History and Anthropology
One hears a fair amount these days, some of it hopeful, much of it skeptical, and almost all of it nervous, about the supposed impact of Anthropology, the Science, upon History, the Discipline. Papers in learned journals survey the problem with a certain useless judiciousness: on the one hand yes, on the other no; you should sup with the devil with a long spoon. Articles in the public press dramatize it as the latest news from the academic front: "hot" departments and "cold"; are dates out of date? Outraged traditionalists (there seems to be no other kind) write books saying it means the end of political history as we have known it, and thus of reason, freedom, footnotes, and civilization. Symposia are convened, classes taught, talks--like this one--given, to try to sort the matter out. There seems to be a quarrel going on. But a shouting in the street, it's rather hard to make out just what it is about.
One of the things it may be about is Space and Time. There seem to be some historians, their anthropological educations having ended with Malinowski or begun with Levi-Strauss, who think that anthropologists, mindless of change or hostile to it, present static pictures of immobile societies scattered about in remote corners of the inhabited world, and some anthropologists, whose idea of history is roughly that of Barbara Tuchman, who think that what historians do is tell admonitory, and-then, and-then stories about one or another episode in Western civilization: "true novels" (in Paul Veyne's phrase) designed to get us to face-or outface-facts.
Another thing the quarrel may be about is Big and Little. The penchant of historians for broad sweeps of thought and action, the Rise of Capitalism, The Decline of Rome, and of anthropologists for studies of small, well-bounded communities, the Tewa World (which?), The People of Alor (who?), leads to historians accusing anthropologists of nuancemanship, of wallowing in the details of the obscure and unimportant, and to anthropologists accusing historians of schematicism, of being out of touch with the immediacies and intricacies, "the feel," as they like to put it, considering themselves to have it, of actual life. Muralists and miniaturists, they have a certain difficulty seeing what the other sees in contained perfections or in grand designs.
Or perhaps it is about High and Low, Dead and Living, Written and Oral, Particular and General, Description and Explanation, or Art and Science.
History is threatened (one hears it said) by the anthropological stress on the mundane, the ordinary, the everyday, which turns it away from the powers that really move the world-Kings, Thinkers, Ideologies, Prices, Classes, and Revolutions-and toward bottom-up obsessions with charivaris, dowries, cat massacres, cock fights, and millers' tales, that move only readers, and them to relativism. The study of living societies, it is held, leads to presentism, snapshots of the past as ourselves when young ("The World We Have Lost," "The Fall of Public Man"), as well as to the illegitimate reading of contemporaries as ancestors (kula exchanges in Homeric Greece, ritual kingship in Versailles). Anthropologists complain that the historian's reliance on written documents leaves us prey to elitist accounts and literary conventionalisms. Historians complain that the anthropologist's reliance on oral testimony leaves us prey to invented tradition and the frailties of memory. Historians are supposed to be swept up in "the thrill of learning singular things," anthropologists in the delights of system building, the one swamping the acting individual in the onrush of surface events, the other dissolving individuality altogether in the deep structures of collective existence. Sociology, Veyne says, meaning by this any effort to discern constant principles in human life, is a science of which the first line has not been written and never will be. History, Levi-Strauss says, meaning by this any attempt to understand such life sequentially, is an excellent career so long as one eventually gets out of it.
If this is what the argument is really about, this methodological thrashing around amid the grand dichotomies of Western metaphysics, Being and Becoming revisited, it is hardly worth pursuing. It has been quite some time now since the stereotypes of the historian as mankind's memorialist or the anthropologist as the explorer of the elementary forms of the elemental have had very much purchase. Examples of each doubtless remain; but in both fields the real action (and the real divide) is elsewhere. There is as much that separates, say, Michel Foucault and Lawrence Stone, Carl Schorske and Richard Cobb, as connects them; as much that connects, say, Keith Thomas and Mary Douglas, Fernand Braudel and Eric Wolf, as separates them.
