Anniversaire qui n'est pas bon?

Today I had an interesting experience relating to language/culture gap.

I was talking to a friend, we were talking in English. As he asked me if I have any plan on Sunday, I was sort of perplexed. Not because I did not have a specific plan to tell. But because I couldn't come up with the exact words in English to explain what it was about.

My plan on Sunday would be to gather with relatives and to have a small ceremony because it has been 7 years since my grandfather (on mother's side) passed away. In Japan we usually have this ceremony/ reunion thing when it's 1st, 3rd and 7th year since someone's death.

Having reflected for a moment, I finally picked up the word which I had thought of in the first instance but had thought was not suitable in this context.

"It's the 7th anniversary."
Feeling awkward, I went on, "since my grandfather's death."

"Do you have any other words to explain it?" Said I, in no time, out of impatience.
"Hmm... No." said he, "We don't have such events."
(He was born in America, brought up there.)

Of course, the (seemingly) latin prefix of the word anniversary originally meant "year", so its connotation should be something like "annual event". However, to consider the direct origin of the word, assuming that it came from Latin through French language, made it seem even worse fitted.

For as far as I remember, the french word "anniversaire" means "birthday".
Hereon, this endeavour of earnestly trying to figure out how to express the idea that the language you are to use does not bear resulted in using the word with the opposite connotation to the original concept.

How ironic it was!
Anniversaire qui n'est pas joyeux!!
I felt like I was copletely taken over by this awkward, uneasy feeling...
Nanka kimochi waru katta kedo omoshiro katta zekk!! ( *`ω´)

樫原(かたぎはら)日記 第一段





Coming home, looking out the window, I see the west hills have already started to change their colours. The best season of the year is getting closer! Soon I came to wonder if the persimmons were ripe beside the window. Indeed they were. So I reached out of my window, picking a fruit, being a bit worried if it was going to get dark soon. And then I came up with this poem.

My room west window

Reaching out a reddened hand

Some persimmons I pick

(With the view with coloured leaves behind)

And I wished I had someone to share that persimmon with.

Considering the Possibility for the Distinction between Public and Private as an Analytical Concept

End-term Report for GCOE: Reconstrution of Public/Private Sphere (Prof. Anuja Agrawal)

Considering the Possibility for the Distinction between Public and Private as an Analytical Concept

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Comment from:

Prof. Anuja

Very good essay! The student presented a very insightful understanding
of the public/private distinction drawing upon a wide range of
sociological and anthropological literature. The argument has been put
forward in a persuasive manner. The conclusion could have drawn more
from the threads in the initial discussion of public and private to
provide clearer connections in the overall argument.

Literature Cited in the Essay

Anderson, Benedict
1983 Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Random House.

Beteille, Andre
2003 The Public as a Social Category. In, Gurpreet Mahajan and Helmut Reifeld eds., The Public and the Private: Issues in Democratic Citizenship: 37-55. New Delhi: Sage.

Carrithers, Michael
1992 Why Humans Have Cultures: Explaining Anthropology and Social Diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2005 Anthropology as a Moral Science of Possibilities. Current Anthropology 46(3): 433-456.

Chowdhry, Prem
1997 Enforcing Cultural Codes: Gender and Violence in Northern India. Economic and Political Weekly: May 10, 1997: 1019-1027.

Matsuda, Motoji

Mody, Perveez
2002 Love and the Law: Love-Marriage in Delhi. Modern Asian Studies: 36(1): 223-256.

Oda, Makoto
2009「『二重社会』という視点とネオリベラリズム―生存のための日常的実践―」(The Perspective of Dual Societies Versus Neoliberalism.)文化人類学: 74(2): 272-292.

Spiro, Melford Elliot
1993 Is the Western Conception of the Self “Peculiar” within the Context of the World Cultures? Ethos 21(2): 107-153.

Strecker, Ivo
1988 The Social Practice of Symbolization: An Anthropological Analysis. London: Athlone Press.

