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Trajectories of Culture in West Mexico

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Explaining culture change requires a multi-dimensional approach, and so does explaining cultural continuity. I combine several approaches to explain why the account given of a Mexican town's history changed between 1879 and 1992. I also identify and explain what did not change during the period, as well as during the subsequent period of fieldwork itself, 1992–2005. Rather than treat cultural continuity as the result of inertia, I follow Urban ([2001], Metaculture: How Culture Moves Through the World, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN) in looking for what motivates the transmission of culture as well as what pathways it takes, although I prefer to stress human agency in writing of the trajectories along which people propel culture, in this case a town's history. One approach which I draw, for explaining the trajectories of culture, is Malinowski's seminal study of Trobriand myths (1926), but I combine it with the more recent approaches that link versions of history to the interests of social groups; highlight the density of ties between person, people and place; pay attention to the genre of narratives being transmitted, and to the skewing of culture towards central places; and finally, consider shifts not just in the figure of particular narratives but in the grounds that underlie them, such as the criterion of truth against which narratives are measured.
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Keywords: Cultural Transmission; Ethnicity; Genre; Historical Knowledge; Mexico

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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