Lecture 7 (this is much more detailed than the lecture as delivered)
Culture and the Individual
Your text discusses the importance of self-awareness in the enculturation process. Human being have a (biologically based ) capacity to be aware of themselves and form conceptions of themselves. You text discusses this as fundamental to the enculturation process.
The biological foundation of this in primates is seen in the capacity of at least the apes (Chimps, orangs, gorillas and humans) to have self-awareness. There is no doubt that they do. Koko the signing gorilla was often seen signing to herself (in front of a mirror and otherwise) which we must assume means that she took her own self as an object. Chimps have been observed doing the same. A chimp is clearly aware that the animal they see in a mirror is themselves. (This has been shown by experiments in which a chimp used to mirrors is anesthetized and a large red mark is put on the forehead. When the chimp awakens and first encounters a mirror, the animal will attempt immediately to rub off the red mark, apparently knowing it is on its own body not some other chimp in the mirror). Dogs and cats and other mammals apparently do not have this capacity for self awareness, certainly not in the sense that apes do. Whether it is present in monkeys or even lower primates is more problematic.
Your text also mentions how different cultures have characteristically different and typical ways in which the human self is thought to be constituted. One good example in your text concerns the question of how many genders there are. In our culture there are clearly a distinction between male gendered selves and female gendered selves.
Take even the idea of how many sexes there are. We believe that there are two, and in fact this is a widely shared belief. But what about hermaphrodites?
Anatomically, of course, sex per se, is not all that clear cut. The percentage of hermaphrodites in any normal human population is about one half percent ,depending on the criteria you use – actually medically true hermaphrodism is very rare – perhaps about 1 in 1000. But in every human population, however small, some degree of anatomical sexual anomalies are seen sufficiently often that the problem must be dealt with for cultural purposes.
In our culture only two specific gender roles are recognized and the appearance of an anatomically inter-sexed individual cause a bit of distress and confusion. So we only have two specific ways of dressing – male and females, and parents of such children are initially faced with the problem of how to treat their newborn. We mostly raise them as males.
In some cultures they are regarded
as an abomination and killed (this was traditionally true for the Tausug), in
others they are given some special role, usually of a religious sort ( the
Greek oracle at
Your text discusses this with a
couple of case studies. The roles of the berdache (males who in some respects
took on female roles) and among the Plains groups and some other American
Indian cultures, "manly hearted women" were filled both by
anatomically intersexed individuals, as well as others who for one reason or
another wished to take on the typical role of the other gender. It is often the
case in cultures that have very tightly and strictly defined opposite gender
roles (often perhaps because of practical necessity –such as a pronounced military
orientation) that some individuals, for reasons of individual temperament and
personality, may not feel comfortable with their assigned gender roles. The
culture may provide an alternative role for such individuals . Another example
is the Albanian Sworn Virgin -- women in
Although it is very easy for Americans to interpret these role differences primarily in terms of sexual behavior or orientation (since we think of gender primarily in such terms) in fact in many cultures gender is not conceived primarily in terms of sexual behavior, but in terms of a whole range of culturally prescribed role conduct. Sexuality per se may or may not be involved -- to assume that homosexuality is the main point here is perhaps to impose on own values on very differently conceived gender roles.
The Concept of Self
One important point that your book does make with any clarity is the distinction between the capacity for self awareness as such, and the particularly typical self-concept which is characteristic of the modal personality in any given culture.
To say that a human being has a self is to say that every human can act toward his own self as if he were an object. Human beings are part of their own social environment in the sense that we can objectify ourselves, and look at ourselves from the perspective of others. The human can be an acting self (an "I") as well as a reflecting self ( a "me"). It is the "I" that acts and the "Me" that judges the acting "I". The judging self (the "Me’) is largely (though not entirely) a product of a process of looking at oneself from the perspective of others -- what one famous social psychologist (George Mead) called the process of ‘taking the role of the other", by which he meant that we are able to act toward ourselves much as we were ourselves an "other" in our own world. This process is absolutely universal in all humans – indeed were it not for our capacity to judge ourselves from the perspective of others, no morality in human society would be possible.
