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Ethnography and the

Historical Imagination

M line was exotic enough to make the front page of the Chicago Tribune
one Sunday.l ,
"Call it one of the mysteries of Mrica," the report began. "In the battle­
ravaged regions of northern Mozambique, in remote straw hut villages
where the modern world has scarcely penetrated, supernatural spirits and
magic potions are suddenly winning a civil war that machine guns, mortars
and grenades could not." The account went on to describe an army of
several thousand men and boys, sporting red headbands and brandishing
spears. Named after their leader, Naparama-who is said to have been
resurrected from the dead-they display on their chests the scars of a
"vaccination" against bullets. Their terrain is the battle-scarred province
of Zambesia, where a civil war, with South Mrican support, has been
raging for some fifteen years. Now heavily armed rebels flee at the sight of
the Naparama, and government troops appear equally awed. Western
diplomats and analysts, the report recounts, "can only scratch their heads.
in amazement." The piece ends in a tone of arch authority: "Much of!
Naparama's effectiveness can be explained by the predominance of super.,j
stitious beliefs throughout Mozambique, a country where city markets~
always have stalls selling potions, amulets and monkey hands and ostrich\
feet to ward off evil spirits."
Faced with such evidence, anthropologists might be forgiven for doubt­
ing that they have made any impact at all on Western consciousness. It is
more than fifty years since Ev~§-£ritcbard .(19.37) shQwed.... i1Lthep~t
PEO!;<:l!.hat Zand~ 11laS!<:-:WjLal1__!li!air of practical reaso~2-.!hat "p.rimitive
mentality" is a fic!iqp.Q.f. the modern.Iiii.tid;moretE:a:ii1il'iy years of writing


4 THEORY, ETHNOGRAPHY, HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination
in an effort to contextualize the curious. Yet we have not routed the reflex
ditional" communities are still frequently held, for instance, to rest upon
that makes "superstitious" most aptly qualify Mrican belief. No, the straw
sacred certainties; modern societies, instead, to look to history to account
;I huts and magic potions are as secure in this text as in any early nineteenth

for themselves or to assuage theirsense of alienation and loss (cr. Anderson
• century traveler's tale. There is even the whiff of a traffic in flesh (the 1983:40; Keyes, Kendall, and Hardacre n.d.). What is more, these stero1­
monkey hands; the ostrich feet). No matter that these wayward warriors n typic contra.sts.... are re~dily spatialized in the chasm between the West an
are in fact the victims of a thoroughly modern conflict, that they wear .1 the rest. TJ::y.as they mIght, the Naparama will never be more than primitiv
civilian clothes and file into combat singing Christian songs. IQ..th~p.opular h rebels, rattling their sabers, their. "cultural weapons," in the prehistory.of
i£!lilgination the)'.",\'!.!~fully fledged .~jgns of the primitive, alibis forao a~ African dawn. As Fields (1985) has noted, their "milleniary" kind are
evolutionIsm that puts them-and their fascinating forays-across,atl seldom attributed properly political motives, seldom credited with the
iireiil~~able gtllf from oursel",es.
... ry al. le g.edly consists. 11:1 the eve.n.t~
... These sensationalized savages, thrust across our threshold one snowy rational, pur . OS.iVe . aC. tions
in Wh.iCh histO
the Western eye frequently overlooks important similarities in the ways in
Sunday, served to focus our concerns about the place of anthropology in which societies everyWhere are made and remade. ~I!d, all too often, we
the contemporary world. For the "report" told less of the Mozambican
anthr.oPOlogists_~ay~ ex.,~~_erbat:~9. t.hi.'.~, For we have our own i. nv<:::st.m.ent in f
soldiers than of the culture that had conjured them up as its inverted self­ ereserving zones of "tradition," in stressing social repro~uction over
image. Despite the claim that meaning has lost its moorings in the late random.: change, cosmology over chaos (Asad 1973; Taussig 1987). Even
capitalist world, there was a banal predictability about this piece. It relied as we expose our ethnographic islands to the crosscurrents of history, we
on the old opposition between secular mundanity and spectral mystery, remain fainthearted. \~L.s}ill. seJ?arate lo(,':al communitie~_~J[Qm ,Zlobal
European modernism and Mrican primitivism. 2 What is more, the contrast systems, the thick description of particular cultures frof\l the.thin narrative
implied a telos, an all too familiar vision of History as an epic passage of world events.
from past to present. The rise of the West, our cosmology teUs us, is The bulletproof soldiers - remind us that lived realities defy easy dualisms, ..I
accompanied, paradoxically, by a Fall: The cost of rational advance has that worlds everywhere are complex fusions of what we like to call moder- .
been our eternal exile from the sacred garden, from its enchanted ways of nity and magicality, rationality and ritual, history and the here and now.
knowing and being. Only natural man, unreconstructed by the Midas In fact, our studies of the Southern Tswana have long proved to us that
touch of modernity, may bask in its beguiling certainties. none of these were opposed in the first place-except perhaps in the
The myth is as old as the hills. But it has had an enduring impact on colonizing imagination and in ideologies, like apartheid, that have sprung
post-Enlightenment thought in general and, in particular, on the social from it. If we allow that historical consciousness and representation may
sciences. Whether they be classical or critical, a celebration of modernity take very different forms from those of the West, people everywhere turn
or a denunciation of its iron cage, these "sciences" have, at least until out to have had history all along.
recently, shared the premise of disenchantment-of the movement of As it has become commonplace to point out, then, European colonizers
mankind from religious speculation to secular reflection, from theodicy to did not, in an act of heroism worthy of Carlyle (1842), bring Universal
theory, from culture to practical reason (Sahlins 1976a; n.d.). Anthropol­ History to people without it. Ironically, they brought histories in particular,
ogists, of course, have hardly ignored the effects on the discipline of the histories far less predictable than we have been inclined to think. ~or,
lingering legacy of evolutionism (Goody 1977; cf. Clifford 1988). None­ despite the claims of modernization theory, Marxist dependistas, or "modes
theless, it remains in our bones, so to speak, with profound implications ?f production" mod~ls, global for.ces played intQ~ocal forms and con~itions
for our notions of history and our theories of meaning. In unexpected ways, changing known structures into strange hybrids. Ow::
The mystic warriors underscored our own distrust of disenchantment, own· evidence shows that the incorporation of black South Mricans into a
our reluctance to see modernity-in stark contrast to tradition-as driving World economy did not simply erode difference or spawn rationalized,
a "harsh wedge between cosmology and history" (Anderson 1983:40). To homogeneous worlds. Money and commodities, literacy and Christendom
be sure, we have never given any analytic credence to this ideologically challenged local symbols, threatening to convert them into a universal
freighted opposition or to any of its aliases (simple:complex; ascrip­ Currency. But precisely because the cross, the book, and the coin were such
tive:achievement-driven; coUectivist:individualist; ritualist:rationalist; and saturated signs, they were variously and ingeniously redeployed to bear a
so on). For, dressed up as pseudohistory, such dualisms feed off one host of new meanings as non-Western peoples-Tswana prophets, Napa­
another, caricaturing the empirical realities they purport to reveal. "Tra- rama fighters, and others-fashioned their own visions of modernity (cf.

THEORY, ETHNOGRAPHY, HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 7
6 '­
Clifford 1988:5-6). Neither was (or is) this merely a feature of "transi·
exactly are we to do so? Contrary to some scholarly opinion, it is not so
tional" communities, of those marginal to bourgeois reason and the
easy to alienate ourselves from our own meaningful context, to make our
own existence strange. How do we do ethnographies of, and in, the
commodity economy.

In our essays, as we follow colonizers of different kinds from the contemporary world order? What, indeed, might be the substantive direc­
metropole to Africa and back, it becomes clear that the culture of capitalism tions of such a "neomodern" historical anthropology?
has always been shot through with its""own 'magicalities and forms of
enchantment, all of which repay analysis. Like the nineteenth-century
. evangelists who accused the London poor of strange and savage customs II
(see Chapter 10), Ma!x insisted on understanding commodities as 21:>i;.cts
or £rimitive wors~2...~.Jetish~fBeing social hieroglyphs rather than mere Both history and ethnography are concerned with societies other than the one

alIenating objects, they describe a world of densely woven power and in which we live. Whether this otherness is due to remoteness in time ... or to

remoteness in space, or even to cultural heterogeneity, is of secondary

meaning, enchanted by a "superstitious" belief in their capacity to be
importance compared to the basic similarity of perspective.... [I]n both cases

fruitful and multiply. Although these curious goods are more prevalent in we are dealing with systems of representations which differ for each member

"modern" societies, their spirit, as Marx himself recognized, infects the of the group and which, on the whole, differ from the representations of the

politics of value everywhere. If, as Chapter 5 demonstrates, we cast our investigator. The best ethnographic study will never make the reader a native.

gaze beyond the horizon where the so-called first and third worlds meet, ... All that the historian or ethnographer can do, and all that we can expect of

them, is to enlarge a specific experience to the dimensions of a more general

concepts like the commodity yield useful insights into the constitution of

cultures usually regarded as noncapitalist. And so the dogma of disenchant· -Claude Levi·Slrauss (1963a:16-17)
ment is dislodged.
Save in the assertions of our own culture, in short, assertions that have
long justified the colonial impulse, there is no great gulf between "tradi­ These questions parse into two parts, two complementary motifs that start

tion" and "modernity"-or "postmodernity," for that matter. Nor, as out separately and, like a classical pas de deux, merge slowly, step by step.

others before us have said, is much to be gained from typological contrasts The first pertains to ethnography, the second to history.

between worlds of gesellschaft and gemeinschaft, or between economies As we have noted, the current status of ethnography in the human

governed by use· and exchange-value. But we are less concerned here to sciences is something of a paradox. 0Il the one hand, its authority has

reiterate this point than to make a methodological observation. If such I been, and is being, seriously challenged from both within anthropology
distinctions do not hold uR, it tollo~s that the modes of discovery and outside; on the other, it is being widely appropriated as a liberalizing '..
<l.~sOti:lffea with them-ethnog~aphyfor "traditional" communities, history method in fields other than our own-among them, cultural and legal
"~--'" . / 0 studies, sociology, social history, and political science. 3 Are these disciplines
forthe ~inodern"" world, past and present-also cannot be sharply drawn.
• - ..- - - . . . . . . . . . . . . . . •

We require ethnography to know ourselves, just as we need history to know suffering a critical lag? Or, more realistically, is a simultaneous sense of
non~Western others. For ethnography serves atlonce to make the familiar hope and despair intrinsic to ethnography? Does its relativism bequeath it
stran~e and thestrange f~.!li,~r, all th~ better,to.U1;lderstal1(:~ thepl both. It an enduring sense of its own limitation, its own irony? There does seem
is, as It were, the canon-fodder of a cntical anthropology. to be plenty of evidence for Aijmer's (1988 :424) recent claim that ethnog­
In respect of our own society, this is especially crucial. For it is arguable raphy "always has been ... linked with epistemological problems." To
that many of the concepts on which we rely to describe modern life­ wit, its founding fathers, having taken to the field to subvert Western
statistical models, rational choice and game theory, even logocentric event universalisms with non-Western particularities, now stand accused of hav­
histories, case studies, and biographical narratives-are instruments of ing served the cause of imperialism. And generations of journeyman.
what Bourdieu (1977 :97f), in a different context, calls the "synoptic anthropologists since have struggled with the contradictions of a mode of
illusion." They are our own rationalizing cosmology posing as science, our inquiry that appears, by turns, uniquely revelatory and irredeemably eth­
culture parading as historical causality. All this, as many now recognize, nocentric.
for two things simultaneously: that we regard our own world as a The ambivalence is palpable also in critiques of anthropology, which

problem, a proper site for ethnographic inquiry, and that, to make good accuse it both of fetishizing cultural difference (Asad 1973; Fabian 1983;

this intention, we develop a genuinely historicized anthropology. But how Said 1989) and-because of its relentlessly bourgeois bias-of effacing

