Concepts & Trends

Cultural Change and Human Development

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Through the longtudinal study offamilies over two decades in Chiapas, Mexico, this chapter relates historical changes on the macro level to changes in human development and socialization on the micro level.
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Through the longtudinal study offamilies over two decades in Chiapas, Mexico, this chapter relates historical changes on the macro level to changes in human development and socialization on the micro level. Cultural Change and Human Development Patricia M. Greenfield Crosscultural studies of cognitive development preceded studies of cultural leaming. The former studies made an implicit assumption that culture is external whereas development is internal. Bruner s cultural psychology (1990) and Tomasello, Kruger, and Ratner s cultural learning (1993) assume, by contrast, that culture is inside the individual, that human beings are intrinsically social and primed both to learn from and to teach their conspecifics. With this new assumption, the old dichotomy between biology as nature and culture as nurture breaks down. Culture becomes part of human nature. Most important for present purposes, the conception of culture as internal rather than external privileges the study of developmental processes of cultural appropriation, to use a term orignated by Saxe (1991). But studies of intergenerational cultural apprenticeship (Rogoff, 1990) An earlier version of this chapter was presented at Development, Evolution, and Culture, an invited symposium organized by Elliot Tune1 at the twenty-fifth annual symposium of the Jean Piaget Society, Berkeley, Calif..June 1, 1995, and at the Growing Mind, Geneva, Sept Thanks to Emily Yut and the Thursday lab group for discussion and feedback on a previous version of this chapter. Special appreciation to Leslie Devereaux for help in the field and help in understanding Zinacantec culture and people. Thanks to Ashley Maynard for help with the video illustrations and the manuscript. Deep gratitude to Carla Childs and the late Shun Pavlu for being part of it all. The research on which this paper is based was supported by the Spencer Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the UClA Latin American Center, the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center, the Minority lntemational Research Training Program to UCLA-El Colegio de la Fronrera Sur (TW00061), El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, the UCLA Academic Senate, the Harvard Center for Cognitive Studies, the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, and the Milton Fund of Harvard Medical School. NEW DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD AND ADOLESCENT DEVELOPMENT. no. 83. Spring Jossey-Bass Publishers 37 38 DEVELOPMENT AND CULTURAL CHANGE must not merely elucidate the learning processes by which cultural skills are transmitted from an older to a younger generation. They must also elucidate the learning processes by which cultural skills are transformed from one generation to the next. This is the psychological issue of cultural change, raised by Wolfgang Edelstein in Chapter One and Geoffrey Saxe in Chapter Two of this volume. Cross-Cultural Comparison: Indirect Methods for Studying Cultural Change and Human Development The earliest methods for addressing cultural change from a psychological perspective were cross-cultural comparative studies of cognitive skills, at first based on the crude and simplistic notion of a ladder of cultural evolution. Later studies used methodologically tighter within-culture comparative methods to assess the impact of locally observed cultural changes on cognitive processes and cognitive development: Saxe s study of the impact of commercial development on Oksapmin number concepts in New Guinea (1982), Vygotsky and Luria s study of the effect of collectivization on logical operations in the Soviet Union (Luria, 19761, and my study of the effect of schooling on the development of categorization and conservation in Senegal (Greenfield, 1966; Greenfield, Reich, and Olver, 1966) are examples of cross-sectional studies that make inferences concerning the effects of longitudinal sociocultural change. However, cross-sectional studies can produce only indirect evidence concerning cultural change. This is because one must assume that the diachronic or longitudinal effect of the variable under study is the same as the synchronic or cross-sectional effect: for example, that Luria s collectivized peasants in Uzbekistan used to think like their uncollectivized neighbors before collectivization took place. However, when researchers address historical change by comparing two contemporaneous human groups, it is always a possibility that both groups being compared have changed during the historical process under study. In Luria s study, for example, both uncollectivized and collectivized peasants may have changed during the postrevolutionary period of collectivization. Even more problematic, there is always a possibility of differential