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The Politicization of 'Culture'

Author(s): Susan Wright

Source: Anthropology Today, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Feb., 1998), pp. 7-15
Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2783092
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Belonging. Identity and and this is not because children do not make sounds: in itself could invite the reader to, as it were, say her/his
social organisation in
fact, children make lots of sounds; but these sounds or piece during the break. I believe that such a text would
British rural cultures,
Manchester Manchester U P. expressions are often depicted, or indeed heard, as be what Kit Davis, with Umberto Eco, has called an
-1988, The Gender of the 'noise': children are muted, not by way of silencing, 'open work' (Davis 1993): in the 'open work', the audi-
Gift, Manchester U.P.
but by the absence of a listening will. It might be flat- ence becomes the performance. With every new reader,
Toren, C. 1983. Thinking
Symbols. A Critique of tering to think of myself as working towards a repre- or new reading, the account is re-written.
Sperber (1979). Man (n.s.) sentation of smaller voices, but all I can in fact do is I cannot claim to have understood individual child-
18, pp.260-268.
-1990. Making,Sense of
provide an account of how I sought to listen. ren's particular experiences, nor to have felt the imme-
Hierarchy. Cognition as I have argued that whilst, in discussing fieldwork diacy with which they lived their daily lives as 'small
Social Process in Fiji,
practice, it is important to acknowledge the field- people'. I can only write an account of and from my
London: LSE Monographs
on Social Anthropology, worker's political and historical conditioning, it is own perspective. And I believe that it is through the
no 61. equally important, in the production of ethnography, to involvement of an audience that such an account
-1993. Making history
seek to escape the dictates which autobiographical auth- would, if at all, be meaningful; in the same way as it
the significance of childhood
for a comparative ority might impose. I have, moreover, suggested that was only through the children's presence that I began
anthropology of mind. Man the dialogue between past and present, the distinction reinventing own concepts of self, and it was through
(n.s.), 28, pp.461-478.
Whiting, B. & C.
between autobiography as tool and autobiography as this re-membering of a smaller, less authoritative, me
Edwards. 1988. Children of perspective, and the tension between participation and that I could begin to approach a group of people who I
Different Worlds. The
observation, could be made visible in a text which, so hope will one day read, re-open, and challenge my ac-
Formation of Social
Behavior. Harvard U.P. to speak, interrupts itself. And a text which interrupts count. C:

The politicization of 'culture'


The author is a senior In the early years of modem social anthropology, warrant explanation and too deep to be delved into by
lecturer in cultural
anthropologists announced their most important find- non-anthropologists. How are decision-makers (whether
studies at the University
ings and theoretical advances to Section H of the Brit- they be anthropologists or claiming legitimacy from an-
of Birmingham. She is a
ish Association for the Advancement of Science. As thropology) politicizing 'culture' and deploying the
social anthropologist
who has researched 1997 president of this Section, I chose to address con- concept in a range of fields of power? How can anthro-
political culture and temporary developments in one of our oldest concepts, pologists use their new theoretical approaches to 'cul-
processes of governance 'culture', as a way of continuing that tradition.1 ture' to explore and reveal the effects of the current
in the U.K. and Iran.
Why be so bold as to engage with a word which Wil- uses of this concept in contemporary politics?
liams (1976: 87) declared was one of the two or three I will start by discussing what I am calling 'old' and
most complicated in the English language and which in 'new' anthropological approaches to 'culture'. I will
British, North American and European anthropology then use these approaches to examine how, and with
has had complex, contested and very different histories? what effects, decision-makers have introduced and de-
By mid-century, Kroeber and Kluckhohn had found ployed 'culture' in three different 'fields' the last fifteen
164 definitions in their famous review of what anthro- years. First I will examine British right wing politi-
pologists meant by culture (1952: 149). By the 1970s, cians' use of 'culture' to talk about nationalism in such
when cultural anthropology was well established as one a way that they can distance themselves from the taints
of the four fields of anthropology in the USA, in British of biological racism, yet reintroduce exclusive practices
anthropology 'culture' had nearly disappeared from in an insidious cultural guise. Second, I will review
view. In the last ten years, with the help of cultural how writers and consultants in organizational manage-
studies, 'culture' has resumed centre stage in British an- ment use ideas of 'culture', which they attribute to
thropology. The aim of this paper is not to tally up how anthropology, to propose new forms of organization.
many definitions of 'culture' anthropologists have They claim 'de-layering' and 'flattening hierarchies'
generated by the end of the century. Rather, the paper and the formation of 'flexible teams' of continually
pursues Kroeber and Kluckhohn's observation that 'the self-reskilling 'portfolio' workers will permit grass-
occurrence of these [definitions] in time is interesting - roots creativity and workers' self management and em-
as indeed the distribution of all cultural phenomena in powerment. I will explore the unacknowledged costs of
either space or time always reveals significance' (ib.). such 'empowerment' and how under the rubric of 'em-
The aim is to treat the prominence (or 'distribution' in powering corporate culture', there lurks an older idea of
Kroeber and Kluckhohn's terms) of 'culture' in the organizational culture as a tool of top down manage-
1990s as itself a cultural phenomenon. What is the sig- ment control. The third field is overseas development
nificance of culture's recent reappearance as a central where 'culture' is just entering the discourse (Wright
concept in British anthropology? The issue is not con- 1997). Largely this is as a result of a UNESCO report
fined to internal disciplinary debate. In the last decade, Our Creative Diversity. This report was meant to do for
politicians and decision-makers have introduced 'cul- 'culture' what the Bruntland Report did for the environ-
ture' into the discourse of many different 'fields' ment and development, but the report has so far gone
(Bourdieu 1991) of contemporary society. Decision- largely unnoticed. Anthropologists played a major role
makers and media commentators often claim legitimacy in formulating the ideas of culture which this report
for their discourses by referring to 'culture, in an an- proposes should be the basis for world ethics and de-
thropological sense' - a phrase which closes off further velopment policy. Anthropologists of development have
exploration by claiming that there is one (their) long sought such influence. Some would see the aims
meaning of culture which is at once too self-evident to of anthropology as understanding the local, national

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY Vol 14 No 1, February 1998 7

