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Notes on Community, Hegemony, and the Uses of the Past Author(s): James Brow Source: Anthropological Quarterly, Vol.

63, No. 1, Tendentious Revisions of the Past in the Construction of Community (Jan., 1990), pp. 1-6 Published by: The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3317955 . Accessed: 22/11/2013 18:11
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NOTES ON COMMUNITY,HEGEMONY,AND THE USES OF THE PAST


JAMES BROW Universityof Texas at Austin While it is plausibleto maintainthat, havingalready happened,the past cannot be altered, it is equally evident that memoryis less fixed. Moreover, it is clearly not only in so-calledtraditional versionsof the societiesthat culturallyconstructed past are authorizedto shape a people'ssense of of the past are an equally identity.Representations featureof hegemonic strugglein modern prominent industrialsocieties. The papers collected in this processesis more effectivelycapturedin Weber's of the contrastbetweenGemeinschaft refashioning disand Gesellschaft.Webermakesa fundamental in which tinctionbetweencommunalrelationships,
"the orientation of social action . . . is based on a subjective feeling of the parties . . . that they be-

relationlong together"(1978: 40), and associative ships, in which "the orientationof social action of . . . rests on a rationallymotivatedadjustment interests or a similarly motivated agreement" special issue of Anthropological Quarterly analyze the tendentious revisionof historyin four very dif(1978: 40-41), but he insists that this is an idealferentcontemporary Ecuador, Lanka, (Sri settings typical contrastbetweenopposingtendenciesthat Palestine,and Shetland),in each case focusingon may in practiceoccur together,and he recognizes have of socialrelationships of the past withinthe socialcontext that "the greatmajority representations These inthis (communal) characteristicto some degree, of local movements to createcommunity. troductorynotes outline a conceptualapparatus while beingat the same time to somedegreedeterthat is intendedto facilitate the task of grasping minedby associativefactors"(1978: 41; parenthenot only drawsattenof these complex ses added).This formulation and significance the mechanisms tion to "the constant interweavingof economic processes. utility and social affinity"(Bendix 1962: 476) but also acknowledgesthat communalizationis an Community ongoingand pervasive processin social life. takes Communalization referssimplyto "a sense of belongplaceon variousbases. "Community" discussion of In his term Since the Weber 1978: Vergemeinschaftung general 40). (cf. ing together" Weber (1978: 41) mentions"a religiousbrotheris oftenverylooselyappliedeitherto a placeor to a a relationof personal hood, an erotic relationship, collectionof people,it is necessaryto insist that in the esprit de corps is definedby nothing loyalty,a nationalcommunity, the presentessay community unit the a of (and) state. The senseof family" to exemplify moreor less than this subjective military of course,emphathe of Marx, affeccombines both range possibilities. belongingtogethertypically relations on the basized the creationof communal tive and cognitivecomponents, both a feeling of and an understanding of sharedidentity. sis of commonclass positionas a crucialaspectof solidarity of a class-in-itselfinto a classthe transformation is definedas "communalization" By extension, The case studies that follow are largely for-itself. a of beof that sense action any pattern promotes with concerned the is a Communalization continuous interplayamong processesof longingtogether. communalization that for the of which Weber emergefrom differentbases process, analysis provides us with more useful guidelinesthan does Durk- situated betweenthe levels of the family and the nation,as these are conditioned heim. AlthoughDurkheim's by changesin the insightfulaccountsof distributionof power within the capitalist world communalization are still suggestive,his rigid dieconomy. chotomybetweenthe domainsof the sacred and of definition the profane(1965: 52), and his interpretation of Anderson's (1983: 15) much-cited the sacredritualsof the positivecult as functioning the nation as "an imaginedpoliticalcommunity" to revitalizea sense of solidaritythat is dissipated not only affirmsthat the sense of belongingtoin the mundane courseof profanelife (1965: 385getheris an activeprocessbut also tacitlyacknowlcan be generated 392), excessively segregatethe worldof communal edges that an ideal of community The reactionfromthat in whichpeoplepursuetheir indiwithouta concomitant feelingof solidarity. vidual interests.The ubiquityof communalization verse, however,is not possible.As he also writes, 1

