Anthropology beyond Culture

By Richard G. Fox; Barbara J. King | Go to book overview

eleven
“Culture” as Stereotype:

Public
Uses in Ecuador

Xavier Andrade

This chapter discusses ways in which public uses of the concept of culture contributed to regional tensions in Ecuador during the last two decades of the twentieth century, with a particular focus on the central place acquired by racialized discourses about masculinity within popular and elite conceptualizations of political power. Considering these discourses as elements selected to represent “culture” for public broadcasting, I discuss how diversely situated actors employed them to serve opposing aims.

I use the concept of culture in two senses. First, at the ethnographic level, culture is an object, a discursive construction formulated by the subjects of ethnography that needs to be documented and deconstructed in relation to their differential access to positions of power. Second, given informants’ reliance on this concept, the analyst needs to retain a restricted use of culture as an adjective—the “cultural”—inasmuch as it serves to describe commonalities among differentially situated social formations as they are defined by concrete actors. Considering emic versions of this notion, as well as its use as a politically motivated descriptive tool, helps in studying the public uses of the concept of culture in different social contexts.

Readers will probably find echoes of some of the other contributions to this volume in my approach to the subject, especially with regard to their call for moving beyond culture as an analytical tool for anthropological theory (see especially the chapters by Hann, Toren, Trouillot, and Wilson). In contrast to their positions, however, I argue that such a concept is not necessarily exhausted by virtue of its

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