Anthropology originated as the study of 'primitive' cultures. But the notion of 'primitive' exposes presumptions of 'civilized' superiority and the right of the West to speak for 'less evolved' others. With the fall of Empire, anthropology became suspect and was torn by dissension from within. Did anthropology serve as a 'handmaiden to colonialism'? Is it a 'science' created by racism to prove racism? Can it aid communication between cultures, or does it reinforce our differences? "Introducing Anthropology" is a fascinating account of an uncertain human science seeking to transcend its unsavoury history. It traces the evolution of anthropology from its genesis in Ancient Greece to its varied forms in contemporary times. Anthropology's key concepts and methods are explained, and we are presented with such big-name anthropologists as Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski, E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Margaret Mead and Claude Levi-Strauss. The new varieties of self-critical and postmodern anthropologies are examined, and the leading question - of the impact of anthropology on non-Western cultures - is given centre-stage. "Introducing Anthropology" is lucid in its arguments, its good humour supported by apt and witty illustrations. This book offers a highly accessible invitation into anthropology.
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What is Anthropology?
What is “Primitive”?
Anthropology’s Big Problem
The Changing Problem
The Origins of Anthropology
The Founding Fathers
The Hidden Agenda
The Age of Reconnaissance
“Fidelity to the Old”
The Question of Human Rights
The Jesuit Relations
Major Trends in Western Thought
The Continuity of Tradition
The Derived Minor Trends
The Complicity of Anthropology
Violations of Ethics
Back to the Roots
The Indispensable Primitive
Speculating on the Invention
What Came First?
Seen from the Armchair
Theories of Evolutionism
Integrating the Biological and Social
The Theory of Diffusionism
The Race Swindle
The Anthropological Tree
Polygenesis vs. Monogenesis
Human Ecology and Genetics
The Rise of Sociobiology
A Refocus of Race in Gene Theory
Other Links with Early Anthropology
Archaeology and Material Culture
Social or Cultural Anthropology
What is Culture?
The Bedrock of Ethnography
Writing the Exotic
Human Ecology in Fieldwork
The Question of Economy
The Potlatch Ceremony
The “Big Men” of New Guinea
The Kula Exchange
Exchange and Trading Networks
The Formalist-Substantivist Debate
Marxism’s Evolutionary View
The Household Unit
The Forms of Family
The Marriage Links
Marriage Contract Payments
The Study of Kinship
Marriage and Residence Rules
The Idiom of Kinship
What’s the “Use” of Kinship?
Alliance Theory and Incest Taboo
Structures in Mind
Forms of Elementary Structures
Does Alliance Theory Work?
Politics and Law
Further Examples …
The Terminological Approach
Age Grade Societies
Synchronic vs. Diachronic Views
Other Social Stratifications
Problems of Ethnicity
Anthropology of Law
Mechanisms for Resolving Disputes
Shamanism and Cargo Cults
Sacred and Profane
The Anthropology of Magic
The Debate on Belief
Rites of Passage
The Study of Myth
Binary Oppositions and Structure
Symbols and Communication
Symbols and the Social Process
Actor, Message and Code
Symbolism and New Perspectives
Anthropology of Art
A New Branch or an Old Root?
Writing Up the Field
Writing in the Present
The Dual/Duel of Tepoztlan
Is Anthropology a Science?
A Pretended Science
The Indians are Off the Reservation
Who Speaks for the Indian?
White Man as God
The Myth of Authority
A Hero of Anthropology
The Fall of the Mead Myth
Feet of Clay
The Issue of Self-projection
Writing Culture and Postmodernism
Women in Anthropology
Kinship Ties of Anthropologists
The Field Helpmate
Situating Feminist Anthropology
The Virgin People
The Yanomamo Scandal
Creating Civil War
About the Author and Artist
Other Introducing Books …
Published by Icon Books Ltd, Omnibus Business Centre, 39-41 North Road, London N7 9DPEmail: [email protected]
Text copyright © 2013 Icon Books Ltd Merryl Wyn-Davis
Illustrations copyright © 2013 Icon Books Ltd
The author and illustrator has asserted their moral rights
Originating editor: Richard Appignanesi
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, or by any means, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.
The word “anthropology” derives from the Greek and literally means “the study of man” or “the science of man”. But the “man” of anthropology was a special kind of “man”.
HISTORICALLY, ANTHROPOLOGY WAS THE “STUDY OF PRIMITIVE MAN”. I AM ANAZASI. THEY CALLED ME A PRIMITIVE MAN.
In The Mind of Primitive Man (1938), Franz Boas (1858–1942), founder of American Cultural Anthropology, told us just who are the primitives.
