David Ewick

Culture and Meaning (kiso enshû II)

Tama campus, autumn, Wednesday, 4:35~6:05


At the center of the seminar will be weekly readings on the nature and content of the concept of “culture” (see the reading list below). We shall begin with a historical overview of the uses (and abuses) of the concept, but by the third week shall remain focused on 1) the ways culture currently is understood in the social sciences and humanities, and 2) the implications of these understandings in contemporary social and political life, particularly in Japan. Seminar meetings ordinarily will be devoted to informal discussion of the texts, but students also will prepare a seminar project and sit for a final examination. The project will be a written report about some aspect of the contemporary cultures of Japan, and will require at least some degree of “fieldwork.” The final examination will aim to insure acquaintance with the central understandings of the texts and the discussions that grew from them.


The aim of the seminar will be to acquaint students with contemporary understandings of culture and cultural change, and to facilitate future work, both academic and otherwise, that will benefit from these understandings.


The minimum requirements are attentive presence at all seminar meetings and timely completion of all assignments. Assuming these basics, the percentages for determining grades will be as follows:

  active participation 30%
  seminar project 40%
  final examination 30%


A weekly reading list will be finalized and provided to students in the third week of the seminar. It will include selections from among the following, all of which will be available on reserve in 11454:

Abu-Lughod, Lila (1991). Writing Against Culture, in Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present, edited by Richard G. Fox. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.

Alexander, Jeffrey C., and Steven Seidman (1990). Culture and Society: Contemporary Debates. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bhabha, Homi K. (1994). The Location of Culture. London: Routledge.

Brumann, Christoph (1999). Writing for Culture: Why a Successful Concept Should not be Discarded. Current Anthropology 40.1, Supplement: 1-27.

Chaney, David (2002). Cultural Change and Everyday Life. New York: Palgrave.

Friedman, Jonathan (1994). Cultural Identity and Global Process. London: Sage.

Hannerz, Ulf (1992). Cultural Complexity: Studies in the Social Organization of Meaning. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lieberson, Stanley (2000). A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions, and Culture Change. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Marcus, George E., and Michael M. J. Fischer (1986). Anthropology and Cultural Critique. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Strauss, Claudia, and Naomi Quinn (1997). A Cognitive Theory of Cultural Meaning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tomasello, Michael (1999). The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

United Nations Development Program (2004). Human Development Report 2004: Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World. New York: United Nations Development Program.

Williams, Raymond (1993). Culture is Ordinary [1958], in Studying Culture, edited by Ann Gray and Jim McGuigan. London: Arnold.

Other brief selections by Matthew Arnold, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Arjun Appadurai, Franz Boas, Pierre Bourdieu, Walter Benjamin, James Clifford, Clifford Geertz, A. L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, Edward Said, and Edward B. Tylor.

Home | Top