Tag: seminar

Kind of Genealogy

My friend Robert asked me to pass over “the materials and bibliography I give to my students”, because he has to renovate his introductory lecture about cultural history. When I pieced it together I realized how subjective it is, how limited: It’s from a German point of view and West-European centered.
I realized (again?) that history is always the history of history writing – a little like wine: Grapes alone are no wine, it’s made in the cellar.
(In the following I link to the english wikipedia only, the specialized literatur I gave to Robert is mostly in German, and who wants to read a foreign Literaturliste on a blog?)

I always begin with Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and give the students the introduction of the Deutsche Mythologie. From here it starts. All their work – and the science they founded from the beginning onwards – is closely connected with the idea of “Nation”, that rules the debate in one way or another throughout the entire 19th century in Central Europe, until today. Of course there are predecessors and sooner or later one has to mention Vico and Herder. A direct scholar of the Mythologie is Mannhardt, whose publications have had some influence. One must have a glance at the historic mainstream of the 19th century to understand the reaction to it. Mainstream means Historismus, historism, and this is inseparable connected with Leopold von Ranke.
Two famous erudites must be mentioned, who come from the side of art history and wrote lasting works: Burckhardt with his Kultur der Renaissance, and Huizinga with his Herbst des Mittelalters.
At the beginning of the 20th century a certain unease with the historical science and its predominant historism lead to new views and trys. In Germany this is connected with the name of Lamprecht, in France it’s Berr. At the same time we see a new science forming, the answer to the modern times is sociology, as history was the answer of the romantics to the changing world. Lamprechts Deutsche Geschichte stands at the beginning of a fierce controversy that only ends with his death and because of WWI. The very sad thing about all this is, that he was one of the few German erudites with international connections, to France, to the UK, to America, who actually started a program of exchange. The war and Lamprechts untimely death put an end to this efforts, its one of the missed chances of the German, even the European Gelehrtenrepublik.
Lamprecht met Berr once at a congress, further contact was not possible. Berr is the founder of the Revue de synthese, and early authors of this magazine were Febvre and Bloch – the founders of Les Annales.
Les Annales and the group around it, the Annales school, started as outsiders and became fully accepted over the course of their history. Its the most important group in the field of social history in 20th century Europe.
This side of the Rhine the Frankfurter Schule started to grow in the 1920s, only to come to an end 1933. They emigrated, some came back after 1945, some not. After Lamprechts death this is the second catastrophe for the German Gelehrtenrepublik, the terrible Herrschaft des Hausknechts, a desaster for the German university. Again international contacts were cut, an exchange took not place, and an appropriate critical acclaim of Les Annales and all other developments in theory and cultural studies was delayed until the late 1960s, when a new generation loudly rised their voice, the generation of 1968 (May 1968 see here).
The major developments as structuralism, post-structuralism and post-modernism, ideas of Foucault, the modern sociology, semotics, the two-cultures-debate etc.etc. – whether there is humbug involved or not (think Sokal !) – it all was received or absorbed in the last 40 years only, no major German players on the field.
This is a very rough outline of the historical development of European Ethnology, rooted in German Volkskunde. I throw at my students Kaschuba‘s Introduction to European Ethnology, Scharfe‘s Menschenwerk (but that may be a little too sophisticated for a beginner, its a fine read) and the Handbuch der Kulturwissenschaften, 3 volumes, 2003 (Rezension here).
I know of no comparable English work, but would very much like to learn about a comparable description – any ideas?

Welt 3 – II

This is no academic lecture, just some thoughts. I read Popper’s Three Worlds (Tanner Lecture on Human Values, delivered at The University of Michigan, April 7th 1978), where he defends his view against Monists and Dualists. I think that is a good introduction into his thinking and he notes further areas in his writings where he developed one or another thought. As I see it now, there is no comprehensive depiction of his ideas, a kind of reader – and especially not in the German or European “Kulturwissenschaft”. Scharfe, whom I mentioned earlier and who started all this, would have found and discussed such a feedback, but Popper’s Three Worlds seemingly had no further impact on the academic discussion about “culture” here.

Popper distinguishes three “worlds” (sphaerai?). World 1 is the area of the Physical, the Material, the world of things and bodies and their laws: Rays, waves, atoms, magnetic fields, currents, dust, stars, rivers, houses – you get the idea.
World 2 is the area of the subject (und des Subjektiven!), the cognitive and inner-soul processes and feelings, thinking, consciousness and un-consciousness, anger, hate, greed, happiness, resignation, melancholia, dreaming also the area of concentration, rememberance, knowing and forgetting, comparing etc.
World 3 is the area of those things that emerge from the bodily and intellectual activities of man, seperate from him and then live their own life: The spoken word, the written word, stories, images, pictures, thoughts, plans, theories (right AND wrong), art, myth, science, arguments (NOT argumentation, that is World 2), rules, structures.
That is culture.
All three worlds are real and pretty autonomous. Chemical or other processes in world 1 simply happen. World 2 is also relatively autonomous: I hear a tune again – the physical and chemical processes are the same, but added is the memory, my memory, it happens in my brain. But the tune, be it a folk song or Beethoven’s Fifth, IS. Whether I hear it or not. It exists. All three worlds do interact with each other. World 2 creates Welt 3: Humans write texts, find problems, think. Welt 3 Makes Humans: Without language, rules and structure and knowledge we can not exist. And via world 2 Welt 3 changes world 1: Mathematical formulae, technology for concrete building and atomic reactors – it is all there, stored, usable and gets used: Welt 3 objects become tools to change world 1 via the subjective world 2, for example an engeneer’s head.
It has interesting consequences for the method (Methodologie) and general idea about culture, cultural objects (Objektivationen) in the area I call my science (Volkskunde, I insist on this Begriff, call me old-fashioned). And, as mentioned above, except Scharfe seemingly no one thought about this in the last 40 years at one of those institutes. All the ideas about museums, the “cult” around objects, the sheer nonsense and the plain boredom you can encounter in these sacred spaces of – what? What IS there? In the last 30 years or so the discussion always was about “the human”, the “structures”, the “relations” – generally the question what “culture” is or at least could mean was circumnavigated and replaced by theatrical presentations, by teacheresque showings or – and that happened a lot – by ideological discussions, or better: argument-throwing.
No further details here. Read Sir Karl’s lecture and think for yourself.

