This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
1, Place and Voice in Anthropological Theory (Feb., 1988), pp. 88-96 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/656311 Accessed: 16/04/2009 11:46
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=black. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blackwell Publishing and American Anthropological Association are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Cultural Anthropology.
Tyler's controlled vision of postmodernethnographyas a returnto the therapyof aesthetic integration entices one to understand evocation in a particular way. The to registerthe fragmentary perience. Life in the field is fragmentary"(1986:131). If one may so personify them. We hesitation though. and "A post-modernethnography is fragmentary because it cannotbe otherwise. We know this fromthe fate of a numberof anthropological loof particular thattry to convey the otherwiseineffable character ethnographic cations. cannot simply visualize Locke's once-empty cabinet as crammed with experiences thatthe new aesthetic is bound to rearrange in a mannertherapeuticto the is There the somewhat subject. by means of the concrete" (1986:136).Commentary: Concrete Topographies Departmentof Social Anthropology ManchesterUniversity Marilyn Strathern Displacing the fallacies of representation by conceiving a literaryform that will engage the readerof ethnographiesin a deliberatelyevocative exercise finds one concreteimage in the encountersof fieldworkexperience. The question is not just about the range of past individualexperiences that affect the writing andreadingof ethnography but aboutthe inescapableconsequencesof theirprior arrangement. It bearson Rabinow's observationthat if we "attemptto eliminate social referentiality. The text will be "an evocation of quotidien experience . prepared ideas throughwhich experience is recalled as "experience" hardly form a flatland-ordered. holism and structureguide not only the deof a particular theirtexts. strongerproblematicfact thatan ethnography"is not the author'scognitive utopia since no authorcan fully control the reader's responses" (1986:138). The attemptincludes restructuring the experienceof (the reader's)everydaylife throughthe ethnographer's-insofar as ethnography itself is a meansof experiencefor writerandreaderalike. The concrete attachmentof particularanalyticalconcepts to particularcultures and societies looks on the surface as nothing more than the registrationof 88 . we vices by which anthropologists generationarranged may recognize their workings in the mind that thinks itself open to concrete exand incompletenatureof life. . althoughI referto referentialityin a very generalway. a should be voiced about the image of evocation itself.other referentswill occupy the voided position" (1986:251). and connectedto one another. . Perhaps. sequenced.impressionscannotbe ideas flattened by fiat.
The interestingpoint to a Melanesianistis that when segmentarylineage theory was and Fortes's African instantiationsof exportedto Melanesia. Evans-Pritchard's the concept had become the exemplar. that "the potlatch" is better or more highly developed (1954:18). with a glance perhapsat the NorthWestcoast to establish the distinctivenessof the Melanesianform. but derived in the firstplace from sources that included derstanding Hocart'sworkin Fiji andPolynesia.or the history that Arjun traces for Appadurai hierarchy. to refurbishthe Maori case.It becomes a concept throughwhich the quotidienexperience of Melanesiansociality can be conveyed to others. Yet to tracethe outlines of the topographyso produced suggests that the perceptionof instances entails its own structuring. In fact. Indeed. andone is merelygoing back to his sources. As far as they are concerned.COMMENTARY 89 that concreteness-this place suggests ideas about pollution.We should look to the facility of the anthropologist to concretizecertainideas as thoughthey arose from local experience. But there is more thanthe originalpresentation at issue. which have promptedthis reflection. but with barelyany consideration of the Polynesianmaterial thatfiguredso significantlyin Mauss's account. The ethnographer's personal vision is shaped throughideas that by their nature .of the occurrenceof conversationsor of colonial constraints. in part. not Polynesia.'For instance. contemporary gift exchange (especially "ceremonial exchange") as an indigenous institution. One may thinkof the gift-the constantlyregenerated debateaboutthe Maorihau.2Of course. the Maorihau in the way he developedhis generaltheory. Particularities I draw on