The centrifugal movement--any time but now, any place but here--that still marks both enterprises, their concern with what has recently come to be called, with postmodern capital letters, and poststructuralist shudder quotes, "The Other," assures a certain elective affinity between them. Trying to understand people quite differently placed than ourselves, encased in different material conditions, driven by different ambitions, possessed of different notions as to what life is all about, poses very similar problems, whether the conditions, ambitions, and notions be those of the Hanseatic League, the Solomon Islands, the Count--duke of Olivares, or the Children of Sanchez. Dealing with a world elsewhere comes to much the same thing when elsewhere is long ago as when it is far away.
Yet, as the irreversibility of the slogan that is commonly used to express this view, L. P. Hartley's "the past is another country" (another country is quite definitely not the past), shows, the question is rather more complex: the equivalence of cultural distance between, say, us and the Franks and us and the Nigerians is a good deal less than perfect, particularly as there may be, these days, a Nigerian living around the corner. Indeed, not even the "us," "The Self" that is seeking that comprehension of "The Other," is exactly the same thing here, and it is that, I think, which accounts both for the interest of historians and anthropologists in one another's work and for the misgivings that arise when that interest is pursued. "We" means something different, and so does "they," to those looking back than it does to those looking sideways, a problem hardly eased when, as is increasingly the case, one tries to do both.
The main difference is that when "We" look back "The Other" appears to us as ancestral. It is what somehow led on, however vagrantly, to the way we live now. But when we look sideways that is not the case. China's bureaucracy, pragmatism, or science may remind us forcibly of our own, but it really is another country, in a way even Homeric Greece, with adulterous gods, personal wars, and declamatory deaths, which remind us mainly of how our minds have changed, is not. To the historical imagination, "we" is a juncture in a cultural genealogy, and "here" is heritage. To the anthropological imagination, "we" is an entry in a cultural gazetteer, and "here" is home.
These at least have been the professional ideals, and until fairly recently reasonable approximations of the actualities as well. What has progressively undermined them, both as ideals and actualities, and stirred up all the anguish, is not mere intellectual confusion, a weakening of disciplinary loyalty, or a decline of scholarship. Nor, for the most part, has "trendiness," that voluminous sin academic Tories attribute to anything that suggests to them that they might think thoughts other than those they have already thought, played much of a role. What has undermined them has been a change in the ecology of learning that has driven historians and anthropologists, like so many migrant geese, onto one another's territories: a collapse of the natural dispersion of feeding grounds that left France to the one and Samoa to the other.
This can be seen, these days, on all sides: in the greater attention paid by Western historians to non-Western history, and not only of Egypt, China, India, and Japan, but of the Congo, the Iroquois, and Madagascar, as autonomous developments, not mere episodes in the expansion of Europe; in anthropological concern with English villages, French markets, Russian collectives, or American high schools, and with minorities in all of them; in studies of the evolution of colonial architecture in India, Indonesia, or North Africa as representations of power; in analyses of the construction of a sense of the past (or senses of it) in the Caribbean, the Himalayas, Sri Lanka, or the Hawaiian Islands. American anthropologists write the history of Fijian wars, English historians write the ethnography of Roman emperor cults. Books called The Historical Anthropology of Early Modern Italy (by a historian) or Islands of History (by an anthropologist), Europe and the People Without History (by an anthropologist) or Primitive Rebels (by a historian) seem quite normal. So does one called Anthropologie der Erkenntnis, whose subject is the intellectual evolution of Western science.1 Everybody seems to be minding everybody else's business.