In any society, this ongoing process of self-awareness and self-reflection and self-judging results in the emergence of a self concept – a more or less stable orientation toward the self, which is an important component of personality. Needless to say, in any society different humans have different personalities ( or stable orientations toward the self and the world of others), but anthropologists have noticed that individuals in different cultures typically have characteristic personalities. This is the concept of modal personality discussed in your book. Remember that a modal personality is a range of typical personality types found in a given society. – it does not means that everybody in any society has exactly the same personality – which is nonsensical on its face. We are not insects, and human (and primate) society depends on a diversity of individuals and individual personalities.
National Character This is based on the notion that there are broad personality orientations characteristic of large national groups. National character studies at one time were rather popular in anthropology – particularly during World War II when attempts were made to formulate some generalizations about our enemies and allies which might be useful in understanding and perhaps predicting their conduct, particularly in the context of the war. Ruth Benedict wrote a widely read book (The Chrysanthemum and the Sword) in which she tried to explain Japanese national character. Similar work was done on the British, Germans, French, Russians. There was a heavy emphasis on methods of child training which differed from society to society.
In retrospect many of the generalizations about "national character" turn out to be little more than national stereotypes, not completely incorrect, but certainly over generalized and sometimes misleading.
One perhaps more useful way of viewing national character (if one needs the concept at all) is to view it not as a set thing but as a range of variability which exists around certain characteristic themes.
So instead of saying the French are rational (or passionate) we can say that French culture is sort of obsessed with the dichotomy between reason and passion, and that this sometimes takes one form and sometimes another.
Or instead of saying that Germans are orderly, it is perhaps better to say that German culture( and personality) is obsessed with the themes of Order and Chaos and that sometimes this takes the form of an extreme orderliness ( deutsche ordnung) and other times into fantasies of massive chaos on a Wagnerian scale. Germans sometime appear to be massively orderly, at other times massively disorderly.
Americans are sometimes stereotyped as being ‘Individualistic" (whatever that means) but as Toqueville pointed out in the 1840’s sometimes Americans seem to have an intense democratic conformism which refuses to tolerate any diversity. So perhaps a closer generalization about American national character would be to say that our culture, its values, and the typical personality of many Americans shows a kind of alternation between an intense self centered individualism on the one hand and a group conformity on the other. American culture is preoccupied with the themes of the relationship of the individual to the group, and sometimes this takes the form of a high degree of individualism and other times a great conformism. (one can see this tension played out in our legal system in the never-ending arguments about the nature and limits of individual rights).
The historian Arthur Schlesinger some years ago wrote a book arguing that there were cycles in American history (of 20-30 years duration) which reflected these themes: an alternation of an emphasis on group welfare ("Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’ – that sort of thing) and periods of unbridled self aggrandizement and ambition . I do not entirely accept his conclusions about the cycles, but his argument fits in to the notion of "national character" as a range of variability.
Child rearing practices
There has been a lot of anthropological research on the subject of child rearing techniques. There is not doubt that there are great differences in culturally sanctioned methods of child rearing. To what extent do techniques of child rearing affect adult modal personality. Some examples:
To what extent is the presence or absence of fathers in the lives of young children a factor in later personality. Great variability here. Early 20th century German and Austrian fathers were typically aloof from their young children, and their relations were often authoritarian (many of Freud’s theories have to be at least partially understood in this context). Malinowski, arguing against Freud with respect to the Trobrianders, maintained that the so-called Oedipus complex (in which the child sees the authoritarian father as a rival for the attention of the mother) was not found in the matrilineal Trobriands. According to Weiner, Malinowski may have overstated the case, but he pointed out that if the authority figure is the Mothers brother (as it usually is in matrilineal societies), the actual father is free to express great closeness and affection to the child. Hence no Oedipus complex, at least not in the sense the Freud claimed to see it in his Austrian patients.
To what extent are young children indulged and what kinds of punishment are typically employed. Does the use of corporal punishment affect typical adult personality?
How are kids toilet trained? Or weaned? In some places this is very rigid and abrupt. In other places quite casual. Are kids allowed to feed whenever they want, or are they put on rigid schedules? Does this matter in terms of the resulting adult personality?
What is the attitude toward childhood sexuality and sexual play? Trobrianders are pretty casual about this. Americans (middle class) are generally horrified by the whole notion of childhood sexuality. Among the Tausug (and many other cultures as well) fondling a child’s genitals is considered a good way to pacify an irritable kid, while Americans are pretty horrified by this, and in some contexts regard it as “child abuse". (But note: Tausug adults do this with not a hint of their own personal pleasure – it is rather regarded somewhat as a joke. An American adult who fondles a child is not joking, but I suspect that there is great variability in this among immigrant non-middle class cultures here).