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and international processes by which impoverished In a great flood of criticism, the components of this
people are marginalized and disempowered, in order to idea of culture were unpacked. British functionalists,
influence those processes, or promote the perspectives for example, were criticized for having treated a 'cul-
of those who are silenced, or enable them to speak and ture' as a small scale, bounded entity organized through
act more effectively for themselves. When anthropolog- economic, social and political institutions which inter-
ists had an opportunity to act as policy makers and acted as a self contained 'whole' sustained in a static
steer the culture bandwagon themselves, did they de- equilibrium. This had clearly been a fiction when most
ploy a concept of 'culture' which would make any of of the places studied, however remote, were being
these aims more achievable? In all three fields, politi- visited not just by anthropologists, but by merchants,
cians, officials and academic advisers are using 'cul- missionaries and colonial administrators. Societies were
ture' as a political tool. Whether the concepts are being neither unchanging nor bounded, but part of a world
deployed by anthropologists directly involved in in- order dominated first by colonialism and later by nation
fluencing and writing policy (as in the third instance) or states, international capitalism and international agen-
whether ideas are being attributed to anthropology for cies. These had been left out of a picture of 'cultures'
legitimation, in all instances, anthropology is implicated as ahistorical, self-contained entities (Gough 1968).
in the politicization of 'culture'. How can we use our Anthropologists of various persuasions were also
understandings of political processes to reveal the ways criticized for treating 'culture' as if it were a set of
decision-makers are using 'culture' in a growing num- ideas or meanings which were shared by a whole popu-
ber of 'fields', and analyse its effects on those who are lation of homogeneous individuals - which empirically
marginalized and impoverished? was not the case.2 Asad (1979) criticized British anthro-
pologists for seeking the unique 'authentic culture' of
Old meanings of culture another society in the form of an integrated system of
In the early 20th century, ideas of 'culture' advanced consensual 'essential meanings' which self-reproduced
by anthropologists took on a radical tone. Tylor's regardless of economic and political change. If anthro-
(1871) notion of culture as a whole way of life of a pologists constructed the social order out of 'essential
group or society marked a point of departure for mod- meanings' which did not change in new historical and
ern social anthropologists: economic conditions, how would social transformation
'Culture' is that complex whole which includes knowl- occur? Instead, he argued, 'essential meanings' were
edge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capa-
discourses which some people in the society had man-
bilities and habits acquired by man [sic] as a member of
aged to make authoritative by continually pre-empting
society (Tylor 1871:1:1).
If this was a point of departure, it was not a basis for the space of radically opposed discourses. The problem

consensus: anthropologists set off along divergent Asad thought anthropologists should address is how an

paths. Tylor's own approach was to combine Herder's authoritative discourse is produced in particular histori-

romantic idea, that nations, groups within nations and cal circumstances. In a paper which I take as a point of

peoples at different periods have distinctive cultures, departure for the development of what I am calling

with the enlightenment idea that each of these cultures 'new' approaches to culture,3 Asad argued that anthro-
was at a different stage in the evolution of civilization pologists had mistakenly endorsed, as 'authentic cul-
ture', historically specific dominant ideologies or auth-
or in a progression towards European rationality. Boas
rejected Tylor's social evolutionism. He stressed the oritative discourses which were neither timeless nor

particularity of each culture as a result of the group's uniformly shared.

responses to environmental conditions and their specific Although anthropologists have developed new ways

historical development. By treating 'culture' as the pro- of thinking about 'culture', these 'old ideas of culture'

duct of historical and social forces, not biology, he have percolated out from academic discourse and, as

criticized racial determinism (Stocking 1974: 221). In will be shown below, are still in widespread use in pub-

Britain, Malinowski and his students advanced a differ- lic parlance. The main features of this, still-current 'old
idea of culture' are:
ent critique of the rationalistic Victorian conception of
- bounded, small scale entity
'man' by arguing that far from being 'savage' and il-
- defined characteristics (checklist)
logical, each of the 'peoples' in Africa, South Asia and - unchanging, in balanced equilibrium or self-reproducing
the Pacific had a distinct, rational and legitimate way of - underlying system of shared meanings: 'authentic cul-
life which should be valued: 'emphasizing the authen- ture'
- identical, homogeneous individuals.
ticity and coherence of distinct cultures was a way of
resisting the civilising mission fundamental to the Euro-
New meanings of culture
pean colonial project' (Merry 1997). Anthropologists
The changing political and economic conditions to
differed profoundly in their theories and in the aspects
which Asad referred were the end of European coloni-
of western thought that they questioned, but they shared
alism and the continued expansion into new areas of
an idea of the world as made up of 'peoples', each with
relations of production and exchange based on capital.
a coherent way of life, or 'culture'.
Most recently, they would include the international or-
By the 1970s, far from being radical, this idea of 'a
ganization of production and consumption, the spread
people' having 'a culture', was seen to have been a cru-
of global communication networks, and the interna-
cial element of colonialism. To critics, this idea of 'cul-
tional integration of financial systems. These changes
ture' created fixed entities in which the West could in-
have provoked labour movements within countries and
tervene. By measuring, categorizing, describing, repre-
from the south to the north of the globe, as exemplified
senting and thereby supposedly 'knowing' others, the
by a woman I met in my South Tottenham park re-
objects of that knowledge were made the subjects of
cently. She is an Asian who grew up with an English
new forms of power and control (Asad 1973, Said
education in Trinidad and has worked in England for
1978). This once progressive idea was also taken up in
15 years in nursing and administration. She is learning
regressive ways by extreme nationalists who used it not
Hindi at night classes so that she can converse with
simply to champion claims for independence and sover-
relatives she visits in India. Her and her family's ex-
eignty but also to pursue the politics of xenophobia, ex-
perience of colonial labour migration, post colonial
clusion and ethnic cleansing.

8 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY Vol 14 No 1, February 1998