As usual, what such shifts in the direction of interest come to practically can be more securely grasped by looking at some work in fact going on-real geese, really feeding. In the human sciences, methodological discussions conducted in terms of general positions and abstracted principles are largely bootless. A few possible exceptions possibly apart (perhaps Durkheim, perhaps Collingwood), such discussions mainly lead to intramural bickering about the proper way to do things and the dreadful results ("relativism," "reductionism," "positivism," "nihilism") that ensue when, perversely or in ignorance, they aren't done that way. The significant methodological works in both history and anthropology--The King's Two Bodies, The Making of the English Working Class, or The Structure of Scientific Revolutions; The Social Organization of the Western Pueblos, Trade and Markets in Early Empires, or The Forest of Symbols--tend at the same time to be significant empirical works, which is perhaps one of the deeper characteristics that, across whatever divides of aim and topic, most connects the two fields.2
I shall take as my cases in point, then, two moderately sized bodies of work. The first is that of a small, fairly definable clutch of social historians who, involving themselves with anthropological ideas and anthropological materials, have found themselves drawn more and more deeply into the darknesses that plague that discipline. The second is that of a rather larger number of historians and anthropologists, who, having discovered an interest in common they did not know they had, have produced a series of unstandard writings suffused with uncertain debate. The one, which I shall refer to as the Melbourne Group, mainly because its protagonists are from Melbourne and form a group, provides a nice progression of examples of the continuum between anthropologized history and historicized anthropology; the other, which I shall refer to as the Symbolic Construction of the State, because that is what its wranglers are wrangling about, provides a well-bounded instance of what happens when historians and anthropologists explicitly try to coordinate their efforts with respect to a topic traditional to them both. These are but samples, partial and quite arbitrary, and schematized at that, of what is going on right now in looking backwards/looking sideways sorts of study. But they do reveal something of the promise offered, the difficulties encountered, and the achievements already in place.
The members of the Melbourne Group with whom I will be concerned (there are apparently some others, whose work I do not know) are: Rhys Isaac, whose The Transformation of Virginia is a study of the vicissitudes of colonial culture on the way to the Revolution; Inga Clendinnen, whose Ambivalent Conquests is an analysis of the encounter of Spanish and Indian forms of life in the Yucatan peninsula during the middle of the sixteenth century; and Greg Dening, whose Islands and Beaches seeks to trace the destruction of Marquesan society under the impact of Western intrusions into it after the 1770s.3 Three places, three times, one problem: the disequilibration of established ways of being in the world.
This paradigm, if that is what it is, is most bluntly apparent in Isaac's book, because he divides his work into two more or less equal halves, one static, one dynamic. The first, called "Traditional Ways of Life," presents the outlines of planter dominated culture up to around 1750 or 1760 in a synchronic, snapshot manner--a social order not without interior strains or endogenous directions of change, but essentially in balance. The second, called "Movements and Events," traces the disruption of this settled order by the appearance of elements--most especially evangelical Christianity and, toward 1776, American nationalism--that its simple hierarchies could not contain. An image, thus, of a social cosmos--Planter Life, and all that went with it (country houses, horse races, court day, patriarch slavery, formal dancing, and the muster field)--coming apart along the fissures induced in it by "stern faced [Northern] preachers," New Lights and others, exciting the populace, and "factious [Southern] republicans," Patrick Henry and others, haranguing the elite: "[The] great men [set] up fine brick courthouses and churches as emblems of the rule they sought to exercise and of the divinity legitimizing that rule .... Within half a century of its apparent consolidation the system [was] overturned" (ix).
The two parts of her book are thus called simply "Spaniards" and "Indians," and the same sort of distribution, though rather less radical, of historical narrative to the one half and ethnographic portraiture to the other, takes place. Here, however, the order is reversed; the drama comes before the tableau, the disruption before what was disrupted. In the first, "Spanish," section, the historical actors- "explorers," "conquerors," "settlers," "missionaries" -are set out and their exploits, and eXploitations, chronicled, as are the conflicts among them, the crisis through which their enterprises passed, the mental world within which they operated, and the final outcome, the consolidation of Spanish power. In the second, "Indian," section, an image of Mayan society and the passions that animated it--stoicism, cosmography, human sacrifice--is delicately reconstructed out of what is admittedly a fragile and fragmentary native record.
