Research studies

Postmodern Anthropology : individual, subjectivity, meanings, and interpretation


Prepared by the researche :  Dr. Mohamed Ahmed* – ISAM-Tataouine-Tunisia

Democratic Arabic Center

Journal of Social Sciences : Thirty-second Issue – June 2024

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
ISSN 2568-6739
Journal of Social Sciences

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This paper provides a comprehensive introduction to postmodern anthropology (since 1970-s), covering the early history and contemporary state of this discipline. Hence, I hope to bring a clear understanding about the interrelationship between various branches of cultural anthropology in particular, such as : symbolic anthropology, cognitive anthropology, and psychological anthropology. This article aims to clarify the essential tasks have studied by the leading researchers of those anthropological trends

1/Postmodernity and Hermeneutic Tradition :

Those in our discipline who do employ the term postmodernism are generally concerned with issues of ethnographic representation. Hence, the growing discourse on postmodernism enables us to see some of the limitations of our practices and points to new avenues for critical cultural research.

The postmodern is clearly historically (and sometimes oppositionally) to the modern in the modern or the condition of modernity. The process of modernization is understood to be marked by the collapse of feudal and religious social orderings, and socioeconomic differentiation, rationalization and industrialization.

Enlightement era was distinguished by the Kantian tradition (objectivism as the sole  arbiter of the truth), in contrast with the hermeneutic thought when we find inter subjective nature of social life. This counter-tradition insisted that  no knowledge could claim the status of universal truth, because knowledge itself was a product of specific social, historical, and cultural contexts (comprehension and interpretation against logical deductions).

Emerging as an alternative tradition within modernity, the hermeneutic project tried to separate art and culture from the quotidian life of political struggle. Within modernity’s discourses, culture was represented as a unified, holistic realm of meanings. And was part of the bourgeoisie’s ideological quest to consolidate and legitimate its social power. Within modernity, interpretative processes are represented without reference to cultural differences, social inequalities, and conflicts within communities.

Sharing with traditional hermeneutics an idealist comprehension of culture, cultural anthropologist thought that cultures stand as sacred images. They have an integrity and coherence that enables them to be studied as they say, on their own terms, from the native point of view (Rosaldo,R, 1989, p43). So, culture become defined by their internal homogeneity and the characteristics that distinguish them from other cultural wholes (Rosaldo,1989, p202).

Feminist anthropologist (postmodern anthropology) demonstrate that the representation of culture as a unified system of meanings is achieved primarily by excluding the cultural meanings that women and other subordinate groups in society attribute to their own experiences.

A postmodernist perspective go further than explaning styles of self and explore multiple and often contradictory cultural interpellating in the construction of selves, and the provision of cultural resources for identity creation (the cultural construction of identity is a primary anthropological insight (Geertz,C, 1983, p55).

Culture depends upon the discourses that construct it in conflicting, often contradictory ways, according to the interest and values of those discourses as they struggle to legitimize themselves as privileged forms of representation (Collins,J, 1989, xiii).

The project of cultural anthropology effects a cultural critique of Western claims to universality (children, the handicapped, the incarcerated, and those who occupy alternative gender positions need to be included here, as well as more traditional minorities defined by caste, class, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Postmodernism shares with hermeneutic an understanding of culture, but postmodernism is committed to exploring the complex interrelationships between culture and power (Connor,S, 1989:, 224).

Postmodernist shifts our attention to everyday cultural practices, as the locus both of domination and transformation (Ross,A, 1988; vii-xviii). A direction in which cultural anthropology ventured with its “theory of practice” (Bourdieu,P, 1977, 60), given the changing character of the worlds people live in. These developments must be related to a global restructuring of capitalism, and new media, information, and communications technologies.

Mass media communications enable people to participate in communities of others with whom they share neither geographical proximity nor a common history, but a shared access to signs, symbols, images, narratives and other signifying resources with which they construct and convey solidarity, social challenge (subaltern groups use mass media circulated celebrity images to construct alternative gender identities).

2/Postmodernist Anthropology, Subjectivity and Science

The central postmodern project in anthropology is its critique of science and the scientific method. The postmodernist critique of science consists of two interrelated arguments, epistemological and ideological. First, because the subjectivity of the human object, anthropology, according to the epistemological argument cannot be a science, and in any event the subjectivity of the human subject prevents the possibility of science discovering objective truth. Second, and according to the ideological argument, science serves the interests of dominant social groups (males, whites, Westerns), thereby subverting those of oppressed groups (females, ethnics, third-world people).