the several voices at the symposium. The Maori case provided Mauss with an indigenousconcept he was looking for.such regionallocalization is an artifactof the historicalrole that the concepts played in the scholarshipof Mauss. Places thus become exemplars. throughpursuingEvans-Pritchard's segmentationto its roots (via Robertson Smith) in the Arabianpeninsula. Whatevergoes into the experience of the ethnographicencounter "in the field.conceived by Dumont as a centraltrope for unHindu India. on the surface. and Dumont. it was Paul Dresch who illustratedhow anthropological notion of concepts have their own histories. A complex etymological chain is thus reducedto a singularlocation. with the Trobriandkula "an extreme case of giftof a thesis exchange" (1954:41). The cathexis between "the gift" and the Trobriandkula endures in a Melanesianiststendto appropriate particularly strongform. To take Mauss:he gave eminence to (say) Evans-Pritchard. it seems. althoughhe claimed that it was in Melanesia." it cannotbe recreatedsimply as a matterof personaldispositionor historical conjuncture. and the gift is concretizedthroughits local manifestation. despite the wide-ranging of Mauss's originalessay andLevi-Strauss's ethnographic scope of of the subsequentenlargement concept reciprocity.gift exchangebelongs to Melanesia. the angraspedthroughunderstanding thropologist'sglobal experience is thus properlyfragmentedby these disparate instancesof the concrete. that place is best hierarchyor caste.
However.90 CULTURALANTHROPOLOGY must be derivedfrom elsewhere. and hierarchy. have a partto play in the externalization I take my cue from Appadurai'sobservationsabout gatekeeping concepts thatseem to limit anthropological theorizingaboutparticular places. These provideexamples of how concepts appearto belong and thus characterizecertainregions. or there. gift exchange. andthe rest directthe ethnographer's some to be of conthoughts. segmeninternal tarylineage systems. Thus. Melanesiais intriguingin affordingclear examples of gatekeepingconcepts both importedandexported. and it is not necessaryto referto other forms of polity.embodied in "first" monographs on the subject-notably (in these examples) those of Fortes and Evans-Pritchard world seems a fragmented andof Malinowski. Melanesiaendorsesthe concept of gift exchange as a fundamental principleof social life.I have touchedon threeelements in contemporary descriptionsof Melanesiansocieties. gift exchange. becomes delocalized (one may referto "nonhierarchical" systems in a disembodiedway). society viewpoint approaches in turnreplicatesthe encompassingperspectiveof viewing all "other" societies fromthe vantagepoint of "our own."' Forthereis a hiddenor internaltopography . Indeed. The last has been naturalized-Melanesia has become a source of examples for nonhierarchical big-manpolitical systems. The parentconcept. Best Instances In raisingthe topics of lineage system. He asks why it is that Melanesian studies provide such strongcritiquesof theories of social structuregeneratedin Africa. does this not affect the way these culturalforms and featuresare analyzed in other places?" (1986:358). topography be foundhere. rizing. so to speak. the one appearsto be an example of a model developed elsewhere and applied to Melanesia in a disputedmanner(African lineage models). lineage and a local gift preserve identity. whatevercomparisonsare made.The resultis thatthe ethnographic of variousconcepts to instances" with "best of analyticalexamples. A handfulof Africanand Melanesiansocieties keep recurring as exemplarsof the analyticalconstructs. "Ideas" are no more a transparent vehicle for the ethnographic in As than realism imagination writingstyle.the concept of (ceremonial) gift exchange as a potential export. He asks: "If culturalfeaturesor of particular forms of places become guardiansof particular sociality. The concept of segmentarylineage system is treated as an import. The success with which best instances are constructedis based on the perThis particular formof exspectivalpremisesof "modernism"in anthropology. concepts.I would also suggest thatthe metaphorof gatewritkeeping is particularly apt for a specific historicalphase in anthropological ing.Why regions appear particular exemplars particular theocepts andits correlate.why certainregions appearcentralto anthropological of such thoughts. exchange is now regardedas indigenousto anthropological descriptionsof the area. whereas the natureof Melanesiansociality appearsitself to prompta general theoreticaldevelopmentof gift exchange.3 of a move that from the one ternalization another.
