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Jared Diamond‘s breakthrough 1987 article, ―Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race‖ claims agriculture did not deliver the splendors of civilization but was instead a highway to hell. This section examines the traditional progressivist perspective on agriculture and the sources for Diamond‘s revisionism, including passages that seem plagiarized from earlier anthropological work. This section is an introduction to an archaeology and anthropological investigation of domestication, hunting-and-gathering, agriculture, and the rise of state government. It is impossible to consider these issues without tackling the writings of Jared Diamond, whose works on agriculture and its implications for modern life are very widely read, influential with powerful people like Bill Gates. For more on human nature, evolution, and race see my Kindle e-Book:
This section examines Diamond‘s initial article ―Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race‖ that would enable him to become an authority on archaeology and world history–later sections follow his trajectory. For an evaluation of Diamond‘s latest, The World Until Yesterday see The Yanomami Ax Fight: Science, Violence, Empirical Data, and the Facts.
Agriculture, Traditional View: Progressivist Watershed Moment
By around 15,000 years ago, Homo sapiens had spread to every major habitable landmass, as a single, inter-breeding species. There were no other significant populations of bipedal hominid species likeNeandertals or Denisovans. People were in Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. People lived from gathering and hunting. Around 15,000 years ago, in some parts of the world, this would change, as people began more intensively cultivating plants and herding animals. These processes are known as domestication or the transition to agriculture, conceived as a watershed moment in human history, the time when human history begins. Note the similar root words behind culture, agriculture, and cultivation.
According to dominant mythology, prior to cultivation, humans lived in a ―wild man‖ state, not very different from the non-human animals they hunted. With domestication, humans tame and control these wild animals, and in the process begin to tame and control themselves. Again, in the traditional view, agriculture makes possible craft-specialization, urban life, writing, and the state. Agriculture is the watershed moment when humans began taming themselves and controlling their environment, eventually leading to the splendor of civilization. The traditional view reinforces some pretty vile feelings about fellow human beings. Although Charles Darwin sympathetically understood the continuum of humans with the natural world, he had some pretty nasty stuff to say about some of the people he met in Tierra del Fuego during his 1831-1836 Voyage of the Beagle: The language of these people, according to our notions, scarcely deserves to be called articulate. . . . We have no reason to believe that they perform any sort of religious worship. . . . The different tribes have no government or chief. . . . They cannot know the feeling of having a home, and still less that of domestic affection. . . . Their skill in some respects may be compared to the instinct of animals, for it is not improved by experience. (2001:183,191-2) No religion, no government, no home, no domesticity, not even language or skills. For Darwin, and many others, the savage-primitive is closer to non-human animal than to civilized humans. As Tim Ingold comments: Biologically, Darwin seems to be saying, these people are certainly human beings, they are of the same species as ourselves, yet in terms of their level of civilization they are so far from being human that their existence may justifiably be set on a par with that of the animals. (Ingold 2000:65) Not everyone agreed with Darwin, and there was a counter-tradition of celebrating the noble savage (see section on Anthropology and Human Nature and for a June 2013 update, see Epigenetics on The Edge of Human Nature). However, for the most part this evil-versusnoble debate shared the premises that agriculture led to free time and civilization. A new perspective, a revisionist approach, emerged in the 1960s, questioning the benefits of agriculture. In ―The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,‖ Jared Diamond rhetorically overstated the case, pushing the revisionist line past its limits. First published in 1987 in Discover–The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race–remains famous, and is still a staple for anthropology readers: although it disappears from the 2012 edition of the four-field Applying Anthropology it curiously still appears in the 2013 edition of Applying Cultural Anthropology.
Writing with characteristic verve, Diamond summarizes an impressive amount of material in just three pages. At the top of the second and third pages, he headlines the main point: ―The adoption of agriculture, supposedly the decisive step to a better life, was in fact catastrophic. With agriculture came the curses of social and sexual inequality, disease, and despotism‖ (1987:65-66). Diamond drew on several sources for this revisionism:
a) Anthropologists re-evaluated gathering and hunting
Many anthropologists have worked with gatherers and hunters, but Richard Borshay Lee‘s work with !Kung San in the Kalahari most challenged prevailing paradigms. Lee did not just live with the !Kung to learn their wisdom: he was an expert at weighing game, counting calories, and calculating work hours. Lee‘s seminal article was What Hunters Do for a Living, or, How to Make Out on Scarce Resources(1968), which has been retitled for some anthropology readers as The Hunters: Scarce Resources in the Kalahari. The titles are misleading. Lee actually changed ideas of these groups as exclusively hunters, empirically demonstrating the importance of gathering: ―the basis of Bushman diet is derived from sources other than meat. . . . plant foods comprise over 60 per cent of the actual diet‖ (1968:43). Lee also fought against the idea of scarce resources: ―Life in the state of nature is not necessarily nasty, brutish, and short. The Dobe-area Bushmen live well today on wild plants and meat, in spite of the fact that they are confined to the least productive portion of the range in which Bushman peoples were formerly found‖ (1968:43). Diamond uses Lee for his very first piece of contrarian evidence: It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food is only 12 to 19 hours for one group of Bushmen, 14 hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn‘t emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, ―Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?‖ (Diamond 1987:65) The quote about mongongo nuts is directly from Lee‘s article, but Diamond does not cite or mention Lee. As the ―Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race‖ continues to circulate, people now associate the quote more with Diamond than with Lee. However, it is a direct reference to Lee‘s work. (See for example the 2009 BBC blog-post by Tom Feilden Do huntergatherers have it right? which mentions ―one Kalahari Bushman quoted by Jared Diamond.‖) Much of ―Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race‖ appears in Diamond‘s book The Third Chimpanzee (1991). Here, Diamond again uses the quote about mongongo nuts, and
again does not cite Lee. Diamond mentions Lee‘s work one time, at the end, in a suggestion for ―further readings.‖ Although such lack of citation might be somewhat excused in his shorter magazine article, it seems to border on unethical plagiarism in a longer book. As I point out below, Diamond borrows more from Lee and DeVore‘s Man the Hunter than he acknowledges: he lifts some passages in Man the Hunter for ―Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.‖ Another prominent source exploring the implications of Lee‘s work was ―The Original Affluent Society‖ by Marshall Sahlins. This began as a conference comment on Lee‘s work, later published as a more complete essay in Stone Age Economics (1972), a book that would be required reading for a generation of anthropologists. Sahlins placed anthropological research in a wider economic context, arguing hunters were affluent, not because of how much they had, but because of how little they needed: ―There is also a Zen road to affluence, departing from premises somewhat different from our own: that human material wants are finite and few, and technical means unchanging but on the whole adequate‖ (1972:2). [ClickMarshall Sahlins and Napoleon Chagnon for more on contemporary implications.] Lee and Sahlins, as later popularized but unacknowledged by Diamond, were fundamental for re-evaluating the idea of gatherers and hunters as barely scratching out an existence. Agriculture increased necessary work time and drudgery, although it did make possible specialization, so that not everyone had to be directly involved in procuring food. Some people could then specialize in other pursuits. But agriculture did not directly increase free time or leisure.
b) Historians document deprivation and management
Another angle for the revisionist perspective was the historical documentation of how much conditions had changed for gatherers and hunters. The people who were gathering and hunting when observed by anthropologists, or even by Charles Darwin, were often those pushed off their original lands, decimated by introduced diseases, forced into labor, or recruited to provide commodities, like for the fur trade. Anthropologists like Lee and Sahlins already knew this, and said as much. Sahlins writes, ―I must raise the possibility that the ethnography of hunters and gatherers is largely a record of incomplete cultures. Fragile cycles of ritual and exchange may have disappeared without trace, lost in the earliest stages of colonialism, when the intergroup relations they mediated were attacked and confounded‖ (1972:38-39). Diamond also makes reference to the deprivation gatherers and hunters experienced, noting their lives ―aren‘t nasty and brutish, even though farmers have pushed them into some of the world‘s worst real estate‖ (1987:65), again condensing Lee‘s wording.
in bloody fact. In his book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (2005). we do not know exactly how people transformed the landscape. Wolf‘s book was republished in paperback in 2010.Lee and Sahlins aimed to disprove stereotypes and capture what might have been. they created it. Faced with an ecological problem. In the South American Amazon. The 2010 edition includes a new foreword by Thomas Hylland Eriksen. much of the management resulted from large-scale burning: ―Rather than domesticate animals for meat. and concluded that they belonged to a culture that had always been barefoot and starving. but it was not an untouched tropical forest. Indians retooled ecosystems to encourage elk. About the Amazon. Anthropologist Eric Wolf was the one who really put the pieces together. (2005:10) Mann‘s work emphasizes how Native Americans were skilled managers of their ecosystems. but he never fully grasped that the people he saw as remnants from the Paleolithic Age were actually the persecuted survivors of a recently shattered culture. the predators that fed on them. Mann goes further: ―For a long time clever people who knew tricks that we have yet to learn used big chunks of Amazonia nondestructively. Europe and the People Without History – Geography. At some risk to himself. as Europe reached out to seize the resources and populations of the other continents‖ (1982:18). and the people who ate them both‖ (2005:282). Mann opens with a chapter on ―Holmberg‘s Mistake‖ in reference to anthropologist Allan Holmberg‘s 1940s studies of the Sirionó in South America: The wandering people Holmberg traveled with in the forest had been hiding from their abusers. It was as if he had come across refugees from a Nazi concentration camp. see Eric Wolf. Constant burning of undergrowth increased the numbers of herbivores. interaction and mutual creation between what are called ―tribes‖ and the emerging Western colonial powers. The title is ironic: Wolf was bringing a sense of history to the people anthropologists study: ―Europeans and Americans would never have encountered these supposed bearers of a pristine past if they had not encountered one another. exploring the history of encounter. and bear. States. Charles Mann pushes this approach. deer. Rather than adapt to Nature. It remains important. Wolf‘s truly great work Europe and the People Without History (1982) drew the connection between anthropological case studies and historical process. the author of Engaging Anthropology. . the Indians fixed it. For more. Holmberg tried to help them. especially since Wolf was writing world history long before the idea of ―globalization‖ became fashionable. Empires. Mann draws on historical studies that show how what European explorers saw as a natural ―Garden of Eden‖ was actually a managed landscape. They were in the midst of terra-forming the Amazon when Columbus showed up and ruined everything‖ (2005:349). In North America.
[See also Myths of the Spanish Conquest – Indigenous Allies & Politics of Empire for a reconsideration of these processes. Diamond here cites work by George Armelagos and colleagues showing a drastic decline in health and life expectancy on adopting maize-based agriculture.] c) Archaeologists did paleopathology As Diamond‘s ―Worst Mistake‖ notes. including the 2012 edition of Applying Anthropology d) The Third World could not be ignored Linked to the historical documentation of tribal deprivation was the growing realization that it was impossible to write the history of development and industry in Europe and the United States without considering the exploitative relationships of colonialism and resource extraction. which offer literal layers of evidence for bodies before and after agriculture. C. I have also seen this study used in anthropology textbooks. Death and Disease at Dr. it would appear adopting agriculture had a deleterious effect. including my preferred introductory anthropology textbook.‖ the ―Death and Disease‖ article is a staple of introductory anthropology readers. Diamond says the same result can be found in the Mississippi Mound burials. Like ―Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. and non-human animal populations becoming dangerously unbalanced. but because of the unnoticed gardening skills of the native inhabitants. but again gives no reference. With the adoption of agriculture. but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors. . 5‘ for women. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again. even as my students point out the lack of references for both Diamond and anthropology textbooks. Diamond uses the Greece and Turkey skeletons. leading to studies in paleopathology. The ―Garden of Eden‖ was not that way because of untouched natural processes. had reached a low of only 5‘ 3″ for men. and by 3000 B. Diamond announces an astonishing result: Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunger-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a generous 5‘ 9″ for men. their landscapes degenerated. (1987:66) Since height can often be used as a proxy for health.As Europeans displaced Native Americans. height crashed. archaeological techniques became more sophisticated. Dickson‘s Mounds (Goodman and Armelagos 1985) seems to say it all. 5‘ 5″ for women. but I have been unable to track it down. The title of the study.
at this point. and has been reprinted many times. The idea of each country‘s independent path to development was in desperate need of revision. Private Property and the State (1884). recognizing the mutual interdependence of sexuality. Rubin‘s injunction remains unfinished: Eventually. . That India was a colony of Britain for several hundred years. ―Mr. André Gunder Frank‘s Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America explicitly argued that many of these so-called backward regions were very much part of an extractive capitalist system (1967). The Origin of the Family. most clearly seen in Friedrich Engels. Private Property and the State.The idea of economic development promoted in the 1950s was that each country was on its own path to development and only needed encouragement.S. Rubin‘s article would for many years be one of the most cited articles in anthropology. someone will have to write a new version of The Origin of the Family. W. When world-renowned anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss portrayed the ―exchange of women‖ as a source of ―affective richness. not just certain parts: To people in rich countries like the U. that Britain used Indian textile techniques and copied designs to fuel its industrialism–apparently unimportant. Rather than bringing advancement and development. Rubin drew on an already-existing critique that agriculture was a source for sexual inequality.W. instead of presenting one of the greatest ripoffs of all time as the root of romance?‖ (1975:201). 1999:174 Diamond knew any consideration of the benefits of agriculture had to consider the world as a whole. ―It would be a good idea‖ –Immanuel Wallerstein. when asked. anthropology graduate student Gayle Rubin wrote The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‗Political Economy‘ of Sex. dependent on oil and minerals that must often be imported from countries with poorer health and nutrition. who. which do you think would be the better choice? (1987:66) e) Feminists focused on untold inequalities In the early 1970s.. each with its own arrow of development (1960). The End of the World as We Know It. Gandhi. it sounds ridiculous to extol the virtues of hunting and gathering.‖ Rubin counters: ―Why is he not. The brilliance of Rubin‘s argument was how she took existing anthropological accounts and simply exposed the injustices. This idea became known as dependency theory and part of a critique of capitalist-style development: There is the notable quip of Mahatma Gandhi. capitalism had made them backward. what do you think of Western civilization?‖ responded. But Americans are an élite. If one could choose between being a peasant farmer in Ethiopia or a bushman gatherer in the Kalahari. Rostow‘s influential book The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto includes a chart which places Britain at the top and India at the bottom. denouncing what kinship systems do to women.