Postmodernists (like symbolists and interpretivists) stress that the understanding of persons and groups requires an understanding of their meanings. Postmodernists also stress that field work is dialogical: that the anthropologist not only observes the natives but also observed by them, and that anthropological data are not produced by the anthropologist’ action alone, but are produced by the interaction between anthropologist and the natives.

Freud was the inspiration for the founders of the culture and personality movement (Benedict, Mead, Erikson, and Kluckhohn). That inspiration, however, came not from his anthropological but his psychological work (the emergence of psychological anthropology).

If Freud was the grandfather of culture and personality, then Edward Sapir was clearly its father. Sapir emphasized that culture patterns cannot disconnected from those organizations of ideas and feelings which consists the individual. It is worth noting that the first ethnographic investigations to attend the taste of culture and personality is the study of Gladwin and Sarason of Trukese personality (1953), and of course “tristes tropiques” of Claude Lévi-Strauss.

Anthropology cannot (and should not ) aspire to scientific status, because science is in the business of discovering causes, then anthropology can only be in the business of discovering meanings. Postmodernist believe that culture and mind can be understood only by reference to intentions, purposes, desires, and the like.

In the hermeneutic view (Habermas 1971) the scientific concept of cause refers to material conditions alone. Thus, on that view a causal account of culture refers to ecological niches modes of productions, subsistence techniques, and so forth.

Postmodernist agrees that the study of the human world requires very different techniques from those employed for the study of the physical world (techniques not method, and techniques refer to the empirical procedures employed for obtaining or eliciting data such as empathy and verstehen).

3/Explanation or interpretation method in social sciences

The subjectivity of the human object requires that subjective procedures of empathy, insight and verstehen be used not only as techniques but also as methods of inquiry. But if “method” refers to the logical conditions that must be satisfied if data are to be judged relevant for the acceptance or rejection of an explanation or interpretation, then this view is hand to credit.

Virtually all postmodernists dismiss the empirical procedures of the scientific method, when used in the human sciences. In addition to that, many (but not all) of them also reject Western males and used by them to dominate non-Westerns and females.

Anthropology cannot discover objective truths about non-Western human object, because cultures differ one from another, meanings are culturally relative. Furthermore, cultures not only are different but radically different, and their meanings are incommensurate one with another. From this postmodernists argue that the meanings of Western anthropologists are thus incommensurate with those of the non-Western peoples. So, native cultures became opaque to objective understanding.

In opposition to the methaphysical realism of the Western rationalist tradition, postmodernism is committed to methaphysical idealism : methaphysical idealists reject the very notion of an objective reality (this not the case for most postmodernist anthropologists), they reject the notion that such a reality exists independently of human representations.

As Nietzche (to whom postmodernism is profoundly indebted), argued there are not facts, but only interpretations. If, now there are only interpretations, postmodernists argue that objective knowledge is impossible and science is only a particular kind of “story telling”. Moreover, since scientific stories are derived from one or another discourse, the criteria for their assessment, like those for any other story, can only be subjective.

But if science is just another kind of story telling, then scientific theories rest not so much an objective knowledge, science is a form of domination which, in the case of anthropology is evident a kind of power that characterize ethnographic field work.

Postmodernists hold that scientific laboratories are entirely shaped by political agenda and that nothing of any cognitive quality takes place in them. In the same context, Rosaldo criticizes the ethnographic monograph of Evans Pritchard (The Neur), and his putative attempt to deney the connections between power and knowledge, and to bracket the purity of the data. Evans Pritchard asks his readers to set aside the context of colonial domination and view his study as an objective scientific account(Rosaldo,1989, p166).

According to Rosaldo, scientists are motivated not only by the Holy Grail of knowledge, nor only by the political and power motives, but also by ambition and envey, fame, wealth and prestige, and an assortement of other, all too human motives.

Let me stress that non- cognitive motives are never absent from scientific inquiry, and no method, however objective, can eliminate them. Scientific materialists state that in order to gain acceptance by the scientific community, the ideas, interpretations, and findings of the individual scientist must first pass through the crucible of the scientific method. In addition to that, they assist that because interpretations are subjective, ethnographers must employ objective techniques even in the context of discovery.

