FW: Anthropology and History Revisited
- A very interesting inquiry, if you can or know someone with the
experience to assist her, please respond directly, copy to me if
From: Bernatowicz, David
Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2007 7:20 AM
To: Lewine, Mark
Subject: FW: Anthropology and History Revisited
From: H-NET List for World History [mailto:H-WORLD@...] On
Behalf Of Eric L. Martin
Sent: Monday, October 15, 2007 6:09 PM
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,