Essay Sample: Examining a Tradition Term from Different Perspectives

Published: 2019-06-13
Essay Sample: Examining a Tradition Term from Different Perspectives
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Culture Anthropology
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1737 words
15 min read

Tradition is a crucial element of anthropology that requires more than one theory to understand. Every society has cultural practices and traditions that define that community. There are several theories that can be used to explain the concept of tradition. Therefore, this paper is going to examine the theoretical perspective of understanding tradition using the two major scholars such as Geertz Clifford's perspective and Foucault Michel's theoretical analysis. Additionally, the paper will also examine some of the cultural practices of the Dinka community such as; wrestling, marriage issues, and the oral traditions to help substantiate the arguments.

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Geertz (1974) explains that culture has nothing related to science and therefore, it should be differentiated from scientific concepts. He claimed that for one to understand the culture, they ought to expound on the meaning. According to Geertz (1974), understanding culture requires one first to identify the different external symbols that society uses to express their beliefs and practices. He claimed that one cannot understand the culture of a given society by concentrating only on the things that are stuck on people's minds. Additionally, he claimed that these beliefs and practices are stored in the minds of people, and they are manifested through the physical actions. What society believes in is reflected in what they practice every day. According to Geertz (1974), societies use the external symbols to express their beliefs, values, norms and code of the society. Geertz explains that these symbols are hidden back in the minds of people and can only be revealed through physical interactions. He refers to these symbols as "vehicles" of culture that carries the cultural beliefs, norms and ethos (Geertz, 1974). In his explanation, understanding a culture of a society requires one to go beyond mere looking at the symbols themselves but understanding what the symbols mean. One has first to understand what the various symbols can do so as to be able to understand the culture. Geertz claims that one has to go in depth and look at the actual role these symbols play in a given culture and what they show that culture.

Geertz (1974) explains, understanding the culture of a given group involves integrating the various cultural symbols that show their meaning. Geertz uses many terminologies in his argument about understanding the culture. He uses the term "thick description" which he argues that society is made of various symbols that are interlinked together (Geertz, 1974). The two cannot be studied as separate subjects because one cannot exist without the other one. Therefore, for one to understand the culture, first he/she must understand the symbols that dictate the behavior of the society. Thick description is looking at something deeply to get the actual meaning that can only be revealed through examining the practices in details. Thick description according to Geertz is how an outsider can use the different symbols to interpret what the native member of the society mean when he/she uses any of the symbols. He uses the two "twitch" and "wink" to explain the different ways of coming up with an interpretation (Geertz, 1974). According to Geertz, twitch is where one uses thin description to understand the culture of a society. On the other hand, wink is where one applies the thick description. He uses two boys to explain the use and distinction between wink and twitch.

Geertz (1974) explains the understanding of the nature of culture and tradition using three different persons from three different regions. He explains that understanding tradition and culture of a particular group is given both subjective and objective approach. Geertz argues that an anthropologist can understand the language of a given group of people by examining the differences between the phonemic and phonetic aspects of the language (Geertz, 1974). Phonemic aspect tries to look at the sounds of the language and their internal role in a sentence. It tries to examine the internal structure of a sentence and its significance in that specific language. On the other hand, phonetic aspect tries to examine the classification of language based on their acoustic characteristics. Geertz uses Heinz Out psychoanalytic perspective of linguistics. He explains this point of view through the explanation of two paradoxical concepts; experience-near and experience-distant. An experience-near is the feature that an anthropologist can use naturally to interpret a certain culture or tradition (Geertz, 1974). These features can be applied by any other person to interpret the same cultural concept either in that group or another. On the other hand, an experience-distant is the specific and unique technique applied by the anthropologist to interpret a given culture and tradition based on the philosophical, scientific and the practical objectives (Geertz, 1974).

He goes ahead to give examples of the two concepts; social stratification and religion issues can be categorized as experience-distant concepts while caste-like in the Hindus' culture and nirvana as in the case of Buddhist are classified as experience-near concepts (Geertz, 1974). Geertz explains that experience-near tries to distinguish the spontaneous and unconscious experiences; on the other hand, experience-distant attempts to establish the nature and reality of ideas. Geertz argues that anthropologists like to use the two concepts without distinguishing the difference between them. However, he establishes that the two concepts are bound together by the realities and ideas they attempt to express. According to Geertz (1974), an anthropologist can understand a given tradition or culture not by pretending to be one of the group but by looking and examining the various forms of linguistic use and institutions.

