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Wednesday 3 August 2011

History of Anthropology: special emphasis on Europe


History of Anthropology: with special emphasis on European continent. 1

The confusing beginning: 1

The enlightenment: 2

Few early works: 2

The Rigorous Anthropological practice: a possibility. 3

Anthropology in Europe: 3

The British Social Anthropology: 3

The evolutionist paradigm: 3

Diffusionist and historical particularist: 4

The functionalist: 4

Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942, Poland-Britain-The United States). 4

Alfred Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955, Britain). 5

The African Political System: An Anthropological Landmark. 5

The Early post war anthropology: 5

The 1960s: the construction of Mediterranean. 6

The 1970s: expansion and fragmentation – work at home. 6

1980s and 1990s the conceptualization of Europe: 7

Future directions: 7

Further reading: 7

History of Anthropology: with special emphasis on European continent

The word ‘anthropology’ is ultimately from the Greek (anthropos, ‘human’, plus logos, ‘discourse’ or ‘science’). Its first usage to define a scientific discipline is probably around the early sixteenth century (in its Latin form anthropologium). Central European writers then employed it as a term to cover anatomy and physiology, part of what much later came to be called ‘physical’ or ‘biological anthropology’. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European theologians also used the term, in this case to refer to the attribution of human-like features to their deity. The German word Anthropologie, which described cultural attributes of different ethnic groups, came to be used by a few writers in Russia and Austria in the late eighteenth century (see Vermeulen 1995). However, this usage did not become established among scholars elsewhere until much later.

The confusing beginning:

If we restrict ourselves to anthropology as a scientific discipline, some would trace its roots back to the European Enlightenment during the eighteenth century; others would claim that anthropology did not arise as a science until the 1850s, yet others would argue that anthropological research in its present-day sense only commenced after the First World War. It is beyond doubt, however, that anthropology, considered as the science of humanity, originated in the region we commonly but inaccurately call ‘the West’, notably in three or four ‘Western’ countries: France, Great Britain, the USA and, until the Second World War, Germany. Historically speaking, this is a European discipline, and its practitioners, like those of all European sciences, occasionally like to trace its roots back to the ancient Greeks.

The enlightenment:

The eighteenth century saw a flowering of science and philosophy in Europe. During these years, the self-confidence of the bourgeoisie increased, citizens reflected on the world and their place in it, and would soon make political demands for a rational, just, predictable and transparent social order. As Philosophers like As Hobbes, Locke and Descartes had argued, the free individual was to be the measure of all things – of knowledge and of the social order – the authority of God and Ruler was no longer taken for granted.

Traditional religious beliefs were increasingly denounced as superstitions – roadblocks on the way to a better society, governed by reason. The idea of progress also seemed to be confirmed by the development of technology, which made its first great advances at this time. New technologies made scientific measurements more accurate. Industrial machinery began to appear. Descartes’ purely theoretical attempt to prove the universal truth of mathematics suddenly became a practical issue of burning relevance. For if mathematics, the language of reason, could reveal such fundamental natural truths as Newton’s laws, did it not follow that nature was itself reasonable, and that any reason-driven enterprise was bound to succeed? All of these expectations culminated abruptly in the French Revolution, which attempted to realise the dream of a perfectly rational social order in practice, but was quickly superseded by its irrational opposite: the revolution devoured its children. And then all the dreams, the disappointments, the paradoxes of the Revolution spread during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s to all of Europe and deeply influenced the ideas of society that later generations would develop.

Few early works:

In eighteenth century with the age of reason, it was the beginning of considering anthropology as science. An important early work was by Italian scholar Giambattista Vico’s (1668–1744) La scienza nuova (1725; The New Science, 1999). This was a grand synthesis of ethnography, history of religion, philosophy and natural science. Vico was among the first to embrace the idea of social progress explicitly. He proposed a universal model of social development, arguing that all societies must go through three stages, with particular, formally defined characteristics. The first stage was the ‘Age of Gods’, an age of nature worship and rudimentary social structures, traits that Vico associated with ‘primitive’ peoples. Then came

the ‘Age of Heroes’, with widespread social unrest due to great social inequality – both the European Middle Ages and Vico’s own time have doubtlessly served as models here. The final stage, the ‘Age of Man’ was an envisioned future era ruled by reason.

