Culture and Social change – Ideology and Critique

How do we achieve social justice? How do we change society for the better? Some would argue that we must do it by changing the laws or state institutions. Others that we must do it by changing individual attitudes. I argue that although both of these factors are important and relevant, we must also change culture. What does this mean? Culture, I argue, is a set of social meanings that shapes and filters how we think and act. Problematic networks of social meanings constitute an ideology. Entrenched ideologies are resilient and are barriers to social change, even in the face of legal interventions. I argue that an effective way to change culture is through social movements and contentious politics, and that philosophy has a role to play in promoting such change.


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How We Learned to Love Neanderthals…and a Lot of Other Hominids, Too

Genetic analysis reveals a complex tale of migrations and cross-species trysts in our human past.

For thousands of years, modern humans coexisted with their Neanderthal cousins, but the nature of their relationship has long been an enigma. Were they rivals? Did they avoid each other entirely? Or did they, as some researchers speculated, learn to coexist and even come to enjoy each other’s company? In the field of evolutionary biology, the possibility of Neanderthal-Homo sapiens romantic couplings turned into the academic equivalent of the Jennifer Anniston-Brad Pitt relationship rumors that grace the covers of supermarket tabloids: a topic of tremendous personal fascination and endless, seemingly unresolvable disagreements.

“People were not shy about feeling very strongly one way or another—and expressing it,” says Josh Akey, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University who found himself captivated by the questions but dubious about the available answers. He watched with amusement the debates that repeatedly broke out at academic conferences he attended in the 1990s and early 2000s. “The capacity to argue about it was just infinite,” he recalls.


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Field theory in cultural capital studies of educational attainment

This article argues that there is a double problem in international research in cultural capital and educational attainment: an empirical problem, since few new insights have been gained within recent years; and a theoretical problem, since cultural capital is seen as a simple hypothesis about certain isolated individual resources, disregarding the structural vision and important related concepts such as field in Bourdieu’s
sociology. We (re-)emphasize the role of field theory in cultural capital research in education, taking into consideration current concerns in international quantitative research.


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‘Sistine Chapel of the ancients’ rock art discovered in remote Amazon forest

One of the world’s largest collections of prehistoric rock art has been discovered in the Amazonian rainforest.

Hailed as “the Sistine Chapel of the ancients”, archaeologists have found tens of thousands of paintings of animals and humans created up to 12,500 years ago across cliff faces that stretch across nearly eight miles in Colombia.

Their date is based partly on their depictions of now-extinct ice age animals, such as the mastodon, a prehistoric relative of the elephant that hasn’t roamed South America for at least 12,000 years. There are also images of the palaeolama, an extinct camelid, as well as giant sloths and ice age horses.


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Learning from Each Other: Respecting Cultural Differences in an International Research Agenda

As opportunities for international research collaboration increase, it becomes increasingly important to recognise the importance of respecting cultural differences in our traditions and approaches to the research process. By discussing these differences and also establishing common ground, it is possible to strengthen research capacity and draw upon a range of methodological and philosophical expertise. Such a process should also enable educational researchers to reconsider their relationships with other professionals and to engage with them in order to ensure that effective dissemination informs policy and practice. This necessitates the promotion of wider partnerships for research that respect the professional skills of teachers and other users of educational research. This paper challenges the notion that research should be exclusively located within the academy and calls for a reappraisal of working practices, that may lead to a more collegiate approach which thereby directly influences teaching and learning.


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Social-Cultural Processes and Urban Affordances for Healthy and Sustainable Food Consumption

In this paper, we provide an overview of research highlighting the relation between cultural processes, social norms, and food choices, discussing the implication of these findings for the promotion of more sustainable lifestyles. Our aim is to outline how environmental psychological research on urban affordances, through the specific concepts of restorative environments and walkability, could complement these findings to better understand human health, wellbeing and quality of life. We highlight how social norms and cultural processes are linked to food choices, and we discuss the possible health-related outcomes of cultural differences in food practices as well as their relation to acculturation and globalization processes. We also discuss the concepts of restorative environments and walkability as positive urban affordances, their relation to human wellbeing, and the possible link with cultural processes and sustainable lifestyles. Finally, we outline issues for future research and areas for policy-making and interventions on the links between cultural processes, healthy and sustainable food consumption and urban affordances, for the pursuit of public health, wellbeing and environmental sustainability.