What kinds of appeals are made to children to engage in moral behavior? Americans typically exhort a child who is misbehaving with "Be good". French typically say "Sois sage (be wise)’? Do these subtle differences reflect later adult personality in typically American or typically French ways?
Mental Disorders and Culture
If "normal" (modal) personality in any culture is so variable, then it is equally true that what is regarded as abnormal personality is also going to be variable. Are there culturally specific mental illnesses?
An underlying problem here is that psychiatry in the Western biomedical tradition is still largely phenomenological in method -- that is most diagnoses are made on the basis of symptoms, not underlying causes (all biomedicine up to the middle of the 19th century was largely the same way – syphilis, for example was traditionally diagnosed on the basis of a highly complex and subtle set of symptoms – it was only when the spirochete which caused the disease was discovered that final diagnosis changed from symptom to underlying cause). In the last 30 years or so , with advances in neurology and the physiology and pharmacology of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain which mediate the transmission of nerve impulses) psychiatry has been very slowly moving out of this symptomology tradition.
But for the most part, mental illness (in our culture and everywhere else) is popularlydefined in terms of symptoms and conduct. And that is the problem – the outward symptoms and signs of mental abnormality are so variable by culture that it becomes very difficult to compare mental abnormalities from one culture to another.
In one household in the community in which I studied there was a middle aged man who sat on the porch more or less staring into oblivion, occasionally eating and engaging in some simple activities. Asking the Tausug what was "wrong" with him was not very helpful in Western biomedical terms (he was usually classified as being possessed, or as being a ‘barbalan" - a night flying creature that ate the livers of corpses). To give an accurate psychiatric diagnosis one would have had to be 1) a competent psychiatrist, and 2) sufficiently Tausug to appreciate the subtle difference between normal and abnormal behavior in their culture. My guess is that this man was either (in our biomedical science terms) severely retarded, autistic, or schizophrenic. For all practical purposes (in terms of everyday living), however, the Tausug explanation that he was possessed by involuntary witchcraft, is probably a perfectly good explanation. He was not mistreated, he was well cared for, and he had a social role which fitted his culture.
There undoubtedly are some cross cultural mental conditions : manic depression, schizophrenia, autism, obsessive compulsive and other anxiety disorders, among others. There are probably biological root causes (largely unknown) for these. But the expression of these disorders is clearly different in different cultures.
One example: obsessive compulsive disorder – characterized by obsessive thoughts usually followed by compulsive rituals which alleviate the anxiety association with the obsession. Recent studies in the US and Europe seem to indicate that about 3-4% of the population at one time will suffer a debilitating bout of OCD (whether these statistics hold true cross culturally is very difficult to determine – precisely because the diagnosis is so difficult cross culturally).
OCD is sometimes called the ‘doubting disease’ –because the individual finds it difficult or impossible to act on the common sense of certain of his own culture’s assumptions, even though he knows those assumptions to be correct. One of Freud’s most famous cases was the case of the "rat man" – a man who was obsessed with the idea that there was a rat in his pants. He did not "believe" this , he was not delusional, and was not insane – he clearly knew that his obsession with this imagined rat was unreasonable, and was in fact tormented by his obsession. But, logically one cannot prove a negative with complete certainty – there might be a rat there, and one can never be completely sure.
There is increasing good evidence that there is a biological basis for OCD, but the way in which this disorder is expressed is wildly variable by culture. One of the most common OCDs in Euro-American culture is an obsession with cleanliness and contamination which is often expressed by ritual washing or constant bathing. But what about a culture in which physical cleanliness is not of as much concern? Would there be obsessive compulsive disorders as common as here, but not easily recognized because they take different forms? This is the crux of the problem of the cross cultural analysis of psychiatric disorders.
Enculturation and Socialization
Your text talks at length about the concept of enculturation – the process of learning one’s culture, which is of course very important in childhood, but actually goes on throughout life, as individuals mature into different culturally approved roles and culturally defined stages of life.
But there is an important distinction to be made between enculuration and socialization.
First, some basic terms:
Emotion – some inner feeling state, usually associated with some physiological changes. An emotion is simply a feeling state (often associated with some physiological changes) directed at some object (which does not have to be another person) in some situation. Say, anger at being cut off by an obnoxious taxi driver, or merely stubbing your toe.