Baron de Montesquieu’s work on comparative, cross-cultural study of legislative systems uses first hand and second hand data to find out general principles in legal systems. He is sometimes identified as being proto functionalist. It is because he sees polygamy, cannibalism, paganism, slavery and other barbarous customs could be explained by the functions they fulfilled within society as a whole.

Yet another step towards a science of anthropology was taken by a group of young, idealistic French intellectuals. These were the Encyclopaedists, led by the philosopher Denis Diderot (1713–84) and the mathematician Jean Le Rond d’Alembert (1717–83). Their aim was to collect, classify and systematise as much knowledge as possible in order to further the advance of reason, progress, science and technology. Diderot’s Encyclop├ędie was published in 1751–72, and included articles by illustrious intellectuals like

Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu. The encyclopaedia quickly established itself as a model for later projects of its kind. It was a liberal and wide-ranging, not to say a revolutionary work, which was censored in many parts of Europe for its crude criticism of the Church. One of its youngest contributors, Marquis de Condorcet (1743–94), who was to die prematurely in a Jacobin jail, wrote systematic comparisons between different social systems, and tried to develop a synthesis of mathematics and social science that would allow him to formulate objective laws of social development.

For Rousseau development was not progressive, but degenerative, and that the source of this decline was society itself. Starting from an initial, innocent state of nature, where each individual lived by herself in harmony with her surroundings, people went on to found institutions of marriage and kinship, and settled in small, sedentary groups. Eventually, these groups grew in complexity, and invented priests and chiefs, kings and princes, private property, police and magistrates, until the free and good soul of man was crushed under the weight of social inequality.

Between Nepolian war and First World War Europe becomes ‘modernize’ and in consequence it ‘modernizes’ the entire world. The major change that has taken place is that the Europe has transformed from the an agriculture nation to industrially sound nation. In 1830s the railway was established. A massive social change was on the row. In consequence, several peasant economics have now been transformed to a working class labourers. This social change leaves profound influence over the country at large. Several social thinkers have seen it as something having a detrimental effect over the society at large. the French, Austrian and Italian revolutions in 1848–9, the Paris Commune of 1870, also clearly indicate the potential for violence that industrialisation unleashed. And along with the protests, a new, socialist ideology grew. Its roots go back to social philosophers such as Rousseau and Henri de Saint-Simon (1760–1825), and to the German neo-Hegelians, but its decisive formulation came with Karl Marx.

Around the same time period, Charles Darwin’s massive work “origins of species” appears with a potential for a Global science.

The Rigorous Anthropological practice: a possibility

It is hardly surprising that anthropology arose as a discipline at this time. The anthropologist is a prototypical global researcher, dependent on detailed data about people all over the world. Now that these data had suddenly become available, anthropology could be established as an academic discipline. So could sociology. If anthropology grew from imperialism, sociology was a product of the changing class relations brought about by industrialisation in Europe itself – all the founding fathers of sociology discuss

the meaning of ‘modernity’, and contrast it with ‘pre-modern’ conditions.

Anthropology in Europe:

Giving an account of the history of Anthropology in Europe is a challenging to task to apprehend, primarily because the anthropological work in Europe is quite complex and often does not follow any linear progression.

The British Social Anthropology:

The British tradition of anthropology is known as "Social anthropology". It is a term applied to ethnographic works that attempt to isolate a particular system of social relations such as those that comprise domestic life, economy, law, politics, or religion give analytical priority to the organizational bases of social life, and attend to cultural phenomena as somewhat secondary to the main issues of social scientific inquiry.

