Culture: a Recursive Process


Abstract: Cultural Studies are rampant in the Humanities these days, which holds true especially for the United States. One might be inclined to call this shift in interest a paradigm change through which the study of literature has become marginalized in view of what now has moved to center stage. However, what is it that now appears to be the prominent subject matter of teaching and research? Asking such a question may not actually create embarrassment, but the answers provided are more often than not highly confusing. As long as Cultural Studies are equated with Ethnic Studies, the objective of such an endeavor is clear enough. Yet Cultural Studies are more ambitious without being able to target what such an ambition seems to aims at. There is no doubt, however, that in spite of the widely scattered topics that are subsumed under the concept of Cultural Studies, the latter enjoys a tremendous collective support. But such an acclaim makes the otherwise amateurish Cultural Studies almost unassailable. If Cultural Studies should really develop into a ‘Kulturwissenschaft’, as it is dubbed in Germany for instance, we are beholden to think about what we consider culture to be. There may not be a definition of culture, not least, as culture keeps changing; but an accumulation of special case studies does not automatically end up in an idea of culture. The bewilderment caused by these case studies makes it all the more pertinent to focus our scholastic interest on salient features of culture, because culture is the artificial habitat humans keep building. A study of culture thus assumes anthropological significance, since we learn something of the human being that produces it. The following essay is an attempt to spotlight salient features, which offer a glimpse at the infrastructure of culture, and it is meant to intervene into the cacophony of Cultural Studies.

Keywords: anthropology, contingency, cybernetics, systems theory, game theory, recursive looping, feedback, pragmatization, worldmaking