From the Transmission of Representations to the Education of Attention
We human beings know a great deal. But we are able to be so knowledgeable only because we stand on the shoulders of our predecessors. As Durkheim noted long ago (1976 : 435), 'to that which we can learn by our own personal experience [is added] all that wisdom and science which the group has accumulated in the course of centuries'. The problem, which has remained at the heart of anthropological attempts to understand the dynamics of culture, is to fathom how this accumulation occurs. How is the experience that we gain during our lifetimes enriched by the wisdom of our ancestors? And how, in turn, does that experience make itself felt in the lives of descendants? More generally, in the creation and maintenance of human knowledge, what contribution does each generation make to the next?