Regardless of the political agenda of feminists like Rubin. From the 1968 book Man the Hunter (obviously titled before the feminist critique!). provides an excellent example of how more sophisticated archaeological techniques. Pollution and environmental damage were literally choking urban areas. Nor does this evaluation exclude the present precarious existence under the threat of nuclear annihilation and the population explosion. Population growth seemed unstoppable and unsustainable. the ―sex/gender system. stating how ―farming may have encouraged inequality between the sexes‖ and how ―women in agricultural societies were sometimes made beasts of burden. interplanetary archaeologists of the future will classify our planet as one in which a very long and stable period of small-scale hunting and gathering was followed by an apparently instantaneous efflorescence of technology and society leading rapidly to extinction. have led to reinterpreting the famous ―Venus figurines. and politics without underestimating the full significance of each in human society. the hunting way of life has been the most successful and persistent adaptation man has ever achieved. It is still an open question whether man will be able to survive the exceedingly complex and unstable ecological conditions he has created for himself. The 1973 film Soylent Green expresses the dystopian pessimism of the time.‖ Archaeology. ethnographic analogy to new facts about the importance of gatherers. if we succeed in establishing a sane and workable world order. began to take issues of gender much more seriously. It is interesting here to compare Lee and DeVore‘s introduction with Diamond‘s conclusion: Lee and DeVore in Man the Hunter (1968:3) To date. such analysis made it less possible to describe social life without considering the implications for women and as Rubin put it. (Rubin 1975:210) Diamond likewise makes the connection. If he fails in this task. Lee and Irven DeVore explicitly view their work through this lens. the long evolution of man as a hunter in the past and the (hopefully) much longer era of technical civilization in the future will bracket an incredibly brief transitional . On the other hand.‖ f) People became nervous about a human future Revisionists were perplexed and concerned about the possibility of human self-destruction. People like Richard Borshay Lee linked the issue of the destructive present to gathering and hunting sustainability. traditionally a male-dominated profession.‖ then launching into anecdotes from his bird-studying trips to New Guinea (1987:66). Heather Pringle‘s article New Women of the Ice Age (1998).economics. and a feminist orientation. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis pushing the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war. also featured in anthropology readers.
then we would now be almost at the end of our first day. He might illustrate the results of his digs by a 24-hour clock on which one hour represents 100.com/anthropology/worst-mistake-in-the-history-of-thehuman-race/.Living Anthropologically. and that have so far eluded us? Lee and DeVore should have sued Diamond for plagiarism. and the industrial revolution.000 years of real past time. empires. Agriculture delivers the Splendors of Civilization. we‘re still struggling with the mess into which agriculture has tumbled us. Last updated February 3. animal domestication. 2013. Agriculture as ―Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race‖?. Diamond puts the alternatives bluntly. But these are inaccurate alternatives as the next section on Many Ways of Gathering and Hunting begins to discuss. If the history of the human race began at midnight.2 – Many Ways of Gathering and Hunting Previous: 1. the fact that Diamond was not called on this borrowing allowed his work to supplant other versions of history. And. . at 11:54 p. tribes.phase of human history–a phase which included the rise of agriculture. and it‘s unclear whether we can solve it. and sunset. 2013. we adopted agriculture. as discussed in Real History versus Guns Germs and Steel. We lived as hunter-gatherers for nearly the whole of that day. Jason. m. In contrast.13 – Human Biologies and the Biocultural Naturenurtural To cite: Antrosio.livinganthropologically. Suppose that an archaeologist who had visited from outer space were trying to explain human history to his fellow spacelings. As our second midnight approaches. http://www. noon. Or agriculture set us on the Highway to Hell. Finally. states. Next: 2. Nevertheless. cities. nations. will the plight of famine-stricken peasants gradually spread to engulf us all? Or will we somehow achieve those seductive blessings that we imagine behind agriculture‘s glittering façade. Diamond‘s ―Wost Mistake in the History of the Human Race‖ (1987:66) Hunter-gatherers practiced the most successful and longest-lasting life style in human history. from midnight through dawn.
Violence & the Facts February 6. As noted in Myths of the Spanish Conquest. ―the Yanomami have long depended on iron and steel tools. but steel tools were quickly seized upon and traded far in advance of any European contact or conquest. an ethnographic film by Timothy Asch and Napoleon Chagnon. and Steel. Much has been said about the Yanomami and The Ax Fight. See alsoPublic Anthropology and Bill Gates: We Cannot Abandon Humanity.Yanomami Ax Fight: Jared Diamond. as well as Myths of the Spanish Conquest as a corrective to Guns. is a classic in anthropology and beyond. I urge Gates to consider the real ethnographic record. . Charles Mann argues that the very form of slash-and-burn cultivation practiced by the Yanomami and often portrayed as so traditional. Science. The Yanomami Ax Fight. ―was a product of European axes‖ (2006:341). 2013 · by Jason Antrosio · in Anthropology Update July 2013: As Bill Gates reads Jared Diamond. but here I want to concentrate on just one point: steel axes. I have shown it in my classes to illustrate how what we may initially see as chaos or senseless can with another look be seen as part of a logical pattern. The Yanomami used iron and steel long before anyone ever filmed them for classroom consumption. As Brian Ferguson writes in Yanomami Warfare: A Political History. I first saw it as an undergraduate in an English class on travel writing. In 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. steel arrived with the Spaniards. Germs. All ethnographically described Yanomami had begun using metal tools long before any anthropologist arrived‖ (1995:23).
in many cases based on previous anthropological and historical work that paid attention to global flows). Steven Pinker tweets: ―Noble savage myth strikes again–Jared Diamond has data on his side. from before the time of European expansion.‖ But this doesn‘t sound at all like what Podolefsky describes as steel axes being ubiquitous by the early 1970s. Survival Internationalconfuses human rights with factual claims.‖ But those are the only two mentions–otherwise steel axes are unnoticed. has so little to say about steel axes in The World Until Yesterday. so much so that no one knew how to make a stone axe anymore. Moreover. steel axes had been in use for many years before anthropologists arrived. exit the stone axe. which were prized. No one in Mul today would use a stone axe. often without any direct European involvement whatsoever (Charles Mann‘s 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Createdhas a host of examples. he is describing his fieldwork in the early 1970s! It is very strange that Jared Diamond.‖ Skeptic Michael Shermer raises the hyperbole: ―Another example of the Left‘s War on Science: Survival International attacks Jared Diamond (whose data is solid). but in constant connection. People have never been isolated. including for the famously and only-recently-contacted New Guinea highlands. they indicate centuries of trade and interconnection. Counting Violence and the Shaky Science of Jared Diamond Following on an overview of what accounts for the rise of European polities 800-1400AD and then a re-appraisal of the colonial enterprise in the Americas. Indeed it was difficult to find someone who recalled how to attach the stone to a handle‖ (345). Prominent claimants to the science mantle close ranks with Jared Diamond. the effects of European expansion outran direct contact with Europeans. of the interactions between state and non-state societies since well before Europeans arrived and outrunning European contact. It is in this context that we need to investigate the empirical data about violence in non-state societies. Jared Diamond also mentions–with regard to the Solomon Islands in the 19th century–that ―steel axes can behead many humans without losing their sharp edge. who sold the world on the importance of steel as a formidable weapon of conquest. as items like steel axes and a host of agricultural products were traded around the world. each an independent cultural whole.Similarly in Papua New Guinea. Steel axes are not the cause of violence–rather.‖ . this post means to draw out the major theme running through the earlier work: that anthropological studies are inevitably studies of interconnection. the facts are on Diamond‘s side. Jared Diamond mentions people in the New Guinea highlands received ―a few steel axes. From Aaron Podolefsky‘s classic article Contemporary Warfare in the New Guinea Highlands: ―Enter the ubiquitous steel axe. this task acquires additional urgency. We need to put to rest the idea of Ruth Benedict in 1934–that primitive peoples are a kind of scientific laboratory. even among the Yanomami. Keep in mind that when Podolefsky says today.‖ Prominent economist Tyler Cowen: ―Mood affiliation aside. At a time when Angry Papuan leaders demand Jared Diamond apologizes.
Real scientists know better. All Yanomami warfare that we know about occurs within what Neil Whitehead and I call a ―tribal zone. counting. and math are especially useful to counter and debunk stories we like to tell about ourselves and other societies. the whole idea that we are able to compare state and non-state societies based on ethnographic data collected in the past two centuries is unsustainable. This is not about personal quirks or fieldwork ethics. it is crucial to understand the context of those numbers. . I love math. I do need to clarify a few points: I love numbers. this violence is not an expression of Yanomami culture itself. (1995:6) In other words. inhabited by nonstate people who must react to the far-flung effects of the state presence. These are all people who are reacting to state presence in various ways. and present in certain specific forms. no use bothering with boring facts when terrific Twitter sensationalism awaits. Numbers. It is. but very little empirical evidence. The idea that steel axes were ever introducedby anthropologists is not supported. rather. but he has the right enemies. We do need to review some facts. a product of specific historical situations: The Yanomami make war not because Western culture is absent.‖ Hey. Jared Diamond has a lot of anecdotes. The point is that the steel axes were there long before the anthropologists. Khan concludes that ―Jared Diamond may be wrong on facts.‖ an extensive area beyond state administrative control. The few numbers he does use are suspect. and in any case doing math on numbers does not make it science. Looking at the empirical evidence reveals a very different story.‖ Khan revs up his favorite diatribe apparatus against cultural anthropology.Science blogger Razib Khan takes a strangely different turn. and might just as well be conceptualized as being on the poor margins of state societies as being independent non-state units. After remarking that Jared Diamond has been ―trading in glib and gloss for years. but because it is present. as facts. Numbers usefully summarize what we count as important. Before launching this investigation of interconnection. with ideas developed over 20 years ago: Although some Yanomami really have been engaged in intensive warfare and other kinds of bloody conflict. as science. Before numbers can count as evidence. I love counting. The story matches what Brian Ferguson wrote about the Yanomami. But we should not confuse the manipulation of numbers with an understanding of those relationships and processes. as empirical data. Numbers offer glimpses into relationships and processes.
