thinking about culture

alesnick's picture

Today I learned a lot about how culture works.  In the morning, a student observed that a question that had emerged during our class's processing of our trip was doing work in the culture of our group.  This insight suggests that questions can be instances of cultural work/production, and as such are embedded in a particular context and time . . . the student suggested that we did not need to regard this question as transcontextual: rather, that its being posed could be usefully understood as in-time cultural work that we could let be without the letting be constitute ignoring or neglect.  So interesting!

In the afternoon I got to attend the panel discussion with Derrick Ashong and Soulfege, sponsored by Ghanaian Music/Global Entrepeneurship.  Derrick Ashong spoke about their group's interest in breaking the music industry paradigm.  He explained that for humans, the fulfillment of expectations, even with unwelcome outcomes, is deeply satisfying.  So, if mother says stay away from that young man, and that young man does indeed prove inconstant, mother is gratified even though the outcome is not welcome.  This is a powerful illustration of how culture works.  Ashong and Soulfege are trying to change culture, or recreate it, by establishing new expectations for contemporary Afropolitcal music.

In this way, they are pursuing a deeply pedagogical goal. They are essentially teachers, trying to teach others that it's possible to work outside the picture that dominant discourse holds/insists on for our gaze.

Reading some of your blog posts this evening, I am newly interested in Lugones' notion of playfulness and how important a resource it is for working in a space where breaking is possible, where we learn to move not from known to known, but with each other, even out ahead of what we know, what we knew.

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