more so than other efforts. an unknown artist-perhaps an evidently his/her "own instrument of observation" (Levi-Strauss 1976:35).Jet us.~9~?>L~pe~kf~ . And while it senting it. Neither uhagltlatlvely nor empmcaIIy can It ever capture" ffor example. harking back to the classical credo that Those presently concerned with the question of authority fault (unenlight­ "seeing is believing. for example. ogies. ethnographers could not. of subverting our own sureties (cf. as Evans-Pritchard (1950. it was and Musgrave 1968. conceived But it would surely be wrong to conclude that their method is especially of as somehow commensurate with our own. On an unhinged stall door.. It turned out to be our first oxymoron to believers in value-free science-connotes the inseparability foretaste ofdeconstruction. This is the whole point.subject from object. Marcus (1986: 190) counterposes "realist ethnography" 4 instruments. and historically grounded or argue Yet it might be argued that the greatest weakness of ethnography is also . They tend both to instance. in any cas~~ . one methods ." accept that-like all other forms of understanding-ethnography is histor­ But why this enduring ambivalence? Is ethnography.6 that it torted sense of the "open-ended mystery" of social life as people experience remains content to offer observations of human scale and fallibility. for creative potential-of such "imperfect" knowledge.. for a "natural science of society" (Radcliffe-Brown 1957). each with its own. the "problem" of anthropological knowledge is only a difference altogether (Taussig 1987). as many of its critics ically contingent and culturally configured. in its "dialogic long before the term became popular. In anthropology. Lakatos make an object of the 'other. worlds. but afl~. IUs a historic. should ethnographers not give account of how such still depends. here. however. hope to remove every trace of the Ethnography. that they cannot convey an undis­ of travel writing and exploration. to extend the point. standardizing strategies.objectivity: their commitment to standardized. Even if they wanted to. of adventure and astonishment. It has to a new "modernist" form that. internal differences and disputes tationat. To be sure. Pratt 1985)." Similar arguments. ETHNOGRAPHY. in which we take over the mantle of an-other's being. it does Still. have strangely anachronistic echoes." would "evoke the world without repre­ humanist art. translation. more tangible instance of something common to all modernist epistemol­ Sangren (1988:406) acknowledges that ethnography does "to some degree. perhaps it was where postmodern anthropology of knowledge from its knower. as philosophers of science have 10jg realized (Kuhn 1962. Unlikely as it may seem. a the realities that statistics can. 1961) insisted long ago. at times. EthtWgraphy and the Historical Imagination 9 TH EORY. the inescapable dialectic of fact and value. the term "participant observation"-an London School of Economics toilet in 1968. where clinical observation." In this it is reminiscent of the early biological ened) ethnographers for pretending to be good. that biology was the model chosen. tainable) ideal? Why? Why should anthropologists fret at the fact that our the unsympathetic critic could claim that ethnography is a relic of the era accounts are refractory representations. they widely each other.!:Uy situated vulnerable." As if the impossibility of describing the anthropology. HISTORIOGRAPHY 8 In this sense. van its trust in techniques that give more scientific methods their illusory der Veer 1990:739~. they remain recall. "Is Raymond Firth real. For ethnography personifies. without any mediation. this was brought home to us in a . that it it? Why. living with insecurity is more tolerable to some than to others. about the character of the worlds they evoke. . he goes on to assert."8Ifwe cannot have real representation:>. condemns us to lesser The discipline. in spite of its sometime scientific pretentions. is not a vain attempt at literal arbitrariness with which they read meaningful signs on a cultural landscape. Figlio 1976). have implied. singularly precarious in its naive empiricism. to know human (or even nonhuman) mode of understanding historically situated contexts.~ave!!~­ has never been theoretically homogeneous. or their reliance on a depersonalizing gaze that separates 'th:eTr reality. For it refuses to put our own ways of seeing and being. its paradox a productive tension. its philosophical found the contradiction invigorating. In a recent review. Notwithstanding the realist idiom of their craft.? They have even. its interpretive hubris? Methodologically speaking.alV Yet surely this merely reinscribes naive realism as an (unat­ 5 have seldom led to thoroughgoing revisions of its modus operandi. Yet might add. the observer is self­ aU began. a priori units of analysis.''' Nonetheless. because it "can never gain knowledge of continued to be. was Thus Clifford (1988:43) notes that even if our accounts "successfully frankly celebrated (Foucault 1975. with the aim of fructifying its major strength. Graeme Turner (1990:178) remarks that "the democratic impulse recognize the impossibility of the true and the absolute and also to suspend and the inevitable effect of ethnographic practice in the academy contradict disbelief. encounter in all its fullness. Likewise. the observation: Surveying the growing literature in cultural studies. unrcflectiveness. Indeed. unhinged student-asked nobody in particular. instead. dramatize the intersubjective. Et~no&~ae~y.•md its models. never really developed an armory of objectifying truths. the penetrating human gaze. or just a figment of the Tikopean imagination?"9 pace the purifying idyll of ethnoscience. in the golden age of social representations of dialogue. disingenuously. experiences are socially. and quantifying formulas. Levi-Strauss 1976:35. old-fashioned realists. sciences. culturally. give-and-take of fieldwork . on the facticity of first-hand experience. are to be heard in other scholarly fields that rely on participant ~~t:' of its practitioners persist in asserting the usefulness-indeed.

. thoroughly socialized sense. Thus many anthropologists meaning they express. Qbjectsand besides. at least. In addition to talk. For these rest on manifestly Western . But more than this: Ethnography surely extends beyond the anthropological fold. culture Damton (1985:3) implies by the phrase "history in the ethnographic grain" becomes the stuff of intersubjective fabrication: a web to be woven.~_. ~tlutoseQtric interview.10 THEORY. .~eaning. An exacting critic order to construe the gestures of others. from Malinowski's range of the empirical eye. and society are the aggregate product of Apart from all else. "dialogical"-so that we may do justice to the role of "the native infor­ Ofcourse. it entails observation of activity~nd irlt$iac):iQ!lPoth formal and diffuse. for they remain embedded in forms of \ exercise in diakctics rather than dialogics. is an . of modes of control and constraint.ra. for ambivalence and historical inde­ r with' Ogotemmeli (Griaule 1965 or The Headman and I (Dumont 1978)­ terminacy-when we fail to acknowledge that meaning is always. one can "do" ethnography in the archives. represent the "native's point of view. dispersed diasporas." in short. experiencing subjects emphasis). human behavior in terms of putatively universal Plotives.~~a<. it is impossible ever to rid ourselves entirely of the ethno­ (Holston 1989. Ironically.assumptions: among them. :. of a historically specific Western world view. our the version ofit that would sever culture from society.UE'. culture.wewould argtle." and the tYx'tMtzei:texchangebetween anthropologist an~p}fQrqtant< IJ We would like. a process that need privilege." the singular subject. their words and winks and more from a neighboring discipline recently allowed that the work of anthropol­ . have to be have been wary of ontologies that give precedence to individuals over constructed analytically in light ofour assumptions about the social world. In q~~. Such critiques (sovereign self nor stifling structures. Under these conditions. of silenfeas well as assertion and defiance. as we shall point out again below. perforce a "collective. Such systems seem impersonal and unethnographic only to those who ~edtic~6fa1fthlopol6gical t-ese~r~tf to an exercise in "intersub­ would separate the "subjective" from the "objective" world. bodies.' can never be full or final. the parody of doxa-to confront the limits of our own episte­ persons and events they spawn. in the sentences and scenes we grasp with our narrow­ has proven extremely difficult to cast the bourgeois subject out of the gauge gaze. contexts.QS~~phy. Marcus 1986). ethnographers also ~ themselves as universal and natural. world-systems. 14). Ethn. And ethnography becomes "dialogical. In this sense. In fact. that animate them. "The representation of larger." and holistic analyses stultifying. a text (see p. that social life everywhere rests on the precisely this perspective that warrants the call for ethnography to be imperfect ability to reduce ambiguity and concentrate power. systems appear humanism. sometimes even cities For all this. Yet. impersonal systems.g.. buildings. its inquisitive spirit calls upon us to ground maximizing man to Geertz's maker oLmeaning. ethnography objectifi/~s as }t ascribes mant. sjhe appears subjective. h mology. ETHNOGRAPHY. That spirit is present.. only when we exclude from rap~y as an encounterbe!. As Hindess (1972:24) remarks. structuralism). neither the . .tioIts of anthropologists have said it in a wide variety of ways: 1u. Nor are contexts just there. like all forms ofinquiry. re~d diverse sorts of texts: books. Sjhe has returned in many guises. we have to situate_ the ITl within the systems of signs and relatioJ:is. phenomenon" (Le Goff 1988:5. meaning-albeit perhaps less so than do those metho'Q6fdgi~s that eXplain Gc::ne. ?ur concern ultimately ~s with it. regional "development. . it has hitherto been an inescapably Western discourse. although the latter is always thought and practice not fully conscious or innocent of constraint. evangelism. <:>~jectives. But they provide one way. including scholars." Sangren (1988:416) argues vigor­ in the work of historians who insist that the human imagination itself is ously that this is a legacy of American cultural anthropology or. we tell of the unfamiliar-again. we shall see. of decoding those signs that disguise pa~t of the former. our own visions of personhood. social . the the lIlterpliy of such systems-often relatIvely open systems-wIth the paradox. whether or not we individual action and intention.. that economy. in the making of our texts. ~.Y'es~ a1! ob~erver and an other-COnversations them all room for human maneuver. Yet it is extent. as from the conditions that produce them. r. see below). culturally configured action in society and history-and vice again in the writingsotthose who take ethnography to task for failing to versa-wherever the task may take us. in our culture. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 11 perhaQs. the rendering down of social ism. even though we vex ourselves always give texts contexts and assign values to the equations of power and with the problem in ever more refined ways. is not that human beings can triumph over their contexts through sheer force of untenable in "the narrative space of ethnography" (Marcus 1986: 190). and history. to pick up our earlier comment. They." the communing of phenomenologically conceived actors through former for anthropology while leaving the latter to global theories (Marx­ talk alone.d~c9I1. Comaroff and Comaroff 1991.adic_allviiffu:rnt~kindsQf subjects and subjectivities. too. who live in different worlds. of engaging in unsettling exchanges with those. One can also "do" the anthropology of national or international to be transcribed. JeJFeatethnog­ "impersonal.." not in Bakhtin's forces and formations: of colonialism. of course. under whose wing ethnography may science to the terms of the experiencing subject is a product of modern find a precarious perch (e.£tan9. to some is to J:)1a~e anthropology ill!'o_a global. such systems are implicated. But they must centrism that dogs our desire to know others. claiming the jectivity. arbitrary and diffuse. social movements. it recognize them. Along the way. agency. Also. but in the na~~o~ers~~~of. liberation struggles.

although its legitimacy and impact vary with the way in which among empires. persons and places.thekpoint ()f:v:~~j. rls. concerned with society's nether regions.:d by the ~npoSitJvlst (1980) of the cosmos of a contemporary miller. studied populations marginal to the centers of Western power-those who In the late 1970s and eady 1980s. essayists of the closed mind like Alan Bloom? ' histories that were to find a sympathetic ear among anthropologists were The fate of the Naparama may tell us that we are less influential than we unlikely to be the Chronicles of Courts and Kings.c~ived. At the very least. texts. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 13 12 ogy. say. were richly textured accounts of things similar to what we ourselves l~gi~ii. Clearly.tounde. strife between states.. while all representations have effects. to answer back. the lives of"little people" viewed arguing that from the bottom up (Cohn 1987:39). Then. nor-like their even more everyday English our discourses.~j. sought to write "general histories" in "numbers and anonym­ .l:l. does are not realist transparencies.!"".:periS!!!~e study-analyzed. and can acknowledge the effects of history upon and their ordinary practices. It also calls for a careful theoretical specification. Then we may focus on interpreting social phenomena. as we will argue.'statis~ically qr circles. ethnography seems no more intrinsically "ar­ rogant" than do other modes of social investigation (pace Turner 1990:178).(/ ip speaking for others and. or sv-lturaCst~~ture. we may traffic in analytiC constructions.. analysis assumes different significance for structural functionalists than it we have to confront the complexities of our relations to our subjects. anthropologists have classically historical anthropology. .ll potential instruments of "othering. we comprehend and control. of How could we not be appealed to by. moral and philosophical. It:W~Jalce ollrtask to be an exer~isei9. in space and time. Tile dangers of disclosure in such any substantive relationship between disciplines is determined not by the situations are real enough. does for either Marxists or structuralists . more precisely. after an older Europeantradition~ we seels. cf. in similar ways. is the question of history. to disr.x. since there should be no division to begin with. intersubj(:ctive translation. it became common to temper the were'unable. of embassies academy. . however fascinating.. until recently. * * * Much of the difficulty has come from the fact that. orders and events-then we open sixteenth-century witchcraft and agrarian cults in Europe.·~~. .' shrill absolutists. the kind of upoil usb). but . In this. for example.rst~ suitably thick. may be foreseeapJe. the assertion remains vacuous without further contexts~ our own as much as those we study. once again. We ought not But there was more to the matter than this. Or. or trade between chieftains. Nevertheless. for well-intentioned. it now seems) pervaded by a poses"ro bou~geois consciousness. must go far beyond the now routine recognition that our writings are is hardly a theory at all. This not only demands a serious regard. of "little peopfe" unverifiablesuDjectivities. save in some structuralist and Marxist . A theory of society which is not also a theory of history.ev:~d~t~ issue of ~epi:eseI}~at~<?na(1d·e. by appeal to synchronic upon us. "which combine[s] a passion for detail with a humane aspiration.for instanc~e:. And if We see iuo lie in the Bound to be much more attractive.Q . ETHNOGRAPHY. the subject matter obviously remote. we will be on epistemological not suffer in comparison with its ethnocentric competitors" (Fields turf that.. or vice versa.9-ick. not equivalents-are they merely studies of "the experience of living men and on the endless quest for textual means to exorcise the fact that our accounts women" (Thompson [1978a] 1979:21. our anthropological turn toward history-as-panacea by posing the problem: position is little different from that of often radical social historians "What history? Which anthropology?" We ourselves raised the issue. Such studies in Fhistoire human scienc~en. our work does reverberate in and beyond the to be event-full political narratives. so to speak. Hill 1972). For the space of intersection be !Q~ 9. we. '"'­ THEORY. us no ity. It would seem obvious. not in des mentalites l3 are not just chronicles of the quotidian. or his account ourselves to conventions of criticism widely shan. nor we choose to phrase our questions.:all:se. a consideration that between history and anthropology. t6~~ ~n<!ly~is of social systems. intrinsic nature of those disciplines-if any such thing exists-but by prior those imposed by academic brokers on communities without cultural theoretical considerations.. Indeed. so much the better.egarq ~lte(~a!len~<:~:lt cuJwraJ relativism between the two disciplines was (inevitably. An important moment of choice is now latter-day quantitative accounts of past worlds that. the making of collective worlds-the dialectics. of inscribed in the politics of knowledge.. As . if only provisionally." ~ut ethnography also has positive political possibilities. Thomas 1971. recall. Neither were they liable often suppose. If the description was altoget!l~t if. 1985:279). [In our view] there ought to be no "relationship" consideration of the real implications of what we do. that historical capital are more likely to have deleterious consequences. Hence to assert that anthropol­ and audiences-especially because the impact of our work is never fully ogy should be "more" historical. or history "more" anthropological. too. In this respect. for reasons deeply The second motif. Carlo Ginzburg'S (1983) tale of societies and selves. sociology."12 ~'i end of difficulties. broadly speaking. finally. Why else the speCial opprobrium heaped particular Geist-a politics of perspective.~il.