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economic diaspora and 'roots' tourism speaks of what negative stereotypes of gay people available to children
Hall called 'dislocated histories and hybridised eth- in their schools. Their local opponents exercised their
nicities' (1993: 356). As anthropologists have argued links to Conservative Members of Parliament, who ap-
for many years (Cohen 1974, Macdonald 1993), and propriated and inverted the meaning of the key terms of
more recently Hall and other exponents (Morley and the debate. The word 'promoting' was first used by the
Chen 1996) of cultural studies in Britain have made campaign to 'promote positive images' of homosex-
clear, cultural identities are not inherent, bounded or uality; MPs accused them of 'promoting homosex-
static: they are dynamic, fluid and constructed situation- uality'. In successive parliamentary debates 'promote'
ally, in particular places and times. This is not just a was made to mean seduction of 'normal' children,
Western urban phenomenon of the 1990s. In a tribe in which was equated with an attack on 'the family', the
Iran where I did fieldwork in the 1970s, the population basis of order in the state, and thus with 'subversion'.
was made up of layers of refugees. Multiple identities The group of MPs succeeded in inserting a new clause
were constantly negotiated; links with people in tribes into current legislation on local government outlawing
from which they had fled were maintained or rein- actions or use of resources which would 'promote' the
vented: there was no bounded, consensual, authentic, acceptability of homosexuality as a 'pretended family
ahistorical culture. Theoretical developments in cultural relationship'. This new meaning of 'promoting' and its
studies, and in post-structural and feminist anthropo- associated cluster of terms, made authoritative through
logy, have led us to understand that 'cultures' are not, state legislation, had material effects: negative stereo-
nor ever were, naturally bounded entities. types were endorsed, and local authorities became timid
The fracturing of social anthropology's central con- about spending on services or issues for gay people
ceit has sent us back to look again at colonialism. Ort- which might possibly be interpreted as coming under
ner (1984) questioned the original image of colonial the legislation in a test case. Reinhold (1993: 471-2)
power and 'the juggernaut of capitalism' impacting on, points to similarities between the contest over positive
and inserting themselves into, an indigenous 'local cul- images and other campaigns against minorities during
ture'. She and others have been critical of the way both the Thatcher government. Right wing Conservatives
colonialism and 'local culture' appear as unitary entities used the authority of parliament to project negative
in this image (Asad 1993: 5). What better choice of a meanings of key terms and symbols concerning ethnic
site to challenge this image than the kind of location in minorities, miners and other categories which they mar-
which the old concept of 'culture' was founded: a ginalized, excluded from their dominant notion of 'Brit-
remote island mid way across the Pacific Ocean? Merry ishness' and demonized as a danger to order and sub-
(1997) studied 18th and 19th century Hawaii, and versive to the state.
found a dizzying array of people from Norway to China Three stages in these contested processes of meaning
were present in what she calls not a 'local community' making can be identified in the above examples. The
but a 'contact zone'. In an unbounded site, this medley first is overt attempts by identified agents to redefine
of people drew on the practices of their various places key symbols which give a particular view of the world,
of origin, in the light of their current interests, to work
of how people should be and behave and what should
out how to organize labour, trade and social relations. be seen as the 'reality' of their society and history: in
Contests took place between people in asymmetrical re- short, an ideology. A second stage is when such a view
lations of power, over their multiple and contradictory of the world becomes institutionalized and works
cultural logics. Each actor endeavoured to manoeuvre, through non-agentive power. Foucault has documented
in unpredictable political and economic situations, to how knowledge about mental health, sexuality and
define or seize control of symbols and practices. Sym- criminality in the 18th and 19th centuries became the
bols and ideas never acquired a closed or entirely basis of new practices on which institutions were built.
coherent set of meanings: they were polyvalent, fluid These institutional practices shaped perceptions, ca-
and hybridized. Key terms shifted in meaning at differ-tegories, values and behaviour.
ent historical times. When a coalition of actors gained A third stage is when a key term which carries a new
ascendancy at a particular historical moment, they in- way of thinking about one aspect of life enters other
stitutionalized their meaning of key terms in law. domains (outside the activities of the state) and
Merry's is a good example of the new idea of culture becomes a diffused and prevalent way of thinking in
as a contested process of meaning-making. The contest everyday life. For example, Emily Martin (1994) found
is over the meaning of key terms and concepts. How that 'flexible' first became a key term when people re-
are these concepts used and contested by differently po- acted to the AIDS/HIV virus by rethinking the immune
sitioned actors who draw on local, national and global system and the defence responses of the body. Surpris-
links in unequal relations of power? How is the contest ingly, 'flexible' and images of the immune system
framed by implicit practices and rules - or do actors quickly entered the domain of employment to describe
challenge, stretch or reinterpret them as part of the the
attributes of post-Fordist, self-managed, self-im-
test too? In a flow of events, who has the power to proving and team-forming workers and companies.
define? How do they prevent other ways of thinking Within a short time, extreme versions of these flexible
about these concepts from being heard? How do they attributes, which had been symptoms of a mental ill-
manage to make their meanings stick, and use institu- ness, were reinterpreted positively as employment skills
tions to make their meanings authoritative? With what (Martin 1997). 'Flexible' moved quickly across three
material outcomes? different areas of U.S. life - immunology, employment
Sue Reinhold (1993) poses these questions in order and mental health - and become a prevalent image of a
to reveal in detail the process of ideological struggle in new kind of self.
1980s Britain. The contest was over the power to define At its most secure, an ideology appears hegemonic.
the state' s attitude to homosexuality in Britain and That is, it becomes so naturalized, taken for granted and
make authoritative that definition through legislation. In 'true' that alternatives are beyond the limits of the
the context of an atmosphere of homophobia and physi- thinkable. As Comaroff and Comaroff (1992) suggest,
cal 'queer-bashing' attacks in London, a group in Har- in its hegemonic dimension, culture appears coherent,
ingey campaigned for 'positive images' to counter the systematic and consensual. It tries to look like an ob-

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY Vol 14 No 1, February 1998 9

