BEYOND CULTURE: Into the Cultural Unconscious by Edward T. Hall

BEYOND CULTURE: Into the Cultural Unconscious

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The ""cultural unconscious"" for this eclectic anthropologist is that inescapable behavioral matrix which programs us according to sets of complex signals of which we are ordinarily unaware. Not only do unconscious cultural norms control our outward behavior, but they are the mechanisms by which each person unknowingly controls perceptual input--custom-designing the blinders which also have to serve as his spectacles. Hall, no deathless prose stylist, employs a dauntingly jargonistic vocabulary but provides an intelligently mapped survey of several interrelated areas of thought--ethology, psychology, physiology, comparative art. Once ""beyond culture,"" we find that traditional Western learning situations ignore the actual physiology and anatomy of the brain, that the influence of spatial contexts on the functioning of the human organism is extremely precise and detailed, that the brain waves of people conversing demonstrate remarkable synchrony. Cultural norms govern aspects of our lives that can only be guessed at, but it is literally impossible to detect them at work unless something happens to derange them. Only the bowerbird shares with humanity the extraordinary ability to externalize evolutionary processes; it has suffered less as a result. Despite his grim awareness of the damage done by unperceived cultural prescriptions and proscriptions, Hall is optimistic about the outlook for cutting some cultural umbilical cords and setting to work to redesign many of our institutions from the inside out. A sprawling, awkward, but exhilarating work.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1975
Publisher: Anchor Press/Doubleday