14 THEORY. bears more alllo tho~e who spea. an epoch than. Yet it barely rates troubled by the tyranny of a totalizing social science.k it. lays bare the cultural texture must recognize that there will be people who stand to suffer from the way of an age. politics. from the-making (cf. wryly: "If one were not. ma~e no the very means of its repression." people who have left few documentary traces of Promethean puts it in the words. ~opuraticiris.ugh these historians "the past is another country where things are done differ­ which (. the: consciousness.. the language ofeverything that has participated. Samuel voices the same concern as we a colonial anthropologist. for aI1 his efforts to We ourselves follow this object lesson in Chapter 5. however. moreover. Social history may seem less vulnerable to younger children. In so doing.(l~. give us comfort in the face of less friendly interlocutors partly because they ~errida U2?8~3~f)il1pismis~i1)g F()1l911Jt~~Hi~t:orJ tf967}. Not: only do scholars work increasingly on history-in­ shows.icaJ goods. Le Roy of commodity fetishism to explore how cattle give analytical access to a Ladurie (1979) derives his narrative primarily from the standpoint of a changing Southern Tswana universe. especially those threatened with ethnocide. . likens his perspective to that of history as the biography of big men."'"for many of them.OiIDa­ gation of abnormality may proceed. those for the construction of modern British society tout court.. at least for has had its comeuppance. . as significantly. ETHNOGRAPHY. a histpry European languages. both revi~i?n!~t _:i." It is impossible. as we have noted.Pi. but also anyone who writes of times past sporting prints to the text of Black Beauty. the Battle of Trafalgar. of the English novelist L P." living or dead. in fact.a­ reassure us that our methods ("suspiciously like literature" to the hard social sciences [Darnton 1985:6]) are more rigorous and revealing than l~e deI. It is to make a profound methodological point. This event. Take. one might suggest that In anthropology. the power of parlia­ near or far. RosaJdo. often well dead and buried. It appears that in representing the point of view of social processes. by an alleged "madman. therefore. who champiQn lhe-cau~e o(hi$.. the move from cavalry charge to hay wain and horse-gin. Bundy 1987). -Thus Rosaldo (1986) contends that."14 democratizing impUlse of our own craft.toiv. the Married Women's Property Act of 1882. in light of our own analysis (Chapter 6) of the historical consciousness Cultural historians like Le Roy Ladurie. more appealing.hro. As Samuel is-much too simple. and the cultural riches of British schools. not least because of Nelson's heroic ical ground than are ethnographers-and no less embroiled in the politics death. Subaltern historiography also challenges the very categorj~s_t. more or less. from written agaiQst the hegemony of high bourgeoisies. like the historians of high non-Western populations.to. In addition. I1arratives. we grasp the constitution of complex social fields. in the career ofeveryday those.li and. mesmerized by the glamour of power. and gender in late nineteenth century England-in other words. it is Raphael Samuel (1989:23) who probably comes closest to the well-intentioned-some would say self-satisfied-view that ethnogra­ us in spirit. C:(ll1e. for anthropologists-especially for those drawn by deconstruction. In fact. of valued things. claims Samuel.ck nor be affected any longer by the politics ofknowlcdge.ainedanqr~straiJ)jng langllage" ofWestern r~~()!l. Ginzburg's rejoinder. Their work. Yet this is the very language that constituted/olie in the first place­ they appear. can neither answer b.s_(. Spivak (1988) goes yet further: She questions did about an anthropology "from the native's point of view": that it tends whether the subaltern can speak at all.. cultural historians are on no firmer epistemolog­ large in standard British textbooks. A product This calls to mind Jacques Derrida's critique of Foucault's history of ofdrawn-out social struggle. this is':the first stepin. it resonates with the ently . in making his case against contemporary inquisitor. even through the texts of a to focus on individual intention and action at the expense of more complex radicalized history.~(U~(:g~~I. extending the concept I capture the life-world of the peasants of Montaillou from within. that there is no point apologies for-disinterrinJ. But most fundamentally. This is not merely because the latter concerns itself with "faceless way that anthropologists study alien cultures. for example.. they see virtue in-indeed. far (rom an act of dominati()n or3P.oloruaLpasts. have beenrnade. Darnton. . and the might of monarchies. They are also salient a footnote in any major work. and Samuel borne. was far less important to the making of of the present (Croce [1921] 1959:46f). NI?!ki~Mthin. he says. disseminating the lives of insignificant in the discursive structure of Western rationalism from which an interro­ <c()tiiers. Both are instructive family..: .1!e:m. Hartley: For careers. [T]he revolution against reason than passing similarity to colonial historiography in the so-called subaltern ng . "Cherchez la vachel" says Evans-Pritchard of the world of the in which social memory is fixed (c£ Ashforth 1991). HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 15 Darnton (1985:3) notes.i_'uav. It follows. Derrida (1978:35-36) adds: "All our fion. Arguing for the kind of history that might best be taught in phy celebrates the. This. they also "[treat] our own civilization in the same mode. the act had critical consequences for marriage. [in which even] the best interpreters still remain biased strangers. of which we have already spoken: However." Perhaps for anthropologists as welL But the intention here is not to jest at the expense of politicians or c~unterattack: Its subjects.thisJangy_ag~<\l]dBIL!?ne ments. in the adventure of Western reason [are implicated in the Objectification of madness].a subversive' historical sociology." Hobsbawm (1990:47-48) masses. madness and. there are Nuer-advice offered on the same conviction: that. say..ein ~'ther~str. in apartheid South Africa. the liberal urge to speak for others horses were more interesting to study than politicians and. which looms "natives. Ginzburg. historians.

these P!~<l!~<:!~~~~~. play against one location within the discourses of Western reason. "topping and tailing" cultures past (Porter 1989:3).n<f loses its subversive potential..assume that the histories of the represse5i. fragments and fields that pose the greatest analytic challenge. or resistance may disclose­ fragments? How do we make intelligible the idiosyncratic acts. though.fI11S~Y~. danger of remaining ju. nd h. merely by replacing bourgeois chronicles with subaltern accounts-by constitutes a radical alternative to the lies of constituted society is repre­ sented by [the] victims of social exclusion. dramatls pers."\ colonizing power/kQowledge is based. It is one thing to acknowl­ How) then. but quite another to determinate environment"? It is here that cultural history.. to take Gramsci reminds us. As this suggests. For historiography. ofdisintering When our early paradigmatic foundations were crumbling. ETHNOGRAPHY. Rartiif.Y." But to do. a party to the very relationship­ and meaning that gave theJl1life.~.. The corollary: There is no great Said 1978)...pa~~ stand in And so his act of subversion disappears before the deconstructive eye. Antonio absurdity.. madness. The latter. against all the forces of repression in the world.A ..succeed in using the history of madness.." Extraneousness.~~Jl." It is.. Foucault is accused framework .~'hidden histories" have to be situat... silence (cf. This should have warned us that they were in as much dispersed fragments of an epoch-just as the ethnographer only "sees" theoretical trouble as we were ourselves.:~J!l£L'L£Yl:ill:_:§i!. fragments of a cultural field. 'QIl1:eXtualiz. much historiography still proceeds as if its empirical bases were self-evident. Derrida's critique is both facile and U1. there is relevance for us in brilliant achievements. the sense of being restored to a world of meaningful interconnections.. its subaltern variants. .is t.. in the disjOinted stories are cast into master narratives. To become something.15 Even worse. yield vital insights into the contexts little by way of legitimate reaction: inaction. to undertake redeeming them. For Which the silences and spaces between events are filled. to unmask the c:p~rciveness of convention and (self-) discipline.16 THEORY.~~_9_t1:YhicI~tlle. implies Derrida. concludes Ginzburg.. must be grounded in the singular. at the moment history to which it is dedicated. irrationality. <b "To Ginzburg (1980:xvii).rnore. History..ere . the cultural historian IS no less prone than the cultural anthropologist to read with an ethnocen­ . the politics of sanitY. It can make no pretense of representativeness.jjlIJs:c:"y~!p r~velatioQ~ as we show in Part Three. !l. second point: there is nobasiuo. nihilistic.:. many historians a typical seventeenth-century European villager or nineteenth-century began to repay the compliment.tlso. Despite his guages" that."... is the fabrication of events. Holquist 1981 :xix). the project. Ginzburg's insistence on the redemptive connection between fragments so. contradiction in the face of dominant cultures. in particular. another and against the "totality" (posited.th.h<=.~l!Qit!. rather.~U![199Qieq. cf.sUJ1<lt. must be achieved by critical thinking.o.~tQJ:ic:s.16They may bent (Thompson 1978b. representations of others? How do we locate them within "a historically even disable-the world from which it emanates..e.. it allows the. for Bakhtin (1981 :263. apd e!~<:~S. I'!!!p!." then.!L'1§p.~I!. ironic indifference.l.. other texts. through which "redeemed [they are] thus liberated" (1980:xxvi).QJ. by definition. is made in the struggle among the diverse life worlds the point further.politics of ethnography is obvious. For.min. giscours(. the point of recovering these fragments-be they individuals or events-is to "connect [them] to an In fact. other signifYing practices . Just as we were inclined to see history as urban merchant.()perly. long ago.entrapped in Western reason. realized) that gives them meaning.. Not that this should be the methodological implications of Ginzburg's argument. For all the cultural historian can ever "see" are the "good"-as if time might cure everything-they seemed to see ethnog­ raphy as a panacea. do we connect parts to "totalities"? How do we redeem the edge the possibility that rupture. The first echoes Samuel's ~'histoire evenementielle (see below). too.~is. lives.sof the dO. Its analytic gaze.ed in the wider worlds of power a2~r~. .. . runs out of answers for us. More immediately.toJ::y:from below' . a disturbance. as if "theory" were an affectation only of those of philosophicaJ historically determinate environment and society" (1980:xxiv). as for ethnography. Collingwood (1935:15) might come to us largely by chance and may in some measure be unintelligible. '~(. in the kind of a surprise. absurdity. Just as we were turning to history for guidance. [and] always has the limited scope of .~.·na. of course.eq~ the stories of Qrdinary people. as we are reminded by old debates over and totalities brings together two critical points about cultural history in general and. however.t. t<><. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 17 can only be made within it . However. angles from which are that coexist in given times and places-between the "tendentious lan­ exposed the logic of oppressive signs and reigning hegemonies. In practice.~~(! . that is.mt .. have asserted. rupture.arger 'CD "without repeating the aggression ofrationalism.he '.stu:veyor and the surveilled-on whic!:. are all mirrors of distortion. "does not mean succumbing to a foolish fascination for the exotic there has been relatively little effort to interrogate the constructs through and incomprehensible." of self-delusion. was itself pure folly.. which we have perforce imagination spins its web ." For all his determination to write a history of insanity (1989:23) observation that ~. and (.w~r<:part.S. for all its ensure that it does. Johnson 1978). Liberated.. Way in which the "historical imagination" does its work is culturally crafted. set to rights once and for all. it misses the fact that "the only discourse that historiographic balance that may be restored. The. that the "points between which the historical But to recognize and respect that unintelligibility. without somel. We should not draw false comfort from this. it is the relations between I:§1l9uK~id... But those worlds were also home to other b_e~~<:.<:.

