Discusion Sobre Cultural Turn

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Cultural turn


<ul><li><p>A Response to "Beyond the Cultural Turn"Author(s): Patrick BrantlingerSource: The American Historical Review, Vol. 107, No. 5 (Dec., 2002), pp. 1500-1511Published by: American Historical AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3091261Accessed: 19/03/2009 21:02</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.</p><p>Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=aha.</p><p>Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.</p><p>JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with thescholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform thatpromotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.</p><p>American Historical Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to TheAmerican Historical Review.</p><p>http://www.jstor.org</p></li><li><p>Review Essays A Response to Beyond the Cultural Turn </p><p>PATRICK BRANTLINGER </p><p>THE "NEW CULTURAL HISTORY" shares more with two other movements-cultural studies and the new historicism-than some of its practitioners perhaps wish to recognize. Among other items, all three share the difficulties of the culture concept, and all of the contributors to Beyond the Cultural Turn acknowledge these difficulties. Asked by the editors of the New Left Review why he adopted "the term culture, in full consciousness of its accumulated semantic range, to denote a whole way of life-in preference to the term society," Raymond Williams replied that, "for all its difficulties," he felt "culture more conveniently indicates a total human order than society as it had come to be used." But, he added, "you know the number of times I've wished that I had never heard of the damned word. I have become more aware of its difficulties, not less, as I have gone on."' Williams stressed those difficulties in all of his major works, starting with Culture and Society.2 This cultural historian of the concept of culture in British discourse also stressed that culture and other "keywords"-society, history, ideology, art, class, democracy-are sites of ideological struggle. He agreed with V. N. Volosinov that "each word" in any language "is a little arena for the clash and criss-crossing of differently oriented social accents."3 </p><p>In her contribution to Beyond, Sonya Rose says much the same about "symbols": "Distinctions and boundaries... are actively created as people manipulate symbols. Moreover, [symbols] create order not simply because they provide a cognitive map that everyone in a society just follows, but because they are the outcome of struggles over the power to define-of contests, in other words, over symbolic power."4 Williams is cited only a few times in Beyond, but cultural studies-a movement that Williams did as much as anyone to found-gets somewhat more frequent play and, indeed, its fullest consideration in Rose's essay. "The cultural turn," note the editors of Beyond, "and the accompanying collapse of explanatory paradigms, has produced a variety of corollaries. One is the rise of 'cultural studies."' They add </p><p>1 Raymond Williams, Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review (London, 1979), 154. 2 Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, 1780-1950 (New York, 1958); compare Beyond the </p><p>Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture, Victoria E. Bonnell and Lynn Hunt, eds. (Berkeley, Calif., 1999), 39. 3 V. N. Volosinov, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, Ladislav Matejka and I. R. Titunik, trans. (Cambridge, Mass., 1986), 41. 4 Sonya 0. Rose, "Cultural Analysis and Moral Discourses: Episodes, Continuities, and Transfor- mations," in Bonnell and Hunt, Beyond the Cultural Turn, 221. </p><p>1500 </p></li><li><p>A Response to Beyond the Cultural Turn </p><p>that, for cultural studies, "causal explanation takes a back seat, if it has a seat at all, to the demystification and deconstruction of power." But is "power" ever not causal, or a general name for historical effectiveness? Victoria Bonnell and Lynn Hunt also claim that "many critics have pointed to the vagueness of culture, especially within cultural studies."5 But why "especially" in cultural studies? </p><p>It is difficult to know what to make of the editors' comments about cultural studies.6 One reason that they perhaps wish to distance themselves from that movement may be a growing "division between history and cultural studies," such that, as Michael Pickering puts it, there is "now a sort of stand-off between social history and cultural studies." During the 1960s and 1970s, cultural studies had a "historical dimension" that drew on the British Marxist historians for theories and models.7 The importance of E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class to the early formation of cultural studies was