It is useful to emphasize once again that, although the scientific method is applicable no less in the human than in the physical sciences, this does not entail that the empirical procedures they employ in compliance with that method must be the same, for example, the empirical procedures employed in physics, for achieving such a valid assessment may be inappropriate in anthropology.

4/Postmodern Anthropology and the Issue of Identity: The Construction of Cultural Traditions

The anthropologist Friedman,J(1993; p750) states that the Hawaiians had already become a minority in their own land as a result of the catastrophic mortality rate and the massive import of Asians to work the growing plantation economy. This factor, plus the increasing militarization of the islands, increasing marginalized Hawaiians. Hawaiians struggled to maintain themselves, most often by building walls, this time social walls; by turning their backs to the larger world, which had sponsored by the solidarity of the kin group through the absence of the child from school.

There is an apparent correlation between the decline of Western hegemony, the rise of cultural movements throughout the world system, and the shift of anthropology toward culture, identity, authenticity, hybridization and creolization. There are several variants of the invention of tradition of cultural critique now in vogue in anthropology. The first version appeared with the publication of the “invention of tradition” by Hobsbawn and Rangers(1983). In the introduction to this book, the editors make an absolute distinction between genuine tradition and invented tradition.

Its banner, for many, was the demonstration that the Scottish kilt was a late invention foisted upon the Scots by the English. But in all of this, it is difficult to ascertain what it meant for the participants at the time, and how the Scots perceived the relation between their identity and the kilt. After all, not only kilts, but the entire structure of Western culture is very much a product of the invention of the classical world in the Renaissance. The invention of tradition is an old and perhaps quintessential European tradition (Sahlins,1993). Culture, in this view, is a product continually undergoing transformation (Geertz,1966).

The anthropologist would seem to have attempted to demonstrate that the contemporary constructions of Hawaiian tradition are indeed modern creations suited to the political goals and cultural needs of contemporary elites. In the cultural revival, isolated facts have been transformed into symbols of Hawaiianness and accorded a significance without precedent in aboriginal Hawaiian society (Linnekin, 1983, p243).

Friedman,J (1993, p751), states that many of the modern traditional Hawaiian values are products of the violent transformation of the socio-cultural order that occurred throughout the past century. It might seem reasonable to suppose that these values are not those of aboriginal Hawaii, certainly not in the form they have today, but there is good reason to believe that there is a significant continuity here with the last century.

Tradition is a conscious model of past life ways that people use in the construction of their identity. So, aboriginal Hawaiian society of the late eighteenth century is itself a transformation of earlier Hawaiian socio-cultural organization. No attempt is made to discover the roots of modern tradition in some period than that of first European contact.

5/Postmodern anthropological tendencies

5-a-Postmodernism and The interpretative Anthropology: Symbolic anthropology

Clifford,G informs us the authority of traditional ethnographic writing has crumbled (Geertz,C, 1986a, p2), that a new complex interdisciplinary area is emerging from the crisis in anthropology and that the essays in this volume occupy a new space opened up by the disintegration of man as telos for a whole discipline. After the Vietnam war (1960), a sense of profound transition in the foundations of domestic and international reality, as seen from the American perspective, has in turn been reflected intellectually in a widespread retreat from theoretically centralized and organized fields of knowledge.

All of this, aim to explore ways to evoke and represent diversity in social life…in relation to this trend, is ethnography in anthropology. There was a considerable talk about a return to realism (opposite of rationalism), because in cultural studies at least, we can no longer know the whole truth, or even claim to approach it.

There is a relationship between what I term (Sangren,S, 1992, p282) heterodox and orthodox structures of value in Chinese thought. Sangren also argues that Chinese heterodox (various forms of world-rejecting Buddhism) have played an important historical role in China by incorporating an element of skepticism in self institutions. The postmodern anthropologist Sangren believes that these themes are significant because in both cases they embody a valid striving for power (citing here Pierre Bourdieu’s studies of French education. Bourdieu is particularly attentive to strategies of cultural power).

-Orientalism’text and Cultural Power

It should be note that Orientalism is not only a product of or legitimator for colonial domination. Whatever “authority” is created in a text has its most direct social effect not in the world of political and economic domination of the third world by colonial and neocolonial powers, but in the academic institutions in which its author participates.

An unacknowledged desire for power is also evident in other rhetorical techniques employed by advocates of postmodern or experimental ethnography. When the category “postmodern” itself necessarly creates an “other” (fabrication of mystifying other).

