Hall Critics

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Author: Edward T. HALL


The science upon mankind is definitely one of the most important topic in history. The observation of the behaviour of men and women of a same country or from different countries appears to be a whole subject of questioning and misunderstandings. Within the past century the understanding and the discovery of new habits, manners and behaviour have been the priority of a various intellectuals and professionals around the World. This report is about the theories of one of them, Edward T. Hall. Born in Webster Groves, Missouri in 1914, he got his A.B at the University of Denver 22 years later. Then he received his Masters of Art Degree, and finally achieved his Phd in 1932. Through all his fieldwork and personal experience, Hall observed and analysed various behaviours, habits and manners in different countries such as Asia, Middle East or Europe. After 4 years sharing the same lifestyle as the Native Americans and the Hopi in an American Reservations, he was enrolled in the U.S army as an engineer. He served in the Philippines and Europe where experienced cross cultural management within the regiment he was in charge of. Then, Hall decided to become again a student and started a post-doctoral study in cultural anthropology at Colombia University conducted by the U.S military government administration of Truk (Hall, 1992). From there he never stopped being related to the university and studies area. First chairman at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Denver, he became two years later teacher in a college in Vermont.

Hall developed his theory around a main idea, a whole notion: the context. Indeed Hall focused on the importance of the surrounding, the conversations (verbal or non verbal, relation to time) or the information flow. All these concepts are aimed to one thing: defining and understanding a culture. Hall is using several factors to reach this goal. Indeed Hall considers time as a tool to analyse a culture. Within it, two major sides define the relation between the people and time; the monochronic and the polychromic system. On one hand in monochronic cultures, time is linear. It is a path between the past, the present and the future that is why timetables and slots are regulating it. According to Hall, people refer to it as money: “wasted, lost, saved” (Hall, 1990). This relation to time is only about a hierarchical organisation of priorities, with tasks that have to be done first and others that can wait. In accordance with Hall‘s illustration, time is like “a room which some people are allowed to enter, while others are excluded” (Hall, 1990). On the other hand, Hall defines the polychromic time as the “antithesis of the monochromic systems” (Hall, 1990). With a monochronic approach people will focus on one thing at a time with no space and availability for other involvement. The polychronic systems let a significant space for people and interactions. The second tool is a main factor to analyse a culture in order to understand its codes and norms: space. According to Hall, the territoriality and the history related is a key of the people communication. Related to the occupation of space, the territoriality can be identified as power and authority. Moreover from a personal vision, the “life space” is a crucial factor to understand a civilisation and its norms. Several things result from this invisible square: emotions, expectations, cultural background, density of population, and activity performed (Hall, 1992). As we can see with Hall’s tools, the crucial concept is the communication. His fieldworks are focused on the communication of all forms: the verbal but especially the nonverbal communication. In his book The Silent Language, Hall defines the communications...
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