perhaps second only to that of Williams's Culture and Society. The British history journals Past and Present and History Workshop have also been major venues for cultural studies, including "people's history." But more recent cultural studies work has abandoned this "historical dimension." Although there are exceptions, writes Pickering, "the 'historical myopia' castigated in [Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson's] Resistance through Rituals has become endemic in forms of cultural studies that have developed in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly as epistemological issues have overridden those concerned with the experience of diverse social groups and different historical periods."8 So perhaps it is understandable that, apart from Rose, the other Beyond historians pay little attention to cultural studies. </p><p>I wonder, however, if the new cultural history has a roomier explanatory "back seat" than cultural studies, or if it is any better at avoiding "the vagueness of culture"? For her part, Rose draws on cultural studies work on "moral panics" over patterns of youth rebellion-for instance, Resistance through Rituals (1976)-to help her understand "why ... women's open expressions of sexuality [are] recurrently linked in public discourse with images of societal moral decay and family breakdown." Noting the limitations of structuralist approaches, Rose finds in the work of Stuart Hall and the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies several preferable theoretical tools. Four main influences on cultural studies-Antonio Gramsci, Mikhail Bakhtin, Michel Foucault, and Pierre Bour- dieu-all provide ways "to understand continuities and transformations in moral discourse that make possible a more historical view of how culture works than do ... structuralist models."9 </p><p>At least Rose seems more willing than the editors of Beyond to view cultural studies as a main source of methods and theories for cultural history. Further, if "causal explanation" in cultural studies "takes a back seat... to the demystification </p><p>5 Victoria E. Bonnell and Lynn Hunt, introduction, Beyond the Cultural Turn, 11-12. 6 So, too, William H. Sewell, Jr., reduces cultural studies to its least interesting instances. Its </p><p>"particular mission," he writes, is "the appreciation of cultural forms disdained by the spokesmen of high culture." Sewell, "The Concept(s) of Culture," in Bonnell and Hunt, Beyond the Cultural Turn, 42. 7 Michael Pickering, History, Experience and Cultural Studies (London, 1997), 1; Patrick Brantlinger, Crusoe's Footprints: Cultural Studies in Britain and America (New York, 1990), 34-67. 8 Pickering, History, Experience and Cultural Studies, 3. </p><p>9 Rose, "Cultural Analysis and Moral Discourses," 227, 228. </p><p>AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW </p><p>1501 </p><p>DECEMBER 2002 </p></li><li><p>Patrick Brantlinger </p><p>and deconstruction of power," that is also the case in cultural history, which upon any definition deals with "contests ... over symbolic power." This is not to say that Bonnell and Hunt do not agree with that proposition. But, rather than to cultural studies, they turn to anthropology (and to some extent, sociology) for support. This preference perhaps expresses the sort of "science envy" that Ronald Grigor Suny notes in his discipline, political science.10 The wish for scientific legitimacy (or certainty) perhaps affects all historical and social science disciplines, including cultural studies but also anthropology. In part, the cultural turn in any discipline entails a weakening or renunciation of that wish. </p><p>As Suny suggests, among the British Marxists such as E. P. Thompson and Raymond Williams, who helped establish cultural studies as in some sense a counter-discipline, the turn to culture was simultaneously a return to "the radical historicism in Marxism."" They rejected the theoretical reductionisms they saw both in mechanistic applications of the base-superstructure paradigm and in Althusserian structuralist Marxism in favor of a renewed sense of the complexities and contingencies of historical processes and of the indeterminate significance of human agency (summed up in the concept of "experience"). And through the 1960s and 1970s, the Gramscian notion of "hegemony" served to denote the attempt, at least, in much cultural studies work, to avoid reductionist (albeit supposedly scientific) patterns of analysis. </p><p>The question of legitimating cultural studies reached a reductio ad absurdum with "the Sokal hoax," which Margaret C. Jacob cites in her contribution to Beyond. Jacob notes that physicist Alan Sokal intended his 1996 article in Social Text to be "a spoof on the fields of science studies and cultural studies where they are indebted to deconstruction and French theory." The Social Text "fracas" dramatized