The logic of the production and reproduction of texts is not identical to the logic of social and cultural production and reproduction. One of the shortcomings of postmodern criticism is its ambiguity on this point. In short, the ways in which authority, legitimacy, and power are constructed in texts do not provide an exhaustive model for the ways in which they are constructed in society.

-Realist ethnography and Native’s Point of View

The identification of “realist” ethnography with the claim to represent native experience is unwarranted. Perhaps Margaret Mead and Malinowski claimed to represent native views, but few “realist” ethnographers today would so native. Many of them posit a “modal personality” or “national character” in lieu of real individuals.

Sophisticated anthropology (Geertz) is that which views culture as an assemblage of texts to be interpreted. It is this conflation that leads postmodernist critics to assume that ethnography is and ought to be representation of the experience of the other, even if such representation is impossible. Since they assume that this is what ethnography is and ought to be, they seem to attribute the same assumption to “realist” ethnography.

All the postmodernists seem to take for granted Geertz’s position that the ethnographic endeavor is to communicate (evoke, translate, represent) a native’s point of view. Paradox is then identified by postmodernists when ethnography confronts the impossibility of this endeavor, yet refuse to accept the possibility that an ethnographer’s own point of view could encompass the systemic organization of an exotic society, composed as it is of many “others” points of view.

It may be true that deconstruction and postmodernism have yet to find much institutional acceptance in economics and political science departments, but for those engaged in cultural studies there is little professional risk involved. Culture must be understood by something other than what we Westerners consider science, science itself is viewed as Western ideology unaware of its own ideological nature. The social and cultural are explainable with reference to subjects, individuals, and experience. So, the most important of these is that anthropology is defined as a “humanistic” as opposed to a “scientific” discipline.

Sangren argued that the science/humanities contrast in Western culture, particularly as it is institutionalized in academia, is ideologically mystifying. Because the relationship between science and humanities is hierarchical (within the Western university, science commands a much larger budjet, the humanities are kind of luxury). As consequence, science is considered the domain of the known, the real, whereas the humanities are the domain of the creatively chaotic, experiential, and mysterious. Science is essential, humanities a welcomed escape.

In this anthropological study I hope to bring some clarity to our understanding about the ethnographic method with Clifford Geertz’s idea of “thick description”. The term “thick description” became part of the qualitative researcher’s vocabulary when Geertz borrowed Ryles(Ryles,G, 1971, p66) philosophical term to describe the work of ethnography.The American anthropologist (Geertz) pronounced that ethnographer’s task is that of explaining culture through thick description, which provides a detail knowledge of how people feel, think, imagine and perceive their world.

Geertz (1973) believed that the data of anthropological writing was really our own construction of other people’s constructions of what they and their compatriots are up to (Geertz,C, 1973, p9). Therefore, for  a reader of ethnographic work to gauge for herself or himself the credibility of the author’s interpretations, the context under which these interpretation were made must be richly and thickly described. “Thick description” originated as a qualitative research tool for ethnographers engaged in participant observation research. Following Geertz’s thought, Denzin.N.K highlights the features of “thick description” as follows: It gives the context of an act , it states the intentions and meanings that organize the actions; it traces the evolution and development of the act; it represents the action as a text that can be interpreted(Denzin.N.K1989, p33). Ponterpllo.J.G(2006, p25) uses the metaphor of a tree to explain the interconnection of three concepts: “thick description”, “thick interpretation” and “thick meanings”. The “thick description” constitutes the roots of the tree that nourish and feed, “thick interpretation”, represented by the solid trunk of the tree, which in turn feeds the branches and leaves of the tree, which represent the “thick meaning”. Geertz remarks that anthropology’s task is that of explaining cultures through thick description which specifies many details, social structures, social actions and meanings, and which is contrast to “thin description” which is a factual and superficial account without any interpretation.

According to Geertz (1973) ‘thin description” is not only an insufficient account of an aspect of a culture; it is also a misleading one. Therefore, Geertz(1973) suggests that an ethnographer must present a “thick description” which is composed not only of facts but also of commentary, interpretation and interpretations of those comments and interpretations. He points out: The claim to attention of an ethnographic account does not rest on its author’s ability to capture primitive facts in faraway places and carry them home like a mask or carving, but on the degree to which he is able to clarify what goes in such places, to reduce the puzzlement-what manner of men are these ?(Geertz,C1973, p16).