Jared Diamond uses E. He does not mention Ferguson in his book. these people are not ―pure‖ or ―pristine‖. I am in no way making a counter-claim of peace. Mann notes in a February 2013 review of Chagnon. Click Napoleon Chagnon for more and see also The Times. ―in 1920 large-scale military operations. Evans-Pritchard studied the Nuer because the British colonial government was trying to figure out why they were being so rebellious to colonial rule and how they were organizing their rebellion. no reputable scholar should be uncritically citing Napoleon Chagnon for empirical evidence. That this even must be done over again is a farce. nor do we ever hear that there may have been a debate about Yanomami warfare. were conducted against the Eastern Jikany and caused much loss of life and destruction of property. Somewhat ironically. Fierce Controversies: Prior to 1492.] As Charles C. The Nuer. cosmopolitan. where they now reside. including bombing and machine-gunning of camps. this portion of central Amazonia was a prosperous. must be considered before we decide that a certain type of people are inevitably violent or warlike. I should not need to say that a period of widespread resistance to colonial . If this is correct. It is simply to say that the influence of steel axes and other trade goods. the Yanomamö and many other groups fled into the hinterlands. they are dispossessed. Jared Diamond cites only Napoleon Chagnon on the Yanomami. I am in no way saying that steel axes cause violence. And their existence in small bands is reflective not of humankind‘s ancient past but of a shattered society that has preserved its liberty by retreat. multiethnic network of big villages. perhaps especially those who have survived both a holocaust and a diaspora. harmony. but Jared Diamond gets the scientist label without paying attention to science. it is Outragin‘ by Jonathan Marks. When that network was thrown into turmoil by the arrival of European slavers and European diseases. these researchers say. Investigating Jared Diamond’s Empirical Evidence The Yanomami. There were further patrols from time to time but the Nuer remained unsubdued‖ (The Nuer 1940:135). As Evans-Pritchard explains.‖ However. It would be risky to base conclusions about the evolution of society on the study of posses of refugees. fed by fish from the great river and reliant upon a multitude of forest products. and gentleness.E. Brian Ferguson already did a complete empirical revision on the Yanomami evidence 20 years ago. [Update: I wrote about Jared Diamond's uncritical use of Chagnon as a farce before Chagnon's Noble Savages was published. Evans-Pritchard‘s classic ethnography on the Nuer to highlight their ―prevalence of formalized violence. Countering the claim that others live in a state of constant warfare or endemic violence is not to idealize or prop up equally invalid constructions. as well as contact with other peoples and with both European and non-European states. Ferguson and others cleared this up in the scientific journals years ago. After that work.
has been largely ignored by both scholars and the local population‖ (2009:29). they are probably a remnant of an ancient population that was exterminated. Gordon ―examines the Bushman genocide of 1912–1915 which. Three points: First. I have already objected to Jared Diamond‘s use of the Siriono as described by anthropologist Alan Holmberg.C. which is triple the homicide rate for the United States and 10 to 30 times the rates for Canada. Jared Diamond uses Richard Lee‘s numbers to calculate 22 homicides from 1920-1969. David Brooks then splayed the Siriono into The New York Times. If Gordon is correct–and he is one of the only people delving into the German archives for evidence–then the indigenous populations were decimated. The !Kung. a shattered remnant of a former society (see above for Mann‘s similar comments with regard to the Yanomami). the homicide rate for the !Kung works out to 29 homicides per 100.000 person-years. despite overwhelming evidence of its having occurred. may not exactly be the most reliable time to objectively tally instances of violence in a ―non-state society. intimidation. If we instead look at intentional homicide rates around the world. I would hope no one suggest Washington D. and may have even been reduced in comparison to other African locales at the time. absorbed. which has since come down to mid-20s.‖ Diamond then says that state intervention reduced the homicide rate. Jared Diamond makes a strange comparison to contemporary homicide rates in the industrialized world. Gordon has been for years trying to bring to wider attention The ―Forgotten‖ Bushman Genocides of Namibia. but Diamond would come close to making such a claim: ―Urban gangs in large cities don‘t call the police to settle their disagreements but rely on traditional methods of negotiation. the !Kung numbers are roughly equivalent to the country of South Africa today–in other words. Diamond then notes that ―referred to that base population. Britain.C. Robert J.‖ The Siriono. but they hardly constitute evidence about life in a non-state society.‖ Third. and I thank the Amazon reviewerRon Cochran for the reference). and Germany. Second. answered with brutal massacres by the colonial state. with both state and para-state involvement. No wonder then that according to Jared Diamond ―for the Siriono Indians of Bolivia. D. compensation. I‘ve always wondered if that was one . such that two of the commonest Siriono expressions are ‗My stomach is empty‘ and ‗Give me some food. with a culture strikingly backward in contrast to that of their neighbors. there seems to be a broader regional issue. is a non-state society. during the years just before the 22 homicides calculated from 1920-1969. grabbing a local homicide number can be tricky–Washington.‘‖ Certainly such statements are a testament to something. France. For the !Kung. and most importantly. or engulfed by more civilized invaders‖ (Nomads of the Long Bow 1950:8. Even Holmberg admits in his ethnography that ―The Siriono are an anomaly in eastern Bolivia. Widely scattered in isolated pockets of forest land. The first chapter of Mann‘s 1491 concerned ―Holmberg‘s Mistake‖–the problem of drawing conclusions about people who were basically a persecuted fragment. had an intentional homicide rate in the low 40s in the early 2000s. the overwhelming preoccupation is with food. and war.rule. Richard Lee and Jared Diamond‘s choice of time period is instructive. The homicide rates were not worse for the !Kung.
That same role also becomes obvious from central facts of the colonial and postcolonial history of New Guinea in the last 50 years: namely. the probable answer is from the Americas in the last few hundred years: Most New Guineans do little hunting. and as Robert Gordon and Stuart Sholto-Douglas argue in The Bushman Myth: The Making of a Namibian Underclass. was probably imported from the Americas. the New Guinea highlanders had incorporated sweet potato horticulture into their diet. Papua New Guinea. three points. (Savaging Primitives: Why Jared Diamond‘s ‗The World Until Yesterday‘ Is Completely Wrong) The incorporation of the sweet potato–just like other food crops from the Americas in other parts of the world–most probably led to denser populations in the highlands than had been previously supported. . Following directly from the !Kung material: This course of events illustrates the role of control by a strong state government in reducing violence. They live principally from cultivations. as noted above. previously without state government. Add steel axes from trade–which by the time of fieldwork in the 1970s had become ubiquitous–and the conditions were surely ripe for an escalation of intertribal conflict. Diamond barely slips in the fact that their main foodstuff. perhaps a few hundred or a thousand years ago. No one agrees on how this came about. while there is still debate about where the sweet potatoes came from. Diamond seriously underplays the influence of trade and pre-contact transformation. First.forgotten factor in why Richard Lee got that famous quote about so many mongongo nuts– perhaps because the population of people had been so decimated 50 years earlier (seeAgriculture as ―Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race‖?). and the eventual resurgence of violence in Papua New Guinea after Australian colonial government gradually yielded to less rigorous independent government. the continued low level of violence in Indonesian New Guinea under maintained rigorous government control there. As Stephen Corry notes. Here again. by 1920-1969 these populations were hardly detached from wider society. the steep decrease in violence following establishment of Australian and Indonesian control of remote areas of eastern and western New Guinea respectively. Jared Diamond here makes the case that a strong state government decreases violence. as they probably have for millennia. In any case. sweet potato. The !Kung may have been more like the Siriono–a persecuted remnant of a former society–than we have hitherto realized. Even before the steel axes. but it is just one demonstration that ―globalization‖ and change have impacted on Diamond‘s ―traditional‖ peoples for just as long as on everyone else.
police patrols had actually expanded and the jail penalties enhanced. again from the early 1970s. Gordon pointed out the paradox that in many of the conflicted areas. and ended up .000 square kilometers. Aaron Podolefsky and other anthropologists explicitly sought to explain this somewhat puzzling resurgence in tribal violence in the 1960s and 1970s. (Stewart and Strathern. In other words. dentures. That was the situation in the New Guinea highlands in the 1970s. those ethnographers who are most intimately familiar with the violence and warfare in Papua New Guinea–and who do not in any way dismiss it–nevertheless have suggested that state societies may have something to learn: Acephalous societies may have some advantages rather than disadvantages vis à vis centralized ones in the settlement of disputes including the handling of violence.Violence: Theory and Ethnography 2003:153) The Aché. Finally. I‘m just going to go withWikipedia: The Aché suffered repeated abuses by rural Paraguayan colonists. Ongka’s Big Moka can certainly be used to illustrate gift exchange and traditional life–but it is also instructive to see the appropriation of all kinds of elements–the ―Do It In the Road‖ T-shirt. Here. and on the mediation and transformation of violence into positive forms of exchange.Anyone interested in the dramatic global interconnections of Papua New Guinea should watch the truly classic ethnographic film. may themselves provide valuable models for contemporary postmodern society on how to reintroduce community-based elements into dispute resolution. money counted in pidgin English. motorbikes. ranchers. bank accounts for cash-crop coffee growing–all of which seem to not be destroying the traditional exchanges but intensifying them. and yet Jared Diamond announces on The Colbert Report that they might not know what to do with an electric can opener. but with no deterrent effect. This decrease in intertribal marriage led to situations in which there were fewer relatives to argue for peaceful relations (we might also recall the role of affines in Ongka’s Big Moka for reducing the intertribal conflict). Our observations here turn ideas of the evolution of society upside down: ―primitive‖ societies. Jared Diamond also brings up the Aché of Paraguay. there had been a decrease in intertribal marriage. rather than being forms to be transcended. Robert Gordon provided evidence that this could not simply be explained by a ―less rigorous‖ government. Podolefsky‘s article emphasizes the importance of trade–since highlanders no longer had to go far afield to obtain valued goods. The projection of disputes in terms of sorcery and witchcraft can be considered in this context. and big landowners from the conquest period to the 20th century. Here again. that they might try ―sticking it through their nose or over their ears. In the 20th century the Northern Aché began as the only inhabitants of nearly 20. Ongka‘s Big Moka: The Kawelka of Papua New Guinea.‖ Second. Podolefsky argues that it is in fact the decline or abandonment of traditional methods of dispute resolution which led to this resurgence.
Jared Diamond uses the Inuit example more in passing.g. I had been attempting to not support the Jared Diamond juggernaut by purchasing The World Until Yesterday.‖ In other words. Large multinational business groups (e. the talk of past exploits sometimes needs to be taken with a few grains of salt. There is one other comment about almost all of the cases Jared Diamond uses: much of the evidence is based not just on the unproblematic acceptance of these texts. For the Inuit. I‘m even more amazed I have not yet heard mention of this from anthropologists who have reviewed the book–see Anthropology on Jared Diamond – The World Until Yesterday. and the !Kung may have done the same. It is instead far more likely that the fur trade–along with weapons and other technologies–arrived far in advance of direct European contact. the Inuit themselves abandoned war in their own self-interest in order to have more opportunities to profit from trade. This process was specifically carried out to pacify them and remove them from their ancestral homeland so that absentee investors (mainly Brazilian) could move in and develop the lands that once belonged only to the Aché. suppresses violence and war. And here we should remember that war stories are war stories–like fishing stories and hunting stories. this is not to claim a peaceful pre-Contact Inuit. but on the stories people told about the old days of raiding and warfare. In recent times they have been massacred. but for the sake of science I‘ve plunged ahead. even though neither the traders with the Inuit nor those with the !Kung purposely suppressed war. Undoubtedly Inuit warfare pre-existed European contact. Instead. The fact that Aché inhabitants were present and living in the forests of Canindeyu and Alto Paraná on the very lands being titled in Hernandarias. Coronel Oveido. and were still present. enslaved. and that for the Inuit they do it in order to profit from trade. After reviewing the empirical data.confined on two reservations totaling little more than 50 square kilometers of titled land. Industria Paraguaya) obtained title rights to already occupied lands and then sold them sight unseen to investors who purchased lands where Aché bands had roamed for thousands of years. Are we really so far from empirical evaluation that these reviews were conducted on whether or not we . so I originally did not include it in my review–this responds to a comment below. but became mixed up with introducing alcohol and guns for fur–the subsequent observed pacification could very well have been the aftermath of local competition for access to resources. in the long term. and other government centers seems to have bothered nobody. and gathered on to reservations where no adequate medical treatment was provided. The Inuit. Diamond‘s claim is that the ―visits of traders to the Inuit also had the effect of suppressing Inuit war. but to question the idea that European trade was what suppressed Inuit war. Such an account is typical of Diamond‘s rather narrow definition of European contact. I‘m even more surprised than I expected at how Diamond treats the ethnographic record. Jared Diamond uses this as an example of how European contact. Again.
Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World2003:128) What does anthropology’s empirical record reveal about violence and warfare? It is important to first underscore that we cannot read anthropology‘s ethnographic record for evidence of whether or not violence is inherent to human nature. the Siriono. which trait appears to predominate depends on the circumstances. I urge that we read. and learn from them. his methods. the Aché. anthropology requires observation– indeed. All human societies practise both violence and cooperation. but an investigation of empirical claims in the light of history. and in Papua New Guinea? Even Razib Khan says ―I want to be clear that I think Jared Diamond is wrong on a lot of details. this awareness calls upon us to reinforce the validity of that base by taking more seriously the construction of our object of observation. I have no desire to dismiss classic ethnographies. On the contrary. his politics. But we need to be clear about what these texts can and cannot provide. Put differently: While empirical data never speak for themselves. But the preliminary conceptualization of the object of study remains the guiding light of empirical observation: ―What is it that I need to know in order to know what I want to know?‖ (Michel-Rolph Trouillot. on this point Jared Diamond is clear and correct: ―It is equally fruitless to debate whether humans are intrinsically violent or else intrinsically cooperative.support Jared Diamond‘s philosophy. often field observation–and relies on empirical data in ways and to degrees that distinguish it as an academic prcatice from both literary and Cultural Studies. or his writing style? Where are the anthropologists who have taken Jared Diamond to task for his absurd absorption of the Yanomami.‖ . Not a critique of writing or literary deconstruction. Ideally this construction also informs that of the object of study in a back and forth movement that starts before fieldwork and continues long after it. Indeed. his field experience. Fortunately. the Nuer. and many cultural anthropologists are rightly calling him out on that.‖ But who are the cultural anthropologists calling Diamond out on the empirical and the ethnographic record? Please let me know! Lest I be misunderstood. That such data is always constituted and such observation is always selective does not mean that the information they convey should not pass any test for empirical accuracy. the !Kung. The much welcome awareness that our empirical base is a construction in no way erases the need for such a base. We also need to place ethnography in the context of critical assessment. Even when couched in the most interpretive terms. anthropologists cannot speak without data. as some have attempted. teach.
If we do give sufficiently wide berth to historical variability and intra-societal variation.‖) I hope to have shown above that the empirical evidence for those claims is not reliable. and believes that ―the longterm effect of European.It is also important to underscore that human groups have had varying levels of violence. warfare. (Fuentes Race. have lived in interaction with state societies. The short-term effect has variously been either an immediate suppression as well or else an initial flare-up and then suppression. Again. and tyranny. but the effects of Europeans caused an exacerbation of warfare for a few decades (New Zealand. if by ―yesterday‖ we really do mean 12. 3. this is not to make a counter-proposal of harmonic peace. Jared Diamond then portrays non-state societies as generally more violent than state societies. there is little evidence for much violence or warfare: If you review the published information on the fossil record of humans and potential human ancestors from about six million years ago through about 12.‖ 2.000 years ago. the duration of this ―initial flare-up‖ could be for centuries as Diamond writes a few sentences earlier. warfare is a relatively modern human behavior (12. and herding societies. that in some cases ―warfare had been endemic long before European arrival. it‘s Jared Diamond. Almost all of those non-state horticultural. Fiji. but to lessen the distance between ideas of the modern us and the non-modern them. Examination of the human fossil record supports the hypothesis that while some violence between individuals undoubtedly happened in the past.000 to 10. then these non-state societies are indeed examples of non-violence. and herding societies have demonstrated historically variable levels of violence and warfare. Up until about 12.‖ (Of course. Widely re-printed and still shared today. Some of them have been incorporated into . and Other Lies They Told You2012:130-131) In other words. Non-state horticultural. agricultural. at best.000 years ago you are provided with. This was a point that was first tremendously popularized by none other than Jared Diamond in his breakout 1987 article Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. Tswana. .000 years ago. Diamond also realizes this point. if anyone is responsible for promoting Noble Savage ideas in the last quarter century. agricultural. only a few examples of possible death due to the hand of another individual of the same species. pre-agriculture. along with almost all of the hunting and gathering peoples in the last several thousand years or so. I would propose the following as more general observations: 1. . What I object to is that following these two acknowledgements. or other outside contact with states or chiefdoms has almost always been to suppress tribal warfare.000 years old). . we chose the latter and ended up with starvation. both historically and across both state and non-state societies. Here‘s Diamond in 1987: ―Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production. Monogamy. Solomon Islands) or a few centuries (Great Plains. Central Africa) before it died out.
interplanetary archaeologists of the future will classify our planet as one in which a very long and stable period of small-scale hunting and gathering was followed by an apparently instantaneous efflorescence of technology and society leading rapidly to extinction. others displaced. 4. How precisely close we were is a matter for some debate. we came very close to an intercontinental nuclear exchange between the U. but it was a distinct possibility that may have only been averted by personality quirks and fortuitous occurrence. following Max Weber.states. (1968:3) Update: See Jonathan Marks. making that claim as a definition should not impede understanding how the establishment of a monopoly on legitimate physical violence was often itself a violent process. A Final Thought In the early 1960s. and the Soviet Union.‖ then indeed–although the argument is a bit circular–it may be that a modern state can reduce violence. Diamonds and Clubs for an important contribution to understanding the history of political attacks on anthropology. Peace. Or as Richard Lee and Irven DeVore put it in Man the Hunter: It is still an open question whether man will be able to survive the exceedingly complex and unstable ecological conditions he has created for himself. we define a state as ―the form of human community that (successfully) lays claim to the monopoly of legitimate physical violence within a particular territory. These state and non-state interactions have sometimes diminished violence and warfare. but have sometimes exacerbated it. not exactly ―the better angels of our nature. border patrols. surveillance. This was happening before European contact. All these groups have been linked by trade. see Napoleon Chagnon – Noble Savages and Epigenetics on The Edge of Human Nature. and in many case still depends on high levels of everyday violence. However. and those displaced have sometimes displaced other groups. but has certainly intensified in the last 500 years. For more on the new Napoleon Chagnon memoir. . If he fails in this task. & Human Nature (2013). incarceration.‖ This was something the scholars of the 1960s and 1970s seem to know better than we do today: How dangerously close we once came to ending this whole discussion of the-modern-versus-the-traditional.S. For many of the issues discussed in points #1-4 above–and in the comment stream below–see the new edited volume War. If.
By training. or of humans confined by their place on an evolutionary hierarchy. In contrast to prevalent notions of racial or biological determinism. Environment. psychology and philosophy. of the faculty of Columbia University. 2013 · by Jason Antrosio · in Anthropology Ruth Benedict scores a blockbuster publishing international bestseller withPatterns of Culture . for elaborating the ethnographic record without romanticizing or resorting to politically-correct euphemisms. vocation and chief interest she is an anthropologist. and for attention to impact in today‘s society.Ruth Benedict. or of human life as determined by the surrounding physical environment. sociology. and the Concept of Culture The primary message of Patterns of Culture is the paramount importance of learned behavior in human existence. but a quartet of sciences. for clarity of writing and accessibility. Ruth Benedict accomplishes all this with a book published in 1934! The 1934 review in the New York Times testifies to the enormous interdisciplinary accomplishment: The sciences no longer work alone. anthropology. And also they have developed a great common garden where all the sciences and the arts meet and walk about hand in hand while they discuss and compare and combine the results of their specialties. Out of such a combination has grown this book by Ruth Benedict. Early reviews give the edge to Ruth Benedict‘s Patterns of Culture. for its conceptual framework. Benedict posits that culture provides the patterning. . which is expertly conceived and brilliantly developed. Patterns of Culture: From Culture to cultures January 23. Inevitably Ruth Benedict‘s extremely popular work will be compared to Jared Diamond‘s The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Ruth Benedict will surely be on Bill Gates‘s summer reading list. is responsible for the volume. Ruth Benedict on Race. each behind its own walls. Even more amazingly. They have pooled their front yards and from their windows as they labor they look up and down the row and see what the others are doing.
Culture is not a biologically transmitted complex‖ (1934:12. John Dewey has said in all seriousness that the part played by custom in shaping the behavior of the individual as over against any way in which he can affect traditional custom. Herskovits agree that although there may be inferior and superior individuals within all races. this text assured teachers and students that culture. of his language. (Zoë Burkholder. not race. there is no superior or inferior race. an animated film. . or ideas of biological determinism. The Races of Mankind (Public Affairs Pamphlet No.14). (Strength to Love. 37-38) On the question of how much human behavior was influenced or determined by the physical environment. The Races of Mankind was released as an illustrated children‘s book. It remains the most popular text written by an anthropologist for teachers and young students to clear up the confusion of the race concept in simple. a set of 15 posters and a traveling exhibit. Most importantly. Jr. science and social studies classes across the nation. Franz Boas and Anti-Racist Education 2006:25) Ruth Benedict was also the first ―great anthropologist‖ cited by Martin Luther King.The Races of Mankind would play a major role in transforming the way American teachers spoke and taught about the race concept. Even in his philosophical probings he cannot go behind these stereotypes. . and Melville J. . .: The idea of an inferior or superior race has been refuted by the best evidence of the science of anthropology. with Gene Weltfish. (1934:2) On the issue of race. Great anthropologists. Benedict is succinct: ―Not one item of his tribal social organization. . is carried in his germ-cell. Benedict is likewise brief but potent: ―The institutions that human cultures build . is as the proportion of the total vocabulary of his mother tongue over against those words of his own baby talk that are taken up into the vernacular of his family. ―The Science of Custom‖ is beautifully written and crystal clear: No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. As publication approached one million copies. like Ruth Benedict. Man is not committed in detail by his biological constitution to any particular variety of behavior. of his local religion. 85): Teaching journals from the era reveal the tremendous popularity of The Races of Mankind in English. was the key to understanding human diversity. his very concepts of the true and the false will still have reference to his particular traditional customs.Benedict‘s first chapter. inexpensive and appealing formats. Margaret Mead. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking. . Benedict also wrote.
anthropology: 1. Diamond‘s claims on race and IQ have mostly been anecdotal. Benedict begs us to break out of the prism of white culture and parochial thinking: The psychological consequences of this spread of white culture have been out of all proportion to the materialistic. Diamond has never responded scientifically to the re-assertion of race from sources like ―A Family Tree in Every Gene. and Weltfish faced persecution from McCarthyism (Micaela di Leonardo. Benedict and Weltfish‘s Races of Mankind was banned by the Army as Communist propaganda. a list of bare facts. There exist within historically specific populations recurrences in both thought and behavior that are not contingent but structurally conditioned and that are. They have never been taken seriously by those who call themselves ―race realists‖ (see Jared Diamond won‘t beat Mitt Romney).‖ and he helped propagate amedical myth about racial differences in hypertension. These hints are. and his Race Without Color was once a staple for challenging simplistic tales of biological race. Those patternes are learned. They are pin-point potentialities. there is no doubt that Diamond leans heavily on agriculture and geography as explanatory causes for differential success. (Adieu Culture: A New Duty Arises 2003:99) Compare to Jared Diamond. And. although Guns. Benedict endorses and popularizes what Michel-Rolph Trouillot terms the ―Boasian conceptual kernel‖ of U. Boas and Benedict swam against the current of the time. This world-wide cultural diffusion has protected us as man had never been protected before from having to take seriously the civilizations of other peoples. in turn.224). Structuration occurs through social transmission and symbolic coding with some degree of human consciousness. in reality. it has given our culture a massive universality that we have long ceased to account for historically. as proof that this is the prime . upon economic competition. We interpret our dependence. when backlash could be brutal. and which we read off rather as necessary and inevitable. But by the 1990s. Diamond has of course acquired some fame for arguing against biological determinism. Recurrences cannot be tied to a natural world within or outside the human body. Diamond simply echoes perceived liberal wisdom. Human behavior is patterned. and Steel has been falsely branded as environmental or geographical determinism. of course. structuring. In short. In contrast. Exotics at Home 1998:196.S. Ruth Benedict: What Can We Learn from Primitive Societies? From the beginning. Germs. in our civilization. and the elaboration that takes place around them is dictated by many alien considerations‖ (1934:35). but rather to constant interaction within specific populations. mere rough sketches. 2.up upon the hints presented by the environment or by man‘s physical necessities do not keep as close to the original impulse as we easily imagine.
