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FW: Anthropology and History Revisited

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  • Lewine, Mark
    A very interesting inquiry, if you can or know someone with the experience to assist her, please respond directly, copy to me if possible. ... From:
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 16 8:56 AM
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      A very interesting inquiry, if you can or know someone with the
      experience to assist her, please respond directly, copy to me if
      -----Original Message-----
      From: Bernatowicz, David
      Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:20 AM
      To: Lewine, Mark
      Subject: FW: Anthropology and History Revisited

      -----Original Message-----
      From: H-NET List for World History [mailto:H-WORLD@...] On
      Behalf Of Eric L. Martin
      Sent: Monday, October 15, 2007 6:09 PM
      To: H-WORLD@...
      Subject: Anthropology and History Revisited

      Elizabeth Ten Dyke,
      Kingston, New York

      Anthropology and History

      My previous, one-line query generated only a handful of replies.
      Hence, I am trying again.

      I am not a historian, much less a scholar of world history. Rather, I
      am an anthropologist who spent several years teaching the New York State
      Global History and Geography curriculum in 9th and 10th grades. As
      such, I am appealing to those of you who are experts in World History,
      or the historiography of World History, to share your thoughts on the
      anthropologists who have influenced your historical thinking, or the
      world history classes you teach.

      The rapprochement between anthropology and history extends back several
      decades. In 1929 the founders of the Annales school initiated a shift
      away from political and heroic history, inspiring generations of
      historians to explore long term trends in history, regional and
      community studies, and the daily lives of ordinary people. In the 1960s
      E. P. Thompson challenged orthodox Marxist theory by making the concept
      of culture central to his work. In seeking to explore and study
      culture, historians followed models developed by Emile Durkheim,
      Clifford Geertz, Lucian Levy-Bruhl, Marcel Mauss, and Victor Turner,
      among others. Increasingly social organization, interpretation,
      mentalites, exchange and ritual were addressed as subjects for
      historical inquiry. New areas of inquiry required new sources of data
      and "ordinary" documents such as parish registers, letters, diaries,
      shopping lists, medical records and other sorts of information,
      previously overlooked, were subjected to scrutiny. Peter Laslett's The
      World We Have Lost (1965, 1984) examined patterns of kinship in peasant
      society; Hans Medick and David Sabean's Interest and Emotion (1984)
      introduced exploration of culturally and historically specific
      subjective states as related to kinship; Leora Auslander examined
      furniture as a window into Taste and Power in modern France (1996).
      Many more historians have taken other anthropological topics such as
      symbol systems, culturally distinct perceptions of the body and space,
      gender, and mythology as starting points for historical inquiry.

      Ironically, as historians turned to anthropology for guidance in
      exploring the dynamics of daily life, human relationships, and
      communities, anthropologists turned to history. The end of World War II
      ushered in an age of often high-conflict independence movements, global
      exchange, cultural nationalism, rapid modernization, consumerism,
      devastating underdevelopment and poverty.
      Anthropologists recognized that the old structural/functional models of
      culture advanced by A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, Bronislow Malinowski and
      others were no longer adequate as paradigms for understanding the
      communities they visited, or the lives of the people they encountered.
      Strongly influenced by the pioneering work of scholars such as Sidney
      Mintz (Sweetness and Power) and Eric Wolf (Europe and the People without
      History) a new generation of anthropologists began to situate culture in
      history. My teachers Gerald Sider and Jane Schneider, Jane's husband
      Peter Schneider, professional colleagues such as June Nash and William
      Roseberry, and other prominent anthropologists such as Jean and John
      Comaroff have undertaken longitudinal studies, expanded the discipline
      of anthropology to include study of complex societies, cultural
      consequences of the growth of global capitalism, trans-national
      migration, and political and economic shifts of vast significance such
      as the collapse of communism in Europe as well as the 21st century
      industrialization of China and the concomitant spread of consumer
      culture. In addition, anthropologists have enriched their study of
      ancient cultures and civilizations with attention to historically
      influenced focus on human movement, contact, production, exchange,
      struggles for power, and change over time.

      Perhaps World History brings the rapprochement between anthropology and
      history full circle. Historians turned to anthropology, anthropologists
      embraced history, and now World History is emerging as a field where
      there is potential for very exciting cross- fertilization of methods,
      data, and theoretical paradigms between anthropology and history.

      Please take a moment to write down some thoughts about how
      anthropologists or anthropology have influenced your study of World
      History, or the classes you teach.

      Thanks so much for your consideration,
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