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ject, a thing beyond human agency, not ideological at into an essentialist concept to reassert boundaries: the
all: in short, like the old idea of authentic culture. As distinctiveness of Englishness must be defended.
mentioned above, anthropologists themselves had pre- As Gilroy (1987: 60) pointed out, the New Right
viously mistaken hegemonic ideologies for authentic defined 'Englishness', as the hegemonic core of British-
culture and in the process, endorsed those in the com- ness, through culture. They agreed with the anthropo-
munity with the ascendant power to define the charac- logical idea that nations and cultures are historically
teristics of their 'culture' and project it as timeless and constituted, not biologically or ontologically given.
objective. However, they used this idea not to erode but to rein-
No ideology, however hegemonic and entrenched in force exclusiveness. National identity was defined as a
institutions and in everyday life, is beyond contest; feeling of loyalty to persons of one's own kind (Seidel
'culture' is a dynamic concept, always negotiable and 1987: 50 quoting Casey). One's own kind, or 'we' was
in process of endorsement, contestation and transforma- defined as those for whom a list of 'English' activities
tion. Differently positioned actors, with unpredictable had pleasant associations or aroused enthusiasm. A
inventiveness, draw on, re-work and stretch in new di- quote from T.S. Eliot is used frequently:
rections the accumulated meanings of 'culture' - in- [Culture] includes all the characteristic activities and inter-
ests of a people: Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the
1. I thank the Royal cluding old and new academic ones. In a process of
twelfth of August, a cup final, the dog races, the pin table,
Anthropological Institute for claiming power and authority, all are trying to assert
the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boiled cabbage cut
sponsoring my President's
different definitions which will have different material into sections, beetroot in vinegar, nineteenth-century Go-
Day programme of speakers
on the 'Politicization of outcomes. In sum the characteristics of new ideas of thic churches and the music of Elgar (Eliot 1948:31 quoted
"Culture" ' and the culture are: in Williams 1958: 230 and Casey 1982).
initiative, led by the
'culture is an active process of meaning making and The problem with such a list is not just, as Williams
Vice-President, Delphine
contestation over definition, including of itself' (Street observes (1958: 229-30), that Eliot is purporting to
Houlton, to try and improve
1993: 2) adopt from anthropology the notion of culture as 'a
the coverage of
anthropology in the media. I people, differently positioned in social relations and
whole way of life' yet is only concerned with 'sport,
am grateful to Jane Cowan, processes of domination, use economic and institutional
resources available to them to try and make their defini-
food, and a little art' - characteristic of 'English
Nancy Lindisfarne and Cris
Shore for very constructive tion of a situation 'stick', to prevent others' definitions leisure'. More to the point, these customs and practices
comments on an earlier draft from being heard, and to gamer the material outcome are presented as expressions of homogeneous nation-
of this paper. sites are not bounded - people draw on local, national,
2. I will not try to
ality (Gilroy 1987: 69) whereas, as Seidel points out,
global links
summanze all the debates of this list is decidedly white and Christian and frequently
the way clusters of concepts form is historically spe-
the 1970s in American,
cific, and ideas never form a closed or coherent whole gender and class specific. Tebbit, the former Conserva-
British and French
anthropology about where in its hegemonic form, culture appears coherent, syste- tive party chairman, turned pleasure at the sound of
'culture' resided - in a matic, consensual, like an object, beyond human leather on willow into a test of national allegiance when
structure of actual social agency, not ideological - like the old idea of culture.
he asked, which side would Afro-Caribbeans applaud
relations (Radcliffe-Brown),
in an underlying set of when the West Indies was touring Britain? The Tebbit
Cultural racism
values, ideas and principles Test threatened to make sentiments of attachment into
which informed all domains In British politics, this new view of 'culture' has itself
instruments of policy. Hall discerned a danger that the
of social, economic and been appropriated and redefined by the New Right. Led
political organization answer to a question of identity would be used as a
(Evans-Pritchard), in a
by Margaret Thatcher, the New Right represented an
basis for conferring or withholding rights of citizenship.
superorganic pattern of alliance between liberal economic and conservative pol-
He was scathing at the idea of allegiance to the va-
forces abstracted from
itical theories (King 1987). In economic affairs the state
observed events and garies of English batting form being the price for draw-
behaviour (Kroeber), in a should promote private enterprise and encourage - even
ing family allowance:
plane of systems of cultural invent - markets. In political affairs the authority of the
It should not be necessary to look, walk, feel, think, speak
symbols (Schneider), in the
'age-old' institutions of the central state should be up- exactly like a paid-up member of the buttoned-up, stiff-
processes of the human
mind that produce formally held, supported by 'traditional' values in education and upper-lipped, fully corsetted 'free-born Englishman' cultu-
similar symbolic systems family life. In a study of the Salisbury Review, a prin- rally to be accorded either the informal courtesy and re-
(Levi-Strauss), in the minds spect of civilized social intercourse or the rights of entitle-
cipal journal of the New Right, Seidel (1985: 107) ar-
of individuals, as an ment and citizenship (Hall 1993: 358).
ethnographic algorithm of gues that the New Right appropriated one of the found-
To the New Right, England stands or falls on the
what they need to know to ing inspirations of cultural studies, Gramsci's ideas of
operate as members of a hegemony of a particular culture. Margaret Thatcher fa-
hegemony. That is, (as set out above), ideology
society (Goodenough) or as mously expressed a sense of threat of being 'swamped'
interworked systems of becomes hegemonic not only through the institutions of
by alien cultures that would dilute this exclusive ver-
construable signs through the state but by being diffused through all areas of
which public symbolic sion of Englishness. However, never could members of
everyday life. To unsettle and replace the dominant ide-
action can be interpreted ethnic minorities be so attached to sentiments and
(Geertz). There are ology since the Second World War, the New Right
values of Englishness that the New Right would accord
numerous such summaries,
realized that they had not just to be active in politics,
e.g. Keesing 1974. them the right to participate in their definition and de-
3. In contrast to the usual but to make interventions in 'culture'. They consciously
velopment. When some British Asians acted in terms of
delineation of a shift in engaged in the manipulation of words, especially the
one of the professed core values of Englishness - toler-
anthropology from structure
process of renaming and redefining key concepts. In
to meaning, by focusing on ance and respect for different points of view - by prop-
Asad's article I am giving particular the New Right focused on appropriating and
osing changes to the blasphemy laws during the Rush-
significance to a shift from reformulating the meanings of one semantic cluster -
'essential meanings' to
die Affair, they soon found that their rights did not ex-
'difference', 'nation', 'race', 'culture"' 4 tend to shaping those core values. John Patten, the Min-
4. Other semantic clusters New Right authors seem to agree with the idea that
ister of State at the Home Office, published an open
were similarly reformed e.g. the world can no longer be seen as a mosaic of discrete
letter through the press to British Muslims 'On Being
'individual', 'freedom',
cultures, and that migration and diaspora have gener-
,choice', 'citizenship', British'. In a tone Asad finds reminiscent of colonial
'consumer' and previous ated populations with multifaceted differences. They
administrators addressing alien populations under their
associations with 'society', appropriated the anti-racist language about the need to
'public' and 'collective' protection, Patten set out the essential components of
respect cultural difference. This did not mean that they
were diminished (Shore and Englishness at the core of British identity which he said
Wnght 1997: 20). rejoiced in cross-cutting differences and fluid identities,
they should learn. Apart from faith and family which he
5. Claude Levi-Strauss or celebrated the creativity inspired by such hybridity,
was an honorary member of considers they already share, these are fluent English,
as Hall enjoined ( 1993). Instead, they inverted this
the World Commission on understanding of the democratic processes, laws and
Culture and Development. meaning of 'difference'. They opposed the dilution of
system of government in Britain and the history that
He and Marshall Sahlins
separateness which Hall relished, and turned difference
wrote papers on which the lies behind them - knowledge which few white Brit-

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first chapters of the report
were based The Mexican
ishers could confidently claim to possess (Asad 1993: tioners has increased in the 1990s as managers have
anthropologist, Lourdes 242). Others add to such core values of Englishness a called on researchers and consultants to provide 'train-
Arizpe, was designated by
canon of literature and respect for authority. ing' to change organizations. It is not unusual for an-
Director-General for Culture This reformulation of nation in terms of culture thropologists researching organizations to find man-
to supervise the work of rather than race was part of the New Right's attempt in agers asking them for references to publications which
secretariat for the
the 1980s and 1990s to redefine racism out of exist- would extend their repertoire of metaphors to manage
commission, until herself
being appointed Assistant ence. Like Enoch Powell before them, the New Right by (Martin 1994) and staff referring to anthropological
Director-General for professed a revulsion for racism. They ridiculed the ideas acquired through training courses.
Culture. Many
idea that the mosaic of human groups formed a fixed Companies are using both old and new ideas of 'cul-
anthropologists were invited
to give papers at meetings of hierarchy based on grades of biological inferiority. By ture' as tools of management. Some managements em-
the Commission, and some redefining race as a feeling of loyalty to people 'of phasize that the company is a clearly demarcated entity,
to prepare papers to
influence particular chapters,
one's own kind', they claimed race to be a moral and with a boundary against its environment, containing
such as Deniz Kandiyoti's noble idea. To defend one's 'culture' from attack from specified groups of people, organized hierarchically,
paper on gender and
people not 'of one's own kind' was legitimate self each with a checklist of the behaviours which constitute
6. I thank Thomas Hylland
defence. In a neat inversion or denial of power relations company culture. For example, McDonalds marks out
Eriksen for this point and (a form of blaming the victim), writers in the Salisbury its space and identity with the golden arches logo and
for a very helpful discussion
Review accused people who sought equality for ethnic standardized decor and food containers. The core be-
of the UNESCO report.
7 Maybe, given that the minorities of provoking racism by attacking whites. liefs of the company culture - Quality, Service, Con-
United Nations is a body of State institutions and 'traditional' values, for example venience and Value - are drummed into managers at
nation-states, to emphasize
in education, were at the core of the 'culture' which Hamburger University to bond the far-flung franchisees
contestation within state
borders would have been was to be defended. Those multiculturalists and anti- together (Deal and Kennedy 1982:193). Counter staff
inadmissible. The racists who sought to change the workings of state in- have to follow a checklist of standardized behaviours in
Commission did however
stitutions or laws in the interests of treating all citizens performing each task - right down to when to make eye
include a very expenenced
ethnic politician, Ole-Henrik more equally, did not recognize the distinction that contact and at what points to smile at a customer during
Magga, President of the Tebbit reiterated at the 1997 Conservative party con- a transaction. In this example, the old idea of 'culture'
Sami Parliament in Norway.
ference, between nationality defined by culture and by as a bounded entity with a fixed identity and checklist

