Sunday Monday update: I finished the script!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I mean, kinda. It needs a lot of touching up here and there—better transitions into citations, more concise descriptions of anthro jargon, fewer run-on sentences, and a bunch of other things that if I continued to list here you’d shake your head and say honey, that is not what “done” means.
But a week ago I just had the essence of the thing. Now the thing has life. It breathes and stirs in the autumn wind along with the foliage paving my driveway. It exists.
To prove its existence on the interweb, I’m sharing a chunk of my script below, just to put it out there. If you have any thoughts or suggestions or questions or secrets you’d be willing to share with me, I’d greatly appreciate reading them 🙂
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Let’s begin by looking at our definitions of nature and culture as we use them colloquially. If you simply Google the definition of “nature,” you get something like this:
the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations.
— Oxford Languages
. . . Basically, everything in the physical world, except for humans, and anything humans have touched. In our lexicon, the term “nature” essentially refers to the environment around us, but it usually never includes us. There are aspects of our lives that intersect with natural elements, sure, but that’s more like crossing over into the sphere of the natural, or the natural into the sphere of the cultural—stepping into extrinsic territory. And as soon as humans are present in the “natural” sphere, it’s assumed that humans have altered the landscape and made it less “natural.” 1 We have a romanticized view of nature as this wild, eternal realm that reflects a prior, untouched way of the world, sans humans.
So then, what is culture?
Whereas nature exists free from human interference, we think of culture as a uniquely human creation, arguably the [hallmark of humanity] in the Western canon. We use culture as a dynamic and diverse identity marker comprising different languages, different ways of life, and different world views that define different social groups. So, while nature is a universal and fixed entity that exists outside of us, culture is the part of the world where all humans belong, taking different shapes and forms across communities and constantly changing throughout history.
But if we’re defining culture and nature by the presence of humans, or lack thereof, we face the age-old philosophical question: what does it mean to be “human”? To be less abstract, what I’m really asking is, should all humans be grouped into the category of “culture,” just on the basis of their humanity—and should all nonhumans be excluded from being a part of our societies by that logic? If so, who gets to determine the parameters that set us apart from other beings, such as personhood, agency, and social relationships? And if we go back to the fact that it was just some guy in France 2 who established this binary of nature and culture over three hundred years ago… Why should that be the norm today?
1 Spence, Mark D. 1999. Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2 The guy in France is René Descartes, who I mention earlier in the video
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And then I go on to discuss why a lot of anthropologists think the nature-culture divide is silly and dumb and no fun at parties!
Okay that’s all for now, see you next week & thank you for reading ❤