The story the book has to tell (or the picture it has to present) is consequently not one of a consensual social order forced into disarray by the entrance onto its public stages of obstreperous men with contrarious ideas, but one of a profound cultural discontinuity between intruder and intruded upon, a discontinuity that grows only more profound as their relations intensify. Familiarity breeds incomprehension: to the Spanish, possessed of "that extraordinary European conviction of their right to appropriate the world" (xi), the Maya appear less and less reachable the closer the Spanish come to them; to the Maya, "the objects and victims of Spanish worldmaking" (128), the Spanish appear less and less assimilable the more they become entrenched. Everything ends in a terrible and blooddrenched "hall of mirrors"--clerical floggings and folk crucifixions:
"The product of the miserable confusion which besets men when they do not understand the speech of others, and find it easier to make of them familiar monsters than to acknowledge them to be different" (188). An Anthropological tragedy with a Historical plot. Dening, too, divides his book in half, putting what historians would call the story in the one part and what anthropologists would call the analysis in the other. Only he does it, so to speak, lengthwise. To each substantive chapter on one or another phase in the hundred and sixty year European-Marquesan encounter ("Ships and Men," "Beachcombers," "Priests and Prophets," "Captains and Kings") he appends a topically oriented interchapter called a "Reflection" ("On Model and Metaphor," "On Rites of Passage," "On Boundaries," "On Religious Change," "On Dominance," "On Civilizing"), which sets forth a more or less systematic array of ideas for interpreting what has just been related. The textual movement here is less between what was and what happened to it, as in Isaac, or between incommensurable sensibilities, as in Clendinnen, as between alternative styles of rendering such matters-cultural mutation and cultural misconnection-generally intelligible. Though he started as a historian and ended as one, Dening took a doctorate in anthropology along the way, and he is engaged in an enterprise somewhat eccentric to both fields: the writing, as he puts it, of a "discourse on a silent land."
It is silent, because unlike the Virginia Planters, echoes of whose outlook persist today, if only as social claims and ancestral fantasies, or the Mayan Indians, segments of whose civilization continue as folk tradition beneath the Hispanic personality of modern Mexico, the Marquesans, as Marquesans, simply are no more: "Death [carried them] off ... before they had the time or the will to make any cultural adaptation to their changed environment" (287). There are people living in the Marquesas, of course, at least some of them physical descendants of those who lived there before the Captains, Priests, and Beachcombers arrived; but they are "dispossessed," their history ruptured, themselves turned into generalized, indefinite "Pacific Islanders":
"Everybody's past is dead, [the 'Europeans' and the 'Marquesans'] together. Events happen only once. Actions are gone with their doing. Only the history of the past has some permanence, in the ways consciousness gets preserved in writing or in memory or in the presumptions of every social act. But for [the Marquesans] even their history is dead. All the history that is left to them ... binds them to those whose intrusion on their Land caused them to die. Events, actions, institutions, roles become history by being translated into words. In [the Marquesans'] case, these are [the Europeans'] words in their description of the Land. Even [the Marquesans'] own words about their lives, collected in legends or even in dictionaries, cannot escape this fundamental reality. There is not a legend or a genealogy that has survived that was not collected many years after [the Europeans'] intrusion. They belong to the time of their writing down." (273)
The behindhand collectors, the appropriating writers-down, were, these being "primitives," mainly anthropologists, though a few originals, like that expansive beachcomber Herman Melville, were also involved. The classic ethnographers of the place, those from whom we know most of whatever we know about Marquesan society in that illo tempore, "the ethnographic present"--Karl von Steinem, E. S. C. Handy, Ralph Linton--all came to the islands well after the Western mariners, traders, missionaries, and vagabonds had done their civilizing, or decivilizing, work. (Handy's The Native Culture in the Marquesas, upon which "virtually all models of [indigenous Marquesan society that] have been constructed" are founded, was published only in 1923.)4 The result is that "Marquesan Culture" has become a Western reality, no longer a Marquesan one.