Asad, Talal (ed ) 1973.

political rights: between 'the English' and 'foreigners of characteristics is deployed in a centralized system of
Anthropology and the holding British passports' (Independent 8 October command and control.
Colonial Encounter.
1997). Multiculturalism, Tebbit claimed, was divisive In other industries, managers are using new ideas of
London. Ithaca P.
-1979. Anthropology and (ib.). To writers in the Salisbury Review, anti-racists 'culture' as an image for new forms of organizing. This
the analysis of ideology. were also subversive, attacking 'our' institutions and is especially in industries where products are designed,
Man 14: 607-27.
values and threatening the order of 'our' nation. As Sei- manufactured, distributed and marketed all in different
-1993. 'Multiculturalism
and British identity in the del points out, the use of 'we' and 'our' as a definer of countries. To stay competitive, products are continually
wake of the Rushdie Affair' nation drives a clear white wedge between black and redeveloped, and the sites of production, the em-
in Genealogies of Religion.
anti-racist people, and the rest of the community (1985: ployees, and relations between them are forever chang-
Baltimore: John Hopkins
UP. 115). Writers in the Salisbury Review adamantly denied ing. Harvey describes companies 'whose material
Bateson, G. 1972. Steps to racism, yet their framing of nationalism in terms of 'our presence might be no more than a box of contracts, the
an Ecology of Mind. New
culture' cued a choice of policy recommendations for enumeration of those people who belong, temporarily
York: Chandler Publishing
Co. ethnic minorities - complete assimilation, retrospective and for the duration of a particular service, to the net-
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. guest worker status, or removal by repatriation - which work which generates wealth and power for another
Language and Symbolic
Power. Cambridge: Polity P.
were in implication and effect racist. equally disparate and dispersed group of investors'
Calas, M. B. and In summary, the New Right appropriated the new (1996: 6). Where is 'the organization'? No longer does
Smircich, L. 1992. 'Using an architectural monument symbolize the company or
ideas of 'culture' from cultural studies, anti-racism and
the 'F' word: feminist
theories and the social to a lesser extent social anthropology, and engaged in a contain the workforce. Work is organized through
consequences of process of contesting and shifting the meanings of 'cul- teams or alliances, operating across boundaries and
organizational research' in
ture', 'nation', 'race' and 'difference'. They mobilized rapidly reforming in new circumstances. Such com-
Mills, A. J. and Tancred, P
(eds) Gendering 'culture' to reinforce exclusion, using it as a euphem- panies look for staff who are prepared continually to
Organizational Analysis. ism for renewed racism, with profound implications for 're-skill' themselves, engage in 'personal reinvention'
London- Sage.
public policy and people's lives (Kahn 1995: 6). to cope with risks and new situations, and acquire a
Casey, J. 1982. One
nation: the politics of 'portfolio' of experiences and contacts to help them
race. Salisbury Review 1 Corporate culture 'hop' from job to job (euphemisms for workers on
(Autumn): 23-8.
In the early 1980s, 'culture' became a buzz word in short-term contracts with no job security or career
Cohen, Abner (ed.) 1974.
Urban Ethnicity. ASA management studies. Deal and Kennedy (1982) dis- structure, who have periodically to retrain at their own
Monograph 12, London: covered 'corporate culture' and Peters and Waterman expense and are handling high stress levels). In order to
Comaroff, John and Jean.
(1986) claimed that excellent companies were those harness workers' knowledge, managers want staff to
1992. Ethnography and the that had a 'strong' culture. Soon a corporate culture, feel empowered to participate in mixed teams of man-
Historical Imagination.
often equated with a mission statement, had become the agers and workers and to put forward new ideas for
Boulder: Westview P.
Deal, T. and Kennedy, A. sine qua non of any serious organization. This literature products or ways of organizing.
1982. Corporate Cultures. attributed the culture concept to anthropology: Geertz In this context, the idea of differently positioned ac-
The Rites and Rituals of
(1973), Turner (1974), Bateson (1972) and Douglas tors being active participants in a process of meaning-
Corporate Life.
Harmondsworth: Penguin. (1987) were the most frequently quoted. Both re- making - a version of the new idea of 'culture' - is
Douglas, Mary 1987. How searchers in organizational studies and practising man- attractive to managers. The image is associated with
Institutions Think. London-
agers looked to anthropological ideas of 'culture' for a rhetoric about empowerment. Workers and managers
Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Eliot, T. 5. 1948. Notes metaphor for new forms of organizing in the 'post are 'trained' to make decisions in teams taking every-
Towards the Definition of modern' political economy. There has always been a one's perspective into account. Their attention is also
Culture. London: Faber
close relationship between academic research on organ- 'trained' on this highly visible, apparently transparent
Eriksen, Thomas Hylland.
1997. 'Our Creative izations and the thinking of practising managers, such decision making, as if power were dispersed and the
Diversity' paper to that organization researchers have played a central role organization decentred. Martin' s work in the United
conference on 'Culture and
Rights' Sussex University,
in 'making' organizations (Calas and Smircich 1992: States (1994) and my work (Wright 1991) and students'
15-16 July. 223). This interchange between academics and practi- dissertations in the UK indicate that workers are often

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY Vol 14 No 1, February 1998 11