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Emergence of Shared Intentionality Is Coupled to the Advance of Cumulative Culture

There is evidence that the sharing of intentions was an important factor in the evolution of humans’ unique cognitive abilities. Here, for the first time, we formally model the coevolution of jointly intentional behavior and cumulative culture, showing that rapid techno-cultural advance goes hand in hand with the emergence of the ability to participate in jointly intentional behavior. Conversely, in the absence of opportunities for significant techno-cultural improvement, the ability to undertake jointly intentional behavior is selected against. Thus, we provide a unified mechanism for the suppression or emergence of shared intentions and collaborative behavior in humans, as well as a potential cause of inter-species diversity in the prevalence of such behavior.


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Biocultural Coevolution and the Enactive Origins of Human Musicality

Despite evolutionary musicology’s interdisciplinary nature, and the diverse methods it employs, the field has nevertheless tended to divide into two main positions. Some argue that music should be understood as a naturally selected adaptation, while others claim that music is a product of culture with little or no relevance for the survival of the species. We review these arguments, suggesting that while interesting and well-reasoned positions have been offered on both sides of the debate, the nature-or-culture (or adaptation vs. non-adaptation) assumptions that have traditionally driven the discussion have resulted in a problematic either/or dichotomy. We then consider an alternative “biocultural” proposal that appears to offer a way forward. As we discuss, this approach draws on a range of research in theoretical biology, archeology, neuroscience, embodied and ecological cognition, and dynamical systems theory (DST), positing a more integrated model that sees biological and cultural dimensions as aspects of the same evolving system. Following this, we outline the enactive approach to cognition, discussing the ways it aligns with the biocultural perspective. Put simply, the enactive approach posits a deep continuity between mind and life, where cognitive processes are explored in terms of how self-organizing living systems enact relationships with the environment that are relevant to their survival and well-being. It highlights the embodied and ecologically situated nature of living agents, as well as the active role they play in their own developmental processes. Importantly, the enactive approach sees cognitive and evolutionary processes as driven by a range of interacting factors, including the socio-cultural forms of activity that characterize the lives of more complex creatures such as ourselves. We offer some suggestions for how this approach might enhance and extend the biocultural model. To conclude we briefly consider the implications of this approach for practical areas such as music education.


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Cultural Affordances: Scaffolding Local Worlds Through Shared Intentionality and Regimes of Attention

In this paper we outline a framework for the study of the mechanisms involved in the engagement of human agents with cultural affordances. Our aim is to better understand how culture and context interact with human biology to shape human behavior, cognition, and experience. We attempt to integrate several related approaches in the study of the embodied, cognitive, and affective substrates of sociality and culture and the sociocultural scaffolding of experience. The integrative framework we propose bridges cognitive and social sciences to provide (i) an expanded concept of ‘affordance’ that extends to sociocultural forms of life, and (ii) a multilevel account of the socioculturally scaffolded forms of affordance learning and the transmission of affordances in patterned sociocultural practices and regimes of shared attention. This framework provides an account of how cultural content and normative practices are built on a foundation of contentless basic mental processes that acquire content through immersive participation of the agent in social practices that regulate joint attention and shared intentionality.


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The Anthropology of the Fetus: Biology, Culture, and Society

As a biological, cultural, and social entity, the human fetus is a multifaceted subject which calls for equally diverse perspectives to fully understand. Anthropology of the Fetus seeks to achieve this by bringing together specialists in biological anthropology, archaeology, and cultural anthropology. Contributors draw on research in prehistoric, historic, and contemporary sites in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and North America to explore the biological and cultural phenomenon of the fetus, raising methodological and theoretical concerns with the ultimate goal of developing a holistic anthropology of the fetus.


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