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ANTHROPOLOGICAL QUARTERLY the inevitabilityof primordialrelationsis associated with the belief that they haveexistedfromthe The studiesthat followare particuvery beginning. with the political aspects of concerned larly usingthis term to describethe "primordialization," processwherebycertain kinds of communalrelaas if they posand experienced tions are promoted sessed an originaland naturalinevitability. corof community The primordial experience to a socialorderof what Bourdieu (1977: responds 164-171) calls "doxa,"where the culturallyconand natustructedworldis "seen as a self-evident ral order"(1977: 166) that is "takenfor granted" (1977: 165). Doxa prevailsin the absenceof contending opinions, where "what is essential goes without saying because it comes without saying" (1977: 167). A doxic order, which of course is never fully achieved,is one that has successfully of its own arbi"the naturalization accomplished trariness"(1977: 164). One aspect of this is the whichare of communal relations, primordialization as ineluctable precisely because, as experienced 'natuAnderson it, 131) puts "in everything (1983: ral' there is alwayssomethingunchosen." Throughoutthe world, however,the field of doxa coexists with a field of opinion, which Bourdieualso describesas a universeof discourse or argument(cf. Giddens'[1979, 1984] distinction between practical and discursive consciousness). Where competingopinions confront one another of communal relations is prethe primordiality served only by their incarcerationin the doxic prisonof innocence.Elsewhere,in the universeof is alwaysvulnerthe basisof community discourse, able to challenge. Moreover,rapid and profound of contemporary conditions changesin the objective life constantlythreatento subvertthe boundaries of doxa. But if, on the one hand,the primordiality to be seemseverywhere communities of established under attack, on the other hand vigorous new are scarcely less approjectsof primordialization the most pervasiveand forcefully parent.Perhaps of forms primordializacontemporary propagated tion are nationalismand ethnicism, the various of which (kinship,language,religion, components locality, etc.) interact both with one anotherand on other bases, especially with communalization class, in extremelycomplexand variedways.
The Past

"all communities villagesof largerthan primordial face-to-facecontact (and perhapseven these) are in the original). imagined"(1983: 15; parentheses The tentative qualificationhere is unwarranted: communalization always contains an imaginative aspect. Anderson(1983: 16) claims that the nationis imaginedas a communitybecause it "is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship." certainlyexemplifieswhat is "Deep comradeship" to be understoodby "a sense of belonging together,"but any implicationthat communalrelations are always exclusivelyhorizontalshould be resisted.As one movesalong a scale of communal intensity-a scale that reaches its extremeat the point designated by Turner (1969) as "communitas," where all separations are dissolved-horizontal relations of equality may beand verticalties muted,but comemorepronounced with the experience the latterare not incompatible this may apof community,howeveruncongenial egalitariantemperof our pear to the purportedly with its times. The popularBritish identification to royalfamily,for example,bearsampletestimony the persistentpowerof vertical solidarityeven in class-divided industrialsocieties. Communalrelations may, in other words,possessboth egalitarian and hierarchical dimensions. All communal relations are socially constructed.Even if sociobiologists were to find supfor their claim that certain kinds of communal port relations are geneticallybased,it wouldstill be evident that the specificformof those relationsis always culturallyand historicallydetermined.This relationsas much appliesto so-called"primordial" as to any others.Geertz(1973:259) recognizes this when he definesa primordial attachmentas "one that stems fromthe 'givens'--or,moreprecisely, as culture is inevitablyinvolvedin such matters,the assumed'givens'--of social existence." it is not simplyused as Nevertheless, provided an excuseto terminate analysispremasociological of certain kinds of comturely, the identification munalrelationsas primordial and reis important vealing. It draws attentionto the fact that some communalrelations are felt to be more deeply bindingthan others,to the pointwherethey "seem
to flow more from a sense of natural . . . affinity

than from social interaction" and come to possess coercive"an ineffable,and at times overpowering, ness in and of themselves" (Geertz 1973:259-260; cf. Anderson1983: 131-132).As the term implies,

