The presentation titled “Is ‘culture’ a buzzword?”, Co-authored by Yasuhisa kondo , Hideyuki Ōnishi and Yoko Iwamoto at CAA 2018 session has been released on YouTube.
Is ‘culture’ a buzzword? Ontological challenge of an interdisciplinary project on the cultural history of early modern humans in Asia
The PaleoAsia project aims to interpret the nature of distinct patterns in the formation of modern human cultures across Asia. To this end, over 50 researchers from diverse backgrounds such as archaeology, cultural anthropology, mathematical biology, and palaeoenvironmental sciences work in collaboration. Thus far, discussions in the project’s meetings and workshops have revealed that the meaning of ‘culture’ (bunka in Japanese language) seems to mean different things to researchers from different backgrounds, and the term is often used without an explicit definition. This problem, left untreated, may negatively affect the interdisciplinary collaboration, and it is a serious concern for us. With this as our motivation, we envision discourses concerning ‘culture’ in the PaleoAsia project, which will build a baseline for the intra-project collaborative research on the quantification of culture and its diversity. We applied an ontological approach to this issue. First, we retrieved 486 sentences that included the word ‘culture’ from the full text of the project’s conference proceedings, annual reports of sub-groups, and the project’s website (https://paleoasia.jp). Co-occurring words, synonyms, and antonyms were listed, and the occurrence pattern was analysed with respect to the authors’ backgrounds. No sentence directly defined the concept of culture, although it was observed that the term was used in the context of materials (e.g., lithic culture, ceramic culture, etc.), geography (e.g., cultural zones), temporality (e.g., Aurignacian culture) and dynamics (e.g., cultural ecology). Through dialogue between researchers from different backgrounds, we will attempt to develop a shared ontology of ‘culture’ in the project.
(Yasuhisa Kondo, Hideyuki Ōnishi, Yoko Iwamoto)