Affect – the outward expression of an emotion as recognized by others in a particular cultural context
Mood – a sustained affect
Sentiment – a sustained orientation toward another person, identifiable in terms of a typical pattern of conduct toward the other person or in situations in which the other person is involved. A sentiment can be defined briefly as the meaning of another person as a unique individual. (that is, not just as a conventionally defined bundle of rights and duties) a sentiment is not necessarily specific to a single situation, but is a sustained orientation or predisposition to act in a variety of ways with respect to another person in a variety of very different situations. A sentiment is directed at a social object - it is the meaning of another unique person. A sentiment is defined as the meaning of another person (as unique person, not as a role)
Take the old standby "love". While we Americans popularly think of love as some sort of uniform "feeling" inside one, it really is a complex set of feelings and predisposition’s to act, which manifest itself in a whole variety of different ways. To say that X loves Y is to say that X is prepared to:
Get angry if someone threatens Y
Defend Y against the aggressor
Feel jealous if a competitor appears
Feel grief if love object dies
Feel longing if love object is gone
Sympathize with love objects problems
Feel "hurt" if neglected by love object
Feel joy in presence of love object
Feel sadness in absence of love object
Protect the love object when necessary
Feel concern for y’s well being
Agonize over love objects suffering
Feel proud at love objects accomplishments
(and many more situations you could think of, almost ad infinitum)
Indeed, we would ascribe the sentiment of love to a person even if the person verbally denies the sentiment if we observe the characteristic pattern of conduct. A sentiment thus is not a feeling per se but a structure of feelings directed at a particular unique other human being in a variety of different situations in which the object of the sentiment is encountered.
Note: there is great individual variability in any society in the capacity of various individuals to form particular sentiments with particular others, and indeed this is perhaps a main component of what we call ‘personality’.
Enculturation: the process of learning to play out conventions roles and acquire the conventional understandings, meanings, values, orientations, symbolic associations, etc. which pertain to any particular culture. Enculturation goes on throughout the life cycle, not just in childhood.
Socialization: is the process where one learns to form certain sentimental attachments to unique others. The primary socialization which occurs in childhood is in certain key respects a universal process whereby children in all societies acquire the capacity to form certain minimal sentiments necessary for any organized group activity. The process of socialization also goes on throughout life, as one to form interpersonal relationships with a series of unique others throughout ones life.
Both enculturation and socialization occur through out life, although primary experiences tend on the whole to be rather persistent.
An interesting, if somewhat extreme, example of the difference between socialization and enculturation can be seen in the learning to live in a prison. If you were sent to prison, you would have to learn two interdependent, yet analytically very distinct kinds of things:
1. You would have to learn the conventional rules and norms of ( both formal and informal) of the prison —its culture--or as they say ‘the ropes’. And the "ropes" in an American prison are very different from those in a Turkish prison, for example.
2. But you would also have to learn to adjust to some rather peculiar interpersonal situations in prison life and the sentiments which they engender. Prisons are places which have an extraordinary amount of conflict present in interpersonal relations (mainly because everything in a prison one desires —privacy, and all sorts of creature comforts, sex, space, even food in some cases— is in short supply relative to the outside world]. One would have to learn to deal with the large number of disjunctive sentiments (sentiments which drive people apart such as hatred, jealousy, envy, etc.) which this situation entails. If you were only in a short time, this might only be a temporary adjustment. But persons who have spent a very long time in prison invariably undergo major personality transformations, which sometimes make adjustment to the outside world very difficult.
Now a sentiment is a kind of meaning — the meaning of another unique human being. But sentiments differ very significantly from other kinds of meaning in the fact that before any sentimental relations can be established there must first be at least some minimal kind of empathy with the other as a human being who is assumed to be like oneself.
The capacity for empathy with the other assumes the capacity to —— ‘take the role of the other’ —put oneself into other persons shoes and look at the situation as one imagines that he does.
Now the capacity for empathic understanding of others is probably established fairly early in life and there is probably some biologically based disposition to learn it, although we cannot specific exactly how this works. That it is a biologically programmed capacity for learning is suggested by the fact that if you looks at people who have been severely socially deprived in childhood — those kids chained to bedposts in the attic until they are ten— one finds a severely diminished capacity to form a full range of sentiments, although they can usually learn enough to get by.
In those situations in which the formation of interpersonal sentiments, or the establishment of empathic understanding between the parties, would be dysfunctional for the society, it is often the case that one finds cultural barriers set up to impede the formation of sentiments.