According to Crawford(1992, p33), in visual ethnographic research environment, Geertz idea of “thick description” can be achieved by images, gestures, or sequences that convey meaning. Thickness is created by the ability of the visual description to transmit what is really being “said”. In ethnographic filmmaking, “thick description” result from what has been recorded and edited. Margaret Mead (1995, p88) remarks that a camera can be used to record thick descriptions of informants and their socio-cultural context through their own voices and activities, based on their understandings of their world, which may not possible with verbal descriptions. According to MacDougall(1998, p25), ethnographic films are effective to convey subjective understanding. He remarks, “the subjective voice in ethnographic film is part of the oinstruction of the subject.

5/-b- Contemporary Psychological Anthropology

In the same context, the American anthropologist Games.A Boo states that a culture can materialize only in counterdistinction to another culture. Furthermore, Boon had focused on the power of symbol to establish cultures that appear intellectually consistent, emotionally compelling, and convincing even as they change (Boon,G1982, xi).

Cultures (as the cases of languages) ought to be interpenetrate symbolically, as they are consisted. Anthropologists from any culture (and they exist in every culture) engage in translating and interpreting the rumors of other cultures. According the point of view of Boon professional anthropologists(and their analog exist in every culture and in every time) specialize in the diverse signs and symbols by which humans communicate according to variant social forms that are differentiated and perpetuated, even as they change.

By the early of the XX century psychological anthropology seemed to wander into a blind alley after a period of rapid development associated with the names of Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, Alfred Kreber. For decades anthropologist suggested many versions to explain the interrelation between culture and psychology, and all these versions were rejected one after another.

Most anthropologist of the late 60-s-early 80-s considered culture as a system of meanings (signs, symbols). The natives, their words, dialogues, actions and interactions are also regarded as meanings. The thoughts people think, the emotions they feel, the emotional states they are in, the things they hold back and mean by making this or that statement were considered a subject of psychology. This approach was obviously limited, hence, the first issue for psychological anthropology is to prove the inextricable interdependence of culture and psychology(Svetlana.v, 2017, p970).

5/c-Discuss of the results of the study

In the noble and ambitious calling of psychological anthropology, a major obstacle has been deciding on defining key terms for identifying and differentiating the collective and the individual, the external and the internal, the social and the mental, variables of behavior. The initial decades of the twentieth century, as we will soon see, learned heavely on the concepts of “culture” and “personality”(Jack.D.E, 2019, p9).

Beginning with culture, anthropologist recognize Edward Tylor as probably the first scholar to give an anthropological definition of culture, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society (Tylor.E, 1958, p1). Concerning term of personality, Barnouw considered personality to be a more or less enduring organization of forces within the individual associated with a complex of fairly consistent attitudes, values, and modes of perception which account, in part, for the individual’s consisting of behavior (Barnouw.v, 1963, p10).

It should be note that, cultural anthropology in its theoretical part would split up into two areas: symbolic anthropology and cognitive anthropology. The former studied culture as a system of meanings with no interest in how these meanings are reflected in the individuals’ minds, thus putting an impermeable barrier between culture and psychology and refusing to consider any of psychological manifestations within the science field of anthropology. Thus, it was assumed that psychology does not show the slightest interest in  anthropological research.

Cognitive anthropology also studied the system of meanings not in the objectified cultural field but in the individual’s mental space. This science had the stronger connection with psychology, or, more precisely, with a cognitive cycle of sub-disciplines within the scope of psychology, these disciplines being the theories of perception, thought, memory. However, until the right time, the study of an individual’s ideas of culture promoted no step forward for the researchers to explain the nature of the phenomenon of culture. It was necessary to somehow integrate the researches of meanings in culture, which are independent of an individual’s activity, and meanings in the mental plane, to find a correlation between them, otherwise, both leading trends in cultural anthropology ran into a blind alley the same way psychological anthropology did. There was a threat for cognitive anthropology to merge with cognitive anthropology, and for symbolic anthropology to turn into semiotic hermeneutics. Once again the researchers were confronted with a question of need of a science to study both the objective cultural meanings and mental meanings, the mental meanings related to objective culture but not cultural meanings as having psychological causes and effects. Here comes the turn of psychological anthropology (Svetlana.V, 2017, p971).