the fact that every step in the development of science studies has "resembled trench warfare."'2 Both older and much more varied in its approaches and topics than science studies, cultural studies perhaps escaped some of the bad publicity generated by the Sokal hoax.13 </p><p>But can appeals to anthropology help legitimate either cultural studies or the new cultural history? For one thing, as Richard Handler points out, the sorts of distinctions the editors of Beyond wish to maintain between society and culture and practice and representation are not supported by "Boasian" anthropology.l4 For another, while nineteenth-century anthropology made culture one of its two central focuses, the other was the physical differences between the races of mankind. Until World War I, many anthropologists believed that race was a causal factor that helped to explain cultural differences. With the rejection of evolutionary and racial </p><p>10 Ronald Grigor Suny, "Back and Beyond: Reversing the Cultural Turn?" AHR 107 (December 2002): 1491. 11 Suny, "Back and Beyond," 1481. </p><p>12 Margaret C. Jacob, "Science Studies after Social Construction: The Turn toward the Comparative and the Global," in Bonnell and Hunt, Beyond the Cultural Turn, 98-99. </p><p>13 Although science studies is sometimes treated as a specialization or subfield within cultural studies (which is apparently how Sokal viewed it), it has its own protocols, practitioners, and venues. One item it shares with both cultural studies and the new cultural history is the assumption that cultural and social factors "construct" all discourses, including scientific ones. In other words, neither scientific methods nor results transcend cultural contexts and the shaping power of history. </p><p>14 Richard Handler, "Cultural Theory in History Today," AHR 107 (December 2002): 1513. </p><p>AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW </p><p>1502 </p><p>DECEMBER 2002 </p></li><li><p>A Response to Beyond the Cultural Turn </p><p>assumptions, modern anthropology grew increasingly relativist even as it turned structuralist. That relativism has reached a climax (abyss?) with the impact of poststructuralism, which has landed anthropology in the same epistemological difficulties as science studies, cultural studies, and the new cultural history. </p><p>For historiography, those difficulties can paradoxically be understood as its undermining (or culturalization) by anthropology. Instead of the latter providing scientific legitimacy to the former, something like the reverse is at work in Marshall Sahlins's claim that historians, in contrast to anthropologists, "devalue the unique event in favor of underlying recurrent structures." Sahlins proceeds: "paradoxically, anthropologists are as often diachronic in outlook as historians nowadays are synchronic. Nor is the issue ... merely about the value of collaboration. The problem now is to explode the concept of history by the anthropological experience of culture."15 Sahlins has in mind Eurocentric historiographic assumptions that posit universal structures "underlying" all cultures and societies. In contrast, at least in its poststructuralist mode, anthropology reveals "diverse," perhaps incommen- surate structures. But such universalizing assumptions the Beyond historians also reject. </p><p>In cultural studies, and first in the work of both Williams and Thompson, the focus on culture as "experience," "community," and "class consciousness" resulted partially from recognizing the inadequacy of the base-superstructure model or economic determinism. By now, there have been so many arguments that super- structural factors influence substructures-or, in other words, that the more or less separate spheres of economics, politics, social structure, and culture interact in complex, overdetermined ways-that the result is perforce a turn or return to culture.16 Rather than a discrete category, level, or sphere, "culture" comes to mean the resultant stew when the various categories are viewed as interacting in complex, reciprocal ways. Not "culture is ordinary," as Williams insisted in a 1958 lecture, and as the cultural studies focus on "everyday life" has continued to insist; instead, culture is everything: there is nothing that is not culture-a totalizing definition that (like other totalizing definitions of society, ideology, or history) excludes nothing and, hence, explains nothing.17 </p><p>So what can the reasonable cultural historian do but enjoy the stew and- Clifford Geertz to the rescue!-add to it by providing a "thick description" of it? As Richard Biernacki suggests, Geertz is helpful but not because "thick description" lends theoretical support to the historian.18 Although that phrase sounds theoret- ical, what it offers is a pragmatic excuse for the anthropologist or the historian to go on doing what she is good at doing...</p></li></ul>