Response to Schneider's "The Power of Culture"

Essay Excerpt

In the 1980 edition of American Kinship, Schneider admitted that his informants had been "almost entirely white, urban, middle class," and that he and others had mistakenly assumed that the values of this group were the dominant cultural norm (1980:122). Schneider's American kinship model ultimately failed to give much importance to variation by class, ethnicity, race, region, and religion. What was true in 1968 is even more glaring in 1996, when scholars and politicians alike decry the fragmentation of "American culture," point to the "immigrant problem" as its cause, and dream of a unity that never was.

Gays and lesbians, on reading "The Power of Culture," may quite justifiably say, "You Tonto. Que me sabe?" David Schneider believed that "theory without data and data without theory are inconceivable to me" (1980:118). So as Schneider would have wanted, let us look at some data. (278)

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