The evolutionist paradigm:

Inspired by enlightenment philosophy of progress based on reason Early anthropologists tend to focus on society and culture in progress. Among the early evolutionists, H. Spencer is an important figure. Like his older contemporary Auguste Comte, whom he admired and to some extent sought to emulate, he set himself the task of covering all the fields of human knowledge, from physics to ethics. Like Comte, he felt the task only possible if he could discover an overall unifying principle. Sometime in the 1840s Spencer decided that this principle was evolution. First enunciated in an essay of 1852, "The development hypothesis," evolution became the guiding thread of a whole "system of synthetic philosophy" that he expounded in a succession of major works stretching over half a century: The principles of psychology (1855), First principles (1862), The principles of biology (1864 7), The principles of sociology (1876), and The principles of ethics (1892 3). In between came a stream of essays on such subjects as population, progress, parliamentary reform, manners, morals, the philosophy of style, the physiology of laughter, and the function of music many of which were collected together by him as Essays: scientific, political and speculative (1858 74). Although these too tended to take evolution as the axiomatic principle, they mostly managed to evade its restrictive and rigid embrace and although as much ignored today as his larger works they contain some of Spencer's most imaginative and interesting ideas. The fundamental argument to his idea was that human society moves from instable homogeneity to relatively stable heterogeneity.

One of the most notable among the evolutionists is E.B.Tylor. The theory, outlined in his two-volume Primitive culture (1871), laid out an idea of progress in which human societies evolved and improved through time. Tylor argued that all human beings had similar intellectual potential. He rejected the notion, common at the time, that contemporary primitive societies had degenerated after a common Biblical origin. As a basis for demonstrating his evolutionary sequences, Tylor employed what he called the "doctrine of survivals." Survivals were obsolete or archaic aspects of culture preserved from one stage of social evolution into another. Living cultural fossils, they could provide clues to the past and proved that contemporary stages of culture must have evolved from earlier ones. Tylor's evolutionism differed from that of SPENCER and MORGAN by concentrating more on such humanist topics as the evolution of RELIGION, particularly ANIMISM, and less on material culture. He defined animism as the belief in spiritual beings and argued it was the basis of all religions, developing an elaborate evolutionary sequence that ran from a multiplicity of spirits to monotheism.

The functionalist paradigm.

Diffusionist and historical particularist:

Franz Boas German anthropologists started his fieldwork investigation in 1883 when Anthropology did not have any solid ground. Boas (1938) argued that although the independent invention of a culture trait can occur at the same time within widely separated societies where there is limited control of individual members, allowing them freedom to create a unique style, a link such as genetic relationship is still suspected. He felt this was especially true in socities where there were similar combinations of traits (Boas 1938:211). Boas emphasized that culture traits should not be viewed casually, but in terms of a relatively unique historical process that proceeds from the first introduction of a trait until its origin becomes obscure. He sought to understand culture traits in terms of two historical processes, diffusion and modification. Boas used these key concepts to explain culture and interpret the meaning of culture. He believed that the cultural inventory of a people was basically the cumulative result of diffusion. He viewed culture as consisting of countless loose threads, most of foreign origin, but which were woven together to fit into their new cultural context. Discrete elements become interrelated as time passes (Hatch 1973:57-58).

The functionalist:

Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942, Poland-Britain-The United States)

Bronislaw Malinowski is credited with Functionalism, which explains a culture as an interrelated whole, not a collection of isolated traits. Based on his fieldwork in various areas of the world, particularly the Trobriand Islands in New Guinea, Malinowski established the theory of Functionalism. A culture is composed of many different elements, such as food acquisition, family relationships, and housing. Malinowski believed that all of these elements are connected and work together for one purpose, which is to meet the needs of individuals in the culture. In other words, culture exists to satisfy the basic biological, psychological, and social needs of individuals.

Malinowski is known for his psychological analysis. A classic example is his analysis on magic. In Trobriand Islands, magic was used for various purposes, such as to kill enemies and prevent being killed, to ease the birth of a child, to protect fishermen, and to ensure harvest. Malinowski hypothesized that magic is reliable in domains where there is a limited amount of scientific knowledge. Magic appears to work in these areas because people cannot handle situations with systematic knowledge. For example, the Trobriand Islanders did not practice magic when they fished inside a protected coral reef because they were able to predict catch and safety by weather and the conditions of the sea. In contrast, they did rely on magic when they went ocean fishing because it was difficult to predict unknown dangers and the amount of fish they might harvest. Based on this data, Malinowski argued that magic has a profound function in exerting human control over those dimensions that are otherwise outside of our element. The essential function of magic is to extend control over uncontrollable elements of nature and thereby reduce anxiety.

