Cultural dynamics

Date & time

3–5pm 28 April 2014




Dr Yoshihisa Kashima, University of Melbourne

Culture is often construed as a set of static beliefs, attitudes, and values shared by people. Intuitively appealing as it may be, this conception of culture fails to bring out its dynamic making and remaking. This paper outlines a theory of cultural dynamics that puts interpersonal processes as the engine of microgenesis of culture. Taking neo-diffusionist culture metatheory as its starting point, it regards the grounding of cultural information between people as a central mechanism of cultural evolution.

In this view, most of the cultural transmission occurs as an unintended consequence of a joint activity; culture acts as a tool for interpersonal coordination, which enables and constrains the performance of the joint activity. To make a case for this theoretical orientation, I will first argue that there is a paradox of cultural dynamics characterized by macro-level stability and micro-level fluidity, reviewing metathereotical and empirical literature, and then attempt to sketch out how the grounding model of cultural transmission can shed light on this paradox by making use of experimental investigation of cultural dynamics. 

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