Trevarthen, Colwyn and Katerina Logotheti
1989 Child in Society, and Society in Children: the Nature of Basic Trust. In, S. Howell and R. Willis eds., Societies at Peace: Anthropological Perspectives. London: Routledge.

Trevarthen, Colwlyn and Kenneth J. Aitken
1997 Self/other Organization in Human Psychological Development. Development and Psychology 9: 653-677.

Tylor, Edward Burnett
1871 Primitive Culture (2 vol.). John Murray.

"C"ulture→cultures[CN]→culture[UN]: A Short Note for my Future (possible) Dissertation

This is like a brief history and/or future estimation of the notion of “culture”. (for my own sake, basically)

To me, history of the notion of culture seems like...

"Culture" with a CAPITAL "C"
↓    ↓    ↓    ↓
"culture" as a COUNTABLE noun (as is designed to use in a plural form)
↓    ↓    ↓    ↓
"culture" as an UNcountable noun (as an abstract noun, or a more universal "idea")

As explained in the following few paragraphs...

The term culture was once (and still is, by much less frequency,) used as a synonym for “civilization”. The notion of culture at that time was Culture with a capital “C”, for civilization was assumed to exist only in the West. (*1)

Such conception was relativised by anthropologists and other social scientists during the last two centuries. When Edward Tylor defined the term as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (Sir Edward Burnett Tylor 1871), which all the inheritors of the discipline have followed until now, their assertion was that culture”s” exist all over the world, even in the most detached and primitive societies. This notion of culture, which is now used most frequently and widely in the daily lives of human beings, not to mention all fields of academic discourses, is a “countable” noun. The point of this idea is that every group of people has its own culture, and that all the cultures on earth are equally complex yet complete and integrate, and the most important of all, of equal significance. All the highly complicated features of a culture are functioning in a perfectly harmonious way, within that bounded whole of “culture”.

This cultural relativism, with the strategic use of the term as a plural noun, put itself on a par with the other theories of natural sciences such as racism and social evolutionism. (*2) However, this notion of “bounded culture” sometimes makes individuals stuck in that “supposedly” bounded entity. The truth is not that human beings are living by that strict set of “laws” within each culture, but that they are just utilizing the notion in the course of their daily lives.

To see human life more precisely, or more realistically, one should take culture to be the relationship between an individual and the surrounding social/physical situations around him. Supposing, in the course of daily lives, all humans basically and almost exclusively a) have that distinction between “self” and “other”, knowing that others around him/her have the same intentionality s/he him/herself has when s/he does many of whatever s/he does, and b) care about what other people’s intentions (and perhaps other animals’ and material objects’ “intentions”) are, estimating them by applying a narrative structure or causality to the collateral set of events; then, one can see human beings as relationship-making beings. In every moment of time they are in mind making/having/updating such estimated intentionality of the surrounding people/things. In so doing, they are imagining and/or organizing the world around him. The word “culture”, whether speaking of symbolic matters, material things, or the ways of behaviour, should refer to such “relationships” that individual human beings are consistently creating and altering.

In this sense, “culture” is much more like a universal (yet simple and basic) mechanism of human life. So, when it is necessary to distinguish this idea from the former rigid notion of “culture [C]” or culture as a countable noun, I can call this “culture [U]”, culture as an uncountable noun. It is true, fairly undeniable that people so often use the notion of culture [C], but they are not living their entire lives within and by those strict rules/laws of culture [C]. The truth is that they just occasionally and temporarily utilizing the notion for some (or perhaps no) intention in the course of daily lives. They never stay permanently in a single set of rigid rules (and indeed no one has ever done that in human history). If one is to gain the more precise perception of human life than that of the 19th and 20th century, then one has to be conscious of this notion of “culture [U]”, which is the principle of all human beings living in social relationships.


※2社会人類学が進化論生物学などと学問として肩を並べることができたのはその科学的手法(というか修辞法)によると思われる。(たとえば Michael Carrithers 1992にその分析あり)「科学的(とくにSocial Science/Hard Science/Higher Science)」に見せかけた人間に関する科学はまさに”experimental science in search of law” (Clifford Geertz 1973)だった!(にみせかけたものだった??)