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GDAT 1996 'Cultural
StuLdies will be the death of
ambivalent, experiencing empowerment in some re- tion has', rather than 'something an organization is'
anthropology' Manchester- spects, yet perceiving the gap between corporate (1983: 347). To advance this view, she describes
Group for Debates in
rhetoric and the frequent reorganizations, 'shakeouts', Geertz's approach which, she accurately concludes, en-
Anthropological Theory
Geertz, Clifford 1973. 'de-layering' and re-locations, imposed from the top ables organizational analysts to problematize the con-
The Interpretation of down. Just as the rhetoric of 'organization as culture' cept of organization 'for the researcher seeks to
Cuiltures. New York- Basic
highlights participation and empowerment, yet workers examine the basic processes by which groups of people
Gilroy, Paul. 1987. There see another material reality in the shadows, so Harvey come to share interpretations and meanings for experi-
Ain't No Black in the Union noticed that at the Expo'92 corporations highlighted ence that allow the possibility of organized activity'
Jack. London- Hutchinson.
certain aspects of their 'culture' for the consumer, yet (1983: 351). At this point, there is a sliding from new
Gough, Kathleen. 1968.
'New proposals for other aspects were obscured. Corporations used new to old ideas of culture. She claims Geertz's focus has
anthropologists' Current technologies to display transparently and reflexively much in common with organizational leaders', as both
Anthropology 9 403-7
Hall, Stuart 1993.
how 'culture' was constructed through multiple per- are concerned with 'how to create and maintain a sense
'Culture, community, spectives, connectedness and networking. What they of organization, and how to achieve common interpreta-
nation' Cultural Studies 7: tions of situations so that coordinated action is possible
excluded from the representation of this world, where
Harvey, Penelope. 1996 according to Fujitsu 'the only frontiers are in your ... leadership can best be understood as the management
Hybrids of Modernity. mind' (Harvey 1996:111), was the organization of rela- of meaning and the shaping of interpretations' (ib.).
London- Routledge
tions of production. Similarly, the use of 'culture' in Geertz has been appropriated as a tool of management
The Independent 1997
Tebbit questions the organizational management has a partial effect: it en- and his idea of 'culture' which had some of the ele-
loyalties of 'two-nation' courages reflexive analysis of the supposedly empower- ments of contestation and process developed by the
immigrants 8 October
ing relations between workers, but does not analyse new ideas of 'culture', has been converted into the old
Kahn, Joel S 1995
Culture, Multiculture, how these relations are situated within an international idea of 'culture' as an entity to be acted on from above.
Postculture London Sage. organization of capital and power. Where ideas of 'culture' are being used to manage self-
Keesing, Roger. 1974
This relationship between the highlighted foreground motivated, flexibly-networking and team-forming staff
Theones of culture. Annual
Review of Anthropology 3- of localized participation and empowerment and the through ideas of empowerment, it is even more import-
73-97 not-completely-obscured political and economic back- ant that analysts should not, as organizational studies
King, Desmond. 1987.
ground, is echoed in the management literature. Even have tended to do in the past, take a manager's perspec-
The New Right: Politics,
Markets and Citizenship. among those writers who most avidly espouse 'organiz- tive on workers as the objects of study (Wright 1994).
London: Macmillan.
ation as culture' (e.g. Schein 1991, Smircich 1985) The focus should be on how managers are deploying
Kroeber, A. L. and
Kluckhohn, Clyde. 1952. there is a sliding of definitions, from the new idea of both old and new ideas of 'culture' in order to gain
Culture A Critical Review 'culture' as a continuous process of meaning making workers' active participation in new ways of organizing
of Concepts and Definitions
into the old idea of 'culture' as a 'thing' which man- production, profit and power.
Cambridge, MA. Papers of
the Peabody Museum agers could define from above and act upon in a system
XLVII: 1. of command and control. I will examine how Geertz, Culture and development
L6vi-Strauss, Claude. 1973
the anthropologist most quoted in organizational In my third case, 'culture' is entering a new domain,
[in English 1997]. 'Race and
history' in Structural studies, is used in this literature in order to indicate overseas development, with the help of anthropologists.
Anthropology II London how this elision occurs and what are its effects. Two examples are used, which both refer to old ideas
Allen Lane
One phrase from Geertz is used above all in organiz- of 'culture'. In the first example, an international
Macdonald, Sharon (ed)
1993. Inside European ation studies and by training consultants: agency, UNESCO, in its vision of a new ethical world
Identities. Oxford. Berg man [sic] is an animal suspended in webs of significance order, maps out a world made of 'cultures' as discrete
Martin, Emily 1994. he himself has spun. I take culture to be those webs (1973:
Flexible Bodies Boston
entities, without engaging with the issue of contestation
Beacon P. over the power to define. In contrast, in the second
-1997. 'Managing
Geertz used the above phrase in an article about a
example Kayapo leaders have used ethnographic film to
Americans policy and sheep raid in Morocco. His aim was to interpret the
changes in the meanings of assert their own definition of their 'culture' and used
different constructions that the actors - a Jewish mer-
work and the self' in Shore, the strategies others have used against them to chal-
Cris and Wright, Susan (eds)
chant, Berber tribesmen and a French colonialist -
lenge the processes that have marginalized them.
Anthropology of Policy placed on a sequence of events. Each sought to make
London: Rouledge. UNESCO's (1995) report Our Creative Diversity
their interpretation of events definitive as they 'tripped
Merry, Sally Engle. 1997 marks the culmination of the UN decade for culture and
Law, culture and cultural over' one another's purposes: pursuing trade, defending
development. This was an opportunity for anthropolog-
appropriation Yale Journal honour and establishing dominance. The three actors
of Law and the Humanities ists to have an overt influence on the use of the concept
were in unequal relations of power and had different
(forthcoming) 'culture' and several world famous anthropologists con-
Moore, Rachel 1994. personal abilities to impose their meanings on events.
'Marketing alterity' in
tributed to its definition.5 The report argues for two de-
Geertz makes clear that he was studying the interaction
Lucien Taylor (ed ) finitions of 'culture'. First, it takes up the argument
between three ways of making significance from one
Visualizing Theory. London. made by development anthropologists that 'culture' is
Routledge sequence of events. He specifically was not trying to
Morley, David and Chen,
not just one domain of life (like economics, politics,
isolate the elements of 'a culture', nor specify the rela-
Kuan-Hsing. 1996. Stuart religion) but is 'constructive, constitutive and creative'
Hall. Critical Dialogues in
tions between those elements, nor characterize the
of all aspects of life including the economy and devel-
Cultural Studies London: whole as a system organized around core symbols
Routledge. opment. Second, it argues that the world is made up of
(1973: 17). He was not suggesting that all three actors
Ortner, Sherry. 1984 discrete 'cultures' or peoples. The neglect of 'culture'
Theory in anthropology
were caught in the same way in one web.
in the first sense within 'cultures' in the second sense
since the sixties. Geertz used this sequence of events to illustrate how
Comparative Studies In has caused development efforts to fail (1995: 7). Frus-
a merchant and dissident tribes challenged yet suc-
Society and History 26 (1). trated expectations coupled with globalization, and the
1 26-66. cumbed to French dominance at the early stages of co-
collapse of the bipolar world order (1995: 9, 28), it is
Peters, T. and Waterman, lonialism. It is appropriate for organizational re-
R. 1986. In Search of argued, have led to confrontations between narrow
searchers to refer to this article when looking to anthro-
Excellence. Lessons from group identities over scarce resources (1995: 9) which
America's Best-Run pology for new ways of analysing 'organization as cul-
have been manipulated into violence (1995: 16).
Companies. New York- ture' in a period of equally momentous global econ-
Harper and Row. Whereas failed development gives rise to this destruc-
omic and political change. However, in this literature
Pondy, L and Mitroff, I.
tive aspect of cultural identities of 'peoples', successful
1979 'Beyond open system an anthropological focus on contestation and power is
models of organization' in development would result in a flourishing of culture,
absent. For example, Smircich (1983) starts off in lan-
Cummings, L. and Staw, B. creativity and progress.
guage precursive of Street's (1993, quoted above) when
(eds) Research In
she suggests that that 'culture is something an organiza-

12 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY Vol 14 No 1, February 1998

