Eurasia, one must notice that
        1. this exact form has not been common in Europe for centuries, if ever
        2. the way this works is heavily mediated by a religious ideology embodied in a set of complex institutions that are specific not simply to India, but to only one group within India (albeit the larges): the caste system.
        3. note finally that Goody never quite explains what would be the ecological constraints that would explain the rationality of an extended family system in urban centers where survival is not dependent on land but rather on the delivery of a service to neighbors near and far.
  2. Derne, a sociologist, interprets all this as a cultural matter
    1. by "culture" he means matters relating to values, meanings, interpretations as those are carried by individuals.
      1. he is not concerned with economic determinisms (besides a brief mention of the class position of the men in interviewed)
      2. he is concerned with a very classical issue in cultural theory: the relationship between cultural patterning (Hindu India), individual experience (how this shapes personalities or "identities") and individual expression (the words one can use to exteriorize experience publicly).  These concerns have been written about as issues of
        1. internalization (G.H. Mead) and enculturation
        2. "cultural dopes"
        3. two languages (Bellah)
      3. This is being developed into discussions of 
        1. resistance
        2. work with resources within hegemonic and overdetermined institutions (global, national political, local, household) powerfully constraining local struggles for life (power and play) 


November 16, 1999