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Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology (Guides to Theological Inquiry) Paperback – October 1, 1997
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She begins her work with an overview of recent trends in cultural theory tracing the history of the modern, and then the postmodern, concept of "culture". After tracing the paths by which the French, German, British conceptions of "culture" and "the cultured" evolved into the modern (i.e. Enlightenment) anthropological notion of culture as a "group-differentiating, holistic, nonevaluative, and context-relative notion" (p.24),
Tanner argues to the contrary that cultures do not exist as internally consistent wholes, rooted in the consensus of their constituencies. Neither can culture become a principle for the ordering of a society if beliefs and values are part and parcel of what is at stake in disagreements over social order. According to her, cultures are not stable in any sense, but operate according to quite fluid conventions, with varying interpretations of loosely connected and logically incompatible elements and no sharply-bounded or self-contained units. For Tanner, it seems that one never steps into the same cultural river even once.
Having justly chastened modernist cultural studies, Tanner attempts their postmodern reconstruction in a project that privileges complexity over order and engagement over agreement. Tanner's postmodern presentation of cultural study consummates the modernist critique of ethnocentricism by demonstrating that the anthropologist's own complex and diverse culture is subject to the same deconstruction as the culture under investigation.Read more ›
Tanner presents her arguments well. The book progresses steadily from cultural theory to suggestions for theological method. She ends with a theory of Christian culture that allows for much disagreement and creativity. Her thoughts are well reasoned and thoroughly argued. Buy this book if you want to understand the role of theology in the Christian culture.