The rules governing relationships between doctor and patient, particularly where there is a male doctor—female patient, minimize the possibility of sexuality.
the hangman and and his victim - every effort is made that the executioner cannot and does not identify with his victim.
the catholic priest and penitent — ideally any priest can hear confession of any believer, independent of any sentiments between them as unique persons The personality of the priest is in theory completely divorced from the office itself.
Some anthropologists have argued that there are significant differences between cultures in terms of sentiments and emotions. I disagree with this. In so far as we are talking about human capacities and the ability to recognize sentiments and emotions in others I see no cultural difference. Cultures do, however, attach different importance to the meanings of sentiments, and different rules about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of certain sentiments or emotions in different situations, but I see no evidence that the capacity is variable.
And of course, cultures have different terminologies to talk about sentiments and emotions, but this does not necessarily mean that the experience is necessarily different. Tausug has two words for love: disinterested love (lasa) and possessive love (kasi) whereas English has only one primary term. The ancient Greeks similarly distinguished between eros and agape. English has one term for "shame" whereas French distinguishes between pudeur (bodily shame) and honte (humiliation at being caught doing something socially disapproved – with a sense of "dishonor").
But do these differences in terminology necessarily reflect differences in human experience? I do not think we can necessarily presume they do. It may be a bit like color terminology: the range of color terms is to some degree arbitrary from one culture (and language) to another, but this does not mean that color itself is merely a figment of culture.
I want to return to this seeming banal observation: that human beings have selves, by virtue of which we are able to act toward our selves and interpret our own actions – we can make indications to ourselves of the objects in our environment. To indicate something to oneself is first of all to extricate it from its setting, to hold it apart, and to give it a meaning.
An object is anything that a person can indicate to himself – a physical object, another person, a social rule, or an abstract conception or culturally defined category, like justice or benevolence or shame or honor.
An object in this sense is different from a stimulus -- as in classic stimulus response psychology – in that a stimulus is assumed to have an intrinsic character which acts in and through the individual to produce behavior ( as in a simple knee jerk response – to take a very simple example). An object on the other hand has its meaning conferred on it by an acting human being who interprets in the light of the situation in which it occurs. Thus instead of an individual being surrounded by an environment of preexisting object which have some sort of intrinsic meaning and which call forth his behavior, it is better to say that the individual constructs his objects on the basis of his on-going activity in terms of the situation he find himself, and that situation almost always—since man is a social animal-- involves being aware of the activities, judgments, interpretations etc. of other people who one chooses to pay attention to ( and not just people who are physically present, but those or are imagined to be present, or might be thought to be present) Thus, "If I do this , what will I say, how will I justify it, what significance will it have for others whose opinions I care about, what will they do, etc.?”). This is basically what we mean when we say that society is a process of adjusting one’s conduct to the conduct of others in terms of symbols, and that individuals construct their conduct (conduct is the name we give to the result of this process, and is much more than mere “behavior”) on an ongoing basis, and do not merely "react" to things.
All this may sound a little obvious or banal, but I would suggest that great deal of research in the social science does not fully account for the fact that human beings have selves.
The more useful approach is to regard these external forces, which do after all exist , as potential objects in the individual’s situation, the significance of which the person indicates to himself in the context of others and constructs his conduct on the basis of the interpretations given to the total situation (remembering that the individual himself is part of his own situation). Human beings are part of their own environment, and culture is the accumulated man-made part of the environment.
"What then is freedom? To be born is both to be born of the world and to be born into the world… We are involved in the world and with others in an inextricable tangle, The idea of situation rules out absolute freedom as the source of our commitments, and equally indeed at their terminus. No commitment…. can make me leave behind all differences and free me for anything. . The choice which we make of our life is always based on a certain givenness, "
"All explanations of my conduct in terms of my past, my temperament and my environment are therefore true, provided that they be regarded not as separable contributions, but as moments of my total being, the significance of which I am entitled to make explicit in various ways, without it ever being possible to say whether I confer their meaning upon them or receive it from them. I am a psychological and historical structure, and have received, with existence, a manner of existing, a style. All my actions and thoughts stand in a relationship to this structure… Nothing determines me from outside, not because nothing acts upon me, but on the contrary, because from the start I am outside myself and open to the world. "
Merleau-Ponty: The Phenomenology of Perception (trans. Colin Smith).