Malinowski is also known as a pioneer of fieldwork, which is intense and long-term research conducted among people in a particular community. He set criteria for fieldwork and brought this method to a fundamental element of the discipline. His criteria require anthropologists to actually live in communities and to acquire the language of the people among whom they are conducting their researches.

Alfred Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955, Britain)

Alfred Radcliffe-Brown is credited with Structural Functionalism, which analyzes particular social systems in a wider context of many different societies. Radcliffe-Brown was concerned with what keeps societies from falling apart. He identified similar customs in different societies and compared them in order to discover the customs’ inherent functions. Through this comparative method, he attempted to explain underlying principles that preserve the structure of each society.

For example, Radcliffe-Brown analyzed exogamous moieties in aboriginal societies of Australia, Melanesia and America. An exogamous moiety is a custom in which a population is divided into two social divisions and a man of one group must marry a woman of another. Since these three different aboriginal societies had almost no contact in history, it is surprising that they shared the custom of exogamous moieties. How can this phenomenon be explained? Radcliffe-Brown found that the two social divisions of exogamous moieties within each culture were named after a pair of animals or birds which are similar, such as coyote and wild cat, or eaglehawk and crow. He argued that these animal pairs represent opposing characteristics of a society, for example, friendship and conflict, or solidarity and opposition. According to Radcliffe-Brown, those aboriginal societies incorporate the dual divisions in their kin systems in order to keep the balance between these opposing characteristics. This balance is important for the stability of the whole society.

Radcliffe-Brown successfully explained many aspects of family structures that other anthropologists viewed as primitive customs. His analysis of social structure and function encouraged anthropologists to look at how a particular custom plays a role in maintaining social stability. At the same time, his analysis was criticized for not considering historical changes of traditional societies, especially those caused by Western colonialism.

The African Political System: An Anthropological Landmark

Influential, branch of political anthropology has its origins in the experience of anthropological FIELDWORK and the very practical concerns associated with locating order in non-Western societies. This was the explicit aim of the founding work in the field, African political systems (Fortes & Evans-Pritchard 1940b). Based on a set of descriptions and analyses of centralized and decentralized systems of governance in Africa, societies were divided into two types: "primitive states" that possessed government institutions and "stateless societies" that did not. This work, and examples of detailed fieldwork on political systems such as EVANS-PRITCHARD'S (1940) among the Nuer and FORTES's (1945) among the Tallensi, inspired a generation of fieldworkers to concentrate on the varied ways in which political order might be embedded in KINSHIP relations, RITUAL practices, AGE SYSTEMS, and other order-keeping institutions that did not require separate institutions of government. Such a focus was of clear concern to colonial administrators anxious to understand how to govern and control "subject" peoples, and the role anthropologists may have played in aiding COLONIALISM has been the subject of considerable debate in recent decades (Asad 1973; Kuklik 1991). It is clear, however, that the results of such work, particularly in Africa, pushed anthropology in a number of new directions.

The Early post war anthropology:

The devastation that brought forth by the Second World War brings immediate challenge of making policies and arranging funding for revival of their economy. One of the immediate responses was the formation of International Monetary Fund an outcome of Bretton Woods’ agreement.