many primitive regions have had centuries in which to elaborate the cultural themes they have made their own. . Every man‘s hand is against every other man. Monogamy & Other Lies They Told You–Agustin Fuentes as Anthropology 101). ―I worry that some of our cultural ideology and self deception may be smuggled in under the terms themselves. as he asks none. They are a laboratory in which we may study the diversity of human institutions. especially ‗Western. It is the inevitability of each familiar motivation that we defend. Benedict had already pinpointed the problem of only analyzing what everyone is now calling the WEIRD. (1934:172) . and according to his view of life virtue consists in selecting a victim upon whom he can vent the malignancy he attributes alike to human society and to the powers of nature. Greg Downey‘s We agree it‘s WEIRD. As seen above.‘ ‗industrialized‘ and ‗democratic‘‖ (see also Race. and a critical examination of them is essential for any understanding of cultural processes. Benedict explicitly considers primitive cultures as a kind of laboratory: With the vast network of historical contact which has spread the great civilizations over tremendous areas. but is it WEIRD enough? remains the best analysis. . attempting always to identify our own local ways of behaving with Behaviour. (1934:17) Moreover. or our own socialized habits with Human Nature. And perhaps the last lines are the best: The Dobuan lives out without repression man‘s worst nightmares of the ill-will of the universe. Benedict begins by noting the Dobuan reputation as the ―feared and distrusted savages of the islands surrounding them‖ and then proceeds to confirm ―the Dobuans amply deserve the character they are given by their neighbours. (1934:6-7) In 1934. With their comparative isolation. Suspicion and cruelty are his trusted weapons in the strife and he gives no mercy.motivation that human nature can rely upon. as child psychology or the way in which the young human animal is bound to behave. primitive cultures are now the one source to which we can turn. As Downey puts it. The social forms which obtain in Dobu put a premium upon ill-will and treachery and make of them the recognized virtues of their society‖ (1934:131). Western Educated Industrial Rich Democratic. All existence appears to him as a cutthroat struggle in which deadly antagonists are pitted against one another in a contest for each one of the goods of life. They provide ready to our hand the necessary information concerning the possible great variations in human adjustments. or we read off the behaviour of small children as it is moulded in our civilization and recorded in child clinics. . It is the only laboratory of social forms that we have or shall have. They are lawless and treacherous. Her chapter on Dobu zips the Dobuans with so many wonderful barbs it‘s difficult to choose the best zinger. Fortune says. It is the same whether it is a question of our ethics or of our family organization. Benedict has no use for romanticizing Noble Savages. The fun continues: ―As Dr. Benedict also has little use for gender neutral pronouns or politically-correct euphemisms. ‗The Dobuans prefer to be infernally nasty or else not nasty at all‘‖ (1934:171).
like Reo Fortune in Dobu and Franz Boas with the Kwakiutl. and concluded that they belonged to a culture that had always been barefoot and starving.000 years ago (see The Colbert Report). Triumph was an uninhibited indulgence in delusions of grandeur.? Talk about a big blind spot. Holmberg tried to help them. Knowing but the one gamut. San people and Melanesians. At some risk to himself.That‘s not WEIRD the acronym. Diamond engages in more than just politically-correct euphemism. which then gets into the New York Times. Diamond. Diamond has accused anthropologists of falsely romanticizing others. Curiously. when the brute fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people who have lived in ―traditional‖ societies have been peasants living in traditional agricultural civilizations over the past several thousand years since the first cities appeared in places like the valleys of the Nile. the Yellow River. or hunters and gatherers with some horticulture. is the category ―traditional societies‖ limited to groups like Inuit.‖ they are thinking of agrarian peasant societies or artisan handicrafts. Compare bestselling author Charles Mann on ―Holmberg‘s Mistake‖ (the first chapter of his 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus): The wandering people Holmberg traveled with in the forest had been hiding from their abusers. It was as if he had come across refugees from a Nazi concentration camp. Her own ethnographic experience was limited. they used it for every occasion. splays us with a story from Allan Holmberg. I must ask. was magnified to its utmost proportions. for Diamond the dividing line between the yesterday of traditional and the today of the presumably modern was somewhere around 5. (Mann 2005:10) As for Diamond‘s approach to comparing different groups: ―Despite claims that Diamond‘s book demonstrates incredible erudition what we see in this prologue is a profound lack of . (1934:220) Compare again Jared Diamond. courtesy of David Brooks. even the most unlikely. Amazonian Indians. The gamut of the emotions which they recognized. etc. and shame a cause of death. however. Diamond.000-6. Benedict was working through the best ethnographic work available. But unlike Diamond. but by subtitling his book What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies. is referring mainly to what we might term tribal societies. from triumph to shame. Benedict draws on the work of others. in contrast. the Ganges. but he never fully grasped that the people he saw as remnants from the Paleolithic Age were actually the persecuted survivors of a recently shattered culture. As John McCreery points out: Why. that‘s just weird! [And please see below for alternative explanations] Benedict similarly skewers the Kwakiutl for their ―megalomaniac paranoid‖ tendencies: The sulking and the suicides on the Northwest Coast are the natural complement of their major preoccupations. When most people think of a ―traditional society. the Tigris-Euphrates.
Benedict‘s prose is clean. The principal cause of the destruction of tribal peoples is the imposition of nation states. Germs and Steel. This does not save them. Ruth Benedict: Amazing Writer. striving to bring back out-of-date caricatures of tribal peoples. It is already on the shelves of many local and public libraries. Director of Survival International: Diamond adds his voice to a very influential sector of American academia which is. Jared Diamond has been praised for his writing. Her prose is crisp and direct. Popularizing Anthropology. unencumbered by footnotes and academic citation garb. with used copies available for around $2. These erudite and polymath academics claim scientific proof for their damaging theories and political views (as did respected eugenicists once). although fewer than the 25 languages claimed by Guns. and easy to understand — just like a blogger‘s is (or should be). this was a speech written to be read. . rewrote its blurb several times. Diamond‘s writing is curiously impersonal. that vividness rarely comes across on the page. We . I feel like blogging is in our disciplinary DNA. humbler. . And she is not the only one–Mead and Linton also produced prose like this. Benedict ―debated with friends and her editor the merits and demerits of over fifty titles for the book. it kills them. insisted that its price be as low as possible. As David Brooks reviews: Diamond‘s knowledge and insights are still awesome. True. Compare that with Diamond‘s $20 e-Book! Moreover. worried about the colour of its cover.thought about what it would mean to study human diversity and how to make sense of cultural phenomenon‖ (Alex Golub. but alas. Indeed. and experience.How can we explain human variation?). . We rarely get to hear the people in traditional societies speak for themselves. argument driven. opinion. but anyone familiar with her work knows Benedict wrote like this for all occasions. and Fourteen Languages Before entering anthropology. forthright. naively or not. for making science popular and palatable. Patterns of Culture has been translated into at least fourteen languages. Others have been less convinced. and got [Margaret] Mead to publicize it in conversations and reviews‖ (MacClancy. Benedict was an English major and a poet. 1996:32). Before publishing Patterns of Culture. We don‘t get to meet any in depth. When I read this Benedict piece. Finally there is the must-read review Savaging Primitives: Why Jared Diamond‘s ‗The World Until Yesterday‘ Is Completely Wrong by Stephen Corry. Accessible. Many of Ruth Benedict‘s writings are freely available Open Access–see the recently discussedAnthropology and the Humanities. In my own. Alex Golub at Savage Minds sees Benedict‘s writing as guidance for contemporary anthropology blogs: Another thing that has fallen of our radar is concision and elegance in prose. Wouldn‘t it be great if we could get back to this sort of style? (Commentary on Ruth Benedict – Anthropology and the Humanities) Patterns of Culture also features an extremely accessible price–new paperbacks are available for $6 on Amazon. this is both completely wrong–both factually and morally–and extremely dangerous.
. it will be another trusted bulwark of the good life. other ways of orienting human beings in social. In many ways. it was almost always promoted as a gateway to tolerance.‖ to really investigate the existence of other possibilities: The voices of traditional societies ultimately matter because they can still remind us that there are indeed alternatives. We generally don‘t see them exercising much individual agency. This is not to suggest naively that we abandon everything and attempt to mimic the ways of non-industrial societies. (1934:278) As Patterns of Culture was re-printed and re-issued. how they conceive of individual selfhood or what they think of us. We shall arrive then at a more realistic social faith. . that our destiny therefore is not indelibly written in a set of choices that demonstrably and scientifically have proven not to be wise. Brooks may be smarting from reviews that called his book The Dumbest Story Ever Told) Ruth Benedict: Contribution and Impact Benedict‘s final points outline the idea of cultural relativism. what the contents of their religions are. In this book. It is rather to draw inspiration and comfort from the fact that the path we have taken is not the only one available.don‘t get to know what their stories are. (Tribal Lessons. or that any culture be asked to forfeit its right to benefit from the genius of technology. From a 1974 New York Times review: ―Patterns of Culture is a signpost on the road to a freer and more tolerant life. the fundamental manner in which we inhabit this planet. (Wade Davis review of Jared Diamond. of course. . geographic and environmental features play a much more important role in shaping life than anything an individual person thinks or feels. Benedict believed this new understanding could make a difference: The recognition of cultural relativity carries with it its own values . and perhaps one of the . By their very existence the diverse cultures of the world bear witness to the folly of those who say that we cannot change. It challenges customary opinions and causes those who have been bred to them acute discomfort. As soon as the new opinion is embraced as customary belief. liberating in its implicit assumption that American middle-class culture is merely one of many possible ways in which people may organize their social relationships–a way no better than any other‖ (Jean Zorn). spiritual and ecological space. . . Ruth Benedict does exactly what Wade Davis wanted Jared Diamond to do– rather than providing a how-to manual of ―tips we can learn. accepting as grounds of hope and as new bases for tolerance the coexisting and equally valid patterns of life which mankind has created for itself from the raw materials of existence. The people Diamond describes seem immersed in the collective. as we all know we must.
Adieu Culture 2003:103). In short. Benedict does not go quite as far as Holmberg‘s Mistake. as Benedict moves from the general concept of culture in the first pages to the notion of specific cultures in her accounts. who can see objectively the socially conditioned behaviour of other peoples without fear and recrimination. but she fails to present the full picture of historical encounter and the ethnographic situation. There has never been a time when civilization stood more in need of individuals who are genuinely cultureconscious. Although ideas of cultural relativism and tolerance do not need to depend on a cultural wholeness. a theme later revived by the work of Clifford Geertz‖ (Trouillot. perhaps becoming even more relevant in the past decade: Modern existence has thrown many civilizations into close contact. that‘s what happens in Benedict and a lot of later anthropology. but she misses the historical depth and positioning of the ethnographer (see also James Mullooly‘s Does Jared Diamond do Ethnography?). It‘s not simply because Ruth Benedict did it better three-quarters of a century ago. or as a substitute for Margaret Mead? My answer is no. Benedict knows better than to spin possibly libelous tales as fodder for human nature. The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World) Ruth Benedict and Jared Diamond: What Should Anthropology Do? Benedict‘s words from 1934 remain as fresh and important as ever. About her three case studies. shorn from history: ―Anthropologists such as Ruth Benedict and Ralph Linton emphasized the ‗wholeness‘ of distinct cultures. Benedict writes ―they are travelling along different roads in pursuit of different ends. appreciating diversity. (1934:10-11) With that in mind. . and these ends and these means in one society cannot be judged in terms of those of another society. the peoples become isolates. and fighting ethnocentrism? Should anthropology ride Jared Diamond‘s fame as a good-enough Ruth Benedict. although Patterns of Culture should not be overlooked.best contemporary versions of this project is Wade Davis. and at the moment the overwhelming response to this situation is nationalism and racial snobbery. It‘s because of all anthropology has learned since Benedict portrayed the peoples of the world as relatively isolated laboratories. what should anthropology say about Jared Diamond‘s The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? Should anthropology simply declare allegiance–as many anthropologists already have–on the grounds of cultural relativism. tolerance. because essentially they are incommensurable‖ (1934:223).
