Sociology Index

Culture and Cognition

Overview: Culture and Cognition: In recent years there has been a budding of a new interest in culture that has revolved around the incantation of culture and cognition. In any abstract, formal sense, it is hard to defend this as a new field, but in the sociological sense there is clearly something new afoot.

This interest is different from the sociology of culture and cultural studies generally conceived in two ways. First, it is not specifically concerned with Culture in the narrow sense of productions, but culture in the wider anthropological sense. Second, it is not interested in the vague, evanescent and global level of culture involving things such as symbols unless these can be made concrete and related to defensible models of cognition.

This interest is also different from social psychology as currently constituted, basically because of a lack of interest in the problems that became central to social psychology as it currently stands.

The substitution of “cognition” for “psychology” also seems to imply that conventional psychological models are considered to be exhausted.

Instead, the study of culture and cognition is an attempt to look at patternings in subjectivity that arise because of the placement of that cognizing apparatus which we call the human mind in institutional settings.

Culture in Mind: Toward a Sociology of Culture and Cognition by Karen A. Cerulo (Editor)

Judith R. Blau, University of NC at Chapel Hill ""A spendid volume on cognitive sociology...Cerulo has done sociologists a great service."."

Book Description Rather than considering thought as just an individual act, Culture in Mind considers it in a social and cultural context. Covering such diverse topics as the nature of evil, the process of storytelling and the defining mental illness, these essays offer fresh insights into the functioning of the mind. Karen A. Cerulo is Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University where she specializes in culture and cognition research.

Each class section has a focal reading or set of related readings; for part of the class I will make an argument for how this contributes to our understanding of culture and cognition, and/or provide background. The rest of the session will be an evaluation of the material. By the end, we will probably actually know something about cultural and cognition, as opposed to only knowing about the sociology of culture and cognition.

2. HOMOMORPHISMS AND HOMO ECONOMICUS Reading: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, selections; Durkheim and Mauss, Primitive Classification. The Culture and Cognition problem isn’t really new—it goes back to two venerable traditions in the sociology of knowledge to establish a correspondence between subjectivity and social structure, the Marxian and the Durkheimian. Both suggest some sort of homomorphism — structural identity — between society and culture.

Sociology of Culture and Cognition.