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The Value of the Evidence Author(s): Julian Pitt-Rivers Source: Man, New Series, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Jun.

, 1978), pp. 319-322 Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Stable URL: Accessed: 13/12/2010 12:07
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The value of the evidence

(cf.Davis 1976: 73), for by the share-cropper thisis only one of the economic aspectsof the relationship which must be grasped as a whole. As to documentarysources, therewas, to of theregister begin withthePadr6Municipal, inhabitants which the town clerk so far me as to allow me to taketo myhouse, trusted where I copied the whole thingout by hand. This was a precious document since it gave the names, age and occupation of every member of every household and also his kin was to itshead. This information relationship not always legally correct for spouses were oftennot married by law, which required a religious ceremony since there was no civil marriage, but if they were regarded as a married couple they were entered in the as such. Sometimeshowever a marital register relationshipwas not claimed and then the concubine was entered as prima (cousin), parienta (kinswoman) or criada (servant). Since in Spain a person'ssurnameis composed of his paternal patronymicfollowed by his maternalpatronymicit becomes much easier to see how people are related in the cases where there are extensions to the nuclear family. I was very fortunate in that the decennial censuswas takenwhile I was there. It was done by the municipalguard to whom Hence I I offeredmy servicesas an assistant. was able to accompany him throughoutthe valley where I lived and as we walked from house to house he answered all my questions regarding their occupants, with what I believe to have been near-totalaccuracy. Apart and clarification fromadditionalinformation obtained in thisway, the manoeuvre has the advantage of enabling one to assess the accuracyof a censusand establishrulesforits interpretation. On the other hand, I was less successful with the Secretaryof the Cadastre. Though in otherways towardsme and he was friendly never refusedpoint-blank to let me see the documents in his office,he always found a reason why I should not go therewheneverI suggested doing so. He was convinced, like thatI was most othermembersof the gentry, to a spy and enjoyed makingsubtlereferences 'Eme I Cinco' which I eventuallyrecognised as MI5. This belief moreover greatly enhanced thepleasurehe derivedfromdefeating me at chess,which he did on every occasion when we played. The investmentof time I

No doubt Dr JohnDavis is rightwhen he says in his recentPeople of the Mediterranean that the data in my book People of theSierra were 'weak' (p. 87), 'extremelypoor' (p. 88) and 'singularly lacking in the kind . .. which would permit any analysis of the crude materialbase of Alcali' (p. 93). But how does he know? I never published them and I explained why not in the prefaceto the 1971 edition of the book. In fact,I gave only the conclusionsI derived fromthem. The reason for not giving them was not simply the confidenceI mighthave placed in the reader to credit me with sufficient honesty not to make unsubstantiated guesses,but to protect various officials, who had shown me documents they were neither obliged nor even entitledto make public and who might well have been hauled over the coals fordoing so. Since the book was published only fifteen theend oftheCivil War I stillthink yearsafter my circumspection was justified.But in view of the attention Davis has drawn to my data I may perhaps be permittedto say what they consistedof and how I collected them. And I would like to add some generalobservations on the relation of data to conclusions which may help to explain why I am unimpressed by Davis's methods of comparison. The way I worked was as follows: I kept first of all two sets of notebooks. One containedmynoteson generalreadingand on Andalusia, and all the documents, statistics, etc. I could findon the region. The otherwas myfield journal which was annotatedwith an indication of what was discussed on each page. A thirdloose-leafnotebook was organised by household; in it I put down what land each owned or exploited, what occupational activitieseach member had and all I could discover about their relationshipsto others. Conversations were recorded in the ' vernacular. I also photographed all the instruments used in farming,as well as the tasks as they were performed.I regretnever having published elsewhere,as I intended,a description of this agriculture and the social relations which it entailed, for the types of collaboration were veryvaried, even withinthe category of share-cropping and certainly cannot be summed up meaningfully in terms simplyof the percentageof the crop retained