able to describe with more or less equal facility. initiationritualhere and stateceremonialthere. the simultaneous construction and comprehensionof othernessis accomplishedthroughthe modificationof ideas alreadyin the head. one can observe that the ethnographer's head becomes a microcosm of the world's cultures. on an interplay betweenboth. they have an elsewhere status about them: in the first instance derivative from debate. whose naturallanguage in the case of Western anthroanthropological pologists is also his or her own in a culturalsense. But I surmisethat what made the African source so powerful was its original constructionin the context of a further dualism. The Topography of a Complex Society It is commonplaceto observe thatfrom a Westerner'spoint of view descriptions of "other" societies are mediatedthroughthe languagedeveloped in one's "own"-refined and extended as that language may be to accommodatethe un"enterexpected. throughits single analyticallanguage. exas internal perienced complexity. which must thus out-complex any one of them. And this resonates with the ethnocentric(Western) assumptionabout the comes. It is as though the externaltopographypresenteda networkof totemiccorrespondencies. Whetheror not the ethnographer ing" the field consciously derives his/her analytical concepts from elsewhere. We are aware of the dualism inherentin the tendency to pair off the source and applicationof concepts. I suspect.COMMENTARY 91 that I wish to bring to view as an importantsource of analytical inventiveness. In the appropriation of segmentarylineage theoryfor these African systems. Patently. complex natureof the society or culturefrom which the ethnographer This sense of complexity is echoed back from an externaltopography: all of the world's culturescan be comprehendedin the confines of the one language/ culture. If these societies became the place at which to thinkaboutkinship as politics or social orderwithoutcentralizedauthority. especially when the New GuineaHighlandswas firstexplored.The successful localizationof ideas in recent anthropologicalhistory has depended. In fact. Withoutbeing whimsical.in the notions of stateless and polities politicized kinship. The same is trueof concepts. so that the lineage systems of partsof Africa become a single sourcefor a model thatwas then appliedto Melanesia. the personalpossibility of an encompassingvision. the segmentary lineage system implementeda double contrast.Dualism throughnegation sits side by side with the dualism of "comparison" or the "application"of ideas from one place to another.their distinctivenessthus received an impetus from the way in which "their" social formswere seen to negate "our" ideas aboutdomesticlife andgovernment.The Africandynamicbetweenkinshipandpolity was displayedas a radical departure from the Westernexperience of family and state. fresh contrasts had been created with accepted categories of Western thought.Otherculturesareknown aphoristically throughthis or thatset of features-whereas only the receiving cultureof interpretation can grasp all of the features. . The experience is made concretethroughthe localization of concepts.
I refer to the manipulation of concepts themselves. single observer."4 For the cultureswe find most difficult to place are those whose gatekeepingconcepts do not presentthemselves as candidatesfor inversion.for instance. we do that). The one appearsas the negative form of the how could it be that other. in which all other places were in a sense peripheralto the central.a paradeof dualisms(they do this.But when this strategyis repeatedfor a range of oppositions between "our" and "their" concepts..the gift upturneda distinction between persons andthings. historicaldepth.The great strengthof that strategy. I thus referto a phenomenonwiderthan that which Marcusand Fischer (1986:129) denote as the submergedcritique of Westernsociety that rested on a utopianvision that other culturesstill preserve values "we" have lost.92 CULTURALANTHROPOLOGY Perhapsit is an inevitableprocess in the framingstrategyof modernism.g. One form of these binocularstrategieswas that of negation. Gregory 1982).however. Appadurai arguesthatthe study of complex non-Westernsocieties has been a second-classcitizen in anthropological discourse-involving "a kind of reverse mesOrientalism. in the recent regenerationof the dichotomybetween gift and commodity economies (e. Extensivecrossculturalanalysis only reinforces the duality: "we" construct a base analytical concept from which to compareall of the "others" among themselves. in is moreeffectively demarcated. The artificeof such a dichotomy sits uncomfortably: Melanesiangift exchangeis such a neatinverseof Westerncommodityexchange? Of course it is not: instead we have to understand that the characterof the Melanesianeconomy