the most striking thing . the history and anthropology-or by its intellectual precursors. often a matter of argument.!X~f. cast out or consumed.'of the kinds of historical anthropology that we seek specifically !p interpretive anthropology a confirmation of their own phenomenological ayo.imate. universalcritera of history? Clearly it is culturaLhistorians.i..o f of kings. But it remains deeply d~~QLq.-.-.ecultural studies.Yestionil1 the negative voice-by disposing. are the lessons to be taken from this excursion into siomite observers.fi1i~·pr~cnt. will reveal itself as we proceed: Some ground clearing is necessary to some form of structuralism or materialism-many have been attracted. Lik. .. more factual? The same the road to a principled historical anthropology." --' .EY_~~t?~~~~_<:~iEi~~~. audibly-for the contemporary access.fJhe pi~ii9·<. and practices (see below).si. images. vide Joan (1978b:324) admonitory metaphor-a little shopworn now. after the possibili. That..r. in Britain-it has had a rich conversation (see Turner before we even perceived that./ . implicitly. ethnographers of the archive Let us begirito . are not like objects in a supermarket. if we are to cut fresh pathways through old thickets.. Nor. already well inscribed in social theory and philosophy.-----""'".that lies. And raphies and choosing the most congenial candidate. in much historical imaginatiYc sociQlogie~"(.g"Jyt. is itself a myth-wQ!:~~. and colonizers-we follow Croce's ([1921] 1959:51) the~~.hasbecn especiallya.IQllS The distinction between ideological and objective history may no longer the J<l1l1!. which go back plural-in their appropriate context.A~\ls.\yf~i.mancipatory.cLatt. now. He wrote. shape of their world. "factu.aIltQr. conquerors.git. In the absence of principled theory.. or to such "counternarratives" as feminism.ll anthropology. Rosaldo 1986). Recall Thompson's there are no "universal criteria of connexion and sequence". --. il1_q~~er ~g~I."'-. How Qften are we not at pains to show that the chronicles part company. Tbey have drawn. L.a.iQ§.cultyraLhi. from the bottom up. with all this in mind. in sum.."'.al"chronicles. psychoanalysis.1?r:9bl~ms.~ is true of the past as perceived.tQ.Lpeople glo~<lLJegacy of social thought. to. :ln~L<:y~n from silences. pure ideology in servitude to power. Given the reluqal)ce.stor.'to invoke the memory of Edmund Leach individualism.!lJ1(:tJhei. toward what kind of histol!<. it is all too easy So.id.ea. in a single African society.t.9.. as we should all be aware by perishables casually bought or brushed aside.\lJ~.ro. who validate our endeavor as ethnographers..~es all. from limits of authority.. ~e?~e. more than any other social scien­ cQIlnexionanrl sequence.at alternative (gendered.~211:l:tiQ!1s f()!.r W()r~ds. By contrast. But it is quite anotbcc thjng tQar.a sU~"y"~rsive. ways of knowing. is entirely much further than we often realize (see. <. is one to be found by surveying existing historiog­ of an age gone by.g.<l:. exacttY:doesethriography'fu'T~to it? It follows. lc::...1hat. Comaroff 1984. that it is possible to recover fr0In fr!l$!ne_l!!§.h:..the" rawrn.\nsweqh~_q.ma.~'L. Qf b~!Qri. but still val­ Kelly's (1984) feminist critique of orthodox practices of periodization in uable-that ideas.i~. suprahistorical purchase on reality..yggl:?y_~~~enjpg ical" history.bpqIQgy} 9nC.~~rT!1[~}ili·~&. that we do not find a ready answer assume that no human actor can ever "know" his or her world in its in the methods and models spawned by the recent rapprochement of totality. even stratified) histories and world­ revealing that all social fie~ds .:fL~~ gr I2ric~.a.. st entrenched in Western popular discourse and. a confrontation of signs andpractices.. Johnson 1979). the now familiar line that marks out the w~e? And how. ~<?c.c. are scr~Pte(t ~~inaccordance" .. as we have suggested. T948:92f) description of myth: It is the past as told b. which-at least. Cohn 1980. and only primarily on lilll~.. Indeed. generational. Nadel (1942:72) drew the attention of anthropologists in the wake of recent crises. For it is one thing to the way in which we call the question.historical. the work of dispas­ What.. between "ideoIQgical" and "objective" history. or a Foucault.{c. long before culture was seen to be a fluid.Qgly ski's (e. How often do we not explain away their failure to act in their own interest. The first recalls Malinow­ and subalternism.equal to account-authoritatively.~sp. e. But eventually we m.. the mute and the muzzled.2111..<:ol1cei!:.gare to ourselves an exclusive.~~ otPQ. or to act at all.l!<?"'\l\lJ~<igc. Of those who did turn to systematic approaches-especially (1961 :2).J. on ~riip<:r...g.ts. The method in ourmatice. J.. as our brief excursion into fhistoire e. European history.aIl. THEORY. rarely exists (or ever existed) in the singular.n..1l~Ql?1e". now. usage here 17-are distortions.' ".. Many years ago.•• with. with partially integrated mosaic of narratives. authentically.ic. Uniyer~al historiography..a~<. by seeking to show that they perforce misrecognize the "real" signs and III structures that sustain their subordination? In so doing. there may be 1990:68f.al anthropology do to cross an invisible boundary.whiciLweanthropoiogists have. and the field alike tend to become hermeneuts by default. This th.QL~ th3J"~l!\n. the w. by the dispossessed and the disenfranchised.ofcommdruI11~ . often contested.~~}19 pur:pwn way through thetnaze. go unquestioned in the musings of metahistorians." Nadel did not go on to point out that "ideolog­ tists. ethnographic and historical alike.stq reflc. by the less deterministic visions of a Gramsci to the distinction.m:'~ maps. ETHNOGRAPHY. 1981. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 19 18 eye. finding in that ls.~-'-~' ".~-"".wci.ners. To dredge up the lexicon des menta-lites indicates. one thing to situate the natives' points of view-note.!IQ$ <:9r:ollary i:>eing that our version is more objective.

to our intellectual heritage.historical anthropology begins by eschewing the ~ the second use of the past.ges (Mitchell 1956b. Do not misunderstand us: Some of these studies. see Chapter 4). and neomodernist anthropology. stat!~tica. lifeless aggregate If our historical anthropology is anti-empiricist. arrive at aggregate descriptions of social structures by illuminating. to verify. senior sons typically inherited their was concerned with time (as if this were the same thing. More often than not. blood-and-guts narratives of social struggles. for example. Reminiscent of Levi-Strauss's (1963a) statistical very possibility of a realist. were based on of brute empiricism-not to mention accusations of insensitivity to its oWJ). we had empirical days of the controversy in Britain over the relationship between history justification for the claim that the "principle" of primogeniture obtains. is to show as cogently of existing social systems." if utterly undiachronic. Let us explain what we mean show. seems to have said as much.!hcl!L~ndowing a slipper~ abstraction with false 1" The first form was confined to analyses of repetitive processes of thel Concreteness. and Smith to say that they "have" an asymmetrical alliance system." a figure of analytic speech used for rather different theoretical ends considerable pel.a nations.J::fut sig~~~ts toward causal expla­ short and medium term-analyses we would barely recognize as histori. Recall the early from father to s~nior son a certain number of times.~positioning and provis ionality." However much human beings railed against the contradictions on the long road from the early Marx to late phenomenology.In short. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical ImaginRtion 21 20 Most notable among them were studies of.the is highly provisional and reflexive. once again. To 1980).L~~~t:<lI.be meaningful when used as an historkal essences become essential.~Qf. These were the days when Evans-Pritchard (1950. we had been matically awkward tense shift from historical past to ethnographic present: doing history all along-and neither could nor should do otherwise. in spite of our claims to the contrary. Perhaps this is the hallmark of a same". Thus Barnes (1954:171) retraced 130 years of Ngoni history in the degree that our analytic strategy may still count as objectivist. Schapera (1962). or ~n e!!g:ntialil!t. distinction that itself is to be interrogated wherever it surfaces.gl1~ to parochial it is. Meillassoux 1981). Evans-Pritchard «(1961] 1963:55) observed that as possible how they are constructed: how realities become real. like the objective of rriany others. or fought with one another. blessed the rapprochement with our "sister discipline" at its annual con­ Judiciously and imaginatively used. its. with hindsight. ETHNOGRAPHY. consigned to the uneventful register of "struc­ criticisms raised most recently by postmodernism but also by many before tural time.rticul. by Brown and Lyman (1978:5). among Marxists concerned with the repro­ it empower and in what manner? Are there other forms of historical duction of systems of domination (e. ()fr~~a!i()l!s_ ~~()~~ to have endwed . ~_~~!. a not purely the preserve of British functionalism: It was to reappear later. Turner 1957) th~ts()u. but_tl:ley.1ce!!~E1I:. This reduction was anthropology at all. by way of Braudel (e.their Any historical anthropology that sustains a fixed dichotomy between cy:~l!ca.!lre. and so a long.lly twentieth centuries. If a distinc­ of their world. THEORY.l dynainics. when read across cultural registers. when It recapitulates the methodologically uneasy move from data to generaliza­ the Association of Social Anthropologists of the Commonwealth finally tion. anti-objectivist. that is-is how Goody 1958) and villa.al_so__c:!. Ifwe could it is also anti-statistical and anti-aggregative.. colonial conquest is distilled into a two-dimensional. . about the very idea-the Western idea of universalism.e~tfQY!lt_e. Not OEJy.".. was the historical study of social institutions. captures well the spirit of the matter. 21 Note the gram­ (1962) argued that. succession among the Zulu had actually passed with reference. if Highland Burmese men had married the daughters of their 1961:20).quite different forms of historiography being discussed.. history to form.time. this kind of history may be sugges­ -m" ference (Lewis 1968). that." Echoes of Annates. their actions were always seen tion between the ideological and the objective is to appear in historical to reinforce the system in place. anti­ termed "[the Ngoni] political order. . we might be persuaded thetics against science. event to structure.9QJh~yjnrite other than Leach (1954).g.a ism. how "a termlike 'structure' can only .18 It is clear. Quite the opposite. Similarly.. of historiography founded on the "anonymity of numbers" (see that there are no es~ences andrealities in the world. misleadipg. consciousness in the same contexts? Are they expressed or suppressed? By Altogether more recognizably "historical.g. it order to show that "the form of (their] social structure [had] rernaine!i . invoking Maitland (1936:249)."2°Less grand in scope.u::ly .. 14). lined us up with art and aes­ mothers' brothers in a given proportion of cases. Who does more fashionably addressed. in rates andincid~nces. migration. never to transform it. for instance. how materialities materialize. the ideological and the objective is bound to run into all the old problems especially those of the Manchester School in Central Mrica. and anthropology.ovec. This is not to say models. that there were three 19 tive. In the Southern Tswana chiefdoms of the nineteenth and early at all now. then. was what means? InjJJl!l l. but similar in essentialist-except in the amended sense in which we deploy these terms­ object and spirit.. when Leach (1961).point was. .-dj)westic groups (Fortes 1949. history. however. it is primarily as a cultural artifact. although they were often cited as proof that anthropology rea. ol!!. us to reify institutions. it invites the justifiable perceptive. descriptive accounts But our objective.. p. But the latter were removed from history.iQd. tortured story of state formation. But nobody. we would argue. "Symbolic real­ e~pres$~i~o_~<i~X~()t~.

hi. The first concerns the t1uid.. There are also three constructive lessons. fragmentary character of social reality and fragmentary realities (see following discussion). an "as if" in which claims were argued.. misinformation. They may manufacture state.. But. continental and glooalcoptext or Dumont (1957:21) once put it.9. for actor and analyst alike. But they did not necessarily do so because For Leach (1954.e.!hen tr~atin~ the. siu-abl¥. abetted practices.~. encouraging a countermovement-itself impelled by the self­ odS--defkct-:uui"attenfion away from the problematicqualii:y of habii:ual interested actions . es sa.!ll. and that it is acted upon to ensure intelligibility in the face of (. fragmentary ComaroffI978).v. "System. Most communities.~. as apalysis-apd.im. fell somewhere between..tat:i.o y.C" oge. thereby separating The third mode of historiography in contemporary British anthropology... Whether or a study somet. It also resonated with Bakhtin's to the assertion-often made. contradictions) ofthat "type" would manifest culture. social reality never "forms a coherent whole.i1l9r.mpowerment. "processes in time. 8).--=-either transformation within an existing order or the alteration manner in which succession struggles were culturally constructed..$_9f Want to avoid.!. the \ ': statistical statement. hierarchical. because it affords a means by which otherwise ascriptive norms. But the latter were not static: They were constantly moving in for~.~sl}l.. is the mode of enchantmellt t:JlaJ.(:2) 1m:. 22 THEORY. each stands as a ant!!topQ1QGY toward prac. . that all are i~herentlyunstable gumlao." Perhaps most representative of this Within line. by nature. that gave form to such struggles (Bourdieu 1977:19f). C9 to which we find ourselves much closer in spirit. The ~" don and the bases .alizl!-the behavior of homo economicus in the Kachin Hills.~'scieQ.rppi&yiry:•. position was Leach's remarkable Political Systems ofHighland Burma (1954). it was ba~ed on the (~)resor_ting" none.s.e~'~egones." As they did so. and (3) the recognition that aU that.histQJ'ical _ Leach has been taken to task for (I) relying on crass utilitarianism.' they have the capacity to render soft facts into hard fictions. Kachin.. hiding their historicity by mys..t-!~~.!ld. Leach would have scorned any postmodern sugges­ . to account for hUII1anmoti~~." But. But whIch they are part (Ortner 1984:142). "democratic" gumlao polity. . rarely made good on-that societies are (1981:270) insistence that the holism of (linguistic) systems is posited.direction of either the Shan or thegumlao "type.. and external conditions (Leach 1954: 212). and Shan as ideal "types"-without . 22 By virtue of the chang. L. too. 8).24 as we said. invisible connections between social phenomena may be traced out and Likewise. hence they are to be added to our negative checklist.to. We are not concerned here with evaluating these criticisms. inevitable. Many are familiar with his ethnographic case: In Highland close and ambiguous kinship ties that often linked spouses before marriage Burma. general admonition. it was the logic of practice." It is.tWg!htUl. t.12~J1. of Consequently. is always a fiction. given that accounts of this kind come in a highly persuasive formations.4)." therefore. not a set of necessary analytic fiction. groups were caught up in a dynamic pattern were commonly (re)negotiated during their lives together (see Chapter 4). autocratic Shan and marriage may do worse than tell us nothing. some 150 years.auseful c~SsOn-:-AnythingbiifstatrStlc'aror--mductlve.t1ce theory (Fuller and Parry 1989:I3j. to the queSi-roiceiialrify~'ln'-feduCing ll).id to ~a.s. numerically based generalizations about Tswana succession political order. but they simply could not decide matters one model of the world.me-a­ Political Systems of Highland Burma certainly has its shortcomings.sub. As this implies.!lJg~!:j9.~J. it is a way or the other. appealing to diverse values.B.hi§t2ry to a repetitive pattern of (bipolar) social equilibriuQ).<?. .titj.'...i!.in our internal inconsistencies (i.ti.lt all social orders exist in time. we are told..essy "nat}. however.is a.qeI"tQ. most distressing of all. ~ibingDHmsa. as has often been said. something that any historical anthropology would call. to situate local systems in the wider PQli~ical and social wo~lg.tEel~s_s. thes~mei:h­ themselves.mioo.. .luime": Internal of the principle of primogeniture. (41J~i~ing to locate Highland Burmese communities in.'~eyer¥-tealso(-":t.~:)JJh~ir <.~l)•. (§1_r.. is only part of the story. the question of order." not given. What is more. egalitarian.y.lal iSE.process.in sacrificing p~lyphony equilibrium. For normal sociology there maY net effect over the long run. the other.23 th.edu~iE. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 23 fathers' property and position. the decentralized. was a pattern of oscillating beendur{ng appe~l in ignoring ~ultural a..l?ieSLQfour. in so-calledgumsa Indeed. to be drawn from this worthy effort to give expression Cr. and that.ec.. anticipated by many years (ILthe move in not they are justified (see Fuller and Parry 1989:12-13).y.aL processes Qf!h~JQQ& . the explained. ongoing.i.to.of individuals who. Tl. made themselves into senior sons in the course of these processes 0.e. that there are no prehistoric "anthropolog~cal sOOeties~'''to recall Caocian's (1976) extraordinary term. One was the highly centralized. universalist cliche.. "history is the movement by which a society reveals itself as what it is. also provide~. for reasons having to do with the politics of affinity here. ETHNOGRAPHY. of movement between two polar types. a~Qmth..ruIl. Leach added. a al1~hropology. two idealized representations.cal and generically dynamic. men of its structure (p. makes'truth "empirIcal.tifyingtheir meaningfuLconstruc-:' the process of structural change by pursuing their own ends (p.the rules of rank might have provided the rhetorical terms and inconsistent (p.$0 be it. 5)-is perennial.. hllman communities are shaped by an interplay between internal forms or rather challenges.. CUlture from society and reducingitto the "outer dress" ofsociaLa~tion.J~<:~1!~L~eaW:j~s.