※ちなみに上のギアツの言葉は前後も載せると”Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive science in search of meaning.”なのですが、僕の考えでは、(もちろん、人間に関する現象が複雑すぎてその全てを捉える事なんて不可能に近いから分析対象となる現象を選ばなければいけない、という意味でその分析は恣意的にならざるを得ないという前提もあるのですが、)社会的動物としての人間の生き方の本質というのが上に書いたみたいに他の人たちの行動とか様々な社会的・物理的現象の因果関係を推測/想像/解釈することにあるがために、人間に関する科学の目的は、そこに実際に生きる人達が自分の周りの世界にどのような解釈を与えているのか(つまり、どのような意味を見出しているのか)ということを、その人達がするのと同じ方法で解釈することにあるべきなのです。

CARRITHERS, Michael (1992) "Why Humans Have Cultures."
GEERTZ, Clifford (1973) "The Interpretation of Cultures."
TYLOR, Edward Burnett (1871) "Primitive Societies."















題名:How Individuals Perceive and Utilize “Cultures”: In the Case of Japanese-English Bilinguals

Shohei Nakamura

Department of Sociology, Doshisha University


The notion of “culture” has been fundamental to Anthropology. Now it is widely shared among people and used in everyday life. The question is “How do people live with the notion of culture?” In this thesis, I will first look at the changes in the notion of “culture” within the academic discourses, to give the theoretical basement to the thesis. Then I will analyse the discursive expressions and self-representations of Japanese-English bilinguals living in Japan, to show that a person with multiple languages accordingly has multiple “selves” deriving from different cultural lexicons, hence belonging to multiple “cultures”. On the basis of these two arguments, I will consider a question that is now fundamental to human beings: Can humans only live in the strict regulations of culture, or can they live more freely? To answer that question, I will display how I realized that the Japanese-English bilinguals continuously utilized the perception of the “cultures” that they belong to, in order for themselves to lead a more comfortable life. I choose bilinguals not because they are peculiar and different, but because I believe they should be the most obvious example of how one belongs to multiple “cultures” that they utilize.

Keywords: Bilingual, Culture, Self-Representation


How would it feel like

How would it feel like
to keep hoping for a year
for your popped-out eyes to work again.

How would it feel like
to realize after that one year
and to admit the truth and to face.

To face without seeing,
how would it feel like?

How would it feel like
There's no other way than to hear
Hear to watch your step taking your pace.

How would it feel like
to have all your grandchildren near
patting them on face knowing your fate.

The face, you can't see it,
how would it feel like?

How would it feel like I don't know
No matter how I care of him.
How would we look like he never knows
No matter how he loves us kids.

The life without sight,
how would it feel like?


keywords: community of improvisation, interpretative community, interpretative anthropology, mass media


His speech was very interesting to me in that he could unite the people of America, or at least the people at the speech; by successfully sharing with those people one huge story of "the United States of America". By continuously telling a life story of a particular American citizen and use it as a metaphorical example of the nation's history, he was able to let each individual see the great story of the nation as his/her own matter. And that's when he succeeded in sharing the narrative with people there and the whole crowd became as one. And that's when those people could feel like "yes, WE can".

I felt a dynamic interaction among the people there and even among the people beyond the TV screen. It might be true that they had shared the American History before the speech started. However, a community can be tied or united, and in the first place can be composed, "not merely through shared ideas but through a sense of mutual gaze and mutual response."(as Carrithers and Marchin said in 1996) They surely shared many features of the national history beforehand, but if that was what it's all about, the crowd could not have gone so wild and there could not have been such a strong atmosphere. By effectively using so-called symbolical "landmarks" that are widely accepted among the society, and with the consciousness of the interlocutors in the occasion, Barack Obama composed a strong, persuasive narrative. And so he could get together as "one people" with the people around him.



literature cited;

Speech at the election night. @chicago

Machin, D and Carrithers, M
1996 From 'interpretative communities' to 'communities of improvisation'. Media, Culture and Society, 18:343-352