Culture and Race

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Culture and Race

Anthropologists have always had their discrepancies with the word culture and its background significance. There have been numerous definitions that have filtered through the field, yet not one that everyone can accept or agree with. Franz Boas, an anthropologist in the early 20th Century, and his students, had a difficult time figuring out the objective of what culture is. Culture is about learning and shared ideas about behaviour. Although Boas and his students had a slightly different idea in mind. They ultimately reached a conclusion, a definition of culture in their view that is a contradiction in terms. Boas sates that, “ culture was expressed through the medium of language but was not reducible to it; more importantly, it was not race.

Culture became everything race was not, and race was seen to be what culture was not; given, unchangeable biology,” (Visweswaran, p. 72).

Not only focusing on culture, but anthropology has a substantial connection as well.

Anthropology is the field in which the study of cultural and biological variations among human groups is studied. The difficulty that some people have with characterizing culture is that they associate it with race, whereas that is not the case. The two are remarkably distinct. Race is something biological, a genetic trait that is innate, while culture is something that is educated and experienced.

Kamala Visweswaran and Lila Abu-Lughod are two well distinguished anthropologists that are currently teaching at Universities in the United States. In their own articles, they speak about culture through an anthropologists view and detail their own opinions within. They may have some different opinions but each has their own strong arguments that prove their points.

Lila Abu-Lughod’s article “Writing Against Culture,” was written in 1991, and was published inside the book, Recapturing Anthropology. Within the article, she discusses culture and many problems with it. The title of her article speaks for itself, writing against culture. There are many issues that she brings up about culture, and various influential strategies for shifting over from the culture concept. She reflects on culture and its need to be redefined. In her discussion of culture and difference she opens with, “ most American anthropologists believe or act as if ”culture,” notoriously r...

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...s. With this new connection to anthropology, the American Anthropological Association, “ passed a resolution denouncing Nazi racism: “ Anthropology provides no scientific basis for discrimination against any people on the ground of racial inferiority, religious affiliation or linguistic heritage, “ (Visweswaran, p. 71).

“The solution is not to replace culture with race but to keep the two terms in contructivist tension with one another,” (Visweswaran, p. 79). Anthropology cannot strive without culture, yet there must be a distinction with race. Culture is something that society is taught and learned, while race is something biological, and something to be proud of. Boas and his ideas were not yet educated as to what culture means. He was overlooking and only saw his own perspective. Culture creates this diverse world and in turn race creates life with culture.

Works Cited:

Abu-Lughod, Lila. (1991) Writing Against Culture. Recapturing Anthropology. Richard Fox, ed. P, 137-162. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.

Visweswaran, Kamala. (March, 1998) Race and the Culture of Anthropology. American Anthropologist. p. 70-83. American Anthropological
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