conception of social history.chal­ Here. it is one thing to recognize the undeniable. Leach's analysis and parochial systems. remember. universal and local cultures.. it by appealing WIiisrorlcal modds ofgl?balpr<:>. because the world is experienced as ambiguous and incoherent. he is not military men. Again.!l:n~~r()p()I~. The second lesson of Political Systems of Highland Burma applies to . biogra­ internal capacity for transformation (cf.g. that. e. and Bour­ values and. So do some notable attempts to resituate them don that... The This may seem old hat. for that matter./ and from the arguments that followed in its wake. a narrative genre-lies at the methodological core of much ethnography how much have we really advanced on our old conception of "traditional" and history. 28 Its most structural time (Gluckman 1965:285f)-until. Collier and Yanagisako 1987) or. Marx. Leach falls back on a classical. For. multifaceted surfaces. ~ntly J2!1t. They can disabling. by which social science breathes life into the currently fashionable concern with the encounter between international data. or ministers of state. Qrmodels of the ment. ETHNOGRAPHY. Terminological niceties aside. then.Qut compelled to share the two fundamental tropes of Western historiography. missionaries.g. Indeed. Guy 1987) treat them as . manufacturers..lsJJf European culture. yet few demonstrate their personal conflict.(. society is formless. Sahlins 1981).Jhe. Coquery-Vidrovitch (1976:91) said fifteen years situation of structural functionalism is similar: For all its ostensible concern ago that "no one doubts any longer that precolonial societies had a history. Meillas­ soux's Marxism. to show that. neither be presumed nor posited by negative induction. that._. feminist anthropol­ Highland Burma. ogy (see. whatever the merits of Leach's account.iUs.l91ki. because we do thought. without some way. because social life seems they have been enmeshed in global connections for longer than previously episodic and inconsistent. in particular. "cold" cultures? Of local worlds trapped in repetitive cycles of But there is danger here.. And yet. which find their way into much. societies.~apab.27 never quite laying down their ghosts once and for all. the recognition of differ­ ences-anthropology: wi1Lc.~~JCi~J ~<?~!9~· the event.-enons. say. motives and (rational) modes of action. journal. Political Systems of at worlds other than our own through the eyes of. It_Y"ill alsQ leave intact the don. and pelled along its paths by the machinations of merchants. is a preemptive historicities-note.i~..Qotinue. again. the implication is h~!9l'icity of non-Western societies. But we have should make sense of even the most chaotic and shifting social environ­ not ended up with any -senerally a~cepted theories.!1ot cou~t~." with the nomothetic. Wolf 1982).ossibkt9 tht. as has been said ad nauseam. Good intentions not­ raises the difficult question of whether historical anthropology is forever withstanding.g. has to do witlL"units /l~ the historical anthropology of the modern world order.. of grasping those or a structure-the fact that we are unable to discern one at first blu~hjs h~-rdly. Wolf's world system. Note that the master motif of the Kachin ill Westem J. another to give account empirical scaffolding of life histories. is no bad clear. t. it came increasingly to rest. they suffer "historical accidents. In offering his methodological "peripheral" populations do not acquire history only when they are im­ individualist account of structural drift. e. on an Still. and the like. in the ethnographer's notebook it typi­ reconceptualize "precapitalist systems" (see. . We require good grounds for claiming the nonexistenceo. especially processes the individual and the event. albeit often unobserved. Of course. ~hI!e _~ustainiI!g. or Max Weber. however provisional. broken. if our models are supple enough. social dramas of inter­ of it. often methodo­ usually due to contacts with foreign formations"? Even recent efforts to logically naive. incoherence and disorder. THEORY. was Qscillating equilibrium.~t!!lg.LS¥Stem thing. The very idea would probably have struck This 1S not to denIgrate the lllSlghts that have come from looking anew him as a lamentable failure of the analytic imagination. not that they were inherently. case studies.. Biography is anything but innocent. historical writing.allegedly witQ. in itself. within World History (e. a great epochal movement Eur~£~an "social f9!1Uatigns"-whetherthese be described in the language realized in a cumulative series of incidents animated by (universal) human of Levi-Strauss. ()pposition between historiography and ethnography. most of which merely show that it must therefore lack all systematicity. e~Jent lh~L. that nothing lies behind its particul~r ways-all ~long. it is impossible to restore histo. that is. ~_hf!'pe learned much from them. the (1972:101) startling revision of genesis. stressing rather the phy-the optic that fuses individual and event into both a worldview and (a priori) mechanics of their reproduction.ry to peopies. it can have no regularity.ahistorical models of non­ past.p. to oLanalysis": the terms. have actually to be dem. set but to disinter the dynamic structure underlying a diverse (dis?)array ofsocial arrangements and representat~ons. histm:icityJ?La!l. . 25 l"3 'The last lesson to be taken from Political Systems of Highland Burma.and discoo~c­ shadows of its own dominant narratives. the shift to the plural. Models of noncapitalist orders abound.og~trated. is. 26 Perhaps that. Structuralism has long obsessed over the individual and UJ:\!Illin.hSY dieu's embodied practice.t i~ 'ther~. to cite Meillassoux's articulate textual vehicles in our own society are the private diary. events.cesses. Sahlins's structuralism.<!J..pi?orth.()my:. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 25 24 resolutely prehistorical.I~~408. thence to arrange them into expository narratives. as he tells it. classicaUy ethnocentric.cal ~q1l9my.to cast "other cultures" in the timeless lenge to the deconstructive impulse of the 1990s: A!>sence . internally dynamic-if in their own not see its invisible forms. as we said earlier. and the memoir..~!nUy alone in finding it hard to escape the liberal modernism of his own histori~.

in the first caUy appears in the guise of the life history.~\]Jl1 methean mode.. consensual signs and contested images? Precisely how are mean­ "I.reas.. ~jgm. comparatively.tis:~~~id1.mi. patently ideological modes of inscription. impartial instrument.. mil~e. Nor is it a passive.<?i~~. image~..-!n:<lS_tion:l sig!1 ifiers. within their diverse cultural an instrument of bourgeois history-in-the-making. involved in tracking the movement of societies and peoples of his or her destiny in a world made by the actions of autonomous through time. and to pay little heed to the social and cultural forms that tutes a closed." an image of a self-conscious being freed from the webs of enchantment ingful atoms of human action and interaction contrived? The lessons we and possessed of the capacity to gaze out at.the .. at this point. It is a short step from this to a vision of History and Society as the dramaturgy of intersecting lives: a contains within it polyvalent. more generally. threatened.. we are said to Clearly.." Our more immediate worry. Still the have laid down the terms in which they may be represented-and. the stuff of counterideologies and "subcultures"." It is this fantasy that leads historians to seek social causes in both perceptual and practical.Soiial actors and their scripts. the place to begin is with the idea of culture itself. And and aesthetic.~~IW\lYs silently shape and constrain human action. they pose three challenges to any historical anthropology: (1) "biographical illusion. dominant worldviews and polyvalent hood. is that for the Comaroff 1991: 13f). to find order in within the world historical processes of which they are part. the individual and the event have others may become more or less unfixed.dsewhere (Comaroff and the universe. Barker (1984).. historically unfolding ensem­ theater in which. entirely coherent system. potentially contestable messages. Here. b. a historically situated. others may If historical anthropology is to avoid recapitulating the eccentricities be heavily contested.b~.ogs.act ol5ktQf. "agents.. "private" specific.nSld of most part social science persists in treating biography as a neutral. at any moment in time.detaikd. of the mentalites. by recent developments in cultural studies and "cultural poet­ .g. at Q!!~e.. in both anthropological keyword par excellence. ~ctions. systematic conquest of the universe. more generally. yet and ethnocentricities of the West.l. considered in light of our dialogue with Phistoire des of biography as history personified.aoo I£present them­ parent window into history. ETHNOGRAPHY. Indeed. Just how are they constituted. life-histories bespeak a the early rapprochement of history and anthropology-converge in these notion of the human career as an ordered progression of acts and events. among others.ot . (2) to disinter the endogenous historicity of local worlds. into our own measures of being-in-time (cf. the bounded individual is even a salient unit of subjectivity? What of observer and subject. At just.ies~ It is not merely "biographical illusion": to regard persons and performances in the Pro­ a!L!l\:>.. w. we should say something of its Gusdorf (1980:29). or renders indeterminate.<ll'!9 ~ . We began to lay these out in OfRevelation sensibility of selfhood. in any case. For. a singular dialogic contrivance place. consequently. Quite the contrary: Cultt:lr. it serves to perpetuate the selves anlio~l1.s!!. P. culturally and historically? What determines.rclatiQQ~ (lIp. relatively freefloating. the "life story" is by situating being and action.tQ. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 27 26 actions of human beings in the world? What decides whether. historical anthropology in a critical key. Gusdorf mayor may not be correct about the "systematic conquest of ~" ics" (Greenblatt 1990:3). Having set the scene for our of epochs and civilizations. one strand in the process contexts. in short. Neither pure langue nor pure parole. potentially. history as biography aggregated.signs.. it never consti­ individualism. as the narrative spotlight narrows ever more sharply on bJ~_.h~n"_thcil: sD"ie. As a draw from Political Systems ofHighland Burma-and. as we well know. THEORY. trans­ signs and.. the . to find the motors of the past and present in rational c:>f habitualpractkes... the world.r!<lL'!lld~mbDlik. more or less tightly integrated. ~qLis. L<l.~ take culturc..Sl9r. in the eighteenth century. In so doing.I}. then. questions. The former is strongly associated with the rise. will be woven into context dissolves away into so many shadows." Anthropologists. and measure.mnnm<::. rupture the basic tropes of Western historiography-biography and event­ Inasmuch as it records such actions and events. made into subjects. we offer the briefest synopsis.. argues that it "has been of good use in the and Revolution (1991)..ti~andhi. Yet the diary and the life history are culturally is it in any social context that constructs utilities and rationalities...~~~. of bourgeois person­ motives and collective consciousness.. relatively explicit worldviews. Some of these. in order to understand better their place individual action and social action in individual causes. and (3) to events by putting events in order. whereby private thoughts and deeds are woven into the collective narratives At this point a shift in voice is appropriate.. of form and society and selfhood according to which everyone is..~~E}~h~. terminate in their value and meaning. text-a sad proxy for life-becomes all. traces its roots back to the Cartesian symbols.QI). we wish to allow the essays to speak for are alleged accessories in aU this: By translating the experience of others themselves. as we stressed earlier..hJJJni!. It is.r§." Bourdieu (1987) caUs it. in control incoherence.ous.stlifit:~s. a modernist fantasy about to address the equations of structure and indeterminacy. not senses of the word. noting that autobiography is peculiar to the Western positive conceptual foundations. from medium of (self-) representation. if anything it is enhanced. and inde­ everywhere to be treated as problematic.th~~~~~Jllis:"'.ri.e. Fabian 1983).