is most efficiently graspedthroughsubvertinga particularset of Westernconcepts. Kinship could be exteriorizedas politics. honor-and-shame in the circum-Mediterranean.and may even appearto be withoutculture. Anthropological the same gatekeepingstrategyby which "simple" societies areknown-the simto the concepts: "A few simple theoreticalhandlesbecome plicity is transferred and metonyms surrogatesfor the civilization or society as a whole: hierarchyin India. that negation does not always work.most powerfullythroughthe subversionof taken-forgrantedconceptsin the naturallanguage. It promptedthe extension and refinementof analytical conceptsthroughcontrast. Gatekeepingconcepts that monitoredentry into the distinctivenessof other cultureswere an artifactof a perspectivalvision. segmentarypolities were conceived as the antithesisof state organization. namelythose havingto do with commodification. the line betweenus andthem for study. and structural siness operateas disqualificationsin the struggle of places for a voice in metrotheorizingbecomes limitedthrough politantheory" (1986:357). It is a curiousphenomenon. They lay on his/herhorizon. literacy. thatcertaininversionstakebetterthanothers.whereby complexity. and so forth. the resultantexternaltopographytakes the form of one to one congruences/inversions.Some people appeartoo transparent RenatoRosaldo's phrase. where similaritiesin kinship designation and individualityappearto merge them with rather thandifferentiatethem from "us.Perhapsthe prime example is the egalitarianismof Bushmen and Eskimo societies. marked.filial piety in China" . thatis. setting off "them" and "us" lay in its literary scope (Strather 1987).
often one place comes to stand for many. Paul Friedrichindicates the importanceof keeping in mind the naivete and openness of the firstfield encounter-but thatalreadyfixes itself as an experienceof a kind. insofaras the self-containednatureof negation may be graspedas a complete or holistic synthesis of what is novel about the new situation. I say invention ratherthan discovery to keep in mind that what they celebrate is the successful and creative sabotage of already established concepts-personified objects and orderedanarchy.is a symbolic move thatmust be consideredin relationto its referential dimension. of a shift in thoughthaving taken place.COMMENTARY 93 (1986:357). self-referentialstructures-the internalcontrastssignificantto the interrelationof ideas-which determinethe limits of the operationsthat can be performedmay be perceived as a limitation. one thatcannotbe repeated.Thus the registrationof experience to evoke sificatory "an emergentfantasy of a possible world" (Tyler 1986:125). An internaland structured topographyis externalizedthrougha negative move that yields a sense of new experience. In the long view. they are much less successful as exports. of course. Inversionis an extremely limited maneuver. and invention can take place only once. Now it is not the case thattheoreticalloci are endlessly pluralized. This promptsone last commenton inversion. to lodge them in exemplars of a local character. and so on. their structure. which perhapsjustifies the totemic metaphorI used earlier. an "intimationof .the same congruencesand inversions repeatedagain and again. thatis. What may also be relevantis thatit does not challenge a significantrelationshipbetweenconcepts. Perhapswhat gives successful concepts theirlocal characterlies in the inventive process of inversion itself. Thus we have bothoriginaland derivativeexemplarsof concepts of which Africanmodels in the New Guinea Highlandsis itself an exemplar. nonexportable.The lineage and the gift. But while they simplify entry into these complex systems.5Their local manifestationsappearintractable. an idea seen to have been inventedat one juncturecannot be reinvented:rather. These were the sites of a first invention.as in the case of caste. by contrast. It is one momentof what are also the organizingand clasdimensions of perception.or on lineage systems to the Nuer or Tallensi.it is then "applied" elsewhere.Similarly. or a single place as a part for a region as a whole. Possibly it is not just that caste does not in any simple way upturnindigenous Western concepts-indeed. As James Fernandezobserves for anothercontext. derive power from invertingalready existing conceptual relationships-between political and domestic life in the firstcase and between commodity transactionsand gift giving in the second. Only certainpresumptionsof a "commodity" economy can be criticizedthroughthe model of a "gift" economy. And thus writerson gift exchangeconstantlygo back to the Maori or the Trobriands. the long traditionof comparingit with class would suggest the reverse.indeed! The Lure of the Concrete The propensityto concretizeparticular concepts.
