Connections: Brain, Mind, and Culture in a Social Anthropology

Connections: Brain, Mind, and Culture in a Social Anthropology

Connections: Brain, Mind, and Culture in a Social Anthropology

Connections: Brain, Mind, and Culture in a Social Anthropology


Have you ever wondered how the internal space of our brain connects with the external space of society? Drawing on hermeneutics and neuroscience Stephen Reyna develops an anthropological theory that explains the relationship between the biological and the cultural.Recent popular interest in the brain is evident, and now social anthropologists are starting to consider connections between science and anthropology. Reyna is an anthropologist prepared to tackle big and difficult questions. This accessibly written book will cause quite a stir in anthropology, and will appeal to those interested in the mysteries of the brain.


This is an epoch when anthropology is seen by many to be largely ethnography. I formally 'took' anthropological theory as a student in Marvin Harris's 'History of Anthropology' course when he was finishing the Rise of Anthropological Theory (1968) and gained from him a conviction that theory counts. Ethnographers-lacking theory and lacking understanding of how to ground theory in observation-resemble infants without language, cute but babbling. However, Harris liked to caution against different abominations of theory construction, and one of his direst admonitions concerned the sin of eclecticism.

Perhaps, he would read the present text and note that it bunks, in a common argumentative bed, the pre-Socratic materialist Empedocles with the idealist Kant; the historical particularist Boas with the conjectural hermeneutist Geertz; the Marxist Louis Althusser with the non-Marxist Wesley Salmon; not to mention a whole gaggle of cognitive neuroscientists who get thrown in. So Harris-on realization that all these different thinkers cavorted in a common bed-might thunder: eclectic orgy!

However, the position is not eclectic. I come from New Hampshire, where you take your Robert Frost seriously, and the old poet once said something to the effect that, 'A poem is something you have seen a thousand times and never seen before.' What you are about to read is no poem. However, its bits and pieces-facts and generalizations-have been around, just as the bits and pieces-words and images-of a poem have been around; but, as in a poem, the bits and pieces have never before been assembled, so you could not have seen them. The present text does some assembling and helps you see something you might not have seen before, how social realities get connected.

Specifically, the text theorizes about how antecedent social events get strung to subsequent ones. Social events that are connected are called 'string being'. What is explained, then, is how the connections that make string being are forged-hence the book's title, Connections. It is theorized that certain structures in the brain, which run on culture, make the connections. These structures are called a 'cultural neurohermeneutic system'. The study of them is 'cultural neurohermeneutics'. Thus, to vastly oversimplify, the book's

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