d.repertoire ofpolyvalent images an.thei!:5C:mStltution and determination.it place will be that of the dominant group. its bege:m­ is well taken. by the same token." we are told.. and consumption of signs and objects..<:l. .mrt. be all too human.Qrld i. That IS why it has been described as a process rather than a thing.~te!:()_dQ~1... medical knowl­ Hegemony. The manner in which a sectarian underlies the differences. makiOg of both subjectivities and realities.. collective symbolic.all. having contrived.. its systemic and indeterminate features: the fact. But it also immerses itself in the forms of everyday life. Obviously.on tbs:pther.. is never automatic. abIlity "of' human beings to shape the lives of others by.!!!!j9~econtrol over the terms in which the w. often sparked by contradictions • 'I. con­ gemony-which may fruitfully be regarded as the two empowered dimen­ versely. to he m what It ). short. This kind of nf}nagentive power saturates such things as aesthetics and ethics.l!~ of . but it is directly implicatt. specific issue.. It qI. ideology that h<!S--. at its most effef:r. "Power. For it is only through repetition that things cease to be perceived a!though its infusion into local worlds. silences.!s.d. and material forms comes to be explicitly negotiable.. the ideologies of the subordinate their positive guise. more or less consistent deployed. and true shape of social beiug­ invisible. culture and history.. Here. must be sustained in such a way as to become taken for granted as the natural. exerting control th~y too \ViII call actively upon them-even if only to dash their symQols.. the terrible any social grouping (Williams 1977:109). ETHNOGRAPHY.. we would argue. OY.. Hegemony.in populations also hav~ ideologies.::onven~io~a! pract. that come to.. t£.i. b~come salit:nt.. be "adde(:CJo As this)mplies.nnot. as values.I!l0nyand )deology. And. they do. over the"prodtiction. if carefully worldview may be more or less internally systematic. universal.. S9metimes it appears as the (rclar.n. at that moment it becomes the subject. at once. material practices. above.on. t added into the equation.nd '!llmn:~ stheme . Still. a process to . as long as it exists.not negative guise.~~qf~. this the often unspecific. may express hitherto voiceless experience.ices thathav~ come ~. 28 THEORY. Thisis .I9.r_~~i.. a .:'itore lik. offer a cogent way of speaking about the force of meaning and in its outward forms. the regnant ideology of any period or embrace... HegemOny is beyond direct argument.been egge ... Qfjdl:O~_QJ counterideology.. in their neutral guise.power in the ~~eI11()fl:r£. itself in such a way as to to invoke Marx and Engels (1970).t..Q_Qrdinate ~ P~~!d. th~aU~QL1?~_a. valu'Cs:-~nd beliefs of a kind that can be abstracted as [the] 'worldview' " of This.d rrac~ises. in spontaneous images and popular styles. Carried in everyday practice twins of much recent social theory.. be as Foucault understood. no hegemony is ever total (Williams 1977:109). Ideology orIgmates m t~e ass(!~tlQ. Being "natural" and "ineffable. a. what it puts beyond thelimits of the thinkable.nther.dere. however. eiIlpowered by the instrumental force of the s.eiYIo)e£e. Rut. being axiomatic.d.. why some practices seem to be consensual. . insofar as they try to assert the!l1..st!:uq~ an~ . even chaotic. although th~ degr~eofjts appears. We take hegemony to refer to that order of signs am! various modes of production. in appear to be ideological at.eLilie. Indte. that a prevailing cuI ture no longer hides. therefore. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 29 i It has been widely ar~:u:ecl in recent years that the concept ofCilltux. It follows that it . also.and material production. for.t<:>.. and the relationship. logic of prevailing cultural fo!":'ms..is that part of a dominant. ideology describes "an articulated system of meanings. drawn from a specific cultural field. Th~ generale?~~~ meanings.. Typically. albeit with a cautionary amendment: P~iijt~lf . 1~7!. it involves the assertion of control over Let us elaborate.'!' : .as. that go without saying: things that. will the extent to which it js h. iU!tl!!eiigeology. invites argument.QQt ony is threatened. between ideology and he­ world view actually comes to naturalize structures of inequality-or.ive) s~b'. f (l-gpntive mode.£ermeate a polltl<:alcoIll!l1~l'l~ty. .. always liable to challens.and. others not.This ~s of inhabited history and imagined wOl.hen.~.nor outside of.in . as constraints.a preeminence may vary a good deal. it provides an organizing the meaning afforce-the inseparabi. the'commonplace comes to be questioned-is always a historically sions of any culture.9f @i. is the basic difference between h~gem()ny . since it determines why some signs are domil}iut. is an intrinsic quality of the social and the cultural~. built form and bodily representation.I._~s}Ilcapable ofgrasping the meaningful bases ofeconomy anci so~ sl!!:>ject of explication or a~gwnent (c£ Bourdieu 1977:94. of injmical opil'l~on and interest' human agency.ive.i. as an orderly worldview . evellwhen they are backed by the technology of terror. This distinction between modalities of power and agency. we suggest.. so. tangible w.sJS. circulation. notwithstanding the fact that the interests they serve may aru:t fie!1~e is more open to contestation.' forms that direct human perceptions and practices along conventional a particular social gr~1!p." such forms seem to be beyond is.then. others disputed­ is seldom contested openly. may be unmade.ngs ~t the same time. then. And its effects are internalized-in their natu?alized and.its jin~ge} goes. Although we regret and self-conscious texts.. their determining capacity. devalued use of these terms. produc:tion. on the one hand. th~~in s~ch a way as to solve the great conundrums of history and society. however. m~ter narrative. the. as conventions. Clr. ideology pathways. ~nd i<feology. Conversely.. has to be why its power seems to be mdependent of human agency. are not normally the ~t constantly has to be made and.tate.~y: tbe Or remarked.n i~~!f.. that they become so habituated as no longer to be noticed.lity.orlqjs. moment that any set of values..su. :Fhey also serve to reframe the i5k~ . It consists of ~N. both symbolic and material-control that. that.ved "as a ma~teJ.11. is where h~~.

for the systems to which chaotic. styles that do not conform. highly systemic yet unpredictable.hegemonic practice. to be at the same time (and certainly over time) coherent yet Situating our fragments is thus a challenging task. among them the metro. This. for us still are asked to make a choice. TQe_C!!. it must be founded on a conception of culture and" "Significant causes of our modern difficulties" (McCracken 1988:xi). the more. and marginal minorities. images. This shift. self-evidently. Sometimes these are implicated in open power structures. such things as electronic media.29 society that takes us beyond our traditional stamping grounds-one that And so we have remained largely in the countryside. strategy for studying "complex" situations was either to turn to the Whatever. simultaneously ordered and disorderly. is everywhere dualistic-this being one of those realities for which in their own ethnographic right." informal economies. But so is the inevitability of proliferation. the more of its ideology will disappear into the domain of . it long that turns out to be. however. mosaic of narratives. THEORY. of course. is illusory. The premise of unification. however. all-too-easy means of bounding analytic ing forces: dialects that diverge. In the great confrontation between modernist and postmodern perspec­ "SUbcultures. doxically. all neady circumscribed phenomena. . ETHNOGRAPHY. "high" ought to have respect. they are sensual yet internally contradictory. But the conclusion is clear: With a sufficiently supple view of sociology of networks and symbolic interaction-to a methodological culture. We should not deny them coherence merely because its hegemonic dimensions. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 31 30 which all ruling regimes have to pay heed. polyphony. systemic. At anthropology is to work creatively at the frontiers of ethnography and the best. And this. however defined. we have felt ill equipped to broach. we resistance to capitalism. the less successful. consensual. brings us back to the question of method. authoritative. sometimes they express them­ face-to-face sodalities-seem to dissolve into thin air. we may begin to understand why social life everywhere appears individualism. these have been regarded as forces eroding traditional orders or as historical imagination. Until very recently. all social fields are swept by contrary waves of production and material practice empowered in complex ways. Yet. do we do an ethnography of the historical imagination? How using it to explore consciousness and representation. Note that we say everywhere. far from being reducible to a closed system ofsigns and relations. historical agency and social practice. domination and resistance. We looked for dualistic. The paradox. con­ we relate them are systems of a complex sort. In Of Revelation and Revolution we take this analytic scheme further. But this the processes that make and transform particular worlds-processes that reciprocally shape subjects and contexts. we insist. to the very idea of society and are indivisibly semantic and material. is most likely to occur when the g~__l:?~twe~n the world-as-represc::nted and the world-as-experienced l)e­ IV comes both palpable and insupportable. our selves in mundane activity of indeterminate intention and consequence. and mass media of Europe and America. CUlturally distinct archipelagoes. counterforces that concentrate and fix them. su<:cc:~sfl!~r. hence. has practical consequences. they do away from simple structures and local systems. and signifying practices. In the past. para­ culture. at least as traditionally seem eternal and universal-at least for the continuing present. mentalities. on ethnic islands and travels easily to a newer generation of field sites. a field of symbolic said and done. The thick with meaning. wilLbe opened to contest. global and local social orders. for ritual and tives on the world. coherent. Over time. unity and diversity: by forces that diffuse power and meaning and by In sum. But alongside them there are always countervail­ deprives us of our conventional. If a culture. that is. each of which emphasizes one side of the dualism. sometimes they erupt in parody. any culture does present itself as relatively they refuse to reduce readily to simple structures. Its forms-which is essential to collective life-and. Above all. or the semantics of commodities. then. do we contextualize the fragments of human worlds. the discourses of science. finally. of the meaningful world is always fluid and ambiguous.()~e. In systems nonetheless. where the connective tissues-the processes and pathways of struggles. a partially integrated some limitation to the "chaos of variety" (Holquist in Bakhtin 1981 :xix). that allow certain things to be \ requires that we treat culture as a shifting semantic field. To do so is to be misled. redeeming them without losing their fragile uniqueness and ambiguity? To repeat: for us ~ and the politics and culture of colonialism. Here we seek to make a more the answer lies in a historical anthropology that is dedicated to exploring general point: that it is possible for anthropology to live easily with the concept of culture and to defend it cogently against its critics. social and symbolic-appear.~e. forcing us to enter rarified realms of floating texts and macro­ moralities and world-maps. poles. without a generic theory of society and culture-or to find enclaves within the alienating world of modernity. After all. alternative fields. its unspoken conventions. How. whatever forms are We are not alone in urging that anthropology shift its concentration powered by the force of habit are naturalized and uncontested. authoritative yet arguable. and plurality.

But it would be false to assume that in the meaningful practices of people great and small. not official records. then. on an ethnography of the archives. Cohn 1987. This. In our own work. the making of revolutions. Several of the essays that follow address the anthropology immediate environs. we had to pursue what Greenblatt (1990:14) terms the "textual ciologies or histories. Here we are more specifically concerned with the question of dissolve the great analytic divide between tradition and modernity. But. limited to the writing of microso­ Rather. The from the unruly. THEORY. popular songs. surely. a context in which anthro­ pologists might recognize their kinship with cultural historians and embark that produce them. The Naparama and their kind remain primitive rebels. then we had to retrace the (often barely visible) minutiae of their interac­ It is precisely here that anthropology has shown a failure of imagination. Being rooted analysis in unbounded social fields. Whether our topic be headhunting in the munities built and broken. domestic production. we should approach periphery." field. and here that we return to our opening theme. by the dualisms of "ethnicity" and "culture. or of a diaspora presents suitable cases for anthropological treatment. As a mode of observation. colonial suggested. even in drawings and children's is always involved in the making of wider structures and social movements. The latter. in trying to make sense of the churchmen's we have classically set our sights on particular persons and palpable various writings. '. as we processes (cf.­ interplay of subject and object. or a discernible perspective. the historical processes-the building of states. or lineage relations. choose to write about them directly. For it is in the gradual articulation of such alien worlds that local however. for that reason. grafting them onto universalist theories of society and the metonym of a global movement. theodicy Elsewhere (199l:35ff) we have discussed the general problem of re­ and theory. Nor ought we to confine ourselves to history's outstations." take on their an enduring evolutionism. made into the timeless sign of the "traditional" in the Caribbean or voodoo economics on Capitol Hill. let alone the axes of typological difference. tracts. unbounded. it need not be was obvious enough: We began with the conventional chronicles of the tied either to face-to-face scenes or to a specific sort of social subject." "regionalism" and "nationalism. each endowed with its own historicity. Nonconformist missions. But the African past would become subservient ­ Amazon or headshrinking in America (or is it vice versa?). long as we pretend that such "local" phenomena are visible in the round The methodological implications of all this are best explored by way of and are separable for heuristic purposes from anything beyond their a specific instance. whether or not we problems unprecedented in earlier studies of. Even macro­ Instead of a clear-cut chain of events. they are. of the contingent and the contextual. Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 33 32 We are the first to acknowledge that it is not easy to forge units of extension of global capitalism-have their feet on the ground. a topic now receiving long overdue attention (Amin 1984. tions. and so on-that assume the meaning and telos of social covering the histories of peoples like the Tswana from evangelical and phenomena. Clearly. as well as in novels. we had first to characterize each it from the same perspective: as meaningful practice. inhabited a world with its own history. an ethnography of the nation-state. Promethean heroes or universal soldiers. produced in the party as a complex collectivity. who would come to be known as "the" Tswana. yet such activity. as well as the wealth of reported speech about them. And . games. ETHNOGRAPHY. Many of us and universal realities come to define each other-and that markers like continue to be hampered. we processes. That assumption appears true only as accounts (cf. the colonial archives revealed a set of arguments. in conceiving open systems. in short. to how to do a historical anthropology of dominant. In order to grasp this process. even unnatural worlds of "modernity" or former were footsoldiers of colonialism. the humble agents of a global "capitalism. But we are not. is the problem resolved by upgrading mechanical models of evangelism must be understood both as a cultural project in itself and as local systems. Indeed. even when rural or peripheral. they must always be present in our possession rites.( Ethnography does not have to respect a binary world-map. a history of great political com­ less our locus than our focus. as long as we sustain the primitivist fiction that of empire. And this impedes us as we try to Guha 1983). of empire. or by literary critical methods that make ethnographic fragments selves as an integral part of the grand imperial design. The phenomena we observe may be grounded in traces" of the period. True. gifts and commodities. voodoo exorcism to the European present. and this has determined our point of entry into any cultural soon learned not to rely on any preconstituted "documentary record. its participants certainly saw them­ history." But few. less pejorative terms. Nor. traces found in newspapers and official publications everyday human activity. would wish to condemn anthropology to movement. the point of entry . Cooper and Stoler 1989). HISTORIOGRAPHY . in particular the nineteenth-century encounter between British traditional orders are natural and self-perpetuating-and radically different Nonconformist missionaries and peoples of the South Mrican interior. contrasts-between stasis and change. such pastoral archaism. Davis 1990:32). world-transforming confront global issues in more inventive. They were dialogic in . is an into exemplary texts without adequately relating them to the wider worlds appropriate site for an imaginative sociology. what should define us is a unique analytic stance. say. We are still prompted to deal in a priori meaning.

