Culture, Race and Civilization
Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences
20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits
Organiser: Dr Marcel Stoetzler
Overall aims and purpose
This seminar will explore the differing usages and respective merits of the normative (idealist) and the descriptive (positivist, anthropological) concepts of culture, the dichotomy of culture and civilization, and the dialectical tension between all of these. It will be asked how the concept of culture (in the singular) as a promise (cultivation towards humanity and civility; the Enlightenment idea of culture; culture as underpinning reform; culture as a societal sphere especially dedicated to cultivation) is related to the positive realities of diverse cultures (in the plural) as givens (culture as a way of life; a set of significations; the everyday). An examination of the concept of culture that underpins ‘multiculturalism’ (and its precursor in Horace M. Kallen’s concept of ‘cultural pluralism’) also needs to pay attention to its overlap with ‘nation’ and ‘race’: the one-sidedly positivist conception of culture – culture minus its utopian, idealist, dynamic aspect – can tip over into a reified, essentialist notion of culture. Contrary to the ancient notion that the progress of wealth, society and material civilization inevitably leads to the corruption of morals, morality and religiosity (ever again recycled by pessimistic ‘cultural critique’), modern social theory has often proposed that these forces (now mostly addressed as ‘globalization’) may have the potential to push humanity beyond itself to a humane state of things. This optimistic conception needs critical examination as the defence of the Enlightenment hope for culture as progressing cultivation must take account of major objections: European liberal civilization was unable to prevent the Holocaust, and likewise ‘the colonized’ – according to Fanon in ‘Concerning Violence’ – cannot see culture other than as a tool of the colonial violence. The module will explore the question asked by Horkheimer and Adorno (in Dialectic of Enlightenment) whether culture and civilization have ‘developed in the sign of the hangman’.
Topics will include • Culture as cultivating (the normative/Enlightenment concept of culture and civilization) • Cultures in the plural (the positivist concept of culture) • Culture failed (civilization after the Holocaust; civilization and colonialism) • Multiculture (the promise of multicultural civilization)
To pass the module, students must demonstrate a theoretically informed understanding of issues surrounding the meaning and significance of the concepts of culture and civilization, some ability to relate this to substantive research, and basic competence in applying the methods used in investigations of cultural phenomena.
Good students will be able to demonstrate a clear, theoretically informed understanding of issues surrounding the meaning and significance of the concepts of culture and civilization, good ability to relate this to substantive research, and sound competence in applying the methods used in investigations of cultural phenomena.
Excellent students will be able to demonstrate a mature, theoretically informed understanding of issues surrounding the meaning and significance of the concepts of culture and civilization, ability to relate this critically to substantive research, and a high level of competence in applying the methods used in investigations of cultural phenomena.
Appreciate the methodological implications of alternative approaches to culture in the conduct of empirical research.
Demonstrate how theories of culture can be applied to problems of interpretation in a relevant field of analysis.
Show a critical understanding of concepts of ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’ as used by recent and contemporary theorists.
Display working knowledge of key authors and texts in social theories of culture and civilization
Teaching and Learning Strategy
Weekly sessions will consist of a combination of lectures, student presentations and seminar discussions, integrating guided reading, prepared reading and study assignments.
- Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
- Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
- Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
- Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
- Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
- Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
- Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
- Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
- Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
- Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
- Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
- Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
- Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
- Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in