PRIMITIVE ARE THOSE PEOPLE WHOSE FORMS OF LIFE ARE SIMPLE AND UNIFORM, AND THE CONTENTS AND FORM OF WHOSE CULTURE ARE MEAGRE AND INTELLECTUALLY INCONSISTENT. A BETTER DEFINITION OF THE SUBJECT IS THE STANDARD ANTHROPOLOGICAL JOKE – “THE STUDY OF MAN EMBRACING WOMAN”.
Anthropologists study people. They study how people live, human society past and present. Anthropology is also about how we think about people thinking about people, now and in history. And sometimes it is about power relations between people, peoples, cultures and societies, colonialism and globalization.
ANTHROPOLOGY IS …
The study of man from biological, cultural and social viewpoints.
The study of human cultural difference.
The search for generalizations about human culture and human nature.
The comparative analysis of similarities and differences between cultures.
The biggest problem in anthropology is how to talk about its object of study. Primitive, savage and simple are prejudicial, discriminating and supremacist terms. Yet they defined the people anthropologists were particularly interested to study and why they wanted to study them.
THE FUNDAMENTAL SPIRIT OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH CONSISTS IN THE APPRECIATION OF THE NECESSITY OF STUDYING ALL FORMS OF HUMAN CULTURE, BECAUSE THE VARIETY OF ITS FORMS CAN ALONE THROW LIGHT UPON THE HISTORY OF ITS DEVELOPMENT, PAST AND FUTURE. WHAT ANTHROPOLOGISTS HAVE LEARNT AND ANTHROPOLOGY TRIES TO TEACH IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THINKING ABOUT REAL PEOPLE AS PRIMITIVE, SAVAGE AND SIMPLE.
Today, anthropology is defined as the systematic study of the Other, while all other social sciences are in some sense the study of the Self. But, who is the Other and who the Self?
THE OTHER IS ANYONE PERCEIVED AS DIFFERENT AND USED TO “INTERDEFINE” ONE’S OWN IDENTITY. THE OTHER ARE PEOPLES OF NON-WESTERN CULTURES.
In Reinventing Anthropology (1969), Dell Hymes wrote: “the very existence of an autonomous discipline that specializes in the study of Others has always been somewhat problematic.”
How anthropology deals with its “problem” is now a topic of heated debate internal to anthropology. And two other things have changed. First: the Other has changed. Non-Western societies have undergone rapid social change.
I REFUSE TO BE THE VANISHING NOBLE SAVAGE. I DEMAND MY RIGHTS AND THE RIGHT TO BE TREATED JUST LIKE YOU.
Second: anthropology has come home. It no longer exclusively studies non-Western cultures. Now anthropologists also study marginal cultures in Western societies as well as institutional and organizational cultures, such as business corporations, scientists and the police.
How does anthropology cope with these changes? It studies the history of anthropology itself, the assumptions of anthropologists past and present, the reactions of anthropologists past and present – and it ponders whether anthropology tells us more about the Self than the Other.
OH, YOU MEAT IT GETS CONFUSED.
“First, it is hard to say what it is the study of; secondly, it is not at all clear what you have to do to study it; and thirdly, no-one seems to know how to tell the difference between studying anthropology and practising it.”
Tim Ingold, Professor of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen
“What makes anthropology anthropology is not a specific object of enquiry, but the history of anthropology as a discipline and practice.” Henrietta Moore, Professor of Social Anthropology, London School of Economics
WHICH HISTORY AND WHAT PRACTICE? HOW DID IT START? ANTHROPOLOGY, AS A MODERN DISCIPLINE AND A PROFESSIONAL CAREER, BEGINS WITH THE ESTABLISHMENT OF UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENTS TEACHING ANTHROPOLOGY
In America, Boas began lecturing at Columbia University in 1896. In Britain, a new diploma in anthropology was introduced at Oxford in 1906. At the same time, the practice of anthropology was established as ethnography, the extended study of how people live, where they live.
Alan Barnard in History and Theory of Anthropology (2000) names the French philosopher Charles Montesquieu (1689–1755) as the common ancestor of all modern anthropology. Anthropology begins in 1748 with the publication of his The Spirit of the Laws. It is a product of the Enlightenment.
Then comes the Darwinian horizon in the 1860s when great names – Sir Henry Sumner Maine (1822–88), Lewis Henry Morgan (1818–81), Sir Edward Burnett Tylor (1832–1917) and Sir James Frazer (1854–1941) – define the intellectual tradition that leads to modern anthropology. In 1871, the Anthropological Institute is founded in London. When Franz Boas, Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942) and A.R. Radcliffe-Brown (1881–1955) establish the practice of ethnography, modern anthropology is underway.