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Kayapo warriors This argument rests on a particular view of cultural diversity in the world should be protected by a code of
perform a war dance to diversity. An introductory quote from Marshall Sahlins global ethics, on which the report thinks the world can
protest at Brazilian defines culture as 'the total and distinctive way of life reach consensus. In setting out the parameters of this
government policies - a
of a people or a society' (1994 quoted in UNESCO global ethical code the undefined voice of the report
still taken during the
filming of The Kayapo,
1995: 21). This old view of 'culture' is supported by a begins to make value judgments. Only 'cultures' that
the Granada Television paper by Levi-Strauss (initially written for UNESCO in have 'tolerant values' (whose idea of tolerance?) would
'Disappearing World' 1952 and revised in 1973),6 from which the title of the
be respected and protected by the global code. Of
film screened in 1987, report is drawn. Levi-Strauss put forward what Eriksen course, 'repulsive? (in whose view?) cultural practices
made by Michael
(1997) calls an archipelago vision of the world as made should be condemned (1995: 54). A reported criticism
Beckham with Terry
up of 'peoples' each with a radically different 'culture' of human rights for fostering an individualism which is
Turner as the
anthropologist - like a string of separate islands (the view contested by alien to non-western values, receives the reply 'Human
available for hire in the Merry, above). In the report, sometimes a 'people' is rights is not unduly individualistic [by whose criteria] -
UK from the RAI Film equated with a country, although it is also said that the it is just an appropriate way to regard all humans as
and Video Lending
world consists of 10,000 distinct societies in 200 states equal' (1995: 41). UNESCO's vision of a code of glo-
Library (ref.
(1995: 16). Unfortunately, according to the report, bal ethics to order a plural world rests on a contradic-
RA/VHS189), and see
review by John people are mixing as never before (1995: 9). Instead, tion between respecting all cultural values, and making
Hemming in A.T., their distinctiveness should be encouraged, as it is by value judgments about acceptable and unacceptable
August 1987. looking across boundaries between distinct cultures that diversity.
people gain ideas for alternative ways of living. The In contrast to UNESCO's top-down grand plan for a
report's recipe for creativity, experimentation, innova- pluralism of bounded cultures, even these old ideas of
tion and the dynamic of progress is a diversity of dis- 'culture' work very differently when their definition is
tinct entities with clear boundaries (1995: 15). Human in the hands of indigenous people. Wagner (1975) ar-
civilization depends on creative diversity. gued that in the very act of fieldwork anthropologists
Levi-Strauss has provided UNESCO with a map of a 'invent' a 'culture' (in the old sense) for a people. An-
flat world. The mosaic of cultures is reminiscent of thropologists plunge into situations which are beyond
1930s social anthropology. It misses the dimension of their interpersonal and practical competence. To cope
'culture' as a process of contestation over the power to with this, they encourage themselves by thinking that
define organizing concepts - including the meaning of they are dealing with a 'thing' and they can learn how
'culture' itself. In the report an unidentified voice does it 'works'. Some people in the host society gain insight
the defining and disguises or disclaims its own power into the anthropologist's perspective - often whilst
as common sense. It is envisaged that in this plural trying to control and domesticate her or him - and for
world, nation-states, rather than trying to create nation- the first time perceive their daily life as a thing that
wide cultural homogeneity, should encourage diverse works in patterned ways. The anthropologist proceeds
ethnic groups within their borders to contribute to a as if what is being studied is 'a culture'. In the process,
civic community with shared values. Similarly, cultural what people had hitherto experienced as an embedded

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY Vol 14 No 1, February 1998 13

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Organizational Behaviour.
way of life becomes objectified and verbalized - in which deflect attention from questions like how is
Greenwich CT: JAI P.
Reinhold, Sue 1993. Wagner's terms, invented - as 'culture'. author-ity constructed, who controls the technology,
Local conflict and Terence Turner provides an example from his field- who holds the camera, who is depicted as active and
ideological struggle:
work among the Kayapo in Brazil. Twenty-five years who as passive and marginal? (Moore, R. 1994). They
'positive images' and
Section 28. Unpublished ago, he found 700 of the 800 members of one group presented themselves as a homogeneous and bounded
D.Phil thesis, U. of Sussex. had died of disease. Missionaries provided medicine in group, 'the Kayapo', so successfully that even the an-
Sahlins, Marshall. 1994.
'A brief cultural history of
exchange for the Kayapo's adopting western clothes, thropologist, who should have noticed the process by
"culture" ', paper prepared building their village along a street, and suppressing which they contested and constructed their communal
for the World Commission
their ceremonials. A state organization controlled their 'authentic voice', does not mention it.
on Culture and
Development, August trade and communication with the outside, and embez- They defined 'culture' for themselves and used it to
Said, Edward. 1978. zled their cash from the nut crop. The Kayapo felt de- set the terms of their relations with the 'outside world'.
pendent and in a situation over which they had no con- In a history spanning forty years, missionaries, govern-
Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Schein, E 1991 'What is trol. ment officials, the Kayapo, anthropologists, interna-
culture9 in P. Frost, L Turner saw his role as an anthropologist as 'uncover- tional agencies and non government agencies had all
Moore, M. Louis, C.
ing the authentic social and cultural system beneath the competed for the power to define a key concept, 'cul-
Lundberg and J. Martin
(eds) Reframing corrosive underlay' (1991: 291). He found his authentic ture'. Missionaries and government agencies initially
Organizational Culture. culture in the surviving social and ceremonial rituals had used the concept to define an entity that could be
London. Sage
which, to him, reproduced Kayapo as social persons in acted upon, producing disempowerment and depend-
Seidel, Gill. 1985.
'Culture, nation and "race" a moral universe. The Kayapo did not see it like that: it ency among the Kayapo. The Kayapo strategy to wrest
in the British and French
was just the way they did things. They did not have a control of this concept from missionaries and govern-
New Right' in Levitas, Ruth
(ed.) The Ideology of the
concept through which to objectify and label their ment officials and turn it against them was part of a
New Right. Oxford. Polity. everyday life as a 'culture'. He argued that they needed struggle not just for identity but for physical, economic
-1987. 'The white
such a concept to deal with their situation: to give them and political survival.
discursive order: the British
New Right's discourse on an identity and distinguish themselves as a 'culture' on Turner shows that 'culture' can be used to very dif-
cultural racism with a par with other indigenous people and vis-ia-vis the ferent effect, depending on who is doing the defining.
particular reference to the
dominant national society in an inter-ethnic state sys- The UNESCO Report, Our Creative Diversity, seems to
Salisbury Review' in Zavala,
Iris, van Dijk, Teun and tem. be seeking the positive outcomes from the autonomous
Diaz-Diocaretz, Miriam Turner says that the Kayapo were visited by many definition of culture evident among the Kayapo. How-
(eds) Approaches to
anthropologists 25 years ago who respectfully sought to ever it neglects to see7 that the flows of creativity that it
Discourse, Poetics and
Psychiatry. Amsterdam: learn and record Kayapo 'culture'. He says that anthro- associates with vigorous 'cultures' is a product of con-
John Benjamins. pologists were innocent of the political implications of tinuous assertion of the power to define in a political
Shore, Cris and Wright,
Susan (eds) 1997
their participant observation. However, the Kayapo process involving local, national and international ac-
Anthropology of Policy. realized that what missionaries and state administrators tors. This political dimension of meaning making, well
Critical Perspectives on
used as justification for subordination and exploitation, understood by Kayapo politicians, is a dynamic which
Governance and Power.
London Routledge. another set of Westerners valued highly. 'Culture', is absent from the UNESCO report.
Smircich, L. 1983 which had seemed an impediment, now appeared as a
'Concepts of culture and
resource to negotiate their co-existence with the domi- Conclusion
organizational analysis'
Administrative Science nant society. I have distinguished between two sets of ideas about
Quarterly 28 (3): 339-58. After a Disappearing World documentary was made, culture in anthropology: an older set of ideas which
-. 1985. 'Is the concept
the Kayapo sought further documentaries so as to reach equates 'a culture' with 'a people' which can be deli-
of culture a paradigm for
understanding organizations the sympathetic elements in the west. When they ar- neated with a boundary and a checklist of charac-
and ourselves?' in Frost, ranged to meet the Brazilian government to oppose the teristics; and new meanings of 'culture', as not a 'thing'
Peter, Moore, Larry, Louis,
Altamira dam, they choreographed themselves for the but a political process of contestation over the power to
Maryl Rees and Lundberg,
Craig (eds) Organizational western media in order to gain support of the western define key concepts, including that of 'culture' itself.
Culture. London: Sage. audience and add pressure on the government. Gone Earlier this century, anthropologists used the old ideas
Stocking, George. 1974.
The Shaping of American
were the shorts, T-shirts and haircuts that had appeased of 'culture', the construction of an objective classifica-
Anthropology, 1883-191]: A the missionaries; with men's bare chests, body orna- tion of people, as a strategy for appearing outside of
Franz Boas Reader New
ment and long ritual dances, the Kayapo performed politics. Now anthropologists who adopt new ideas of
York: Basic Books.
Street, Brian. 1993. their 'culture' as a strategy in their increasingly confi- 'culture' are compelled to recognize that academic de-
'Culture is a verb: dent opposition to the state. finitions of 'culture' are themselves positioned and pol-
anthropological aspects of
The Kayapo were exceptional in the Amazon area in itical and therefore a resource for anthropologists and
language and cultural
process' in Graddol, D., not only obtaining funding for their own video cameras others to use in establishing or challenging processes of
Thompson, L. and Byram, and training for their film crews, but also in surviving domination and marginalization.
M. (eds) Language and
in sufficient numbers and having the economic and 'Culture' in both its old and new senses has been
Culture Clevedon, Avon:
British Association for physical strength to resist their oppression. Turner says introduced into many new domains in the 1980s and
Applied Linguistics in that by the 1990s the Kayapo had obtained videos, 1990s, including cultural racism and multiculturalism,
association with
radios, pharmacies, vehicles, drivers and mechanics, an corporate culture and culture and development. Some-
Multilingual Matters
Turner, Terence. 1991. aeroplane to patrol their land, and even their own times anthropologists have been directly involved, as in
'Representing, resisting, missionaries. Supported by machinery hitherto associ- preparing the UNESCO report or filming the Kayapo.
rethinking' in Stocking,
George (ed.) Colonial
ated with dependency, these now-consummate ethnic Sometimes politicians or managers have appealed to
Situations. Madison, politicians had learnt to objectify their everyday life as 'anthropological ideas of culture' for legitimacy. Either
Wisconsin: U. of Wisconsin 'culture' (in the old sense) and use it as a resource in way, anthropologists are implicated in the politicization
Turner, Victor. 1974. negotiations with government and international agen- of 'culture' .
Dramas, Fields and cies. In the political strategies explored in this paper, ac-
Metaphors. Ithaca, NY:
Kayapo politicians seem to have been fully aware of tors have deployed 'culture' in a number of different
Cornell U. P.
Tylor, Edward B. 1871. the constructedness of 'culture'. They seem to have ways and with different material effects. British New
Primitive Culture. New dealt with contests among themselves over the power to Right politicians have appropriated the new idea of
York: Harper
define. They exploited the way the old idea of 'culture' 'culture', turned it into a euphemism for race, and mo-
UNESCO. 1995 Our
Creative Diversity Report of masks power differentials within groups and they bor- bilized it to reinforce exclusion and marginalization. In
the World Commission on rowed western filmic tropes of realism and authenticity 'corporate culture', old and new ideas of 'culture' have