"At one time [the 'Marquesans'] legends, their genealogies, the very continuity of their living culture kept them conscious of their past, told them the way their world should be. They were dispossessed even of these. Like their material artefacts, their customs and their ways were transformed into [European] cultural artefacts. Their living culture died and was resurrected as a curiosity and a problem about such things as cannibalism or polyandry ... All [their] words, [their] consciousness, [their] knowledge, were extracted from [the islands] and put in the service not of continuity or identity for the ['Marquesans'], but of entertainment, education and edification for the Outsiders. The ['Marquesans'] lives ceased to be part of their discourse with themselves [which, unlike that of the Virginians and the Mayans, was of course wholly unwritten] and became instead part of [European] discourse." (274-75)
We have moved (logically, not chronologically--Taken together, these three works suggest that the conjoining of History and Anthropology is not a matter of fusing two academic fields into a new Something-or-Other, but of redefining them in terms of one another by managing their relations within the bounds of a particular study: textual tactics. That sorting things into what moves and what moves it, what victimizes and what is victimized, or what happened and what we can say about what happened, will not, in the end, really do, is hardly the point. In the end, nothing will really do, and believing otherwise will but bring forth monsters. It is in efforts such as these, and in others employing other rhythms and other distinctions, that what, beside polemic and mimicry, this kind of work has to offer (not least, I suspect, a critique of both fields) will be discovered.Dening's book is the earliest of the three, Clendinnen's the most recent) from Anthropology as the state of affairs upon which History acts, through Anthropology as the jungle through which History stumbles, to Anthropology as the grave in which History is buried.
Taken together, these three works suggest that the conjoining of History and Anthropology is not a matter of fusing two academic fields into a new Something-or-Other, but of redefining them in terms of one another by managing their relations within the bounds of a particular study: textual tactics. That sorting things into what moves and what moves it, what victimizes and what is victimized, or what happened and what we can say about what happened, will not, in the end, really do, is hardly the point. In the end, nothing will really do, and believing otherwise will but bring forth monsters. It is in efforts such as these, and in others employing other rhythms and other distinctions, that what, beside polemic and mimicry, this kind of work has to offer (not least, I suspect, a critique of both fields) will be discovered.
My second example of history-anthropology relations in action is of a rather different sort--not a deliberate tacking between variant modes of discourse, but an unintended, almost happenstance convergence of them upon a common concern: the enmeshment of meaning in power. Since at least the time Burkhardt called the Renaissance state "a work of art," Kantorowicz began to talk about "medieval political theology," or Bagehot noted that Britain was ruled by "an elderly widow and an unemployed youth," historians have become more and more interested in the role of symbolic forms in the development and operation--the construction, if you will--of the state. And since at least the time Frazer began to talk about royal immolation, Eliade about sacred centers, or EvansPritchard about divine kings on the upper Nile, anthropologists have become so as well. An odd reference now and then aside, the two interests developed more or less independently until rather recently, when they began, with some force, to break in upon one another. The results have been as one would expect: a burst of work, a bigger burst of questions.
The burst of work is apparent on both sides. A classical historian has written on the celebration of Roman emperors in the Greek towns of Asia Minor; a modern historian has written on Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. There have been studies on the meaning of Constantine's coronation, on imperial funerals in Rome, on "models of rulership in French royal ceremonial," on "rituals of the early modern popes," and someone has brought Kantorowicz forward to Elizabethan times in a work called The Queen's Two Bodies.5
On the other, the anthropological, hand, where I have myself been a witting, or half-witting, conspirator with my work on "the theatre state" in Java and Bali, there have been studies of the ritual royal bath in Madagascar, a book on Le roi ivre; ou l'Origine de I'Etat,6 another on "the ritual context of [contemporary] British royalty," in which Princess Di, Elizabeth's handbag ("perhaps the most intriguing royal accessory"), fox hunting, and the Emir of Qatar all figure, as well as more standard ethnographies of the histrionics of sovereignty in Chad, Nepal, Malaysia, and Hawaii. Royal marriage, royal death, royal tombs, and royal succession have all come in for the sort of attention that used to be reserved for kinship terminology, as have regicide, deposition, and whatever the technical term may be for royal incest. A recent, quite partial, bibliographic review lists over fifty titles, from "The Queen Mother in Africa" to "The Stranger King, Dumezil Among the Fijians," in the last ten years alone, and "symbolic domination" has become, even if no one is entirely certain just what it means, a standard term of art and invective.