Two citations (later thrown in, sorry):

Mention should also be made of the close relationship between
what I call world 3 and what the anthropologists call ‘culture’.
The two are very nearly the same. Both can be described as the
world of the products of the human mind; and the term ‘cultural
evolution’ covers very much the same as I should call ‘world 3
However, the anthropologists are inclined not to distinguish
the world 1 embodiments of world 3 objects from the world 3
objects themselves. This leads to a great difference between their
outlook and mine, and between our two views of the universe.

The feedback effect between world 3 and world 2 is of particular
importance. Our minds are the creators of world 3; but
world 3 in its turn not only informs our minds, but largely creates
them. The very idea of a self depends on world 3 theories, especially upon a theory of time which underlies the identity of the self, the self of yesterday, of today, and of tomorrow. The learning of a language, which is a world 3 object, is itself partly a creative act and partly a feedback effect; and the full consciousness of self is anchored in our human language.
Our relationship to our work is a feedback relationship: our
work grows through us, and we grow through our work.
This growth, this self-transcendence, has a rational side and a
non-rational side. The creation of new ideas, of new theories, is
partly non-rational. It is a matter of what is called ‘intuition’ or
‘imagination’. But intuition is fallible, as is everything human.
Intuition must be controlled through rational criticism, which is
the most important product of human language. This control
through criticism is the rational aspect of the growth of knowledge and of our personal growth. It is one of the three most important things that make us human. The other two are compassion,
and the consciousness of our fallibility.

I slept the last days, read nothing and wrote no letters. Slowly I become a human again as the cold creeps back. My sleeping patterns are really mixed up, I need another job: My days are lost to sleep or I am busy trying to get my things on, the nights are spent awake, my mind-setting changes in a no-good way, and after all it’s not enough cash to come out of dept. It is good enough to keep me afloat but it is not good enough for much longer, the personal cost is too high. I have two weeks to find something better.

A Book

Yes. What else?
“Wer zwei Paar Hosen hat, mache eines zu Geld und kaufe dieses Buch!”
“Who possesses two pairs of trousers shall convert one into cash and buy this book.” G.Ch. Lichtenberg wrote that. I recommend a wounder-full book that accidentally fell into my hands last week:
Philipp BLOM: Sammelwunder, Sammelwahn. Szenen aus der Geschichte einer Leidenschaft, Frankfurt am Main 2004 (Die andere Bibliothek 229).
The original edition was published 2002 in London:
To Have and to Hold. An Intimate History of Collectors and Collecting. And because Philip BLOM is an educated man he translated his own book by himself.
It’s one of those you either despise or adore. It leads deep into European cultural history of the Early Modern Time (Frühe Neuzeit), when sometimes somehow somewhere the Middle Ages ended more or less and sooner or later something new emerged. If you have a nerve for things today seen as a little remote or strange, well: Sell that trousers!

Welt 3 – I

No, not third world. Third world (Dritte Welt, tiers monde) dates back to the French demographer Alfred Sauvy’s (Eng., Ger.) article from 1952 in L’Observateur “Trois mondes, une planete”. He describes and categorizes circa 130 states as economically underdeveloped in comparison to the “First” and “Second” world, that could roughly be equaled with “The West” and “The East” – remember we are right in the Cold War at the beginning fifties. Later the “blockfree states” (Ger., Eng.) led by Egypt (Nasser), India (Nehru), Indonesia (Sukarno) and Jugoslawia (Tito) referred to themselves sometimes as “third world”, but this use of the phrase did not really get accepted.
“Welt 3” refers to the “Drei Welten Lehre” * von Sir Karl Popper (Eng., Ger.). Sir Karl may best be remembered for his thoughts about science itself (Wissenschaftstheorie: Falsifikationismus (Ger., Eng.), society (Gesellschaftstheorie) as given in his book “Offene Gesellschaft” (Ger., Eng.) and his role in the “Positivismusstreit” (Ger., Eng.). He is seen as founding figure of a philosophical direction called Kritischer Rationalismus (Ger., Eng.).
A science consists always of its own history – and strangely enough in this “cultural science” called Volkskunde no reception of the great thinkers ideas took place since they were first formulated in the end-sixties. To my eternal shame I have to confess that I covered Popper in my seminar only regarding the “open society” and the “Positivismusstreit”, in the shady and lawless border areas to sociology – sociologists, what do they know?
M. Scharfe is the first who attempts to use Popper’s thoughts in his outstanding book “Menschenwerk”, to what I was referring here.
I am too tired to explain “Welt 3” now, it will follow suit.

P.s. Here‘s the Stanford article about Popper.
* This “article” is a stub. But gives an interesting link leading to Popper’s lecture given 1978 about the “Three worlds” in Michigan (pdf, 27 pages).