Psychotropic drugs as an example
All of this may appear a bit abstract, so lets apply it to a situation that you are all more or less familiar with in the context of contemporary American culture: the so-called drug problem.
All cultures known to anthropologists (with the singular exception of perhaps the Eskimo before European influence) make some use of substances which when ingested have some effect on psychological functions and alter consciousness. These are usually derived from plants of various sorts and are quite numerous: alcohol, coca, caffeine, nicotine, marijuana, ayuhuasa, ebene and other LSD like substances), khat, hashish, opium (and various derivatives such as morphine or heroin), kava, betel, and more recently artificial substances like Prozac, “ecstasy” etc. The list goes on and on.
It is important to stress
initially that almost always these substances are used in groups and subject to
cultural interpretation and subject to a great deal of social control. The
solitary use of psychotropic substances is quite recent, and almost always in
the context of official legal prohibition -- secret use of marijuana and
cocaine in the
The prevailing view in the US, in the DEA and the drug prohibition establishment (which has obviously powerful vested interests in keeping their jobs alive), as well as most of the general public and much of the academic and medical establishment is a model which more or less corresponds to the mechanistic view of human behavior I first presented and which I argued was wrong or at least wrongheaded.
Under this view, drugs are viewed has having intrinsic properties which act in and through individuals who are more neutral agents and result in behavior which is more or less determined by the drug itself: drug + (acting upon) individual = behavior.
Note that I am not saying that different drugs do not have different real physiological consequences, only that the meaning of those consequences is not intrinsic in the substance itself, but only emerges in a situation of symbolic interaction with others in a particular cultural context.
Later we will see a film on Yanomamo shamanism -- these are S American Indians who blow a highly psychotropic substance up their nostrils and have religious visions.
The "pleasure" or meaning of doing this is obviously specific to the situation in which certain religious interpretations are given to the experience, and is not intrinsic to the drug. Thus if you or I were to take the substance there is a very good chance that initially we would be terrified out of our wits.
Marijuana (lots of good social science on this, and lots of bad social science as well):
You have all read the assigned reading done by the sociologist Howard S. Becker, who held interviews with numerous marijuana smokers. (He was also a former professional musician and I assume had a bit of personal experience) The study revealed that smoking marijuana was quite insufficient to become "high". The desirable effects certainly did not occur spontaneously. In starting their careers as marijuana smokers, the users first had to learn the proper technique of marijuana smoking. As the effects are rather mild, they also had to learn to interpret the internal cues as effects of marijuana.
After a while, most users were able to feel reactions which they attributed to marijuana. They largely felt physical effects. But most beginners felt the effects were unpleasant. Many thought the effects were frightening and became alarmed. Experienced users calmed them down, telling them their reaction was normal. They taught the novice to regard the ambiguous experiences, initially considered unpleasant ,as enjoyable: "The same thing happened to me. You'll get to like that after awhile."
At one time (perhaps still) marijuana was widely used by professional jazz musicians who interpreted the lengthening of the sensation of time as enabling them to better appreciate the nuance of the music they were playing, and thus play better. Now "objectively" this is probably not true (a neutral listener cannot distinguish between hearing music played by a “stoned” musician as distinguished from an unstoned musician) but that is really beside the point. A cardinal principal in the social science is just this " If men define situations as real they are real in their consequences." (William I Thomas). Point here is that the interpretation and "pleasure" of marijuana use among musicians is subtly different from that of non-musicians. Anthropologists might put it that the culture of marijuana use differs between musicians and non-musicians, but note that the word culture is an abstraction which we use as a convenient way of describing conduct not necessarily a "cause" of that conduct.
Opiate use The process of addition is not a mere reaction of the individual to the intrinsic properties of the drug, but is heavily related to the interpretations the individuals give to his experience, and these interpretations usually occur within a group and cultural context. Aside: leaving aside technical medical definitions, the term "addiction" as a common sense everyday use by the public is " an addict is someone who has an irresistible craving to ingest a substance that we disapprove of". Thus, it is only recently that we casually talk about cigarettes as being "addicting" as cigarette smoking has become more and more socially unacceptable, even though the physiological effects of nicotine use have been well known in the scientific literature for a very long time. Most studies of opiate use are based on interviews conducted in a clinical or law enforcement setting (in which the addict tells the interviewer what he thinks the interviewer wants to know) rather than ethnographic studies of the actual context of drug using conduct.