It is from the interplay of the two lines of thought as they have discovered one another that the burst of questions has come. Most of this interplay remains citational in nature; historians of Renaissance Italy mentioning ethnographers of Central Africa, ethnographers of Southeast Asia mentioning historians of Renaissance France. But recently there have been some more intimate conjunctions in the form of symposia collections containing both sorts of study and setting them off against one another in the interests of some more general overview. In two of the best of these, Rites of Power: Symbols, Ritual, and Politics Since the Middle Ages, emerging from the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton a couple of years ago, and Rituals of Royalty, Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies, emerging from the Past and Present group in Britain last year, the problems that have arrived with the advances are as apparent as they are unresolved.7
How much does the symbolic apparatus through which state power forms and presents itself, what we are used to calling its trappings, as though it were so much gaud and decoration, really matter? To do this sort of work at all involves the abandonment of a radically "smoke and blue mirrors" view of the issue, and of the simpler forms of reductionism-military, economic, structural, biologicalthat go with it. The signs of power and the substance of it are not so easily pried apart. The Wizard of Oz or How Many Battalions has the Pope won't do, and neither will mutterings about swindles and mystifications. But the question nonetheless remains, and indeed grows more pointed, as to what precisely, and how important, the effects of these royal baths and lordly tooth-filings, majestic effigies, and imperial progresses (or, for that matter, television summits and congressional impeachment hearings) are. How are they come by? How are they not? What sort of force does spectacle have?
Sean Wilentz, in the introduction to the Princeton volume, focuses the issue as having to do with "the limitations ... of symbolic interpretation ... the limits of verstehen in any scholarly enterprise":
"If ... all political orders are governed by master fictions [as anthropologists have claimed], is there any point in trying to find out where historical rhetoric and historical reality diverge? Can historians of the symbolic even speak of objective "reality" except as it was perceived by those being studied, and thereby transformed into yet another fiction? Once we respect political mystifications as both inevitable and worthy of study in their own rightonce we abandon crude and arrogant explanations of the origins of "false consciousness" and vaunt the study of perception and experience-is there any convincing way to connect them to the social and material characteristics of any hierarchical order without lapsing into one form or another of mechanistic functionalism? Some historians [he cites E. P. Thompson, Eugene Genovese, and Felix Gilbert] insist that it is still possible-indeed imperativeto make these connections, and they warn of the rise of an "anthropologized" idealism, disrespectful of historical contexts, in which a new fetish of elegant presentation replaces the old fetish of sociological abstraction and cumbersome prose. Others [he cites Natalie Davis, Carlo Ginsburg, and Bernard Cohn] respond that such fears, although justified, need not block the historical study of perception and political culture in ways influenced by the anthropologists' insights."8
Cumbersome Prose and Elegant Presentation aside, dire crimes that they doubtless are, the general anxiety that if meaning is too much attended to, reality will tend to disappear (meaning by "meaning" mere ideas and by "reality" munitions and the lash), does haunt this sort of work. The anthropological desire to see how things fit together sits uneasily with the historical desire to see how they are brought about, and the old, nineteenth-century insults, "idealist!," "empiricist!," get trotted out for one more turn around the track. "A world wholly demystified is a world wholly depoliticised," an anthropologist contributor feels called upon to proclaim, as though it were some sort of revelation;9 "power is, after all, something more than the manipulation of images,"10 a historian contributor is moved to assure us, as though there were people around who thought otherwise.
