Today's world is shaped by an obsession with cultural difference that penetrates everyday life and matters of state in unprecedented ways. Culture and cultural difference are commonly used to explain everything that's in the news - from wars to economic development and consumer behavior. This fuels the belief that our world is shaped by clashing cultures, a view that is counterproductive when it assumes falsely that culture is a timeless container that traps nations and ethnic groups.
Seeing Culture Everywhere challenges the misguided and dangerous global obsession with cultural difference and directly critiques the popular notion that world affairs are determined by essential civilizations with immutable and conflicting cultures. The book offers an alternative view of a world in which cultural mixing, not isolation, is the norm, but where several historical trends have come together at the beginning of the twenty-first century to produce the current wave of "culture think." Brimming with concrete examples that move from genocide in Rwanda to schools in Berlin, from the Chrysler boardroom to the war in Iraq, it contemplates how ethnic identity can be mobilized in the service of all kinds of goals - violent or nonviolent, laudable or despicable - and the unintended effects such mobilization invariably produces. The authors suggest ways to remain sensitive to the cultural impacts of policies and decisions without falling into the traps of determinism, essentialism, and misrepresentation.
Seeing Culture Everywhere will be useful in the fields of anthropology, law, intercultural communication, and international relations, as well as for general readers interested in ethnicity and travel.
Authors & Contributors
Joana Breidenbach , an independent anthropologist, journalist, and social entrepreneur who lives in Berlin, is author of Tanz der Kulturen (The dance of cultures) and coeditor (with Nyiri) of China Inside Out. Pal Nyiri is professor of history from an anthropological perspective at the Free University (VU) of Amsterdam. He is the author of Scenic Spots: Chinese Tourism, the State, and Cultural Authority and Chinese in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Preface and Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Clashing Civilizations 2. Culture: Victim of or Obstacle to Development? 3. Culturalizing Violence 4. The Challenge of Multiculturalism 5. Protecting "Indigenous Culture" 6. The Age of "Cultural Competence" Conclusion: The Ethnographic Approach Notes Bibliography
"An unqualified homerun . . . clear, comprehensive, convincing . . . Seeing Culture Everywhere makes their argument very well, and it should be on anyone's list of potential texts for use in class or cultural research."
Michael A. Lange, Journal of Folklore Research
"The authors of this well-written book . . . for a general audience . . . succeeded without sacrificing analytical rigor. . . . The authors make many intelligent commentaries and their organization of the material is admirable."
Keith Hart, Museum Anthropology Review
"The overview they offer of the difficulties that the postmodern 'cultural turn' triggers are particularly relevant. Equally convincing is their argument in favor of a context-sensitive approach . . . A precious handbook for all those who take an interest in cultural studies."
"Seeing Culture Everywhere is an important corrective to celebratory accounts of multiculturalism and to the anthropologically uninformed discussions so common in political philosophy and elsewhere. . . . We need real understanding and invoking culture as a black box, as a deterministic abstraction only undermines it. On this point, Breidenbach and Nyiri are convincing and helpful."
The Journal of the Review of Politics
"…independent anthropologist Breidenbach and historian Nyiri share a solid grounding in history and anthropology that clearly shows how mixing has long been more the norm than isolation, and that the values of diverse populations often have been and can be constructively reconciled in the interest of the broader well-being of humankind. Now that so many people (finally) agree that culture works, it is good to have a popularly written explication of how it works. Highly recommended."
"One rarely finds scholars who have an overview of the use of culture concepts in all fields. Seeing Culture Everywhere deals with academic and non-academic materials in a balance and to a degree that is a rare achievement."
Ulf Hannerz, Stockholm University
"This delightful book needed to be written, and Breidenbach and Nyíri have done the job admirably. Seeing Culture Everywhere is so much more readable and comprehensive than anything I've seen in the field."