it seems, the sense of belongAlmost everywhere,

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NOTES ON COMMUNITY ing togetheris nourished by beingcultivatedin the fertile soil of the past. Evennewly established collectivitiesquicklycomposehistoriesfor themselves sense of sharedidenthat enhancetheir members' tity, while solidarity is fortified by a people's that their communalrelationsenjoy an knowledge historicalprovenance. is further strengthenedby Communalization that what ties a groupof peopletothe conviction getheris not just a sharedpast but a commonorihardly need to be reminded gin. Anthropologists that claimsof descentfroma commonancestorare means amongthe most effectiveand commonplace bonds of which human forge by groups community. But what gives kinshipits specialpotencyas a basis of community is that it can draw upon the pst not simply to posit a commonorigin but also to claim substantialidentity in the present.Kinship thus providesa standardidiom of communityfor collectivitiesrangingfrom the family, the lineage and the clan to the nationand the race, and is extendedalso to includereligiousbrotherhoods, feminist sisterhoods, fraternalordersof all kinds, and even the wholefamilyof nations. Despite the rhetoric of kinship ("blood is thicker than water"), the power of the past to relationsin the presentis morea shapecommunal matterof culturethan of nature.What is at stake is not geneticaffinityor the inertiaof habitualbehavior but the moral authorityof tradition,the of which requires maintenance continuous cultural work. Variousmeans are availableto bolster the authorityof tradition,of which one of the most is its sacralization, as Weber(1978: widelyadopted 215) noted when he describedthe ideal-typeof traditional authorityas "restingon an established belief in the sanctityof immemorial traditions." Construction of an authoritative traditionthat identifies all who acceptit as members of the same political communityis particularlyprominentin the creationof nationsand sub-nations. Tradition typicallycomposesa versionof the past that not only binds the membersof the nation to one antheir shareddescentand/or other, by proclaiming commonexperience, but also associatesthe nation as a whole with a particular territory
that-maintaining the domestic imagery of the

or peasant,doubtlessbecausehis way countryman of life seems endlesslyto reproduce that of ancestral generations, while his (less often, her) intimate connection with the land epitomizes the nation'sinviolableattachmentto its territory. Wherenormsof traditionalism prevail,behavior is legitimated by appeals to precedent.But memoryis less stable than the events it recollects, in the past is aland knowledge of what happened ways subjectto selectiveretention,innocentamneTraditions sia, and tendentiousre-interpretation. are also invented(Hobsbawmand Ranger 1983). In otherwords,appealsto the authority of tradition do not precludeinnovation. Discussingtraditional domination,Weber (1956: 101; quoted in Bendix 1962: 331) writesthat "as a matterof principleit is out of the questionto create new laws whichdeviate from the historical norms. However, new rightsare createdin fact, but only by way of 'recognizing'them as havingbeen valid 'fromtime immemorial'."Innovationcan thus evade the stricin turesevenof a rigidtraditionalism by appearing the guise of preservation, or purification. recovery,
Hegemony

family-is its homeland.Such renditionsof the past establish the enduringcharacterof the nationalcommunity and vicisdespiteall the ruptures situdes of history.The essentialcontinuityof the nationis often also represented in the figureof the

Since knowledge of what happened in the past can never be definitivelyfixed, prevailingunderstandings are always at risk. And, given the intimate and intricatectnnectionsbetween knowledgeand power(Foucault1980), at any momentsociallyorof the past both reflectsand afganizedknowledge fects the distribution and exerciseof power.Memory is thus an importantsite of politicalconflict, and contendingversionsof the past figure prominently in what it is useful to describe,in the sense opened up by Gramsci, as the struggle for hegemony. The attainment of hegemony, in the senseof a "state of 'total social authority'which, at certain a specificclass alliancewins, specificconjunctures, but a combination of 'coercion' and 'consent',over the whole social formation"(Hall 1980: 331), is very rare. But the struggle for hegemony,understood as the processwherebythe interestsof other or with thoseof a dominant groupsare coordinated dominant potentially group,throughthe creationof "not only a unisonof economicand politicalaims, but also intellectualand moral unity" (Gramsci 1971: 181), is continuous. Fromthis latterperspective communalization is an indispensable component of any hegemonicprocess.