Only by understanding these names as bundles of relationships. and inquiries that disassemble this totality into bits and then fail to reassemble it falsify reality. that distinguished humankind from all the rest of the universe.‖ Other disciplines. internally coherent repertoire of artifacts and customs. Put differently.This history reveals the major theme missing from both Benedict and Diamond–an anthropology of interconnection. But we still need a take-the-fight-to-thestreets moment for that better understanding of humanity. I‘ll attempt to outline how we can avoid the misleading inferences and increase rather than decrease our share of understanding. What was once a secular church of believers in the primacy of Culture has now become a . and it was the possession of varying cultures that differentiated one society from another. in the view of anthropologists. especially psychology. that take-the-fight-to-the-streets moment may have been best provided by Eric Wolf himself in a 1980 New York Times piece about the 79th annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association. That as Eric Wolf described in Europe and the People Without History peoples once called primitive–now perhaps more politely termed tribal or traditional–were part of a co-production with Western colonialism. It was culture. can we hope to avoid misleading inferences and increase our share of understanding. and Dobu: Ethics of Exchange on a Massim Island by Susanne Kuehling is still hardly read in comparison to Patterns of Culture. could the Dobuan reputation for being infernally nasty savages have anything to do with the white recruiters of indentured labour. . This connection and co-production had already been in process long before anthropologists arrived on the scene. . a totality of interconnected processes. They Divide and Subdivide And Call It Anthropology: An earlier anthropology had achieved unity under the aegis of the culture concept.‖ society. Interestingly. which Benedict mentions (1934:130) but then ignores? Could the revving up of the Kwakiutl potlatch and megalomaniac gamuts have anything to do with the fur trade? It would take many years before an ethnography challenging the Fortune-Benedict story of Dobu became available. Each people was seen as having a distinctive. anthropologists had found seemingly secure explanations of why people behaved in certain ways and not others: it was ―in their culture. Looking at culture in this way. Concepts like ―nation. which–passed from generation to generation–created an enduring compact between the living and the dead. As Wolf announced in the first sentences of Europe and the People Without History: The central assertion of this book is that the world of humankind constitutes a manifold. acknowledged anthropology‘s special jurisdiction over the study of cultural phenomena. and by placing them back into the field from which they were abstracted. sociology and history. I agree with Alex Golub about taking care with hyperbole and strident rhetoric.‖ and ―culture‖ name bits and threaten to turn names into things. . (1982:3) In follow-up posts.‖ Similarly. changes in the way people behaved could be accounted for by pointing to changes ―in their culture.
and the proper ways to assess the similarities and differences. its biological and socially learned variability. There are unvoiced concerns within the profession about what anthropology has become and where it is headed. Whether anthropology‘s basic questions are still those that marked its beginnings or new ones. But in its time. The old culture concept is moribund. . a discipline draws its energy from the questions it asks. the task of articulating them may be the meeting‘s hidden agenda. defined by what the members do rather than by what they do it for. Ultimately. it unified the discipline around a concern with basic questions about the nature of the human species.holding company of diverse interests.
Given this central assertion in the very first pages. a totality of interconnected processes. history. and inquiries that disassemble this totality into bits and then fail to reassemble it falsify reality‖ (1982:3). populations existed in interconnections‖ (1982:71). Europe and the People Without History – Geography. It‘s also sad that people like Bill Gates were never exposed to this way of understanding the world. but I eventually studied anthropology because of Europe and the People Without History. I read parts of Europe and the People Without History my first year of college for a seminar titled ―Imperialism. States. and global studies. 2013 · by Jason Antrosio · in Anthropology inSha re3 Eric Wolf‘s Europe and the People Without History (1982) is a foundational work for anthropology. and Revolution‖ with Shanti Singham.Eric Wolf. The . even on some who had Eric Wolf himself as a professor. Empires January 26. Slavery. Taking aim at portrayals of a world of relatively isolated peoples–accounts like Ruth Benedict‘s Patterns of Culture–Eric Wolf describes a world of connection: ―The central assertion of this book is that the world of humankind constitutes a manifold. The central assertion of interconnectedness rests on recapturing the historical details of European expansion in the last 500 years. like Napoleon Chagnon. it‘s sad that sometimes this lesson seems lost. Eric Wolf made sense of the world–I remained a history major. Even for ―The World in 1400″ Eric Wolf explains that ―everywhere in this world of 1400. I tackled the rest over the summer when I returned home to Montana.
D. a question critical for world history and contemporary realities: An observer looking at the world in A. Eurasia. Eric Wolf‘s survey of the world in 1400 is full of maps. plying trans-oceanic linkages. it cannot account for the rise of Europe 800-1400 A. particularly large domesticated animals. and Steel called Yali‘s Question: ―Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea.D. and no effective centralized power had taken its place. in A. means accounting specifically for how Europe went from being a land that in A. as Eric Wolf understood. a host of narrow-gauged tributary domains disputed rights to the shattered Roman inheritance.D. Germs. an observer would have noted a very different Europe and a marked change in its relation to neighboring Asia and Africa. we have to turn back to Eric Wolf in 1982. 800 ―was of little account in the affairs of the wider world‖ (1982:71) to those effective polities that could launch overseas adventures. there were surely hundreds of local varieties of Yali‘s question: Why is it that you Turk – Mongol – Mali – Bantu – Indian – Chinese – Sriviyaya – Chimu – Inca – Chibcha – Maya – Aztec – Cahokia (to name a few) people developed so much and conquered us? Just as surely there were people and rulers who justified their power by . and the Americas. The center of political and economic gravity had shifted eastward to the ―new Rome‖ of Byzantium. Although this much older story may account for the fact that many of the most powerful polities have been in Eurasia. In effect. descriptions of terrain. What had happened? (1982:101) Starting in the 1960s.D. 1400. Trade By 1400 A. states. To truly get a grip on Yali‘s Question. These polities were competing successfully with their neighbors to the south and east and were about to launch major adventures overseas. 800 would barely have taken note of the European peninsula. Diamond would have us believe that the answer lies in the shape of the continents. But serious historians reject Jared Diamond‘s rationale for the rise of Europe. The question is to understand how it was Europeans who directed this expansion. but we black people had little cargo of our own?‖ Answering that question. and accounts of available resources. and agriculture. The World in 1400: Political Geography. Eric Wolf was already asking what Jared Diamond in the 1997 Guns. Rome had fallen. Everyone agrees that geography matters. and to the Muslim caliphate.. cities. Empires. Six hundred years later.world from the 16th century knits together every continent. Agriculture.D. The many petty principalities had fused into a smaller number of effective polities. and empires had already risen and fallen throughout Africa. latitude and longitude gradients. Instead.
Certainly crises existed. arrived at a conclusion similar to Eisenstadt‘s: there wasn‘t any. As textbook authors Robert Lavenda and Emily Schultz explore through their account of state formation in the Andes. in the year 1500 some of the most powerful and largest cities in the world existed in China. India. political forms changed.) Geography is of course important. There may also be geographical features which encouraged city and state formation. and China. the most formidable rulers lived in Iraq. Agriculture may not be necessary for sedentary existence–the peoples on the Pacific Coast of North America had settled life through fishing. And undoubtedly agriculture. As Eric Wolf sets forth.‖ . . Agriculture may not have even been necessary for the rise of some of the first states. Italy. especially intensive agriculture. When closely examined. Nevertheless.invoking divine authorities. [Update April 2013: Some of the latest findings indicate Maize was key in early Andean civilisation. In the year 500 they could be found in central Mexico. Egypt.] But this kind of large-scale geography cannot account for the rise and fall: Can anyone say that the present balance of economic and political power will be the same in 2500 as it is today? For example. intellectual superiority. and so it would seem almost all urban-state forms have relied on agriculture. In the year 1000. ―if the first complex societies on the Peruvian coast were based on a steady supply of food from the sea. ―to understand this world of 1400. is important in this story. and Central Asia. if not impossible. many of the mightiest cities were located in Peru. More recently Joseph Tainter. or claiming biological. it is important to note that although there could be shifts of power and rapid declines. There were also those who would marvel at the sometimes quite rapid rises and declines. and . this rarely meant a complete end to the social system: Over two decades ago the sociologist Shmuel Eisenstadt wrote that societal collapse seldom occurs if collapse is taken to mean ―the complete end of those political systems and their accompanying civilizational framework. the overriding human story is one of survival and regeneration. and Turkey. to run an empire without intensive agriculture. cultural. after a search for archaeological evidence of societal ―overshoot‖ and collapse. it seems difficult. the shifting balances of power. What geographic determinism can account for this? (McAnany and Yoffee. rather than agriculture. .C. (See Rob Gargett‘s short but potent Other Africas story of African kingdoms.E. In 2500 B. Iraq. the notion that village agriculture must precede the rise of social complexity is dealt a blow‖ (Anthropology: What Does It Mean to Be Human? 2012:208). and Pakistan. we must begin with geography‖ (1982:25). Questioning Collapse 2010:10) Moreover.
Eric Wolf‘s paragraph. and commerce also marked the New World. evolution. If there were any isolated societies these were but temporary phenomena–a group pushed to the edge of a zone of interaction and left to itself for a brief moment in time. creating intergrading. Conquest. does not adequately depict the situation before European expansion. states expanded. much less can it comprehend the worldwide system of links that would be created by that expansion. across the Sahara. the social scientist‘s model of distinct and separate systems. Before 800 A. these peoples were neither isolated nor static. State Making The first factor Wolf considers for explaining the rise of Europe from provincial backwaters to powerful polities 800-1400 A. and of a timeless ―precontact‖ ethnographic present. the culture concept. Political Consolidation.landscapes were altered. these places exist not in isolation but interconnection: Groups that defined themselves as culturally distinct were linked by kinship or ceremonial allegiance. much of Europe was more likely to be conquered than to do any conquering: . (1982:71) In many introductory anthropology textbooks–even my preferred textbook for Introduction to Anthropology–there is a curious juxtaposition of the sections on the archaeology of complex societies and the state with a leap from there into cultural anthropology. seizing control of agricultural populations and establishing new political and symbolic orders. and of extreme importance as we turn back to Eric Wolf. elite groups succeeded one another. recombination. interwoven social and cultural entities. and ethnography. from East Africa through the Indian Ocean to the Southeast Asian archipelago. In both hemispheres populations impinged upon other populations through permeable social boundaries. and race. Thus. Eric Wolf – Europe.D. should be in every Introduction to Anthropology textbook. Such juxtapositions perpetuate the view that cultural anthropology studies others as relatively isolated laboratories who can reveal something about human nature–and this takes us back to the themes considered in my Amazon-available Kindle e-book on human nature. is the shift in patterns of long-distance trade. As should some account of the rise of the European powers that would eventually create anthropology as an academic discipline. incorporation. Prelude to Expansion: Long-Distance Trade. Yet 500 years before anyone who called herself an anthropologist arrived on the scene. or something like it. (Questioning Collapse 2010:5-6) Finally. Trade formed networks from East Asia to the Levant. incorporating other peoples into more encompassing political structures.D. but rarely did societies collapse in an absolute and apocalyptic sense.
European slaves reached the Near East not only across the sea-lanes of the Mediterranean but also. 1000. 12501350. however. these Italian towns began to tilt the balance of exchange between the western and eastern halves of the Mediterranean in favor of the West.Islam expanded quickly from its center in the caravan city of Mecca. there was an intensification and extensification of cultivation. Abu-Lughod (1991:40) calls Wolf's book "a breath of fresh air in an otherwise selfcentered literature. relying on its armed peasantry to defend it against growing attacks on all sides. Here after A. Inner Asia. 1000. especially Venice and Amalfi. Europe provided raw materials and even some slaves: ―Europe furnished mainly slaves and timber. When the capital of the Islamic caliphate moved from Damascus to Baghdad in the mid-eighth century. Largely deprived of an agrarian hinterland of their own. receiving some luxury goods in return. This was particularly true of areas north of the Alps. By then. where the introduction of triennial rotation by means of the heavy horse-drawn plow resulted in an absolute increase of the surplus product. then later Pisa and Genoa: Through their success in trade and war. Muslim armies occupied most of the Iberian peninsula. it overran North Africa. Before European Hegemony: The World System A. India. in Scandinavia to harass the European littoral and to carry off slaves to Near Eastern markets‖ (1982:105). the Islamic center of gravity moved eastward away from the Mediterranean. and China grew more important than trade connections with the western Mediterranean. their frontier of expansion lay in sea-borne commerce.D. or inlets.D. the balance of trade and power was firmly in the East. During the second decade of the eighth century. seeing a bustling Near Eastern city for the first time after being sold into slavery from a forest hinterland! The key shift would be the rise of the Italian ports. One can imagine yet another perplexed European Yali. in a movement parallel to the eastward shift of Byzantium. in the ninth century Sicily fell to the Muslims. along with precious furs and other products.D. a branch of the seafaring and sea-raiding peoples who had fanned out from their viks."] In other words.D. Venice became virtually the commercial agent of Byzantium and engrossed most of its sea-borne trade. They were brought by the Varangian Rus. Arabia. (1982:103) [See also Janet Abu-Lughod. They were thus in a position to become the main beneficiaries of the new conjuncture of power and influence in the Mediterranean after the year A. and in the course of the seventh century A. Clearing of the dense forest . Byzantium had initiated a policy of military consolidation on land. Trade with the Caucasus. down the Russian rivers into the Black Sea. (1982:104) The second factor Eric Wolf turns to is political consolidation.