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Culture and Diversity, Paris
UNESCO Publishing been used as tools of management, often sliding from common sense or 'natural'. This strategy, like the old
Wagner, Roy 1975. The
one to the other, in strategies to harness workers' active anthropological strategy of objectification, tries to mask
Invention of Culture.
Chicago. U. of Chicago P
participation in a process of meaning-making which or erase the politicization of culture.
Williams, Raymond. 1958 managers ultimately reserve the power to define and It is disappointing that the opportunity provided by
Culture and Society,
control. The Kayapo provide an example of indigenous the UNESCO report, for anthropologists to make an
1780-1950 Harmondsworth
Penguin politicians asserting their own definition of 'culture' impact on the political use of 'culture' in ways which
-1976 Keywords and using it to set the terms of their relations with the would benefit the disadvantaged and marginalized, was
London. Fontana
outside world. They were consciously using old ideas not used more effectively. If we aim to influence local,
Wright, Susan 1991.
'Evaluation of the of 'culture' with an appreciation of the politics of its national and international processes by which people
Unemployment Strategy'. construction. The voice of Kayapo politicians, presen- are impoverished and disempowered, it behoves us to
Middlesbrough Cleveland
ting an apparently consensual 'authentic culture' of 'the reflect on our own anthropological analyses of how pol-
County Council.
-1994 'Culture in Kayapo', has succeeded in being heard in national and iticians, policy advisers and decision-makers are deplo-
anthropology and international forums. The UNESCO report aspired for ying old and new ideas of 'culture'. We might learn
organizational studies' in S.
'cultures' in the old sense to have the creativity and from our analyses of the political strategies of others
Wright (ed.) Anthropology
of Organizations London: dynamism of the Kayapo. However, the report did not how to intervene more effectively ourselves in the pol-
confront the central issue in the Kayapo case: that they iticization of 'culture'. In the context of recent laments
-1997 'Culture in
development', paper to
were engaged in a struggle with the state and interna- about anthropology's loss of authority and diminishing
Social Development tional agencies over the power to define. Instead, both relevance to the study of contemporary cultural pro-
Advisers' International
the UNESCO report and the British New Right's cultu- cesses (due in part to the advance of cultural studies,
Network, Overseas
Development ral racism deploy a disembodied voice, 'we', to auth- GDAT 1996), such reflection might also help restore a
Administration, London, 28 orize a top down definition of 'culture' as if it were much needed critical edge to the discipline. DI


i.m. Alfred Gell

Oppose the empty time of waiting

Against a sudden catastrophe.
Egg the giraffe on
To complete a jigsaw
When he comes like someone
Certain he's not drunk
To the homely vicinities
Of the negative giraffe you've dug.

Convince the giraffe he's alone

By communicating a deadly absence.
Use the distance
Between him and his water.
Crazy-pave a lake
So that any descending
Head will be broken.

See the giraffe as uprights

In a world of horizontals.
Employ the poised violence
Of dappled javelins,
Broomsticks, ladders
And tent-poles,
Then pull away the rug.

Get the giraffe to be honest

About what he loves,
Then parody it.
A shower of nets.
A tree of arrows.

Imagine you are a giraffe

And send yourself postcards
Homesick for the veldt,
Filled with wish-you-were-heres.
End with the one about
The man who slipped
Into his bed
And never came out.

Gerard Woodward

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY Vol 14 No 1, February 1998 15

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