The primary problem encountered by policy makers was to implement the development agenda based on the principles of Modernisation. The modernization theory argued that development can be achieved through Fund Injection based on the principles of Evolutionist paradigm, i.e. society progresses through unilinnear stages of social evolution. In this context, it becomes important to understand the cultural differences and not to take it as unnecessary barrier to implement market economy. In consequence peasant values and their interaction with state becomes a central concern. In USA, studies along this line gains prominence. Redfield (1971, 1956); Foster 1973 (1962); Friedl (1958) find their works as having practical application to policy making and development discourse. The growing interest in peasant societies prompted a number of ethnographic studies, focused initially on Central and South America and on Southern Europe, but rapidly coming to include other areas, and more general discussions and a dialogue between anthropologists and other specialists. Psychological tests utilized by Banfield were also resorted to by other researchers, such as Anne Parsons (1967) in her study of the urban poor of Naples. The anthropologist was concerned not only with defining cultural institutions and values, but also with the enculturation of individuals. In some instances this was linked to the recognition of wider sets of allegiances and a wider cultural context (Benedict 1946a,b; Friedl 1959; Lowie 1954). Although the dominant themes at this time were peasant orientations rather than national cultures (but see Lowie 1954) and 'community', meaning small, homogeneous and relatively self contained groups, there was an increasing awareness of the links between such 'communities' and wider entities and processes. It is in recognition of these connections that, in the Mexican context, Redfield proposed the 'folk-urban continuum' and the distinction between the 'great tradition' and the 'little tradition' (Redfield 1971 [1956]). There was some convergence at this time between the work of US and British anthropologists, although in Britain, owing to its position within the post-colonial world, most anthropologists were not fired with the same enthusiasm over the applicability of their research as were their North American counterparts. Here the agenda was less clear, and the concern with 'applied anthropology' was less prominent at this point. However, the continuing (though increasingly beleaguered) influence of the structural-functionalist paradigm did result in some interesting parallels between cultural and social anthropology - particularly when the focus of study was European societies.

The 1960s: the construction of Mediterranean

In 1959, a conference sponsored by Winner-green foundation anthropologists first discuss on the Mediterranean value of Honour and Shame. Following this, in 1963, several seminars discuss on 'continuity and persistence of Mediterranean modes of thought'. Peristiany (1974 [1966]) clearly finds this meetings as the initial steps in the formulation of a problematic that could define and orientate a Mediterranean field of investigation, based on his belief that the cultural parallels encountered within the area made for the possibility of systematic comparisons. Pitt-Rivers, who in many respects represents a landmark in the development of anthropology of Europe, discusses the concept of Honour in the literature of Western Europe. In spIte of his more general treatment of honour, his discussion reinforces the view, already stated by Peristiany, of honour as a ­ode relevant to a social system which had largely been superseded in North-Western Europe; a value-system associated largely with aristocrats, clergy and poets of former times. Pitt-Rivers suggests that the mobility of the upper classes, combined with urban life in Spain to expose individuals to cosmopolitan influences, and these influences are incompatible Wl­ ­e values of honour and shame. This constitutes a way of defmmg the area of expertise of the anthropologist: the area of study appears to correlate with the relative progress of modernization and of the 'great tradition', restricting research to smaller populations where 'traditional' values might persist. Pitt-Rivers' work as an anthropological account because it is based primarily on direct observation. 'The people he writes about are real people and not figures taken from the printed page of units in statistical tables' (Pitt-Rivers 1971 [1954]: x). What constitutes an anthropological study is, therefore, the specific object of study (a complex set of interpersonal relations and their value systems) and the method of research employed (participatory observation).

The 1970s: expansion and fragmentation – work at home

Changes in the discipline during the 1970s were prompted not only by the limitations and failures of the structural-functionalist paradigm and the modernization perspective, but also by developments in the wider political arena. The late sixties saw a wave of protests and unrest across Europe. The thirdworld perspective was established. The Cold War division of Europe into Soviet and Nato camps was again showing signs of strain. In this situation, Cole (1977) argues that Europe has provided funding to carry our anthropological research on allies and enemies in Europe. Davis (1977) finds Anthropologists lack of interest in doing fieldwork on Europe, as they find it more anthropological to carry out fieldwork in remote corners of African world. Nonetheless, this is perhaps the period when a distinctive anthropology of Europe develops. Freeman (1973) is one of the first anthropologists who attempts to outline the scope and achievements of studies in rural European social Organisation. Analysis of patron-client relations (Wolf 1966b) becomes one of the central concers of Mediterranean anthropologists. Boissevain’s (1975) essay entitled “Towards a social anthropology of Europe” was the first systematic attempt to define an agenda for the emerging “anthropology of Europe”. He further argues that the concepts like equilibrium, corporation, balanced opposition, reciprocity and consensus, developed from the study of Non-Western, Tribal societies were of limited value for dealing with complexity of European societies. Nor was the traditional research technique of participant-observation alone any longer sufficient. For him, anthropologists needed new methods to enable them in studying the liks between different levels of organizations – Local, Regional, National, Core and Periphery. In short they need to focus on the interrelationship between local events and macro social processes of “State formation, national integration, industrialization, urbanization, bureaucratization, class conflict and commercialization (Boissevain 1975).