If in 1978 they published a book that seemed to sum up the final results of psychological anthropology development (Spindler, 1978), in 1984 there appears a collection of works which can be considered a forerunner of modern psychological anthropology (Shweder, LeVine,1984). It no longer raises the question of an integrated research of culture and psychology with the same confidence. The task is much more minimalistic. It is in finding of points of cultural and psychological correlation, in establishing certain relationships with accuracy. The collection comprised the works by all leading anthropologist of that period, regardless of their subject area. It is not a collection representing a current research area but a collection initiating the discussion in which some articles aim to disprove the others.

Clifford Geertz, the leading researcher of symbolic anthropology, tries to deney all approaches attributing psychological components to cultural meanings. His opponents are divided into two parties-some of them agree that cultural meanings in themselves do not have psychological components but excite them in an individual; the others believe that cultural meanings have motivational and emotional components. In any case there is a kind of dualism: there is a parallel coexistence of culture and a mental field with their relevant systems. To avoid the confusion in terminology D’Andrade suggests that the former should be termed as symbols. A new objective of psychological anthropology is clear, the objective being the establishment of the relationship between the objectified reality and mental reality.

In 1992 a weighty volume of new directions in psychological anthropology (Schwartz,White,Lutz) was published. In 1994 the handbook of psychological anthropology (Bock,1994) was published. Psychological anthropology is a set of various conceptions with a common research objective which is more implicit than explicit. Thus, psychological anthropology covers a very wide field of research. Moreover, it integrates a number of disciplines that have been considered as autonomous ones. For the first time these editions contain cognitive anthropology, cultural psychology, cross-cultural studies as parts of psychological anthropology.

First of all it was necessary to prove that psychological and cultural phenomena do not lie in completely different planes but have common features. This was stated in the works by Theodore Schwartz, Geoffrey, White, Milford, Spiro, Roy D’Andrade, et al.

The fact that there is no culture, separated by an impenetrable wall from psychology, and there is no psychology, separated by an impenetrable wall from culture is obvious from the point of view of common sense. Yet, common sense is far from being a scientific proof. It was psychological anthropology that had to repeatedly reject the facts that initially seemed obvious. They had to reject them as those which cannot be proved (or even falsified). In the 80-s of the XX century Gustav Jahoda, a psychological anthropologist, wrote: There is a close relationship between psychology and anthropology, and we have something to give each other. Yet, the relationship does not have to call close and warm feelings; the feelings can be distant and cold…The synthesis of anthropology and psychology is hardly needed. In the foreseeable future it is both unrealistic and undesirable. The differences can be instructive and even creative (Jahoda.G, 1981, p266-267).

In the 80-s anthropologist began to look closely at psychology and namely at what is inside the scope of this discipline and whether psychology is wholly hostile towards psychological anthropology. It was not so. Cooperation between anthropologist and psychologist was in progress in the field of cross-cultural research. Yet, the main discovery was the following: the knowledge area of psychology that considered psychology as having both human physiology and culture in its basis, really existed.

There was another alternative for psychological anthropology. It is the so-called cognitivist revolution that has overwhelmed the world since the 70-s.Originally, it did not play into the psychological anthropologists’ hands but rather led to the displacement of psychological field of knowledge from cultural anthropology. According to cognitive sciences culture was meant to be consisting not of patterns of behavior but of information and knowledge encoded in the systems of symbols. The main strength of this cognitivist revolution came from the intellectual wave that accompanied the development of modern computer. The scientific research of the peoples did not seem to be in need of conceptions that take into account such unobservable mental processes as thinking of feeling.

This belief was rigidly connected with the development of computer programs that played chess and solved logic puzzles. If the computer can have a program, why cannot the peoples have it? (D’Andrade,1984, p88).

Nevertheless, the cognitive revolution was a double-edged sword. Among the cognitive sciences there was also cognitive psychology, the development of which has long been associated with the idea of artificial intelligence. However, it took up such issues as perception, thought, and memory. Some authors came to the conclusion that these processes have a specific cultural determination. Cognitive anthropology was in the process of parallel development. As it was noted above, it branched off from psychological anthropology in the 50-s already and sought to study the mental structure of meanings. These two scientific disciplines improved their cooperation quite quickly. It was reasonable for psychological anthropologists to think about the way to express their ideas in the language of cognitive anthropology in order to be understood by cognitive psychologists. Thus, an overlapping area was formed between psychological and cognitive anthropology, and psychological anthropologists started making reference to cultural models and schemas as mental complexes (Sveltana,V ,2017, p974).