Michel Foucault is one of the participants in the postmodernist expansion of the critical social theorists' critique of applying empirical-analytic science to the human sciences (Mish'alani, 1988). The stress of Foucault's later work is based on the concept of power in specific local human situations (Mish'alani, 1988). Any body of knowledge in the human sciences that asserts to produce definitions in its area of proficiency is in the present day faced with the observation that empirical description change traditionally and intermittently that they do not reflect general subjects, meanings, structures, realities, or processes (Malina, 1982). Wittgenstein argued that all philosophical problems should be treated as manifestations of tensions between and within intra-and interdisciplinary discursive practices. According to Wittgenstein, philosophical issues ought to be comprehended as tensions between discursive practices, without demands for definitions or essences (Mish'alani, 1988).

Not only did Foucault's work get impacted by such a notion of the historical perspective of descriptions and definition-producing discourse from Wittgenstein, but also the historical and power components of definitions from Nietzsche (Mish'alani, 1988). For Nietzsche, a strategy for access to the dominance of one discourse over others is a borrowings, dominations, shifts, displacements, transpositions, and impositions (Mish'alani, 1988). This spinning, mix of threads in any discourse of knowledge can be patiently unwound in a Critical Approaches to Discourse Analysis across Disciplines analysis that Nietzsche called a genealogy. Sharing Nietzsche's approach, Foucault agreed that for another interpretation or domination, any attempt at analysis must be considered and which must also use the term genealogy. For Foucault, it followed that discourse cannot be analyzed only in the present because the power components and the historical components generate such a tousled knot of shifting meanings and interested participants over given period (Foucault, 1982). Nevertheless, a discourse analysis must be seen at the same time from a genealogical perspective in Nietzsche's sense, a power-analytic in Nietzsche's sense, and another historically situated, tension-analyzing discourse in Wittgenstein's sense. Foucault (1982) argues that power relations in the contemporary world result from some major conceptual changes in social perspectives beginning around the seventeenth century. The development of the physical sciences, the industrial revolution, and the rise of capitalist nation-states occurred at the same period that philosophers were expounding on what is known as the humanist perspective (Mish'alani, 1988).

These documented alterations were accompanied, by a gradual and unrecognized change in the management of people (Foucault, 1982). Together, these re-conceptualizations have altered our modern conceptualization of society power, science and the meaning of human agency. The coming off physical sciences led to our understanding of the physical world from traditional conceptualizations bound by religion and superstition. Concurrently, the appearance of a philosophical perspective called humanism emphasizes equity, the autonomy, and the generation of people (or least to say, a given a group of people described as human beings by those in positions of power). This philosophical was contrasted with the traditional beliefs of persons that practice religious monarchies (Foucault, 1982).

The major documented change in western civilization during this period was the well-known Industrial Revolution and the concurrent increase in capitalist economies (Foucault, 982). The mobilization of big groups of trained employees as a labor resource for capitalist economies became significant for the successful competition among nations. The Continuity of this system requires stable groups of trained people that are reproduced in good numbers. Capitalist economies were intercepted by large-scale migration, disease, widespread famine or long-term warfare (Foucault, 1982). The gradual replenishment of the docile and reliable workforce is hence important to the oncoming nation-state capitalism. Hence, Capitalism needs very minimally trained the workforce for the industrial labor. Persons in the workplace are not as changeable as the feudal economies periods. Advice for the control people bodies, stability, their health, and reproduction of employees became significant to the prosperity of capitalism (De Sardan, 2005). The concepts are known as critical by Foucault to getting to know Western civilization.

Foucault also has another critical change of perception that has played a role in determining what current life is like to those who live in it (Foucault, 1982). Other than analytic science, capitalism, and humanism, he brings evidence for the shift in Critical theories to the Discourse Analysis on the concept of power. Discourse analysis receives its forward motion to define power relationships from Foucault's explanation number of concepts explain Foucault's perception and are crucial to generating knowledge when putting into consideration the discourse analysis. These major conceptualizations are known as power or bio-power (Foucault, 1982). They emphasize the significant role played by biology and the resistance to the body, social science, social agents, and the lexicalization of the social control (Foucault, 1982). These concepts are found at the societal level, where they have come to play a role in ideologies, cultural myths, and several unacknowledged assumptions. These concepts form what is known as the strategy that impacts on the direction to the practices of everyday life, as well as affecting large social goals (Keane, 2003). Foucault (1982) explains this strategy as bio power or power/knowledge. Disciplinary power deals with the production of willingness and able bodies that influence the status quo and power re...

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