I can do so througha limited contrast between gift/commodity. Thus we can talk of the relativeexportabilityof concepts. For within thought. comes from establishingtheir takenfor grantedstatusthroughcomparisonwith others. does one slip roundthe edge of the determining descriptionof thatworldview?By relativizingthe inversionthroughexposing its base. is bound up with the structuringof evocation and intimationitself. How. But a further strategysuggests itself from the fact that the success of inversions depends on theirscale. And the frame. What has to be canceled is the basis of comparison.He analyzesthe creativityof Sahlins's chiasmus-reversing the orderingof concepts in orderto breakthe hold of conventionaliseddichotomies. us/themdichotomywe shall no longer wish to retainthe structure of internaland externaltopographies. the delimitingof the class of phenomenathatpermitscomparison. they lodge in our heads. I have also suggested thatthose particular moves belong to a specific period of anthropological What of future? No longer restingour view on an the history. I have given a brief illustrationin considering the localization of the segmentarylineage system and gift exchange on the one hand and of caste on the other. Whatis there. The recent historyof the political-domesticdichotomyshows a similarset of maneuvers. they alternatewith or permeateone another. signals the source of the pairingof ideas: the conceptualizationof both gift and commodityderives from what may thus know itself as the worldviewof a "commodity" economy. Opposed concepts are seen to contain one anotherno longer separate. If I wish to compareWesterneconomic conceptsandMelanesianones. theirlocation as self-evidentfacts aboutthe particularity of places. single inversion. Duality can always be replicated: of whatthroughthe vicissitudes of anthropological historyare the accumulations multiplenegations and reversalscan always be reducedto a fresh. The inversion is framed.Perhapsour totemic system will collapse from lack of inin specific relation terestin laying out the principlesof otherpeople's organization to those of our own.the latteris fixed by its intimation of a rival complexity. Yet instead of disparagingthat internaltopography. I have referredto the power of inversion. which here would be the very idea of economy. thatis.One way to sidestep the determining nature of this particular by GeorgeMarcus'sanalysisof Sahstrategyis illustrated lins's disquisitionon historyand structure. This is the case with the currentcontrastbetween gift and commodityeconomies thatkeeps the othernessof Melanesianculturealways in mind. Particular externallocalities become exemplarsbecause they elicit particularresponses in .which of all the world's cultures.the concretenessof particular anthropological concepts. aboutWesternideas of relationships andpersonsthatthey are open to new scrutiny?What is the (internal)structuring of these ideas thatthey should be susceptibleto rearrangement? There are one or two operationsstill to be performedupon the old concepts. afterall. but am still talking about economic concepts. then.94 CULTURALANTHROPOLOGY a possible world alreadygiven to us in fantasy and commonsense" (1986:134). of course. The formeremerge throughcertainrelations of inversionwith existing metropolitan concepts.we appearsas a complex andcosmopolitanadjudicator shouldinvestigateit.Yet such descriptionsblock other descriptions. Let me returnto where ideas are placed.
