Ideology, Place, and People without Culture

Essay Excerpt

The view of an authentic culture as an autonomous internally coherent universe no longer seems tenable in a postcolonial world. Neither "we" nor "they" are as self-contained and homogeneous as we/they once appeared. All of us inhabit an interdependent late 20th-century world, which is at once marked by borrowing and lending across porous cultural boundaries, and saturated with inequality, power, and domination.

Most metropolitan typifications suppress, exclude, even repress border zones. What the San Jose Mercury News and Miami Vice see as threatening can be seen as ludic. Perhaps we-El Louie, myself, and others---can serve as reminders that space is neither necessarily coherent nor always homogeneous. Nor need it parce neatly into zones: precultural, cultural, and postcultural. It just could be, more often than we usually like to think, criss-crossed by border zones, pockets, and eruptions of all kinds. These border zones, pockets, and eruptions, along with our supposedly transparent cultural selves, are as profoundly cultural as anything else. (Rosaldo, 87)

About the Author

Renato Rosaldo is a Professor of Anthropology at New York University. He is one of the world's leading cultural anthropologists. He has done field research among the Ilongots of northern Luzon, Philippines, and he is the author of Ilongot Headhunting: 1883-1974: A Study in Society and History (1980) and Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis (1989). He is also the editor of Creativity/Anthropology (with Smadar Lavie and Kirin Narayan) (1993), Anthropology of Globlization (with Jon Inda) (2001), and Cultural Citizenship in Island Southeast Asia: National and Belonging in the Hinterlands (2003), among other books. He has been conducting research on cultural citizenship in San Jose, California since 1989, and contributed the introduction and an article to Latino Cultural Citizens: Claiming Identity, Space, and Rights (1997). He is also a poet and has published two volumes of poetry. Rosaldo has served as President of the American Ethnological Society, Director of the Stanford Center for Chicano Research, and Chair of the Stanford Department of Anthropology. He has left Stanford and now teaches at NYU, where he served as the inaugural Director of Latino Studies.

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