those days, its volumes lay jumbled on the attic floor of the Casa de Tiros. These and various other documents, including some Anarchistarchivesshown me in the Institute of Social Historyin Amsterdam,enabled me to make a cursory reconstructionof the historyof the town over the previous 200 years,and itsplace withinthe nation,which I publishedin the formof an Appendix. This is prefaced by a critique of the notion of the 'social present'which in those days was more or less dogma for the disciplesof RadcliffeBrown and a sketchof a theoryof theusage of historyfor anthropological studies. I rather hoped I might receive a good mark from Davis for these pages before he ended his book in view of hiscomplaintsabout thevery shallow time-scale of such studies and their failureto relatethe communitystudiedto the what I nation and the state,which is precisely thoughtmy book was about. No such luck! In all the thirty-eight which Davis references does me the honour of making to my work, only two refer to my ideas on thissubjectand both misrepresent them. (But who am I to complain of such an omission when so eminent and prolifica scholar, both socialhistorian and anthropologist,as Julio Caro Baroja, is entirelyignored save for a single reference which tellsus, quaintly,thathe has written'in general terms' about towns?) Now, as to cadastres,they do not always correspond to the truth,particularlywhen there is an interestin concealing it as in Mexico where thereis a limit to the amount of land that can be owned by one person without risk of expropriation: the owner shown in the cadastre may not in such circumstances be the real owner, but a straw man, usually a child or kinsman in whose name part of a holding is placed though the land continuesto be exploitedas a singleunit. Davis tells us this happened in Pisticci (Land p. 77) though he does andfamilyin Pisticci, not tell us thathe modifiedhis figures to take account of the fact. This may be because he has insisted elsewhere that cadastre figures however inaccurate are 'real' since they are the basis of taxation. They are indeed part of the realityof the fiscalsystem, but thisis not the same thingas the social system;since the more successfully you avoid payingtaxes,the richeryou become, the differences between thetwo do not cancel each otherout. I cannot estimate the accuracy of the cadastres of Andalusia, but in the past it was a recognised 'perk' of political power to be able to put the taxes of your opponentsup and those of your supportersdown, so that the evaluation of land on which taxes were based was not totallyobjective,quite apartfromthebuilt-in failingsof the cadastre itself.This fact may

put into chess was not, however, entirely wasted, forhe was preparedwhile we played to discuss in general terms the problems of in this land ownership and the differences areas of the regard between the different neighbourhood. On an occasion when the town's doctor was vaccinating all the childrenwe made a physical survey of the inhabitants,and the doctor took blood samplesin orderto get the blood groups analysed for me, but my samples failed to survive the journey to Madrid, so I was never able to use thismeans to investigatethe population movements in the past. However, an unanticipatedbonus was provided in the shape of a guide to the illegitimacy rate since,when I asked forboth surnames of both parents of the child, it became impossible to conceal the fatherless and in any case all the other motherspresent made a merrydutyof commiseration, crying 'Povrecillo, no tienepadre' (poor littlething, he hasn't got a father).My embarrassment at becoming suddenly privy to the shame of persons with whom I was acquainted barely or not at all-this occurred during my first summer in the field-was mitigated by my in theirreactionsto such a situation.It interest was here I realised for the first time the enormous power of popular sanctions and firstbegan to reflectupon the problem of honour. Failing to get into the cadastraloffice I had to be contentwith making my own map. It covered, and not without a few holes, only a tenth of the total area of the municipal thevalleywhere I lived. And forthe territory, rest I had to rely upon generalisationsand estimates made by others in reply to my questions, checked against the odd example which came my way and the figureson the land tax given me by the Town Clerk. My self-reproach forfailingto get at the cadastral surveyhas been temperedsubsequently by the factthatDr JohnCorbin, working in nearby Ronda a dozen yearslaterwhen the suspicion of foreigners was much abated, also failedto get access to it. The reason why we both encounteredsuch difficulty was probablythat titlesto land had been a hot political issue in the resent past and the Anarchists always made a point of burning the archivesof the town hall whenevertheygot possessionof it. This also explains why I was unable to get at any previous cadastral information.On the other hand I was lucky to find considerable economic informationregarding the more distantpast of the towns of the region in the geographical dictionaries of Madoz (I846) and Mifiano (I823) and the census of 1752, referred to in my book, which I spentthe best in Granada where,in partof a week studying

