African Medical Pluralism

By William C. Olsen; Carolyn Sargent | Go to book overview

8
Ihahamuka—PTSD in Postgenocidal
Rwanda
Culture, Continuity and Change
in Rwandan Therapeutics

Christopher C. Taylor

IN MUCH RECENT anthropological writing, the concept of culture—once the core concept of the discipline—either receives scant attention or is avoided altogether. The reasons for this are multiple. Many anthropologists criticize the culture concept for being overly totalizing. Not all members of a society, it is said, internalize their putative culture in the same way. Differences in age, gender, class, or ethnicity prevent this from occurring. Secondly, the culture concept has been criticized for being overly deterministic. Not everyone marches to the beat of a single drummer, so how much causal weight need we attribute to culture when we observe wide variations in individual behavior?

Globalization theorists such as Arjun Appadurai join in the anticulturalist chorus. According to them, commodities, ideas, music, sports, and people traverse the planet in a dizzying testament to the human ability to mix, match, and hybridize. It is conscious choice which dictates cultural forms and not the reverse.

As group pasts become increasingly parts of museums, exhibits and collec-
tions, both in national and transnational spectacles, culture becomes less what
Bourdieu would have called a habitus (a tacit realm of reproducible practices
and dispositions) and more an arena for conscious choice, justification and
representation, the latter often to multiple and spatially dislocated audiences.
(Appadurai 1990, 18)

Indeed, it would appear that something of an international haute bourgeoisie has emerged in recent decades and that its members retain very little of the local cultures from their places of origin. Bereft, or perhaps free, of the cultural influences of their natal regions, they fashion themselves by their choices in consumption and self-presentation. But it is legitimate to ask how many people belong to this international haute bourgeoisie and how pervasive is its influence?

-170-

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