This question--how can we bring the articulations of power and the conditions of it into some comprehensible relation?--continues to trouble the discussions, in some ways even more internally torn, in the Past and Present collection.
David Cannadine, who introduces the volume with an essay that seems to change direction with every paragraph,11 sees the problem as arising from the combination of a general recognition, on the part of both anthropologists and historians, that "the whole notion of power as a narrow, separate and discreet [sic] category [is] inappropriate ... the idea that splendour and spectacle is but ... window-dressing ... ill-conceived,"ll with the absence in either field of anything in the way of a more adequate conception. "If conventional notions of power seem to be unsatisfactory, what if anything may better be put in their place?" (15). We need, he says, and his contributors for the most part follow him, to ask such questions as:
"Why exactly is it that ceremonies impress?" (15). "[W]hat are the building bricks from which [such ceremonies] are actually constructed?" (15). "[D]oes ceremonial convert systems of belief about celestial hierarchies into statements of fact about earthly hierarchies ... [or] does ceremonial convert statements of fact about power on earth into statements of belief about power in heaven?" (1617). "Why ... do some societies ... seem to need more ceremonial than others?" (17). "How does pomp appear to the alienated or the dispossessed?" (18). "What is the connection between the overthrow of royalty and the overthrow of rituals?" (18). "Why does some pageantry take root and 'work,' and some dwindle and die?" (18).
Except for the fact that the problem may lie less in a too narrow conception of power than in a too simple conception of meaning, a philosophical mistake not a definitional one, these are indeed the sort of questions this odd coupling of semiotical anthropologists and institutional historians has cast up. And if navigating in strange waters doesn't induce fears of going overboard so intense as to inhibit motion altogether, some of them may even come to be, in some degree, and however rephrased to make them less flat-footed, answered.
Certainly they seem likely to go on being asked. I have before me as I write an announcement of a new book (by an anthropologist, but it could these days be as easily by a historian) on Ritual, Politics, and Power, which treats, apparently, among other things, of Ronald Reagan's visit to Bitburg, the funeral rites for Indira Gandhi, the arms control meetings between Soviet and American leaders, the cannibal rites of the Aztec state, the inauguration of American presidents, a parade of Ku Klux Klan members in the 1940s, the activities of contemporary terrorist groups, the "healing" ceremonies of seventeenth-century French and British kings, and May Day march-bys in Moscow.12 What looked like a nice little problem now looks like a nice little mess--which is perhaps what one should expect when the two most multifarious enterprises in the human sciences, however opportunistically, however nervously, combine forces.
The recent surge of anthropologists' interest in not just the past (we have always been interested in that), but in historians' ways of making present sense of it, and of historians' interest not just in cultural strangeness (Herodotus had that), but in anthropologists' ways of bringing it near, is no mere fashion; it will survive the enthusiasms it generates, the fears it induces, and the confusions it causes. What it will lead to, in surviving, is distinctly less clear.
Almost certainly, however, it won't lead much further than it already has either to the amalgamation of the two fields into some new third thing or to one of them swallowing up the other. That being the case, a good deal of the anxiety on either hand concerning the dissipation of proper scholarly character (usually referred to, limply, as "rigor"), and the defensive polemics it gives rise to, are, to say the least, misplaced. Most particularly, the concern on the History side (which seems the greater, perhaps because there are more Personages there) that trafficking with anthropologists will lead to soul loss is, given the enormous discrepancy in the size of the two fields, to say nothing of their cultural weight, ludicrous. Any conjunction, whether as a mixture of discourses or as a convergence of attention, is bound to be an elephant and rabbit stew ("take one elephant, one rabbit ... "), about which the elephant need not unduly worry as to its savor coming through. As for the rabbit, it is used to such arrangements.