they are denotedby first as well as surname. would mediate between the two.COMMENTARY 95 respect of the categories and concepts structured there. among other things.pers." This takes up a similartheme througha rathermore detailedexaminationof postwarmonographsfrom the New Guinea Highlands. But how would one convey that? Perhaps one might Highstage a patently artificial encounter between alien conversers-possibly lands men and women and Western feminists. carry little weight if one's interest were in men and women's respective power over the manipulation of things. after all." in Polynesia (Ortner1981:358). Andrews.of which "the most famous exemplar" comes from "India. But through the control of such artifice. Notes 'The session was entitledPlace and Voice in AnthropologicalTheory.one may say that nonexportableconcepts signal an impossible complexity. A. of where both it and they take place. And in exposing the noncomparability of their voices would cancel any easy assumption about anthropology's own selfsufficiency as a single analytical language.My Melanesianemphasisis promptedby the subjectof the conference organizedby RichardFardonon Regional Traditionsof EthnographicWriting. for which I have writtena companionpaper. Strathem 1982). The anthropologist. or think of hierarchy. But making explicit the inversion of received concepts in the interests of comparison betrays their limitation and raises the further possibility of canceling the grounds of comparison. any more than Melanesian and Western society are isomorphs of one another. January1987. of African models in the New Guinea Highlands (Barnes 1962. both promptan obsessive anthropologicalconcern with cultureas material 4Interestingly. consider whether the Maori gift fits the Indian case (Parry1986). by reversing its terms.December 1986. technology. WhereI have occasion to refer to the contributors.). 2So that one may talk.andpresenta complexity that can be contrastedwith nothing but a lesser degree of complexity (Michael Gilsenan andRichardFardon. critically or not. but one I adoptafterArdener1985. St. 5Conversely. one might in the process reinvent the experience of natural encounters by being aware. "Negative Strategies. The trick would be to demonstrate noncomparability. Negation is one form such process takes. This would require being open to a form of negation that did not just deny one proposition in favor of another. Thus to non-Melanesianists. A distinction between gift and commodity economies would. . comm. "Melanesian" and "our own" concepts need not be taken as isomorphic. but refused to "see" that a proposition had been put forward at all.Melanesiamay appearcharacterized by an involute attention to ritualandsymbolic processesthatdefy simple comprehension. unable to represent the one voice completely in terms of the other. and was held at the 85th annualmeeting of the American AnthropologicalAssociation in Philadelphia. 3Adisputeduse of the term.
Marcel 1954 The Gift: Formsand Functionsof Exchangein ArchaicSocieties. Marcus. 35-49. Monograph24). Berkeley:Universityof CaliforniaPress. Rabinow. CambridgeUniversityPress. I. Cunnison. Cambridge: Parry. trans. Tyler.SherryB.JohnA. eds.In Sexual Meanings. Whitehead. Pp. Cambridge:CambridgeUniversityPress.J. Pp. In WritingCulture. 1962 AfricanModels in the New GuineaHighlands. ed. eds. J. From Document of the Occult to Occult Document. S. Pp.96 CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY References Cited Appadurai. 47-70.s.In Inequalityin New Guinea Highlands Societies. Barnes.Comparative Studies in Society and History28:356-361. Clifford and G. Ardener.Man 62:5-9. Strathern. .A. Gregory. London:Academic Press. Marilyn 1987 Outof Context:The PersuasiveFictionsof Anthropology. 234-261." Man (n. JoannaOvering. Fischer 1986 Anthropologyas CulturalCritique:An Experimental Momentin the HumanSciences. Mauss.London:Cohen and West.Christopher 1982 Gifts and Commodities.Jonathan 1986 The Gift. Arjun 1986 Theoryin Anthropology:Centerand Periphery. B. In Reason and Morality (A. Pp. 1982 Two Waves of African Models in the New Guinea Highlands.S.. A. StephenA. Berkeley: Universityof CaliforniaPress. and Michael M.George E. the IndianGift and the "IndianGift. 1986 Post-modernEthnography: In WritingCulture.Paul in Anthropol1986 Representations Are Social Facts:Modernityand Post-Modernity ogy. Marcus. Cliffordand G. 359-409.) 21:453-473. OrtnerandH.Edwin 1985 Social Anthropologyand the Decline of Modernism.eds. E. Chicago:Universityof Chicago Press.ed. Pp. E. Andrew Strathern.Current Anthropology 28:251-281. Strathern.J. Marcus. London:Tavistock. 122-140. Ortner. 1981 Genderand Sexualityin Hierarchical Societies: The Case of PolynesiaandSome Comparative Implications. A.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.