Professor in Cultural Learning – University of Aarhus – Denmark

Learning Physical Space: The Social Designation of Institutional Culture (2002)

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Abstract

This paper argues that cultural learning is a useful anthropological concept in analysing how neophytes – both first year students in the physics department of a university, and the anthropologist studying them – learn from reactions and other forms of social designation. The first year students have to learn that certain places, acts and objects are to be interpreted as vehicles for concept ions of belonging to, or exclusion from, everyday institutional life. Familiar objects such as dresses and chairs are imbued with a specific significance as the act of sitting on a chair or wearing a short dress takes on a new symbolic meaning in a cultural context where inclusion and exclusion are a constant concern. By following and analysing what is involved in t he process of becoming a physics student the anthropologist is able to establish what may be seen as the cultural moral logic behind the inclusion and exclusion of students.

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