selection bias in the two groups being compared: for example, collectivized and uncollectivized peasants may well have been different before collectivization took place. Consequently there is a need for direct, longitudinal study of historical change. Cross-Generational Comparison: A Direct Method for Studying Cultural Change and Human Development I would now like to describe a unique research design that is both historical and longitudinal: it compares socialization and development in two successive generations of the same group of families. The study of the second generation was begun two decades after the study of the first generation had been com- CULTURAL CHANGE AND HWAN DEVELOPMENT 39 pleted. This research project explores the relations between sociohistorical transformations and human development in a direct way, by following a group of families over two generations-studying their learning and representational processes before and after processes of important ecological change. More specifically, we have investigated the historical transition from agriculture to commerce, focusing on its developmental and learning implications. The study site is a community in transition from agricultural subsistence to commercial entrepreneurship and cash. Our study examines the relationship between intergenerational continuity and intergenerational change on the cultural level and processes of learning, innovation, and cognitive development on the individual level. In so doing, we elucidate the role of both social interaction and external representational tools in these processes of cultural continuity and change. Theoretical Framework and Questions My major theoretical proposition is that as cultures change over historical time, the very processes of cultural learning and cultural transmission also change. More specifically, a somewhat different set of learning processes are highlighted when cultures are in a more stable state, compared with when they are in a more dynamic state. A second theoretical proposition is that even in periods of cultural change, some learning processes of the individual and some cultural foundations of the group remain constant. A third theoretical proposition is that cultural change on the economic level leads to changes in representational strategies on the cognitive level (compare Saxe, 1982). Insofar as the process of socialization prepares the next generation to participate in society, the process and its outcomes should change when the conditions faced by that next generation differ from the environment in which their parents grew up. Socialization is intrinsically future-oriented: it prepares children for an adulthood that still lies in the future. However, a key question is, in conditions of change, do parents merely recreate the apprenticeship process that they underwent as children? Or do parents have the capacity to develop new methods and processes of apprenticeship as societal conditionsin this case, economic conditions-change? And what, if any, are the consequences of such changes for the development of their children? At the same time, as the cultural historical school emphasizes (for example, Scribner, 1985 , there is an accumulation of cultural history; there is always continuity as well as change. This continuity provides a foundation that persists and affects processes of learning and representation through the course of sociohistorical change. In human history, there have been three major ecological adaptations: hunting and gathering, agriculture, and commerce, which includes emphasis on advanced technology. It is hypothesized that each ecology emphasizes a different set of skills, different developmental pathways, and different processes of socialization or cultural transmission. 40 DEVELOPMENT AND CULTURAL CHANGE The First Generation In 1969 and 1970, in collaboration with Carla Childs, 1 carried out a number of studies of culture, learning, and cognitive development in Nabenchauk, a hamlet of the agrarian Maya community of Zinacantan (summarized in Greenfield, Brazelton, and Childs, 1989, and Greenfield and Childs, 1991). Zinacantan is a Tzotzil-speaking community, located in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico (Vogt, [1970] 1990). All communication between researchers and subjects occurred in Tzotzil. Our focus was on the cognitive skills and learning processes involved in the important cultural technology of weaving, the most complex skill in the culture, a skill acquired by all Zinacantec women (Childs and Greenfield, 1980; Greenfield, 1984; Greenfield and Childs, 1977). Weaving was our focus for studylng processes of informal education, learning, and cognition in a society in which education does not traditionally take place in school (Greenfield and Lave, 1982). Weaving is considered to be the essence of Zinacantec womanhood. Figure 3.1 shows a girl seated at the ancient Maya backstrap loom. Schooling was not entirely absent from the community, although it was an outside force, carried out in a foreign language, Spanish, and delivered by teachers who were Ladinos, a local term for people who