If work of the originality, force, and fine subversiveness as that I have reviewed, and an enormous lot, reaching out from all parts of both fields toward all parts of the other, that I have not, is to prosper (to get through a discussion like this without mentioning the Annates, structuralism, Marxism, The Life and Death of the Senecas, or Phillipe Aries is a bit of a tour de force in itself), a sharper sensitivity to the conditions- practical, cultural, political, institutional-under which it is taking place would seem to be necessary. The meeting, collusively or otherwise, of a scholarly tradition, vast, venerable and culturally central, closely connected to the West's effort to construct its collective self, and a much smaller, much younger, culturally rather marginal one, closely connected to the West's effort to extend its reach, has a structure of its own. In the end, it may be in a deeper understanding of the "and" in the "History and Anthropology" accouptement that progress lies. Take care of the conjunctions and the nouns will take care of themselves.
1 Peter Burke, The Historical Anthropology of Early Modern Italy (New York, 1987); Marshall Sahlins, Islands of History (Chicago, 1985); Eric R. Wolf, Europe and the PeoPle Without History (Berkeley, 1982); E. J. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, 2nd rev. ed. (New York, 1963); Yehuda Elkana, Anthropologie der Erkenntnis CObers. v. Achlama, Ruth., 1988).
2 E. H. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies (Princeton, 1957); E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York, 1963); Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, 1962); Fred Eggan, The Social Organization of the Western Pueblos (Chicago, 1962); Trade and Markets in the Early Empires, ed. Karl Polanyi, Conrad M. Arensberg, and Harry W. Pearson (Glencoe, Ill., 1957); Victor Turner, The Forest of Symbols (Ithaca, N.Y., 1967).
3 Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia, /740-1790 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1982); Inga Clendinnen, Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 15/7-1570 (Cambridge, 1987); Greg Dening, Islands and Beaches, Discourse on a Silent Land: Marquesas 1774-1880 (Melbourne, 1980); hereafter cited in text.
4 See E. S. Craighill Handy, The Native Culture in the Marquesas (Honolulu, 1923). The quote is from Dening, p. 279.
5 Marie Axton, The Queen's Two Bodies: Drama and the Elizabethan Succession (London, 1977).
6 Luc de Heusch, Le roi ivre; ou I'Origine de I'Etat (Paris, 1972).
7 Rites of Power: Symbols, Rituals and Politics Since the Middle Ages, ed. Sean Wilentz (Philadelphia, 1985); Rituals of Royalty, Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies, ed. David Cannadine and Simon Price (Cambridge, 1987).
8 Sean Wilentz, Introduction, in Wilentz, pp. 7-8.
9 Clifford Geertz, "Centers, Kings, and Charisma: Reflections on the Symbolics of Power," in Wilentz, p. 30.
10 J. H. Elliott, "Power and Propaganda in the Spain of Philip IV," in Wilentz, p. 147.
11 David Cannadine, Introduction, in Cannadine, p. 15; hereafter cited in text.
12 The book, an interesting one, has now appeared: David I. Kertzer, Ritual, Politics, and Power (New Haven, 1988).
History and anthropology, in: New Literary History, Vol. 21, No.2 (Winter, 1990), pp. 321-335.
online source: http://www.jstor.org
JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.
New Literary History is currently published by The Johns Hopkins University Press. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/journals/jhup.html.
Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission.
Using this text is also subject to the general HyperGeertz-Copyright-regulations based on Austrian copyright-law (2001), which - in short - allow a personal, nonprofit & educational (all must apply) use of material stored in data bases, including a restricted redistribution of such material, if this is also for nonprofit purposes and restricted to the scientific community (both must apply), and if full and accurate attribution to the author, original source and date of publication, web location(s) or originating list(s) is given ("fair-use-restriction"). Any other use transgressing this restriction is subject to a direct agreement between a subsequent user and the holder of the original copyright(s) as indicated by the source(s). HyperGeertz@WorldCatalogue cannot be held responsible for any neglection of these regulations and will impose such a responsibility on any unlawful user.
Each copy of any part of a transmission of a HyperGeertz-Text must therefore contain this same copyright notice as it appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission, including any specific copyright notice as indicated above by the original copyright holder and/ or the previous online source(s).