"Elements of Culture"

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The Essential Elements of Culture

Joel Dubois, (c) 2009, 2013-14—for free, fully cited distribution only

VI. Conclusion: Starting Your Own Investigation

As stated at the outset, this overview of the elements of culture is intended as a starting point for your analysis of the historical records of past practices, with an eye to recommending adaptations that could be made to similar contemporary practices. The concepts I have explained are not definitive statements of truth to be accepted and memorized, but rather suggestions for how to approach such analysis. I do urge you to study, remember, and seriously reflect on the points I have made regarding

  • the importance of understanding both "high" and "low" culture;

  • the necessity of integrating archival and extractive views of history and the activities that perpetuate them;

  • the dynamic nature of belief, which may better be spoken of using terms like "awareness," "reflection" and "trust";

  • the subtle distinctions between different types of invisible beings and forces; and

  • the questions and distinctions I stress as key for investigating the details of practice and the social web, the visible elements of culture.

My hope is that you will test these ideas rather than simply accepting them blindly, ideally discussing them with peers and weighing the alternatives. I hope you will consider to what extent the examples of Asian culture that you study throughout the semester are adequately explained by the analytical tools presented in this essay, ideally once again in conversation with others, who may hold different views. And I hope that you will come up with your own ideas and perspectives about culture generally, and Asian cultures in particular. In the long run, finally, I hope that you will develop and sharpen investigative skills that will allow you to find some authentic role as a culture consultant in some future situation.

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