Sound studies / Studies of sound

Earlier this year I came across the work of Steven Feld, a pioneer in sound-based cultural anthropology, and was delighted to find on his website a remark about “sound studies.”

I hate “sound studies”!

I love studies of sound; that’s not the issue. I hate the conglomeration phrase “sound studies” because…

“Sound studies” totalizes the object “sound,” and it presumes an imagined coherence to that object that one is supposed to know in advance.

[From Steven Feld, I Hate “Sound Studies” ]

I couldn’t agree more with his point.
In a similar vein, think about “Japanese culture” and “the culture of Japan.”
The former presumes a pre-defined set of authentically “Japanese” behaviors, while the latter evokes an openness and a willingness to accept the reality of how people in Japan are actually behaving. I like to think those unconscious actions and customs in everyday life make up the actual “culture” of a country. But they are hard to measure.
Sadly, I sense that the kind of nationalism and aikokushin (love for one’s country) the government is trying to instill in children through school education is based on the former. It tries to teach a “Japanese culture” that ordinary citizens have long lost touch with.
This deprives children of the opportunity to see the powerful but hidden connections between themselves and their culture– in other words, to have ownership of their values and the empowerment to change that culture if need be.
To see it from the other side, if we just added a no (“of”) to the curriculum title, it might unleash so much more flexibility in the way we think about culture.