The problem is this: how do you become a habitual opiate user? If you take a dose of an opiate (say heroin or morphine,)the physiological symptoms of withdrawal do not appear for 24-48 hours after use. These symptoms are initially rather mild and vague: nausea, muscle aches, cramps, runny nose, fatigue and restlessness. If you went to a physician with these symptoms alone (and he did not know of the prior opiate use), you would probably come out with a diagnosis of flu or a bad cold. One has to learn to connect up these symptoms with the need for a further dose of a substance which one ingested 36 hours earlier, and this is not self evident. It is most likely to occur within the context of interacting with other drug users who have gone through similar experiences and can help you interpret your own. We know that many health care professionals are regular users of opiates: but they do so in secret and have a somewhat different perspective on their bodies than non-physicians, and it is arguable whether the term "addict" is really applicable in this social setting. Another factor: The most common theory of disease in our culture (and probably everywhere) is that it is the result of something foreign getting into the body (whether this is a germ or tumor, or poison, or ghost or spirit, or being bewitched, etc). But in order to become a full fledged opiate addict who has become physiological tolerant to a very high dose ( and remember that most users do not become addicts) one has to over the course of interacting with others turn this theory of disease upside down. A full fledged opiate addict has a tendency to interpret every physical ailment as due not to the presence of something foreign in the body, but rather the absence of something that is misusing, namely the drug. My point is that this rarely can occur without learning it in the context of other drug users who tend to interact with each other to the exclusion of non-drug users.
To attribute the conduct of drug users to the effects of the substance acting through the neutral human agent is just dead wrong.
Cocaine: here again there is no reason to assume
that the characteristics of the drug itself fully or even partially explains
the conduct and cultural meaning of the use. Cocaine and amphetamine are
extremely close chemically and in terms of physiological effects. Amphetamine
was first systemized in the early thirties. During WW II billions of pills were
distributed to soldiers and civilian workers (in the
Alcohol a widely used intoxicant, easily discovered as an adulterant whenever a liquid carbohydrate is left to ferment.
A similar analysis could be made of alcohol use. The experience of alcohol use depends on learning to perceive the pleasurable effects of alcohol use, and learning the appropriate cultural expected conduct while drunk. All cultures in which alcohol use is a social ritual have definite standards of drunken comportment: typical patterns of conduct of persons who are intoxicated. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that northern Europeans can sit and drink a full bottle of wine and be affected quite differently that a Greek or an Italian or even Frenchman sitting right next to him. The stereotype that alcohol causes people to become aggressive or belligerent is just plain wrong, if one is attributing to cause of the behavior to the alcohol itself. Thus, some Irish do have a tendency to become more bellicose, although Japanese tend to become less bellicose and a bit on the gushy side. Some American Indians who did use alcohol traditionally for certain religious purposes (not all did) did so under traditional interpretations and modes of social control – and it was not a "problem". These same groups when exposed to very hard "white man’s" liquor drunk in a totally different social and cultural context tended be interpret the drug in quite different ways. The only valid universal generalization about alcohol use is that it does affect physical coordination and some cognitive skills in recognizable ways.
In summary – "getting high" is not a direct effect of anything, but rather a culturally based interpretation of whatever very vague and subtle physiological process do occur. And further, in numerous studies it has been shown that people will report "getting high" even though they have not actually consumed anything, so long as they think they have [heroin users can be pacified with an injection of plain water, people may begin to act "drunk" even though there is little or no alcohol in their cocktail, marijuana users can become high in the company of other users even though they have ingested very little or none at all, etc. ]
[ The class at this point saw a film "magical death"]
The film was made in March 1971 in
a large village of about 250 people, located at the headwaters of the
Magical Death is a film about Dedeheiwa, a great Yanamamo shaman and headman. The first part of the film shows the uses of hallucinogenic drugs as Dedehewa calls the hekura spirits to help him cure the sick.. In the second part of the film, former enemies arrive in Dedeheiwa’s village to form an alliance; and the viewer sees how the Yanamamo manipulate their spiritual world to political ends when Dedeheiwa offers to magically attack a village of the visitor’s choosing in order to demonstrate his village’s good intentions. For the next two days, Dedeheiwa and the other shamans of his village mount the attack. The viewer sees how the drugs are prepared, how the hekura are called, and how the attack is dramatically carried out to a successful conclusion.