One alternative to functionalism was the 'action' approach, pioneered by Barth (1966; 1969), Goffman (1959), and Barnes (1972), and elaborated, in European anthropology, in the work of Boissevain and Bailey and their students. Their work focused on individuals and the stratagems they employ within a given socio-political framework. 'Action theory' covered a variety of approaches, including transactionalism, network analysis, systems analysis and game theory. What united them was an emphasis on the dynamic character of interpersonal exchanges. Instead of looking at the individual as a passive and obedient slave to group norms and pressures, Boissevain stressed that 'it is important to see him as an entrepreneur who tries to manipulate norms and relationships for his own social and psychological benefit' (Boissevain 1974: 6).

For European anthropologists it did provide new research foci and a framework for analyzing elements of the complexity of European societies that had been invisible to functionalist analysis - even if its micro-perspective tended to obscure the wider picture. However, that shift of focus led to the elaboration of a number of new analytical concepts, as well as to a re-evaluation of some old concerns, such as 'patron-client relations', 'micro-politics', 'brokers', 'middlemen', 'informal and non-corporate groups', 'cliques', 'factions and action-sets' and 'instrumental friendship' (d. Banton 1966; Bailey 1971; 1973; Blok 1974; Boissevain 1966, 1968, 1974; Gellner and Waterbury 1977; Wolf 1966b).

1980s and 1990s the conceptualization of Europe:

The economic interdependence among European states and expansion of market economy as well rising increase in contact have made it possible to take Europe as an unit of analyisis. There is political level integration in Europe which brings forth ever increasing consolidation forming the European Union. In this context the study of different religious possibilities including the Catholic-Protestant debate. The nature of anthropological enquiry includes correlation between Protestantism, Liberalism and economic development (MacFarlane, 1978), and Orthodoxy, authoritarianism and economic underdevelopment (Haller, 1990). Anthropological phenomena such as religion, family form and political orientation (Todd, 1985) become the locus and focus of research. Wallace (1990) illustrates the ways in which Europe has been defined in recent years on the basis of shared values, culture and psychological identity (Wallace 1990).

Future directions:

The close of the twentieth century represents a momentous period in the history of Europe, but at present we can only have a hazy picture of what is likely to emerge in the future. As social scientists we have had to confront major international events: the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, the end of the Cold War, increasing integration of the economies of the European Union, the breakdown of Yugoslavia and protracted war throughout Bosnia. We have simultaneously witnessed prolonged economic recession and mass unemployment, as well as increasing right-wing violence throughout eastern and western Europe. Yet we face these phenomena often bereft of suitable anthropological categories. Although many' classical' anthropologists have contributed to the issues of nationality and nationalism anthropology as a whole has been limited by its emphasis on small-scale units. Where progress has been made, largely through profitable exchanges with sociologists and social historians, this has been limited to developments appropriate only to the national state.

Further reading:

Barfield, T. (1997). The Dictionary of Anthropology, USA: Blackwell.

Goddard, Victoria A., Uobera, Josep R., Shore, Cris. (1996) The anthropology of Europe. Washington: Oxford.

Erikson, T. H (2004). What is anthropology. Londong: Pluto Press.

Erikson, T. H. and Neilson, F. S. (2001). The history of Anthropology, London: Pluto Press.

Metcalf, P. (2005). The Anthropology Basics. USA: Routledge.