Chapter 8

January 22, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Arts & Humanities, Performing Arts, Drama
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Chapter 8: Culture and Psychology

© 2014 Mark Moberg

• Robert Lowie summarized the Boasian view of culture as a “planless hodgepodge, [a] thing of shreds and patches.” This metaphor suggests that within a given culture some practices result from diffusion and others independent invention. They remain as unrelated to one another as the squares on a patchwork quilt. • Many of Boas’ own students dissented from Lowie’s analogy. Benedict and Mead characterized cultures in terms of their configuration, a psychological orientation that suffuses a culture’s world view, ritual life, and mythology. Benedict’s Patterns of Culture identifies configurations for three societies in terms of character types defined by Nietzsche for classical Greek drama. Each has a distinct psychological orientation ranging from Dionysian (unrestrained megalomania among the Kwakiutl) to Apollonian (restraint and stoicism for the Zuni) to paranoia (Dobu). Benedict suggested that each culture selected from a wide arc of possibilities those characteristics that it found most gratifying.

© 2014 Mark Moberg

• Following Freud, later anthropologists emphasized the role of child rearing in determining adult personalities, linking what they called a “basic personality structure” to experiences such as toilet training, weaning, sibling rivalry, and sexual contact. These they identified as “primary institutions,” while “secondary institutions” arose from the needs and tensions created by the basic personality structure. These include taboos, rituals, folktales, aesthetics and any other aspects of culture that comprise a projection of the individual’s personality into the broader natural and supernatural worlds. • Flaws in this approach became apparent when anthropologists were recruited to analyze Japanese personality and morale during WWII. Anthropologist Jeffrey Gorer claimed that Japanese aggression resulted from repressed rage at severe early toilet training, which occasioned outbursts of sadism against enemies. When such “findings” were disseminated into the popular press, they implied that the Japanese were collectively mentally ill. Apart from the fact that such claims were offered without the benefit of fieldwork, they also glossed over the considerable variability found in even small-scale societies, much less a modern nation state such as Japan. Today, the basic personality structure is recognized as a stereotype that conceals, rather than reveals, the actual psychological characteristics of any given culture. © 2014 Mark Moberg

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