identify with national Mexican culture and are often racially mixed (mestizo) between indigenous Maya and Spanish. There were two elementary schools in the village, attended almost exclusively by boys. No one in the community had an education Figure 3.1. Katal Pavlu Seated at a Backstrap Loom, 1970 Source: 0 Sheldon Greenfield. CULTURAL CHANGE AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT 41 beyond the elementary school level. Many who began school left before completing sixth grade. Artifacts. Woven artifacts, like other parts of the culture, were stable and little changing, defined by tradition. The discipline of anthropology has called attention to the dangers of assuming stability in a culture up to the moment of the investigator's entrance. However, I had an opportunity to check empirically the hypothesis of relative stability in the traditions of woven patterns before my arrival in I was given access to a collection of ritual textiles created and used by the Vasquez family in Nabenchauk. This collection went from the 1940s into the 1980s; it confirmed the slow pace of change and, more important, the relative uniformity of textile designs up through , the point at which we studied the first generation. In that period, woven patterns were limited to two red-and-white striped configurations, one multicolor stripe, and one gray-and-white basketweave pattern. Figure 3.2 shows the two red-and-white striped patterns, with two variants of each pattern. Cultural Learning. Based on our research in 1969 and 1970, we concluded that the goal of Zinacantec education and socialization was the intergenerational replication of tradition: learning to weave meant learning to weave a few very specific patterns. According to the findings from our videotaped observations, the particular way in which weaving was taught fostered this goal: the learning process was a relatively error-free one, in which the teacher, usually the mother, sensitively provided help, models for observation, and verbal direction in accord with the developmental level of the learner (Childs and Greenfield, 1980; Greenfield, 1984). Mother provided a scaffold of help that allowed the learner to complete a weaving she could not have done by herself. Figure 3.3 shows a mother helping her nine-year-old daughter, Katal, to weave. The image of four hands on the loom was a paradigmatic symbol for weaving apprenticeship in This scene is in sharp contrast to what occurred two decades later when Katal's daughter, also age nine, learned to weave in Because the 1970 version of the apprenticeship process was highly structured by the older generation and did not allow room for learner experimentation and discovery, the method of informal education (or apprenticeship) was well adapted for the continuation of tradition, the maintenance of the status quo. Cognitive Representation. In 1969 and 1970, we did a cognitive experiment (Greenfield and Childs, 1977). One of its goals was to assess the cognitive effects of weaving on pattern representation. Sticks placed in a frame were used to represent striped patterns (see Figure 3.4). Note that in addition to being various colors, the sticks came in three widths: thin, medium, and broad. At the outset of the experiment, each subject was asked to create representations of two traditional Zinacantec woven patterns. These were the same patterns shown in Figure 3.2. The top pattern in Figure 3.2 was used for the male poncho, worn by the subject at the left side of Figure 3.4. The bottom pattern in Figure 3.2 is used for the female shawl, worn by the experimenter, Carla 42 DEVELOPMENT AND CULTURAL CHANGE Figure 3.2. Two Red-and-White Striped Woven Patterns, 1969 Source: 0 Carla Childs. The top pair are two variants of a pattern for a poncho worn by all boys and men. In all variants of the poncho pattern, the basic configuration of alternating thin red and thicker white stripes remains constant. The bottom pair are two variants of a pattern for a shawl worn by all girls and women. In all variants of the shawl pattern, the basic configuration of alternating a complex stripe (three thin reds separated by two thin whites) with a simple white stripe is maintained. Dark stripes represent red in the black-and-white photograph. CULTURAL CHANGE AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT 43 Figure 3.3. Xunica Kasya Helping Her Nine-Year-Old Daughter, Katal, with Her Weaving, 1970 Source: Video still Childs, seated to the right in Figure 3.4. It is important to note that the poncho pattern (top of Figure 3.2) is a simple alternation of thin red and thicker white stripes, whereas the shawl pattern (bottom of Figure 3.2) has a complex red stripe consisting of three thin red stripes separated by two thin white ones; this complex red stripe alternates with a white stripe. Other patterns, starting with simple and familiar and progressing toward patterns of increasing complexity and novelty, were then modeled for the subjects to complete in the same frame. The development of representational strategies moved from simple to complex with increasing age (Greenfield and Childs, 