Popular culture is understood as the culture based on the tastes of the common people as opposed to the tastes of the elite. Although there is difficulty in establishing a working definition of the popular culture, it can described as the set of available artifacts such as films, clothes, architecture, television programs and records. From an anthropological point of view, culture from a broader sense encompasses a particular way of life that expresses certain meanings both in art and learning as well as in institutions and the ordinary behavior. In the contemporary cultural studies, popular culture is used to describe the industrial societies since the term became widely used during post industrial revolution era. In this sense, anthropology creates an ethnographic sense in this evolving and ambiguous cultural perspective that spreads across disciplines.
According to Esterhuyse (24) popular culture refers to the expressive forms of culture among the common people. Such definition unsettles the anthropological delineation of culture into high and low culture, in which, the high culture represent the elites and the low culture represent the ordinary people. Popular culture implies a culture rooted in particular social process, relations and values. One of the primary weaknesses of the popular culture is simplified representation of people as more or less homogenous group devoid of any complexities and rivalry among subgroups. The understanding of the popular culture from the anthropological point of view is firmly based on the belief that things cannot be understood in isolation (Diah, Hossain, Mustari & Ramli160). This implies that things are seen and understood on the larger context of the structures they are part of; for example, trying to fathom kinship extends beyond the nuclear family to include the entire kinship system.
Anthropological perspective in the popular culture can be used to describe different phenomenon in the postmodern era and help in ascribing meaning and sense making. Illustratively, symbolic anthropology helps in interpreting symbolic actions (Diah et al 162). In the contemporary cultural environment, people use symbolic anthropology to derive meaning from different languages. As such, different cultures are able to fathom language and the power of other cultures around the world. Parker (156) notes that hegemony is based on the modes of communication; hence, symbolic anthropology helps people to discern the meanings espoused by different linguistic symbols. In support of this argument, Esterhuyse (35) notes that culture is not simply the received wisdom but also a host of active interventions and interaction through discourse and representation.
Cultural ecology and neo-evolution is an anthropology school of thought that advances the idea energy and uses of technology as he primary drivers of cultural evolution (Diah et al 161). For example, the hunters and gatherer used human energy, during the agricultural era people used human energy supplemented by the animal energy; as a result change happened. In the contemporary society people use different forms of energy leading to a huge transformation in culture. Diah et al (161) notes that the more complex use of technology the more complex becomes the cultural development. Progressively, the conflict between anthropology and cultural studies has been neutralized by the modernity in the society as depicted by the popular culture. Traditionally, anthropologists’ studied elements of popular culture such as, ceremonies, rituals, theatres and carnivals but the contemporary anthropologists delve into the cultural elements of the popular culture by focusing on expressive cultural practices and performance (Esterhuyse 37). For example, media and popular culture emerges as anthropologically significant sites that occasioned development and transformation of culture.
Feminist anthropology in the popular culture delves into the question of gender equality. According to Diah et al (163) feminist anthropologists are concerned with documenting women lives, their roles in the society and across the globe. The emerging question in the contemporary feminist anthropology is whether gender is biological or cultural. Advancement in the communication technology and media has revolutionized the issue of gender across the globe. Focusing on gender equality and complexity of gender roles in the popular culture facilitates cross-cultural analysis to understand the roles and gender power among groups. In the contemporary society, popular culture has been characterized by the universal reverence of gender quality and affirmative action. Gender roles are no longer defined based on the sex of the child but rather provision of equal opportunities is encouraged.
In conclusion, anthropological perspectives of the popular culture help the scholars to understand how different phenomenon in the cultural studies. Understanding human behavior, roles, practices and traditions facilitates cultural development through which societies come together. For example, people from different societies are able to embrace diversity and learn from each other’s practices and experiences. Popular culture facilitates sense making of the anthropological perspectives such as structuralism, materialism and feminism among others paradigms. Finally, anthropology and culture studies experiences reduced conflict in ideology and application of theoretical perspectives since popular culture emerges as one of the fundamental sites of cultural development. Anthropological perspectives in the popular culture require additional research in the light globalization and homogeneity of the global culture.
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Works Cited Diah, Narrazzura M, Dewan Hossain M, Sohela Mustari, & Noor Ramli S. “An Overview of the Anthropological Theories.” International Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, vol. 4, no. 10, 2014, pp. 150-164. Esterhuyse, Petro. “An Anthropological Perspectives on Popular Culture.” Acta Academic, vol. 36, no. 3, 2004, pp. 21-46. Parker, Holt N. “Towards a Definition of Popular Culture.” History and Theory, vol. 50, 2011, pp. 147-170.