Profanation: How Breaks In Structures Affect Different Cultures Prompt: Dissect The Meaning Of Symbols In Durkheim And Relate It To Hebdige's Work "Subculture"

2722 words - 11 pages

Nedum Aniemeka SOSC 12200 March 18, 2014Profanation: How Breaks in Structures Affect Different CulturesMany of the authors we have read this quarter have explored the presence of structures in society in order to flesh out what culture is. Specifically, these authors not only attempt to identify the structures present in any given culture, but they also dissect and examine the relationships between these structures in order to determine how a society functions under a given set of rules/conventions. While these thinkers have different approaches to evaluating how structures are formed and followed, (for example, Hebdige uses an ethnographic analysis while Sahlins isolates a specific moment of time to study the structures of a certain group of people) all of these authors have similar overarching arguments. The similarities between them lie in their understanding of profanation, and what they believe it means when things that are usually kept separate are suddenly placed into the same world. Hebdige, Sahlins, and Adorno all operate under the system of profanation in their examinations of culture, and by observing their analyses we can determine what kind of societal and political consequences arise from profanation in various cultures.As already mentioned, the idea of profanation plays an important role in each of these thinkers' works. However, in order to understand what is meant by profanation, we must return to Durkheim's observations of the sacred vs. the profane. According to Durkheim, "sacred things are those which interdictions protect and isolate; profane things, those to which these interdictions are applied and which must remain at a distance from the first" (Durkheim, pg. 40). These interdictions Durkheim speaks of create relationships not only between what is sacred and what is profane, but also between things of varying degrees of sacredness. Thus, one ends up with structures that revolve around these categories of what can and cannot "touch" depending on their place in the hierarchy of sacredness. This is where the idea of profanation stems from. Naturally, individuals in society operate by separating ideas and objects into different categories in order to make sense of the world around them. However, there are certain categories that can mix and there are some that for them to be placed in the same realm as another, it would be considered unnatural or inappropriate. Profanation occurs when these codes and regulations that we normally uphold in society are suddenly broken -it is a deviation from what is usually observed in every day life.The first work we can consider using this definition of profanation is Adorno's piece on the fetishizing of music. Adorno begins his essay by explaining how the profanation of music in the past used to involve going against conventions. Now, Adorno writes "impulse, subjectivity, and profanation, the old adversaries of materialistic alienation, now succumb to [conventions]. The representatives of the...

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