What needs to be explained is how they were coming together in the northwest part of the continent during this period. France and England followed the expansion of the central domain: All the European states grew slowly. the war abroad tactic was important for the Iberian peninsula as they carried out a long Reconquista of Muslim Spain. Germs. And it is true that you need non-human animal muscle power and certain technologies to increase surplus production. . to a certain extent there were both internal strengths–and weaknesses–that spurred increased militarization and the search for new frontiers. or a state comprising the valleys of the Rhone and the Rhine intervening between German and France. Both processes took place under the aegis of tribute-taking overlords. agriculture. and enlarging the central domain. However. Wolf explains this all under the heading of ―political consolidation‖: the key factors are political and economic. increased the political power of the dominant class. and Steel: horsedrawn plows. perhaps because the available technology reached the limits of its productivity. a state uniting Catalonia and the south of France. as composites of many different segments and accretions. Interestingly. comprising Scandinavia. a union of eastern France and western Germany. 1300: ―Agriculture ceased to grow.cover of continental Europe and plowing up of the European plain expanded the arable from which surpluses could be taken. this seems driven in part by what has been called a crisis of feudalism around A. commerce. . and both. which rested upon the ability to sustain the high cost of war horses and armor. the key motivations were political and economic–Wolf describes how these polities used war abroad. (1982:108) Wolf proceeds to discuss state making and expansion. and armor were available across Eurasia. Their boundaries might well have been drawn differently. Plows. . and England. in turn. war horses and armor. creating a map of Europe quite different from the arrangement of countries that we think of today as inalieanable national entities.D. The climate worsened. (1982:105) Here Wolf is obviously discussing things related to Diamond‘s Guns. rendering the food supply more precarious and uncertain. Increased production of surpluses further enhanced the military capability of this class. a union of Germany and northern Italy. an Iberian peninsula divided into a northern Christian tier of kingdoms and a southern Muslim tier. . Here again. non-human animal muscle power. The map might have shown a sea-based empire. As Wolf outlines (1982:105-108). the northern seacoast of Europe. and under the aegis of relatively small-scale polities. commerce became important shifting north from Italy. Epidemics affected large numbers of people debilitated by a poorer diet. a polity comprising western France and the British Isles. Each of these represents a possibility that in fact existed at some time. In other words. The solution to the crisis required an increase in the scale and intensity of war‖ (1982:108-109). and each suggests that the geopolitical boundaries segmenting Europe today require explanation and should not be taken for granted.
R. Contemporary historians broadly verify that Jared Diamond‘s account in Guns. He read Andre Gunder Frank‘s World Accumulation which ―details the global scope of the stockpiling of mercantile wealth. Culture. why Europe?‖ and investigates Diamond‘s answer in Guns. In Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past (2003:58-73). McNeill makes precisely this point. There are several global histories of empire and attempts to account for the rise of Europe that do not even mention Jared Diamond. to Yali‘s Question. one would expect to find it more often in Eurasian societies than elsewhere. but that‘s hardly an adequate answer. Other historians tell the same tale. and his work on The Modern World-System. 1400 to the Present by Kenneth . Eurasia accounted for some eighty percent of humankind over the past 3. the probability would be even higher than eighty percent that Eurasia should at any given moment have produced history‘s most formidable societies. Germs. treat as ‗the prehistory of capital‘‖ (1982:408). Parry. Sure. although he is generally quite appreciative about Diamond‘s approach. more intense intersocietal competition. or better re-explain. Then McNeill goes on to ask ―a more vexing question. In addition to the traditional histories. even for John H. Wolf was in dialogue with Immanuel Wallerstein. and Steel. First. Neither The World That Trade Created: Society. In an otherwise positive review.Eric Wolf among the Historians – Why Europe? Eric Wolf was hardly the only one trying to explain. McNeill comments that it is probably not so surprising to see the most formidable societies arising in Eurasia: The fact that Eurasia spawned the world‘s most formidable societies does not pose a truly vexing question. Immanuel Wallerstein. Germs. with Marx. historian J. and Steel. one could claim all these arguments are irrelevant for this enormous time-scale. Wolf also cites several books from J. The World According to Jared Diamond. Nothing. The deck was stacked even without Diamond‘s biogeographical factors. but this geography does not explain the reasons for European expansion. When I first read and taught Guns. Patrick Manning nicely summarizes this scholarly ferment re-investigating the question of why Europe and why capitalism. Even if formidability were randomly distributed. and Steel is inadequate. And the World Economy. Germs. and the faster and more thorough acquisition of a broader array of disease immunities. Parry. Indeed because greater population ordinarily means greater interaction.H. Eric Wolf. in a global context. McNeill contends ―that Europe‘s emergence in modern centuries cannot be put down to geography‖ and states that Diamond has oversold geography as a substitute for history (my thanks to Patricia Galloway for the link). These scholars recognize the importance of geography. and probably well before that.000 years. and one more familiar to historians is. I thought Jared Diamond would be in some kind of dialogue with this earlier work. the European transformation that set the stage for colonialism and global capitalism. or even the beginning of an answer. although he calls capitalist what I would. So Diamond has proposed some excellent new answers to a less-than-perplexing question. But search the text for Andre Gunder Frank.
it wasn‘t the shape of Scandinavia. McNeill and William H.‖ Gopnik is rightly unconvinced: ―Once the sight of a Viking prow coming down a river was as terrifying a sight as any European could imagine. for anthropology. since the time-scale is outside their customary purview. about being treated with dignity and respect: ―Yali and many other Papua New Guineans became preoccupied with the reluctance. I also turned to the November 2012 New Yorker review by Adam Gopnik. Jared Diamond is unmentioned in this review of those seeking to reassert the importance of geography. but not for explaining the rise of Europe. But if . Now the Scandinavian countries are perhaps the most pacific in the world. While that may be the case. Whatever changed. in a book that still seems to captivate the world. If anything.‖ In short. and Steel. Eric Wolf‘sEurope and the People Without History could be criticized for a similar materialistic focus–of bringing an essentially Marxian political economy to the explanation of world history.Pomeranz and Steven Topik nor The Human Web: A Bird‘s-Eye View of World History (2003) by J. you can make any event look inevitable. Eric Wolf did the spadework in 1982 for answering Yali‘s Question. Gopnik pans this renaissance. Marks includes minor references to Jared Diamond. his results are far less satisfactory‖ (Navigating World History 2003:100). and sometimes lends popular gravitas. it seems nevertheless important to do the materialist answer to Yali‘s Question–why was it the European peoples?–if only for the revised understanding of European power in the past 500 years. some historians cite Diamond‘s ideas for the big Eurasian overview. In 1997. I don‘t find any reliable historians who use Diamond‘s work to ponder the truly more vexing question– for world history. for contemporary understandings–Why Europe? Eric Wolf and Yali’s Question As I stated in Real History versus Guns. but about being recognized as fully human. Jared Diamond inexplicably dialed back our knowledge. I am sympathetic to Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz‘s interpretation that Yali‘s Question was not actually about getting more stuff. which is all about retrospective unfalsifiability: ―If you compress and expand the time scale just as you like.R. if not refusal. The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-first Century (2006) by Robert B. of many whites to recognize their full humanness–to make blacks and whites equal players in the same history‖ (Excusing the Haves and Blaming the Have-Nots in the Telling of History 2010:335). while it has been contested by other scholars. Spaces: The renaissance of geographic history. Patrick Manning‘s summary is apt: ―Diamond‘s argument. McNeill mention Diamond. Germs. It‘s a safe citation. Yet when he attempts to use the same reasoning to explain the comparatively short-term changes of imperialism and racism in recent centuries. Places. Faces. is an elegant simplification of a major issue in world history and an effective illustration of long-term trends in history. Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper briefly discuss what they term the ―steel and germs‖ explanation. More bluntly. only to dismiss it (Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference 2010:163)–see the follow-up Myths of the Spanish Conquest – Indigenous Allies & Politics of Empire for a full assessment.
and erudition–as well as trying to write histories for regions which had . Marks cited above. I‘ve suggested that Wolf could have been a key influence for Questioning Collapse –but he does not appear. . it gives it the titleExotic No More–once again providing above all a negative statement. or Robert B. Europe and the People Without History is also absent from the accounts by Burbank and Cooper. I agree.anthropology wants to build on anything. . What happened? Update: Thank you to Ryan Anderson at Savage Minds for highlighting this piece and Keith Hart. wants to deliver a true understanding of the global transformations shaping our modern world. Part of it may be the title–it‘s difficult to pull off irony. After all. Please check interesting comment streams at both articles. (Anthropology‘s World 2010:48) The book also was a long time in writing: ―The project for this book emerged from the intellectual reassessments that marked the late 1960s. Pomeranz and Topik. McNeill and McNeill. I began to write this book in the spring of 1974. then Eric Wolf‘s Europe and the People Without History remains the best place to begin. Thomas Hylland Eriksen‘s new introduction remarks that Wolf‘s ―perspective is even more sorely needed than it was when Europe and the People Without History was written in the early 1980s‖ (2010:xvii).‖ The wide-ranging contents of the book in question show that this is not the case. scope. but I would have preferred a more positive formulation up-front. The limits of Karl Polanyi‘s anti-market approach in the struggle for economic democracy. Obviously for a book of such magnitude. Eric Wolf gets a footnote for Charles Mann‘s 1491 and 1493. I remember trying to explain Europe and the People Without History to friends in Ecuador–their first reaction was quite negative! Ulf Hannerz‘s assessment of a title like Exotic No More could be equally applied: When the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland commissions a volume to present a more current understanding of the discipline. But Eriksen‘s remark raises the question of why this perspective is more sorely needed now than in the 1980s. Eric Wolf: Why Not More Influential? Eric Wolf‘s book and work are extremely influential–many anthropologists mention him forAnthropology: The Landmark Books and his titles are still the source of inspiration for riffs like Humans and the Animals Without History. . the final draft was completed in 1981″ (1982:x). which might at worst be taken to mean that anthropology has given up its attempt to understand human lives across boundaries and is now all ―anthropology at home.
the Writing Culture (1988) volume took a quite different tack from Eric Wolf‘s vision. demographic. For Manning. The New York Times obituary for Eric Wolf headlines him as an Iconoclastic Anthropologist. Asad‘s ideas on history are instructive. . a survey of Europe‘s prelude to expansion.hardly received historical attention–it‘s ludicrous to expect rapid writing. Eric Wolf‘s 1980 New York Times piece about the 79th annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association. etcetera) in the past of a given population that will serve to explain a particular outcome–in the narrative (or weak) sense of ―explain. Anthropology seemed to be turning both elsewhere and inward upon itself. in the intervening years Clifford Geertz came out with The Interpretation of Cultures (1973). part of the issue was the book‘s organization: The book is made hard to follow by the alternations in themes: a general introduction. Not long after Europe and the People Without History. In what is probably the most famous review. social. Patterns of Culture: From Culture to cultures). especially given the everenticing idea that history can be mined as a science of natural experiments: I wish merely to question the utility of defining a precapitalist mode of production in terms of kinship–especially as that concept is taken (as Wolf explicitly takes it) as an heuristic device. which helped revive the notion of cultural wholes. But the text itself looked mainly at economics and the influence of Europe beyond the seas. Talal Asad concentrates mostly on that modes of production chapter. Nevertheless. They Divide and Subdivide And Call It Anthropology. an analysis of modes of production in general. a survey of the world in 1400 (ranging as much as several hundred years earlier). and chapters of European impact elsewhere. A stong concluding section underscored the need to examine the history of culture in the modern world. Prelude to Expansion‖–may have served too much as an argumentative detour. It could also have been the Marxian framework. . While the work focused on the creation of the world community as a capitalist order. ―The World in 1400″ and ―Europe. Are There Histories of Peoples Without Europe?. cultural. Wolf‘s ―Modes of Production‖ chapter–wedged between the two chapters I have discussed the most. On this matter. was a call for a new agenda. I suggest that the history of noncapitalist societies can not be understood by isolating one a priori principle. that the important thing always is to try and identify that combination of elements (environmental. as the Sidney Mintz and Eric Wolf Reply to Michael Taussig (1989) illustrates.‖ not in the natural science (or strong) . with pages of arguments that seem more than a bit arcane today. it provided no clear chronology on the creation of that community. Even though it was much updated and a fluid concept rather than a straitjacket. (Navigating World History2003:69) This may help explain why the Wikipedia page on Europe and the People Without History is presently an unfinished stub. However. a call that may never have been answered (see also Ruth Benedict. .
and that would strive to make analytic sense of all societies. and why they cannot make those histories any longer. and how they have changed.sense. it seems anthropology needs to rediscover history. because the past of human societies cannot be tested. if I remember correctly. the story of transformations that have reshaped those conditions which are not of people‘s choosing but within which they must make their history. We should not think of those conditions as though they merely set varying limits to preconstituted choices. . It is when we have anthropological accounts of what those constructions were. We may then also understand better why and in what ways so many peoples are now trying to make other histories both within and against the hegemonic powers of modern capitalism that had their origins in Western Europe. Historical conditions construct those choices. Many readers from a variety of disciplines will admire it. It seems fitting to conclude here with Asad‘s call for another book by Eric Wolf: This is an admirable book–erudite. Few anthropologists would have had the courage to write it. (1987:602. ―over the longer run [Europe and the People Without History] seems to have been most successful in demonstrating the difficulty of carrying out a coherent analysis of the topic‖ (Navigating World History 2003:69). Returning to Eric Wolf‘s Europe and the People Without History would be a good place to start. see Black Swan Anthropology Lessons) What the Histories of Peoples Without Europe Once Were ―In 1968 I wrote that anthropology needed to discover history. Almost a half-century later. it can only be made more or less plausible as part of the same story as the present. politically committed. but so very difficult to emulate. that we may learn what the histories of peoples without Europe once were. a history that could account for the ways in which the social system of the modern world came into being. thought provoking. the two books that would most answer this call are Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History and Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World by Michel-Rolph Trouillot. one of Trouillot‘s comments about Eric Wolf was that he worked in Max Weber‘s tradition of the ideal type–it was something that Wolf could pull off from individual brilliance. (1987:607) To my mind. I can only agree. Or as Manning notes. just as distinctive choices constitute historically specific subjectivities. including our own‖ (1982:ix). If it is objected that such an approach would make a predictive science of society impossible. for some related thoughts on the uses of history. But another book remains to be written by Wolf telling another story. At the same time.
