Topic: National Culture
From The Margaret Mead Symposium: Wither the United States in the World?
Commemorating the centennial of the birth of Margaret Mead.
December 2 & 3, 2001
Sponsors: Library of Congress and The Smithsonian Institute
What is national character? Through out clips in this topic, panelists make clear that the notion of national character is widely used, but not well defined.
Personality of Nations
Speaker: Mary Catherine Bateson
Institute for Intercultural Studies, President
Every speaker has spoken of nations as actors with attitudes, Bateson observes. Though the concepts of national character are problematic in several ways, it is important to come to terms with them, because we all use them, she says.
Speaker: Alan K. Hendrickson
Professor of Diplomatic History, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
The notion of national character is an abstraction, and following the work of Mead and others, one realizes that a country like the United States is an imagined community.
Muslims and National Character
Speaker: Richard Kurin
Director of Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
The study of national character is interesting in its own right, but especially relevant in the aftermath of 9/11. Is national character, a concept Mead first began to look at after WWII, still relevant and useful, or is it superseded by globalization and other forms of social solidarity, Kurin asks. He ends by suggest the possibility the events of 9/11 solidified ideas of American culture.
National Character and the US
Speaker: Takami Kuwayama
Professor of Anthropology, Soka University, Tokyo
Kuwayama observes that from the outside, the multicultural society of the United States appears to have become a single coherent entity in the wake of 9/11. In discussing de Toqueville’s writing’s on American democracy, he argues that it may be valuable to reconsider Mead’s work on national character.
End of Cold War and National Identity
Speaker: Jerrold M. Post
Founder and Director, Center for Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior, CIA; political psychologist, George Washington University; specialist in political violence and terrorism
“Who are we” is a tough question after the end of the Cold War, Post believes. We are seeing two tensions, one of increasingly small fractionalizations, as well as larger and larger entities. How do we appeal to the largest identifier of all, he asks?
America As a Tolerant Nation
Speaker: Herve Varenne
Professor of Anthropology and Education, Department of International and Transcultural Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University
Varenne believes that though there is legitimate debate on some post 9/11 intelligence tactics, the country has grown since the time of WWII. He goes on to ask, is the purpose of a nation to be loved?
Speaker: William Watts
President, Potomac Associates, former Senior Staff Member, National Security Council under Henry Kissinger
Watts touches on the Chinese conception of China as the center of the world.