Marvin Harris in The Rise of Anthropological Theory (1968) also argues for the Enlightenment origins of anthropology. Many more Enlightenment men, including Denis Diderot (1713–84), Jacques Turgot (1727–81) and Marquis de Condorcet (1743–94), enter the list.
Harris also gives a nod towards the French writer, Michel de Montaigne (1533–92), whose essay “On the Cannibals” was published in 1580.
BUT IN A BRACKETED ASIDE AND FOOTNOTE, HARRIS DISMISSES AS IMPERTINENT THE SUGGESTION OF ANY REAL CONNECTION BETWEEN ENLIGHTENMENT IDEAS AND WHAT WENT BEFORE. WELL, HE WOULD, WOULDN’T HE? TELL THEM WHY …
Montaigne met some South American Indians brought to perform at a fair in France. He then wrote his classic essay that framed non-Western peoples by their lack of the defining attributes of civilization.
Montaigne’s ideas were formed not by “experience” but speculation. His speculation is part of a vast literature about the “new” people discovered since Christopher Columbus’s pratfall in America and Vasco da Gama being guided to India in what is called the “Age of Reconnaissance” …
THIS WAS THE PERIOD WHEN EUROPEANS DRAMATICALLY EXPANDED THEIR GEOGRAPHICAL HORIZONS AND KNOWLEDGE. AND SLAUGHTERED, ENSLAVED AND DECIMATED. WITHOUT ME AND MY HISTORY, THERE’S NO ANTHROPOLOGY, AND THAT’S WHAT THEY DON’T WHAT TO ADMIT!
What Harris, tartly, wants to denounce and exclude is the argument of Margaret Hodgen. In her Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (1964), Hodgen made two telling points.
First, speculation about human origins, ways of life and diversity is old, interactive and continuous. The concepts and ideas of the Ancient Greeks, medieval writers, the Age of Reconnaissance, Montaigne and much more, inform and construct Enlightenment ideas and the intellectual tradition of 19th-century anthropology.
SECOND, THE ORGANIZING PRINCIPLES AND THEORETICAL IDEAS OF THESE ARCHAIC LAYERS OF SPECULATION KEEP ON RECURRING AND ARE ALIVE AND WELLIN MODERN ANTHROPOLOGY. THIS IS WHAT HODGEN CALLS THE “MIND’S FIDELITY TO THE OLD WHICH HAS LEFT ITS MARK ON ANTHROPOLOGY.”
What characterizes the early writing Hodgen links to anthropology? One strand is belief in the “Plinian People”, so called from the section in the Roman writer Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (AD 77) recording a large collection of monstrous races – dog-headed people, people with no heads and anthropophagy (cannibalism) – living at the fringes of the known world. These monstrous races were a standard feature of classical and medieval writings. Another strand is the biblical framework of explanation.
EXPECTATION OF MONSTROUS PEOPLES WAS STILL COMMON, AND PRODUCED BEST-SELLING BOOKS, WHEN THE ACCEPTED HISTORY OF ANTHROPOLOGY BEGAN IN THE 19TH CENTURY. AND CANNIBALS LIVE ON …
The last anthropologist to generate cannibal headlines was sighted in the 1980s. Yet, anthropologist William Arens (1979) convincingly argued that cannibals are a figment of over-heated Western imaginings, confirming what they expected to find when mutual language did not exist. Because they were expected, reports of cannibals, no matter how preposterous, were accepted.
Anthony Padgen, the Cambridge historian who specializes in the study of Spanish thinking about the “New World”, provides similar arguments.
He makes a first important point. The public debate by the Catholic Church about the human or non-human status of American Indians held at Valladolid, Spain, in 1550 – echoing on till the 1570s – sets the parameters in which anthropological thought and argument operate.
THE CASE FOR THE PROSECUTION CAME FROM VUAN GINÉS DE SEPÚLVEDA, CHAPLAIN AND OFFICIAL CHRONICLER OF THE KING OF SPAIN.
DRAWING ON THE GREEK PHILOSOPHER ARISTOTLE, I PRESENTED NON-WESTERN PEOPLES AS EITHER NATURAL BARBARIANS OR NATURAL SLAVES AND CHILDREN.
Bartolomé de Las Casas (1474–1566), a Dominican cleric, presented the opposing case: “Defence Against the Persecutors and Slanderers of the Peoples of the New World Discovered Across the Seas”. Las Casas knew what he was talking about.
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