locating our fragments requires a sense of the way in which they "the" Tswana supposed "[bringing about] a revolution in their habits" (see ride the crosscurrents of division and unity at any moment. that a historical ethnography must always go and beyond the guardians of memory in the societies we study (Cohn beyond literary traces. These. through icons and images dispersed in the landscape social world. and the way to rule thropists. argument-and. For the poetics of history lie also in mute meanings transacted through ~ moreover. so Corrigan and Sayer (1985) hold that the making of the autonomous creative urge runs up against cultural constraint. since it brings a nuanced under­ from exemplary representations: If texts are to be more than literary topoi. At its scattered shards from which we presume worlds. The ambiguities. As anthropologists. In the case of colonial evangelism. a welter of domestic detail and small-scale civilities as by assertive political acts become social facts. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 35 Bakhtin's (1981:272f) sense. frontier in the complex textual field wrought by the industrial revolution. The latter expressed itself in exposed to morally vigilant mission overseers. the contradictions of the age. even argument. of how the Chapter 10). But this This implicit dimension-the study of symbolic practice-is a crucial is just a specific instance of the general problem of reading social processes Contribution of ethnography to history. we had to and economic means. both with We would insist. the collective. although persons and collectivities "somehow deter­ I -. Sahlins modern British state was a cultural revolution borne in large measure by (1990:47) notes that. of course. of cultural and historical heteroglossia that gave voice to complex patterns of The writings of the South African evangelists are especially interesting social stratification. nor to the churchgoing masses. were forged the precepts and projects of a Thus were layers of texts produced-indeed. 1987:47f). it was one in this regard. and self-doubts aired in letters to kin were not fractured by internal difference-and by diverging images ofempire locked in "socio-ideological" struggle (p. we must work both in and outside the official record. And I A historical ethnography. because these are themselves part of the culture of global mod­ by which coherence was distilled out of the often chaotic. in the orbits of connection and'" explicit consciousness. Here. evangelism. but also of the role of inscriptions of various kinds in the of the everyday (Comaroff and Comaroff 1987. of Mrica and Europe. often unconscious logic of sociocultural categories and . It cannot content itself with established canons of documentary disparate. that work address the matter by locating a flood of rapportage from the imperial thoroughgoing social transformations behind the back of a declarative. agency. and work. must begin by constructing its own so an ethnography of this archive begins to disinter the processes by which' archive. 273). an entire stratigraphy. heroic history. who were more responsive to evocative accounts of savagery.. publishable forms that framed the doctrine of humane imperialism. anthropology has never been content to equate meaning merely with in the processes of their production. And pamphlets became books. by that token. Letters became pamphlets. By" new hegemony. edge: its constructs of person. processes. beyond explicit narrative. the rise of European capitalism and the imperial gesture. correspondence was political property. of missionary experience (cf. ETHNOGRAPHY. 34 THEORY. Just as the Reverend John Philip saw that any effort to re-form Mter all. Certainly. episodic stream ernism-as much the subject as the means of inquiry. making of ideology and argument. with their strong taste for Christian heroics. and save savages. discourses were fused into a consistent ideology. For only then can we situate individual this is as true of world historical movements as it is of the most local expressions and signifying practices within a wider field of representation. they cannot. exegesis. standing of the role of meaning and motivation to social processes. revealing the range of purposes and constraints at work in the civilizing. Bakhtin 1981 :272f). Once wildness and civilization. they have to be anchored best. the relationship of individual experience to influence that give them life and force. agonies. for example. Cohn 1987:49). that is. included the Christian overseas editor's pen as it refigured authorial statements. going perhaps beyond Bakhtin.. quest. Again. nor to philan­ disputes about such things as abolition. In fact. to be liberally edited and recycled for campaigns in parliament and the tics-that we began to understand the cultural revolution entailed in both public domain. at root. but the historical role of these writings varied likewise. a new bourgeois modernism with universalist horizons excavating the career of a particular document it is possible to follow the and global ambitions. we have to operate with a working theory not merely of the goods and practices. evidence. then. by redeeming its poli. the consequences of so-called print capitalism (Anderson 1983). In order to reconstruct the annals of a cultural imagination. It was only by reconstructing this field of addressed to the mission societies. therefore. they partook of diverse genres.i mine" each other. But. though. be reduced to one another. If the colonizers formed a single block. even divisive. They differed a good deal in their intent and formality. rationalizing them into n11SS10n. the great empires of the past established themselves as much in But our methods should tell us something of the way in which personal"". Such are the tools that build hegemonies. the humdrum rituals and routines that shaped the lives of subjects. amidst all eyewitness epics of "labors and scenes" beyond the frontiers of civilization. it involved a contest over both the shape and" meaning of "natural facts" and the major constituents of modern knowl­ Not only was similar material carefully contrived for diverse audiences.

in Mrica. To us. that impulse is black nationalist consciousness was to take root. In the longer run. along with other This distinction informs the analysis of all historical processes. from the sediments of a dead community. At another. as we have stres~ed. overly coherent notions of culture. the implications of evangelical imperialism were to be fixed by the wider context in which it was embedded. The "motivation" of social practice. It also prompted a cultural archaeology of the sites of earlier evangelical It follows from all this. the pulse of "savages" into pious peasants and citizens of Christendom. its practice proclaimed forces. an initiative moved by contradictory forces whose consequences mediated by the responses of the Tswana themselves (see Part 3). aspects of colonial history. namely. This is where the relationship between the two dimen­ who wish to know and act upon them. by the very situation of the because it is multiply motivated. participated in seeding a pervasive new order that would. subordinated subjects significance has been underlined by the humanist turn in social science. the likes of which they had. the British v formal.d. We may have come to distrust churchmen were themselves contradictory products of a contradictory bourgeois world.31 Like most anthropologists. But they visible institutions into the realm of such unspoken forms as bodies. perhaps. nor social forces to the sum of unique acts (above. uous processes than with contained acts or isolable incidents that. systems of meaning have a major role in processes of proletarianization. differed radically from the stated motives of those involved. illustrations. The first is were eminently effective in transforming local lives. between commmoditized soci~Iies and natural economies. a highly purposive journey aimed at converting --. these two levels reinforced one another. must do so without falling into the trap of typifying history in general­ • --I buildings. p. subjectivity. from vapid theoreticism. Witness. but we ought not to jettison yeomanry of yore. 30 For. the evangelists failed that our current conceptual obsession with agency. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 37 36 designs has long been our stock-in-trade. Although they wished to recreate. a mission school with events than with meaningful practices-which. 25)/Second. something else. just as they were to be mission. it collective forces that. they playa significant sions of colonial evangelism-itself a highly specific encounter of the part in shaping subjectivity. determinations of their own. And their actions played signs in the world. and con­ precisely where they most hoped to succeed. which has led to calls for a greater concern with agency. where it was possible to of the principle distinctions between historical anthropology and social disinter. always exists at two distinct. in which purposive. to the contrary. make Mricans into impoverished. that our methodological concern is less activity: for example. can be said to make a difference. was a paradox of motivation. They do not just bend to the will of those decried back home. lists. it words. if related. work through them. ETHNOGRAPHY. "heroic" action was a central world view of the mission and the racist world of settler society that modern motif. In many respects. their tools and tropes also carried the imprint of the the subtle semantic models that so enhance our sensitivity to the power of industrial marketplace and its commodity culture. then. At times. a paradox that ran to the heart problematic the manner in which persons are formed and action determined of the colonial encounter. Yet. We have argued becomes particularly visible when we examine epochal movements like elsewhere (n. reconstruction of a living culture by the infusion of alien signs and Renee our historical ethnographies must be capable of capturing the commodities into every domain of Tswana life. Its salience of empire. the imperial suggests. from our perspective. under a pair of conditions: that (1) we treat as Here. but its colonizing forces. the incessant conver­ manded us to pursue the colonizing gesture beyond audible ideologies and gence and divergence of prevailing forms of power and meaning. Motivated. And this.configured) needs and desires of human beings. we are more preoccupied with ambIg­ pedagogy invisible in the written accounts. once again. will evangelists in the European scheme of things. in turn. in other "local" and the "global"-took on its real complexity. at times they produced nightmarish disjunctions and discontinuities.[b]). the windswept ruins of Tiger Kloof. as this not enough to account for the determination of the processes involved­ or even to tell very much of the story. social history. and. however open ended. even a driving impulse.rthird. that it was in the space between the liberal European colonialism. remains one built for Southern Tswana early this century. because it is always a product of complex experience these actually ran counter to their own desires and motives. At one level. and photographs-albeit now less modern (or postmodern) worlds and their "traditional" antecedents. For the . took us back to our or histories in particular-as an expression of the radical contrast between archives-to letters. this narrative told of the always be both predictable yet subject to the innovative and the unforeseen. silent and unseen. Although they And the general methodological point? There are several. levels: first. activity-activity that. and merchandise. While the mission spoke of itself and its inten­ and (2) we insist that individual action is never entirely reducible to social tions in the language of Christian conversion. THEORY. second. social life is continuous transformations borne unwittingly by the missionaries. the (culturally involved an odyssey. in The scattered signs retrieved in this quest all pointed to wider social themselves. Methodologically. empowered in complex ways. it com­ simultaneous unity and diversity of social processes. magic. Or for what they declared than for what they disclosed as maps of the mundane. and thereby rescued orthodox Protestant peasantry on Mrican soil. in fact. in implanting an sciousness can be addressed only in ethnographic terms.

it is not reducible. that we have to explain. as we show in Chapter 9. as elsewhere. How is it that particular persons and be discerned. From fraught. ~ j the changing nature of property. language and speech. each with its own indeterminacies and internal not to deny the importance of extraordinary human agency. Some acts do contradictions. This entails a move. although the impact of the Act­ habits oriented toward it). It also democratizes human agency occasion moments of great rupture. It is not that the historical encounter between motors of change than to exemplify the mingling of the prescribed and the the evangelists and the Africans was un-event-ful. it is. ascribe to more dispersed causes? Heroes water. womanhood." more precisely. The former has been neglected because it was the product structure q. This approach does not so much "nullify" the event-as did an technology. especially by Foucault . The players in this theater of the ordinary changed one have more consequence than others and. some would even say ized. just as it personifies ambiguously au­ enough instrument. then. forces of European imperialism sought to insinuate themselves into the While the body has long been an important construct in Western social non-European world. And their reception by the often bemused Mricans not entirely. Samuel's plea for the significance of the Married somewhere in the quotidian. Sahlins 1990:39. acrimonious public arguments. in their own worlds." the Nonconformist on which we can always lay hands. 38 THEORY. giving rise to the double context-the global stage ' thought (Durkheim 1947:115-116. as we have macroprocesses. ETHNOGRAPHY. Recall our earlier Insofar as global systems and epochal movements always root themselves discussion: in particular. There were many notable contingent 32 and/or to reveal the effect of cultural form upon social episodes: epic first meetings. that we take meaning to be largely. because critical postmodernism has challenged fixed notions of power and But neither is it reducible to a series of fortuitous encounters or fateful meaning. the use ofland and origins we. they are accessible to historical ethnog­ Women's Property Act over the Battle of Trafalgar in shaping nineteenth­ raphy. for instance. to an event. to cite Davis icons of-and elements in-an unfolding. Yet. but of social forces. But it is this metonymy. The pulse of these processes may fetishism. each small thing summoning up a hinterland are born not of gods. its history remains rich with agency. rather. the human body-or. hence the former (its institutional order of diffuse conflict and long-term collective action. actors can another by means of humble acts within the terrain they came to share­ become metonyms of history or. Nor. and marriage-calls for a are everywhere intimately related-so much so that their connection has processual perspective. was a drawn-out process involving two dynamic social sys­ mark rather than make the flow of existence (d. to be sure. increasingly and in ways barely real­ making (Sahlins 1985:35f). did they it in an unfolding sequence of action. this perspective. Yet. For that reason. the body politic and the body personal t "I. it has recently gained and the local mise en scene-in which all "Third World" ethnographies extraordinary prominence in the discourse of the human sciences. simultaneously reproduces and transforms home. rapidly transforming political arena. multi leveled engagement be­ (1990:28) again. It will be evident. from our standpoint. the colonial "state" was both a political century Britain. in large part. if the rising bourgeoisie. They were. it bore within it the whole thored action. Their charisma camouflages of signs and practices. however. a prosaic rather than a portentous affair in which events pointed out. in themselves. dramatic demonstrations of "miraculous" processes. two historical orders. in the most banal sense. seemed an innocent complex conditions of possibility. implicit in practice. This is tems. culture of commodity production and turned out to have enormously In the "newer social history. Clearly. we do not see it to reside in abstract was determined.nd a condition of being. some of it become almost a truism. In Africa. Similarly. we would suggest. from such major episodes as wars and revolutions to tween Worlds. too. even "heroic. and contradictory conditions. ideals and dreams especially compelling to those at the margins of the world." says Davis (1990:28). more accurately. Cohn 1987:45). and resistance. processes of domination. As pilgrims to the South Mrican "wilderness. in certain contexts. its analytic use and abuse-provides a nice commentary on Much the same may be said of the revolution that occurred when the the interpretive methodology of which we speak. But they did not make the difference. representation. of heroic-history-in-the­ although their behavior also moved. it has assumed a unique concreteness. these made a differ­ earlier structuralist history (d. and modes of healing. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 39 . significant communal projects and cultural practices. by the predicament of these peoples in a schemes or in categories that endure or change in all-or-none fashion. to embody and motivate processes whose things as agricultural technique. in everyday struggles over such events seem. except of governance) might be interrogated through the latter (the routines and ~. Colonial history does not lack for heroes or events. to the beat of global imperatives. In this context. something actions. also above)-as resituate ence. cataclysms that led to the reconstruc­ by shifting attention from the subjectivity of big men to the force of tion of otherwise unchanging social systems. events serve less as complex social consequences. The plough. Mauss 1973). it has been treated as evangelists were moved by humanitarian ideals and imperial dreams at one of the only permanent points in a shifting world. history involves a sedimentation of micropractices into The incorporation of "the" Tswana into the colonial world. Perhaps would later be done.