This happens when postmodernism in anthropology which, in fact, suggests abandoning scientific traditions in their usual understandings, gets ahead. The need for interdisciplinary cooperation made psychological anthropologists adopt more precise terms, a more rigorous language of scientific statements, i.e. to renounce all influence of postmodernism. Thus, from Theodore Scwartz’s point of view, if psychology turns to be unable to accept the results and assumptions of anthropological knowledge, both psychology and anthropology should be blamed. Although they both raise the question of human nature, there is a mutual alinetion-inter-paradigmatic misunderstanding. The postmodern approach, which is currently widespread, is opposed to the desire to discover the world as it exists for others. It speaks of construal, penetration, culture writing. Anthropology is concerned with the creation of its own reality, “story telling”. It has a keen self-awareness, literary and moral claims. It rejects science as scientism, sees the world as the word, believes in its own intuition and empathic understanding, and becomes irrational. This is not science, this is the contours of the religion of a new age…Our colleagues from other disciplines have no need to take our “story telling” seriously (Scwartz,1992, p324-344).

During the years there was a transformation in cognitive sciences, which led in particular to a rapid development of cognitive anthropology. The subject of its research gradually changes. If originally, in the 60-70-s, cognitive anthropologist analyzed the vocabulary and semantics of the language, considering them to be a key to cognitive organization of knowledge about culture, then in the 80-s the emphasis extended to the study of cognitive process that result in cultural learning, distribution of cultural knowledge, interaction of cultural meanings with the political order, but also of conflict nature of cultural messages, the process by which cultural meanings receive their motivational force (Svetlana,V2017:977).

Then, in the 90-s, the cognitivists turn to the study of the impact of culture on individual subjectivity and behavior, that is get closer to cultural psychology and psychological anthropology. The theorists mainly focus on discource, but not on the vocabulary, cultural schemas, or semantics of the language. The theoretical debates develop around how the collectivity interpreted practice forms the basis for the individuals’ thinking (Holland,1992:68). Cognitive anthropologists focus on how the systems of cultural knowledge are formed by a human’s cognitive mechanisms, how the process of its transmission takes place, how cultural knowledge settles into an organized state so that it corresponds to the abilities and limitations of human mind (D’Andrade,1981, p182).

The data about certain societies are viewed in an intercultural perspective. Variability in cultural knowledge occupies a central position in cognitive anthropological studies of how the difference in individual patterns is organized into cultural systems, and how individual variability gives rise to changes in common cultural systems.

Culture in cognitive anthropology is regarded, on the one hand, as a part of the environment, and, on the other hand, as a mechanism for organizing our knowledge. Through culturally organized knowledge we receive information about the outside world. Cognition, according to Michael Cole, can be described as a system of interaction between our consciousness and the outside world. Symbolic cultural system provides for adaptation to the environment (Simon,1989, p27).

Modern cognitive anthropology establishes the connection between the cultural system of meanings and psychological processes. So, Roy D’Andrade argues that a meaningful system includes an affective compenont as well (D’Andrade,1984, p91). Each symbol causes a lot of affectively bound associations within meaningful systems. D’Andrade concludes that the meanings are in human psychology. Every aspect of meaningful systems requires the involvement of psychological processes, the involvement often being very considerable. Representation is possible only due to the fact that symbols activate the whole set of psychological processes. Representative, constructive, directive and evocative functions are due to a specific organization of human brain, biological and psychological potential of which is stimulated by culturally meaningful systems.

A characteristic feature of psychological anthropology of the last twenty years of the xx century is in integration of conceptual terms of cognitive anthropology. It is the cognitivist approach that helped to overcome anti-psychologism of the symbolic approach while maintaining all the constructive the latter had. The discussion between cognitive anthropology and symbolic anthropology was mainly about the most fundamental issue, the issue being whether cultural systems exist inside or outside human mind. For symbolic anthropology they are outside a human. Cognitive anthropology studies human mind and obviously assumes that culture is concentrated inside a human. Psychological anthropologists, in their turn, were anxious to prove that the internal and external systems of meanings are interrelated. Moreover, this relation is such that it leads to a human’s motivational attitudes and thus provokes human activity(Sveltana,V, 2017, p978).

It is worth to note how the leading psychological anthropologists, closely linked to cognitive anthropology and cultural psychology, stated the main issues of their research.


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