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ANTHROPOLOGICAL QUARTERLY

Hegemonycannot adequatelybe understood simplyby referenceto the thesis of a moreor less coherentand articulate"dominant ideology"(Abercrombieet al. 1980) that people either consciously accept or consciouslyreject. As Laclau and Mouffe (1982: 100) argue, hegemonyis not social "an externalrelationbetweenpreconstituted conagents, but the very processof the discursive stitutionof those agents."It can thereforeonly be graspedas a process,one that is typicallyuneven, and incomplete, and that operatesat heterogeneous other levels of consciousness besidesthat of "mere opinion or mere manipulation" (Williams 1980: are normallyfractured 38). Its internalstructures by contradictions,and although it may absorb some oppositional currents,it simultaneously generatesothers.Analysismust therefore attendto the and formations complexmovements throughwhich, as Williams(1977: 112) puts it, hegemonyis continually "renewed,recreated,defendedand modified ... [but] also continually resisted,limited,alnot all its own." tered,challengedby pressures These movementstraverseall levels of consciousness.For Williams (1977: 109-110), one of the conceptualadvantages of hegemonylies in
its refusal to equate consciousness withthearticulate formalsystem which canbe andordinarily is abstracted as It of course doesnotexclude thearticulate and 'ideology.' formal valuesand beliefswhicha dominant meanings, class develops But it does not equate and propagates. thesewithconsciousness, orrather it doesnotreduce consciousness to them.Instead it seesthe relations of domiandsubordination, in theirforms nance as practical conas in effecta saturation of the whole sciousness, process of living thatthepressures andlim... to sucha depth its of whatcanultimately be seenas a specific economic, andcultural seemto mostof us theprespolitical system sures andlimits of simple andcommon sense. experience

(Williams 1977: 110) and the normallytaken-forof practicalconsciousness granted understandings and commonsense, also connect with Bourdieu's discussionof the relationshipbetween a field of doxa, in which "the establishedcosmologicaland
political order . . . goes without saying and there-

fore goes unquestioned" (1977: 166), and a field of of orthodox opiniondefined by the confrontation and heterodox that "recognize the possiarguments bility of different and antagonistic beliefs" (p. 164). Bourdieuargues that the boundarybetween the fieldof opinionand the fieldof doxais a crucial site of hegemonic struggle:
the dominated classeshavean interest in pushing back the limitsof doxaandexposing the arbitrariness of the takenforgranted; the dominant classes havean interest in defending the integrity of doxaor, short of this,of esin itsplace-the substitute, imperfect tablishing necessarily orthodoxy (p. 169).

Thus, to bring into questionand discussionwhat was previouslyunquestioned and thereforeundiscussed is an act of politicalconsciousness-raising. as an instance of Conversely,primordialization, what Bourdieu(p. 164) claims is the tendencyof
"every established order .
.

to produce . . . the

of its own arbitrariness" naturalization is an act of politicalconsciousness-reduction. The particularsector of common sense on which strugglesfor the past are foughtout is that of popular to the Popular which,according memory MemoryGroup(1982: 211), is structured by two sets of relations--on the one hand, "the relation betweendominant forms" memoryand oppositional and, on the other,the relationbetween"publicdiscourses"and "the moreprivatised senseof the past that is generatedwithin a lived culture."Images and sentimentsof communitythat are produced, This formulation recalls Gramsci's (1971: contested, diffused, and modifiedon this terrain in projects to promote or resist 331) assertionthat "the relationbetweencommon featureprominently sense and the upperlevel of philosophy is assured the intellectualand moralunity that definesan efForGramsci(1971: 323-331), "com- fective hegemony. by 'politics'." mon sense"refersto the generalconception of the Recent studies (for example, Alonso 1988a, world that informs the practical, everyday con1988b; Bommes and Wright 1982; Brow 1988; sciousnessof ordinarypeople in a particularsociComaroff 1985; Comaroff and Comaroff 1987; Gramsci,Hall (1986: 20) pointsout ety. Following Corriganand Sayer 1985;PopularMemoryGroup that commonsense is "the terrainof conceptions 1982;Turton 1984;Wright 1985) show that natuand categories on whichthe practical consciousness ralizationof the arbitraryis only one of several of the massesof the peopleis actuallyformed.. rhetorical discernible strategiesthat are recurrently in hegemonicconstructions of historyand commu[and] . . . on which more coherent ideologies and must contendfor mastery." Alonso (1988a: 44philosophies nity. Besides"naturalization," These treatmentsof hegemonyas encompass- 45) also identifies"departicularization" (or univer" ing both "the articulateupperlevel of 'ideology' salization) and "idealization" among the "multi-