Was thinking about being an American Anthropologist. But if you do have time to . if you would have taken some real history and anthropology classes. With 12 million Twitter followers and over 72 billion dollars. perhaps geography as justification for power may not have been so excusable. Public Anthropology and America at a time near the 4th of July. 2013. especially reflecting on 2012-2013. the basic idea–that the differences between societies are largely explained by geography–is very persuasive. Then as Bill Gates read Jared Diamond had to get ready for forthe biggest Jared Diamond review of all time. I am left repeating the delusional chant from the Celebrity Net Worthblog: USA! USA! USA! For all those who doubted Jared Diamond‘s effect on the telling of world history: None of the classes I took in high school or college answered what I thought was one of the biggest and most important questions about history: Why do some societies advance so much faster and further than others? While people disagree with minor parts of Diamond‘s argument. the ones where you read books like Eric Wolf. Well. Europe and the People Without History. see The hour of anthropology may have struck by Rick Salutin in The Toronto Star. the American Bill Gates recently reclaimed the richest person in the world crown from Mexico‘s Carlos Slim Helú. the journal American Anthropologist. 2013 · by Jason Antrosio · in Branding Update: For more on the issues discussed below.Public Anthropology and Bill Gates: We Cannot Abandon Humanity July 11. Bill Gates.
but it seems to have gone mostly unnoticed on the blogosphere. and that is so much larger than all other national anthropological associations not worth a closer and more critical look? The evidence offered here does not really support the view that U. and I will eventually try to re-visit that post in the light of the published article. In the meantime. The Virginia Dominguez article seems a bit more critical than my write-up of the lecture as Anthropology‘s Challenge: We can be better. the profession of anthropology (esp. Violence & the Facts. that is. (2012:404) Dominguez‘s lecture was pointedly aimed at anthropology‘s comfort zones. and the power of the AAA blog. that would mess up the metrics. indeed by far the largest national association of anthropologists in the world today. more generally speaking. Copyright 2002 American Anthropological Association. Comfort Zones and Their Dangers: Who Are We? Qui Sommes-Nous? has now been published: Who and what then is the AAA and. I consider the question especially significant for the profession. This also brought me back to the first thing I really published. especially when looking at serious arenas of inattention and inaction within the profession itself. it‘s the big bundle that counts. a miniscule percentage donation from Bill Gates could easily make all the articles in American Anthropologist open access. formally existing to serve anthropologists in the United States (whatever their place of birth or origin). and much more importantly. It‘s approaching the kind of winner-take-all dynamic discussed in Black Swan Anthropology. what struck me (and I‘m grateful to Doug for this comment back-and-forth) is really how hugeAmerican Anthropologist is in comparison to the rest of the bundle.‖ ―liberal. Thanks! Big Questions for American Anthropology: Who Are We? Qui SommesNous? The 2011 American Anthropological Association Presidential Address by Virginia Dominguez. This made me wonder if perhaps everything else except American Anthropologist could go open access. But as Doug points out. Forever. I‘ll take a re-tweet for Yanomami Ax Fight: Jared Diamond. Doug‘s post is aimed mostly at showing how important blogging can be.S. and the AAA is arguably just one of them. that is located in the arguably most powerful country in the world in 2012. Doug‘s Archaeology has a fascinating analysis of AAA digital downloads. Inverting Development Discourse in Colombia: Transforming . Science. National associations exist in many parts of the planet.read into the ethnographic record. anthropology is all that ―progressive. It is of course not-open-access.‖ or ―center left‖ especially within its ranks. in the United States)? When I think of the American Anthropological Association and the fact that it is old and very large. However. The Long Tail of the American Anthropologist–and Bill Gates On the issue of open access. But is an association that includes so many colleagues from around the world. but it is right next to Why the AAA Needs Gold Open Access by Tom Boellstorff–which did get blogosphere notice.
It didn‘t change my life that way–no one started calling or e-mailing out of the blue. I thought publishing in AA would change my life–that everyone actually read those journals. It also seems that at the time of Trouillot‘s passing. Trouillot was an incredible inspiration for me as an anthropologist and for this blog. the fact is that a large part of what anthropologists have to say requires intellectual effort. the issues facing anthropology were rather different.‘‖ So that seems pretty straightforward. but consider this: Although some aspects of anthropology appeal to various sectors of the public. and I‘ve sent an email via the AAA Reprints & Permissions site. an early editor of Anthropology Today. but there was at least a hint that when someone said ―anthropology. I also lucked into some favorable editorial decisions. but it seems that if enough authors examined their existing agreements.‖ they were likely to think about David Graeber and Occupy Wall Street. But it did change my life in that I was then able to look a whole lot better in theacademic job lottery. Which seems like a workable solution until that Bill Gates donation rolls in. if there‘s anyone who has shown us how winner-take-all can work–even with what was arguably inferior technology–it‘s Bill Gates. –Jonathan Benthall. Graeber‘s Debt: The . Surprise. Enlarging the context of anthropology: The case of Anthropology Today 1996:136 In a search for where I had used that wonderful quote from Benthall. In other words. I lucked out with two sympathetic reviewers who continued to insist there was potential and helped me pull out the main themes (the third reviewer was never convinced). Sure. Trouillot was very attune to the unwitting American-ness of so many anthropologists–I remember Trouillot reading Clifford Geertz in a seminar and remarking on how American Geertz was. Not better enough–I was still able to completely blow an interview with Berkeley–but I did get an interview. and it reads ―Authors may post their articles on their own websites but are expected to notify AAA and to prominently display the following line: ‗Copyright 2002 American Anthropological Association. we‘d basically have effective open access to AAA publications. I re-visited a July 2012 post on What is American Anthropology.Andean Hearths. At the time. and moreover is often rather disturbing to people‘s peace of mind. There was a bit of hassle involved. surprise. I‘m displaying the line. I learned that Michel-Rolph Trouillot had passed away. Of course. I went back and looked at the original copyright form. there were significant problems of anthropology not being involved in public debates. It also strikes me how incredibly lucky I was to get an early article in American Anthropologist. An American Anthropologist Looking Back July 2012-July 2013 Did American Anthropology just blow it with Bill Gates? Maybe. As I was composing that post.
provincial expressions of wider concerns. . American anthropologists have studied violence in every other part of the world. American power becomes accidental. who together bash anthropology at the same time as they completely resurrect the Savage slot that Trouillot spent his life trying to contest. however much they reflect serious concerns. War. yet spontaneous–and in that sense genuinely American–responses to major changes in the relations between anthropology and the wider world. calls for reflexivity in the United States are not products of chance. There was no professional statement or prepared position. Nor are they a passing fad. allusions to opportunities yet to be seized. the casual convergence of individual projects. As a whole. As Hugh Gusterson pointed out–Making a Killing in the U. But that was all before the one-two-three punch of Jared Diamond. so that we can now deign to save them: enter the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In that light. And so. . We ignore a history of interconnection with others. Napoleon Chagnon. Hardly a coincidence that Bill Gates is also a Steven Pinker fanboy. from a statement that no gun control is possible without Second Amendment repeal. based Anthropology Today–American anthropologists had done almost no fieldwork or ethnography on such issues in the United States. (Trouillot 2003:9) So even as the value of anthropology had come under attack. and Human Nature is a good start. American anthropology has yet to shift the story-line. there was also a sense in July 2012 that it may have been a Great Year for Anthropology. a comforting displacement in the wake of Newtown and drones and Afghanistan. Peace. The DiamondChagnon-Pinker juggernaut claims of ―decreasing violence in modern states‖ roll along. to the idea that we are in the evolutionary equivalent of a novel environment. Virtual War and Magical Death: Technologies and Imaginaries for Terror and Killing has a better price. Like Jared Diamond‘s displacement onto geography. American anthropology had nothing to say about gun culture and gun violence. but we have hardly done enough in the United States. in every other time. Looking back. Rather.K. the missing piece for me is still Newtown and the gun reform debate we never really had. Solutions that fall short of this challenge can only push the discipline toward irrelevance.First 5. but it is priced and targeted for academic audiences.000 Years was certainly the biggest book–in Trouillot‘s terms–to contest the Savage slot: Anthropology‘s future depends largely on its ability to contest the Savage slot . they are timid. a better picture. Steven Pinker. Recent anthropological articles regarding gun reform continue to be eclectic. and a . the accidental effect of debates that stormed philosophy and literary theory.
Abu-Lughod‘s 2002 article was powerful: Could we not leave veils and vocations of saving others behind and instead train our sights on ways to make the world a more just place? The reason respect for difference should not be confused with cultural relativism is that it does not preclude asking how we. living under the shadow–or veil–of oppressive cultures. or the Management Committee for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But hey. I hope my hopes are not too high for this book-length treatment. we are part of that world. Future Publics. we‘re not as white as The Edge or the Being Human conferences. Islamic movements themselves have arisen in a world shaped by the intense engagements of Western powers in Middle Eastern lives. if American anthropologists were saying really smart things about gun reform. and could not be a commentary on how much the world has turned through Iraq–and now Egypt. However. most non-academic readers will be unlikely to make it past the introductory paragraphs. the original was written during the first invasion of Afghanistan. Or Bill Gates tweets out his Jared Diamond review. (Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?. Of course we also need to be careful not to fall into another common American assumption– that things change simply by writing or blogging about them. not only because we built a discipline on the backs of their . Nevertheless. Libya. immigration reform. might examine our own responsibilities for the situations in which others in distant places have found themselves. American Anthropology – We Cannot Abandon Humanity We cannot abandon the four-fifths of humanity that the Gorbachev Club* see as increasingly useless to the world economy. Similar signs of hope at upcoming public-themed anthropology conferences–at American University. We do not stand outside the world. Do American Anthropologists Really Need Saving? Some strangely good news at the end of this pay-walled article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. thePublic Anthropology Conference (October 2013) and what will be the recordsetting annual meetings for the American Anthropological Association (November 2013). 789) However. Turkey. looking out over this sea of poor benighted people. Aid That Does Not Help: Lila Abu-Lughod will be publishing Do Muslim Women Need Saving? in October 2013. technological terror–if we could develop a position and keep plugging at it– we may not have been in reactive mode when people like Brooks-Chagnon-DiamondFriedman-Pinker-Wade get their press splash. American Anthropology may be White Public Space. international aid. living in this privileged and powerful part of the world.disturbing message that all those computers might have something to do with terror. but I‘m already planning to use it for Anthropology 101. Syria.
that is. the very one who coined the word globalization. members of what has become a global oligarchy calmly agreed that at some point in this twenty-first century only two-tenths of the world‘s active population would be necessary to sustain the world economy. provides the most successful answer: tittytainment–titty as in tits and motherhood. John Gage and Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems suggest the motto of that future: ―to have lunch or be lunch. National Security Adviser Zbignew Brzezinski.S. Chunks of humanity will become irrelevant.‖ And how will the prosperous fifth appease those who may not want to be someone else‘s lunch? Former U. drawing on The Global Trap: Globalization and the Assault on Prosperity and Democracy) . The middle classes as we know them are likely to disappear. (Trouillot 2003:138) * At the 1995 closed-door meeting of the Gorbachev Foundation in San Francisco. enough milk for the poor to survive poorly and plenty of entertainment to maintain their good spirits (Trouillot 2003:56.ancestors but also because the tradition of that discipline has long claimed that the fate of no human group can be irrelevant to humankind.
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