1977). By the time subjects reached teenage years, there was a differentiation of strategies for representing the woven patterns between schooled and unschooled subjects (all male) and between unschooled weavers (female) and nonweavers (male). Figure 3.5 shows a strategy of representation that was used more frequently by teenagers who either wove or had been to school; it was used less frequently by teenagers who had never been to school. We called the strategy depicted in Figure 3.5 a detailed analytic or thread-by-thread analytic representation. It accurately maintains the distinct configurations of the two striped patterns shown at the top and the bottom of Figure 3.2. In contrast, unschooled teenage boys used more global, less analytic strategies for representing the woven patterns. Specifically, their strategies less 44 DEVELOPMENT AND CULTURAL CHANGE Figure 3.4. Pattern Representation Experiment Note: The sticks come in three widths. The subject is seated to the left; the tester, Carla Childs, is to the right. Source: 0 Sheldon Greenfield. frequently indicated analysis of the complexity of the stripe in the shawl (narrow red, narrow white, narrow red, narrow white, narrow red, broad white; see bottom of Figure 3.2); some unschooled teenagers, for example, represented the shawl as a simple alternation of a broad red and a narrow white stripe. At the same time, note, in Figure 3.5, that broad stripes are represented by grouping thin sticks together, just as, in a weaving, a broad stripe would consist of a series of threads grouped together. Clearly a weaver would know how a pattern was constructed, thread by thread. However, elementary level schooling clearly also pushed subjects in the direction of a more analytic approach to representing the patterns, including the thread-by-thread detail. Figure 3.6 shows a technique of representation virtually never used by any Zinacantec subjects in our sample but frequently used by US. college students (Greenfield and Childs, 1977). We called this the abstract analytic mode of representation. Like many of the skilled Zinacantec weavers and schooled Zinacantec teenage boys, most U.S. college students maintained the distinct configuration of each pattern, including analysis of the complex stripe in the shawl (right side of Figure 3.6). However, unlike the Zinacantec subjects, they used broad sticks to represent CULTURAL CHANGE AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT 45 Figure 3.5. Detailed Analytic Representation of the Two Red-and-White Striped Woven Patterns, 1969 Poncho Shawl Key Red White I 1 Note: The pattern for the poncho worn by boys and men is shown at the left; it is a representation of the pattern shown at the top of Figure 3.2. The pattern for the shawl worn by girls and women is shown at the right; it is a representation of the pattern shown at the bottom of Figure 3.2. 46 DEVELOPMENT AND CULTURAL CHANGE Figure 3.6. Abstract Analytic Representation of the Two Red-and-White Striped Woven Patterns Poncho Shawl Key Red White 7 1 Note: The pattern for the poncho worn by boys and men is represented at the left; it is a representation of the pattern shown at the top of Figure 3.2. The pattern for the shawl worn by girls and women is represented at the right; it is a representation of the pattern shown at the bortom of Figure 3.2. CULTURAL CHANGE AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT 47 broad stripes (poncho and shawl representations in Figure 3.6). This strategy is abstract in that the representation of the broad stripe eliminates the detail of the thread-by-thread strategy. Whereas both weaving and elementary level schooling were associated with the detailed analytic strategy, advanced education or other distinctive features of U.S. culture were associated with the abstract mode of analysis. One possible causal factor in the prevalence of the abstract mode of representation is the importance of money, as an abstract medium of exchange, in the U.S. economy. The abstraction of money contrasts with the specificity of barter exchanges, common in subsistence cultures like Zinacantan. This question of causal factors for the abstract analytic mode of pattern representation was pursued through the historical replication of the experiment two decades later; its results will be discussed in the last section of this chapter. Symbolic Tools. These we define as tools for creating external representations. This was not an area of study in 1969 and 1970 because there were virtually no tools for creating external representations in the community. The only exception was the winding board that could be used to create a striped warp for the striped or basketweave textiles that could be copied by other weavers. Although there were statues of saints in the churches, these were brought in from outside the community, so no representational tools for creating them existed. One did not see paper and pencil in homes. Nor did one see figurative drawing. The area of symbolic tools came to our attention in the follow-up study two decades later because the si
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