also have contributed to the guarded attitude of secretaries of cadastres towardsCorbin and myself. Had I had access to the cadastresI doubt whether I would have attained more precision in my comparisonsbetween the sierra and the plains than I was able to reach by talkingto local farmers who all knew which was the good land and which was not, where the big productive propertieslay and how they were exploited. The value of such comparisons to the author of a community studyis to enable him to explain the place of his community within the economy of the region and hence the movements of labour, the presence of land-owning families, the location of markets,etc. On the other hand Davis's method is to compare one village which happens to have been studied by an anthropologistwith others of different size, belonging to different countriesand cultures and at different periods.This appearsto me to violate theprinciplethata communityshould be understoodas a partof the wider societyin which it is contained,a principleto which he subscribes only long enough to criticise, somewhat captiously,his colleagues for failing to do so. Afterthathe goes on to establish, despite the poverty of the data (which he notes) and the ineptness of the enterprise (which escapes him), a scale of degrees of equality (pp. 8I-9) between the communities he has selectedunder the heading of 'stratification' based upon what he calls 'crude materialdifferences in wealth' and he thinks that (p. 89) the essence of comparison is to decide whether 'resources are more equally distributedin this society than in that' and perhapsto draw out the consequencesthough he does not tellus what thesemightbe, but it is clear that this is the criterionfor deciding whether a society is egalitarian or not. He deems this an essentialtask for the anthropologist. Yet what is the range within which the degree of equality is to be established? In some of the mountain villages of southern are relatively Andalusia, the inhabitants equal economically: all very poor. But in comowners of the parisonwith the large property plains, they are very unequal. Would Davis consider them 'egalitarian'? He makes fun of the fact that both J. K. Campbell writing of the Sarakatsaneiand I writingof'Alcala' should have pointedto the egalitarianideals held by these very different peoples and he concludes thatneitherof them is 'egalitarian in any sense at all' (p. 5), though the Sarakatsaneiare less inegalitarian than the inhabitants of Alcala, who 'have to make a greatereffort to achieve that blessed state of mind than the Sarakatsanei' (p. 89).


But the whole point of egalitarianism is thatit is an ideal, a moral evaluationwhich may well run counter to the material differences of wealth. There would have been no Anarchist movementin Andalusia if thiswere not so. If they were not egalitarianswhy would they not accept inequalityand 'contentthemselves with theirestate' as the Earl of Surreyput it. Davis and I differ in thathe seemsto admitno distinctionbetween the values of the people studied (a matterof culture) and the 'crude materialbasis' as he likesto call it (a matterof society), whereas I regard this distinctionas primordial. He believes, I think, that formal comparisons of quantified items such as the distribution of hectaresin ownership,culled from the various cadastres of different notionalstates, and incorporating all theirbiases, can, thanksto the 'principlesof concomitant variation',lead to valid generalisations and he thinksthis is 'analytical comparison' (p. S). The less formal comparison, 'the implicit instances of comparison between different similar phenomena' as I put it in the inas the troductionto Mediterranean countrymen object of the book, does not count as comparison at all or he would hardly have complained that his predecessors in the Mediterranean have not done any. The preference for this method of comparison is not unique to Mediterraneananthropologists but in fact to nearly all those 'comparative sociologists'thatRadcliffe-Brownsaid social were and thereasonwhy they anthropologists have, neither in Africa nor anywhere else, done more of the kind Davis regards as scientific is that they are aware of the methodological difficulties involved in deriving social conclusionsfrommaterialstatistics. Their 'deep scruplesabout the value of crude data' are inspiredby the factthattheydo not, like Davis, believe that data can be simply collectedand presented in readilycomparable form. Since social factshave significance not in themselvesbut as elementsof a system it is easy to fallinto the pitfallof comparingnoncomparables, that is to say, of assuming that all other thingsare equal when theyare not. Since such an assumptionis necessarily made on the basis of the constants of our own culture, a premature recourse to formal comparison leads straight to ethnocentrism. I imagine that Davis will consider my pointing to these dangers as yet another example of my dedication 'to explicationsof the conceptual intricaciesof ambiguous notions' (p. 93), which he had already detected in my treatmentof the concepts of honour whose different aspects create ambiguities which he prefers to ignore. My opinion that 'financialcredit,political credit,social credit