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NOTES ON COMMUNITY

by means of which "hegeplicity of techniques" monic ideologies appropriate and transform is the propopularhistories."Departicularization cess wherebyhistorical discourses and practicesare emptiedof their local, concretemeaningsand uniof all who are incormade the property versalized, within the porated hegemony.Idealizationis the processthroughwhich the past is cleaned up and made the palatable embodiment of dominant values. Anderson's (1983: 15) remarkthat the nation is imaginedas "inherently limited"appliesalso to other kinds of community.Just as "no nation with mankind"(p. imaginesitself as coterminous is definedin opposition to 16), so everycommunity others.Communalization is, then,a processboth of inclusionand of exclusion.At the same time differences among those who are incorporated within a are often mutedor obscured, while difcommunity ferencesbetweeninsidersand outsidersare loudly affirmed. This patternof polarization betweencommunities and homogenization within them (Tambiah1986: 120) can then be fortifiedby apa culturaldistincpeals to the past that represent tion as an originaland essentialdifference. None of these processes,however,is either uniform or unassailable.The contradictions and distortions withinany hegemonic as well discourse, as the discrepancies betweenit and the popular unof commonsense,leave it evervulnerderstandings able to penetration, criticism, and refusal (Scott 1985; Willis 1981). The strugglefor hegemonyis always an open-endedprocess of contestationas well as incorporation, of negotiation and resistance as much as of accommodation and consent. The politicalconnection that Gramscidiscerns "between commonsenseand the upperlevel of phishouldbe understood in the broadestposlosophy" sible sense. State officialsand politicalpartiesare
I am grateful to Ana Maria Alonso, Amy Acknowledgments Burce, Daniel Nugent, Ted Swedenburg,Carol Trosset, and Mike Woost, all of whom read and commentedon an earlier

certainlyamongthe majoragenciesthat determine and relibut cultural,educational, this relationship, gious institutions,as well as the family and all kinds of voluntaryorganizations, are also fundamentally involved (Hall 1986: 21). As Williams (1977: 110) stressesin the passagequotedearlier, the conceptof hegemonylooks at
of domination andsubordination relations . . as in efof thewhole of living-notonly fecta saturation process noronlyof manifest of political andeconomic activity, of livedidentisubstance butof thewhole activity, social ties andrelationships.

In short,hegemonicstruggleis ubiquitous in social life. The papersin this collectionexaminea varied of hegemonic rangeof sites, vehicles,and processes activity. Their unity lies in their shared focus on practicesthat foster a sense of belongingtogether by constructingand disseminatingpersuasivevisions of the past. This crucialtheme of hegemonic organstruggleis perhapsmost obviousin officially ized projectsand productions such as state rituals, school textbooks, religious ceremonies, and the mass media, but it is also evidentin the unofficial practicesof ordinarylife, where it saturatesthe terrainof commonsense on which ideologiescontend for mastery. The studies draw on ethnoresearch to analyzethe plays graphicand historical that are made with this theme not only in authoritative rituals of heritageand development (Brow, Church),but also in the shapingof the landscape (Crain, Swedenburg),in local pageantsand celebrations of folklore (Church, Crain), in poetry, and elsepainting,and dress style (Swedenburg), where.They demonstrate that, in the strugglefor re-visions of historyare as pervasive as community, they are endlesslycontested.
draft of this paper. None of them is responsiblefor whatever errorsor shortcomings remain.

NOTES

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ANTHROPOLOGICAL QUARTERLY

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