woman-woman marriagewill soon bringthis in question. It is true that a lot of the ethnographyof homosexualityhas remained hidden away in thedarkercornersofmonographs, journals of abnormal psychiatry (Landes 1940), criminal psychology and human biology (Devereux 1937). Homosexuality ifnot a taboo topic has traditionallybeen considered a research interestfor psychologistsand as an individual ratherthan a social problem which had to be 1 When I returnedto Oxford aftermy first cured. It is only recentlythat transsexuality nine has begun to be studied using concepts of months of field-work I showed my notebooks to small group sociology and ethnomethodomy supervisor,ProfessorFortes,explaining why I had found it necessaryto keep thisthirdnotebook. logy (e.g. Mileski and Black). An historian As I remember it, the conversationwent like this: has recently investigated the role of transvestitesin the Middle Ages (Bullough). Fortes: 'As faras I'm concernedyou can throw the However it would be wrong to gain the others away. This is the one that counts.' Myself: 'Why didn't you tell me beforeI went into impressionthat social anthropology has igthe field that I should keep such a noteThe first nored the theme of transsexuality. book?' example thatcomes to mind is a recentarticle Fortes: 'Because ifyou couldn't work thatout for by Dundes (1976) who quotes abundant yourselfyou obviously weren't going to material from Black Australia and New make an anthropologist.' Guinea which reveals a temporaryrejection Subsequently I have come to feel that this line, of heterosexual intercourse in favour of though justifiable, was not the most economic homosexual intercourse in initiation rites, method of trainingstudents,and during the years young boys finding 'that the process of in which I gave a course on field-work in the becoming a "man" may in factentailplaying Universityof Chicago I endeavoured, at the riskof the part of a woman'. Among Black confusingthe sheep and the goats, to explain the Australians sexual relations of a non-ritual reasonswhy a communitystudyrequires theoretical J.P.-R. data to be organised in this way. nature were permitted between men who belonged to appropriatemarriagecategories; as among the Nambikwara of Brazil crossTranssexualism in Oman? cousinscould be lovers because in the normal course of events the active 'male' partner SIR, Unni Wikan's article on Omani trans- could marry the passive 'female' partner's sexuality(Man (N.S.) 12) is doggedly ethno- sister. Here the lack of opportunity for centric. Probably to explain her neglect of normal heterosexual unions has been precomparative material she points out that sumed to be the main motive, and it is the suggests(1970) classical cases of transsexuality in the anthro- reasonwhich Evans-Pritchard for the uni-sex marriages he describes for are poorly describedand pological literature both male and female couples among the 'we can probably assume them to have Zande. In thelightof Westernexperienceit is disappearedtoday'. Now transsexuality is not interesting that the Azande approve of manpreciselyone of my academic interests but I man marriagesbut have a horror of similar have come across sufficient ethnographyon institutionalised relationships between homosexualityand uni-sex concubinage and women, believingthata woman who marries 'marriage' to justify, or rather demand, a comparative approach. It must also be fairly another and has frequenthomosexual interobvious, even to an anthropologist, that course will become 'addicted' and indifferent to men's advances. Wealthy Nzema men of is alive and kickingin our own transsexuality society where a large number of individuals Ghana, unlike the Azande, seem to marry play a 'socially acknowledged role pattern attractiveyoung men for social ratherthan whereby a person acts and is classifiedas if sexual consumption (Signorini 1971), while Nuba man-man marriages according to he/shewere a person of the opposite sex fora number of crucial purposes' (Wikan's deNadel (I947) celebrate male companionship finition of the transsexual). Moreover it is not and in many cases are preferredto normal at-allobvious to me thatthe 'decisivecriterion marriage since sex between a man and his by which men and women are distinguished transsexual'wife' is not considereddebilitatis anatomical', and a walk down the streets of ing as it is in heterosexualmarriage. Naples aftermidnight,a visit to the transWikan poses the question 'whether male sexual communityin Sydney or a quick flip transsexuals, who have not previously been through the anthropological literature on reportedin the anthropologicalliterature on

and moral credit all come together . . . in honour' he sees presumablyas an evasion of the duty to reduce the concept to its crude material base. But I did not invent the ambiguities inherent in honour; they are there in what I regard as the data, for the anthropologistthe most important kind of data: the detailed observation of human interactionand ways of thought. Julian Pitt-Rivers