sexuality. and reports from the sign there is. Chapter 3). the physical object that also becomes a world of "free" individuals. van Gennep 1960. free. And. dress. As a result. locks. Often no more than an of their would-be subjects. or to like all fetishes. Rejecting aU traffic with field. for equally elusive constructs like the "person. the colon­ forms (see Sahlins 1976b. vaccinating. tend also to work on the body as fans et These objects moved along the prosaic pathways that bore the traffic of origo of the world (below. Douglas 1970. docks.sense we give it. issues of selfhood. requisitions. and counting their citizens. disrupting their rhetoric and the "natural." "the subject. The ancient English subdued H. and comportment-was a crucial mode of colonial production. and Ginz­ been seen as quintessential raw material for collective representation (see burg would lead us to expect. we were able to trace reality as brute "positivism"-as a matter of physical properties imposing the paths ofdiverse goods and practices converging on the Mrican anatomy. that collective modes of being emerge as dispositions or panding stock of objects (pots. and political associations " perpetuate what Corrigan (1988:371) terms the "Great Erasure of the tend to wear their self-awareness on their skin. has its natural habitat in the human frame. Derrida. Displaced by the text. We might anticipate. fabrics. where physical facts meet European commodities. The black body None of this is new. semantic categories (cf. in turn. have expressed their opposition to estab­ recalcitrant Scottish highlanders by cutting their hair and banning their lished conventionsl) A notable instance of this absent presence occurs in kilts (Brain 1979: 150). It is here. thereby to create a their prime instance in the body. and social order. States old and new have built their esprit de alibi. and work. human perception and social practice. the body actually loses disparaged the flesh and condemned Mricans for their "carnal" ways. civilizing goods ushered in new orders of relations-relations both historical shifts are under way. 40 THEORY." long characteristic of Western scholarly discourse. religious movements. Turner 1990:1O)-they are unreceptive Again. tools. just as and "social experience. an unremarked Poststructuralist and deconstructionist writers have perpetuated this form means by which the Christians hoped to create a new moral empire. this is an instance of a universal process (Comaroff and Comaroff to the idea that material facts have any role at aU in human experience. Still. clothing. By of idealism. ethnic groups. to consume and be consumed by social subject (T. For their part. As our encounter with Foucault. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 41 and his followers. The human body. they set about breaking the "communistic" interdepen­ role in it of such culturally mediated materialities. Lawrence to Toni Morri£On. whatever they do at the on) that the whites saw as essential implements of modernity and progress. Durkheim 1947:115f). it is given credit for animating social life. for them. in the great dialectic of the "social" was seldom far from their thoughts or deeds. find dence of Mrican persons and productive processes. themselves on passive subjects (T. symbolic and substantial-that bound local consumers to an expanding . (How different and colonizers seem typically to feel a need to reverse prior corporeal signs: this is from the frank sensuality with which some creative writers. actions displayed an intense interest in corporeal politics. conquerors Body. least of all when major 10). thus we rising classes. often making bodies into realms of contest. that those who seek to forge empires. ETHNOGRAPHY. A close Chapter 3. the body has long when least expected." corps by shaving. We discern this process most clearly in the ex­ social values. in striving to demonstrate the sui reading of the churchmen's diaries and records proves that body work­ generis quality of society and culture. in short. Outside of discourse or the splintering subject or the floating deciphering the small print of letters. Bourdieu 1977). which uses corporality as the Tswana converts into the dress of Christian decency. yet it is strangely remake existing worlds. scholars have repeatedly treated the the effort to retune the physical registers of dark persons through groom­ human physique as a tabula rasa. Wher­ because history is a synthesis of the heterogenous." In his journey through Such tangible processes are eminently susceptible to the kind of ethno-. has been fetishized. their all social relevance. This was one of the basic methods implicit in the mission. And this is the point: Precisely izers intervened in "native" cooking. hygiene. soap. level of collective institutions. Admittedly. Hegemony. that is. albeit in ways mediated by cultural In their campaign to domesticate the black body." a classical concern of social theory. Turner 1986). these disruptions yield vital dues. recipients toward material dependency. Turner seldom confronts graphic scrutiny that may divulge the hidden hand of history. a site. we cannot ignore the eVer they could. as well as the inventories of local merchants. then." it is named only to be dismissed. That is why movements of social reform. will try to impress themselves upon the physiques elusive-notably so in recent writing on the topic. by a concern colonial evangelists once again: While they talked of spiritual verities that with representation severed from material being. plastic material to be formed by arbitrary ing. 1991:19f): No technique was too trivial. sexuality. moreover. Chapter 3). Turner 1990: 1). their descendants in Africa would attempt to force Bryan Turner's The Body and Society (1984). ostensible focus for "explorations in social theory. and so motives. no enduring object world. no mannerism too meaningless '" Yet there is undeniable evidence that biological contingencies constrain to be drawn up into the sweep of history-in-the-making. from D. at least in the cultural global capitalism and its culture to Southern Africa-and carried their . as at home (see Chapter that frame can never be a struggle-free zone. These. Take our physicality at all (see T. Abroad.

Great lightenment. The making of what we term modernity in Europe can be read as schooling. The mundane practices to which they gave rise speak coher­ the capillaries of a full-blooded imperialism. In the late narratives of a world historical movement and its many local variants. The Tswana "style Bechuanaland expressed the same conviction: that "uncouth" populations wars. once more. 42 THEORY. In both contexts the process would succeed. the apparently unrelated attempt back home to "improve" churchmen alike appear to have sensed that it is things like clothing that the domestic lives of the urban underclass. Bodies. even as would-be subject populations take issue with the manifest' izing an aesthetics of class distinction. the sickening England slum and the bestial African bodies and domestic space were vital terrains ofcolonization. Later. the effort to colonize bodies hidden history of the bourgeoisie in the rise of the modern European sense and buildings did not go unchallenged. work of civic-minded professionals (like the engineers and dOctors of the Such symbolic processes. evangelical effort Was increasingly superseded by the different in critical respects. redeploying the very signs that the were complementary sides of one process. houses. patterns. In the fantastic fashions dence? Was it a co-incidence? The answer. (Mayhew 1851. There we explore In London likewise." in which local leaders tried to fight off Western dress and architec­ could be tamed through the orderly deployment of windows and walls. By tracing record. indigenous rulers of "home. those who left little other imprint on the historical to make sense of the embracing totality of which they were part. poor street traders. each nineteenth century. We ourselves draw on these insights in Chapter 10. Here.d. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination world order. and inter­ "savage life" on both continents to the specifications of bourgeois en­ nal Contradictions of complex historical conjunctures everywhere. the indeterminacies. In South Mrica. Such discourse-and the philanthropic alien culturalforms along the way-without either knowing or meaning to practice it empowered-stressed the morality of properly inhabited space: do so. on the one hand. of "tradition" and "modernity" they made new able to see that these seemingly independent instances of domestic reform identities by retooling old values. locks and lamps. to the fact that the white men's designs on their people were anything but is nowhere more clearly revealed than in their oppressively uniform public trivial. framing middle-class images of personhood. Together they weave compelling palace gates to the "mud huts" on the colonial frontier. in standard­ For. 5). whether they be in Eastern Europe or Southern Mrica. why people may be deeply affected by< with elemental values. are not limited to colonizing mo­ Domestic Sanitation Movement. that each site. a push to rebuild process itself-all the multiple motivations. sexuality. But that is a topic for another place (Comaroff and Comaroff n. we were the ideological spaces. prefer­ . ETHNOGRAPHY. became a model of and for the "other". Jephson 1907. and everyday routines bore redUcible to a simple calculus of accommodation or resistance. as we have remarked. formal state institutions. That. lay in drawing that flourished on the frontier we catch a glimpse of the consciousness of fragments together and situating them within a wider historical field. along the line that divided the increasingly marked domains. often subversive imagination. capillaries that ran from the ently to us from the ethnographic record. We should learn from them. Ultimately. were as much the site ofcolonial politics as were formal confrontations soap and sanitation. Body work also had its parallels in the realm of architecture and domestic space: Rybczynski (1986). indeed. social movements seem always to achieve both more and less than intended. is why new hegemonies may take In a world driven by property and propriety. giving free reign to an independent. Thus even those Tswana who most strenuously refused the dress of baptism. many Tswana would rework those designs into provocative housing. as we show in Chapter 9. the home was heavily invested root amidst ideological argument.[aJ: Chaps. and gender. the struggles • '." And the relentless social engineering of twentieth-century at first resisted the Nonconformists' gentle persuasion. for example. above all else. 4. finds a More immediately. For costers. thus ordinary Africans. much a movement of re-formation within British society as it was a global Reading these poetic practices is by no means straightforward. Fussell 1980) as in the development of nationalist) projects. pro­ the media that bear the messages they reject. or the passport photo­ have to explore how homemade hegemonies played into such national (and graph (Elias 1978. sanitation. ignored the remarkable similarity between. chiefs. efforts of colonizers / middle-class moralism and fashioned flamboyant life-styles of their own to reshape the habits and habitations of nineteenth-century Mricans and. How are we to interpret this coinci­ with government personnel or settler statesmen. why such processes are nevet' duction. we stress. Because' gesture. Cockney costermongers.1). Evangelists in Britain and make subjects-again. that this whole process was that occurred around them exhibited all the complexities of the colonial the political expression of a universalizing hegemony. an architecture of othering for the messages and overtures that intrude upon them. any anthropology of the bourgeois revolution wiH much in the evolution of table manners.j'l bush. Adams 1991) and by the rise of state ments. out the imaginative linkages among disparate texts and tropes. in both senses of the term. Such were the fragments of which novel totalities were being 43 constructed. that colonialism was as colonizers imprinted on the supple surfaces of their lives. they often internalize metropole as well as the colony. and on the other. ture. They seemed alive totalitarian states.

a mirror in which we see ourselves 3. Johnson (1983). rather. Our These are issues of broad concern within the discipline at present. difference. even today. proceeds. that builds on the techniques of cultural history. pursuing the dialectic of fragment and totality without succumbing to brute empiricism.1 ~ F i "other." the discipline has had very limited impact on our own culture.. cannot but be interrogated together. It was they who confronted us with the paradoxes and ironies that propel this Notes essay: that. . for example. that. There are exceptions to this. Note. for all our obsession with the effect of anthropology on the • '. black identities in South Africa Such reflections persuade us that the conundrum of similarity and were being shaped less by either indigenous or mission intentions than by difference is only to be resolved by turning anthropology on itself. the "mystic ire restricted to such relatively marginal areas as mathematical anthropology. in short. gender." "tribalism. especially in modern American anthropology. We return to this issue later. are a powerful and test themselves. Chicago Tribune. Only then will the diverse forms of the modern world­ possibility of social science. above v all. and highly specialized forms of network analysis and economic anthropology. even cartoonish panorama against which modern (that is. Such phenomena. even in apparently divided. And so we conclude our voyage into method. p. how they become the natural atoms seriously the message of critical postmodernism yet does not lose the ofsocial existence. were pro­ foundly changed by the world of commodities admitted with these inno­ warriors" of Mozambique compel us to consider our wanton ambivalences. then.. is more than a Chicago-cult. Dorris in directing much of our attention to peoples on the other side of the great 19 ( 91:17) notes that. that takes to heart the lessons of cultural indeed. by grappling with the contradictions of its own legacy. In sum. treating Africans were being incorporated into the lowest reaches of a rising its signs and practices as we would theirs. They reveal our tendency. well-intentioned film Dances With Wo/pes (1990. a token of a very common type: In a review of the sUccessful. But they everywhere different except where they are the same. Whatever were their local mean­ treating modernity (and postmodernity) as a problem in historical ethnog­ ings. director. as received categories or analytic objects conjured up as universals from both global and local." They are remind ourselves that the West and the rest. that. embod­ address them we have appealed to a neomodernist method that takes ied qualities for those who live them. their representation in the Western mass media. by the gathering forces of the colonial state. and relations between. the radical oppo­ 1. rift. of course. people as everywhere the same except where they are different-and as 4. Sunday. In order to their particular cultural content. By the end of the nineteenth century. are not to be treated which have been fashioned the significant social phenomena of our times. 1. conjunctures that set the terms of. for all the efforts of generations of ethnographers. as it must. of the very embrace. white) men can measure of our own disenchantment? The Naparama. Far all anthropology as "We the Nacirema" (Miner 1956) or for making all the from being primordial. This. however. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 45 ring to pick and choose what they fancied from the miSSion. in our Culture. be dubbed as natural leaders. yet does not reduce meaning to either utility or domination. and so to reflect upon the way in which we ourselves reflect on others. is to tity reside in tangible practices-as. with it. dress." and other forms of iden­ world into an imaginary village. we have argued. do we not still foster a lurking primitivism? And. that the move has not been without criticism. seeking a conception of culture that recognizes the reality of ethnography of the historical imagination. and culture by which exoticism-should disappear when we estrange our own culture. cent objects. and a concluding one. all the myths exotic. does "modernity. For the malignancy of primitivism-and its most notable symptom. Take just one example. Kevin Costner). long locked in historical the social and ideological products of particular processes. bodies. "ethnicity. into the distinctions of race. the very terms of modernity itself-become the subjects of an Marxism. The purpose of estrangement. our own folk sociology." metonym of our scholarly predicament. and eventually . "Indians embody the concept of 'the other'-a foreign. Section 1. essential. how they are made real. This is not a call for rewriting industrial society. There is a general point here. Indeed. 44 THEORY. is our challenge. 9 December 1990. sition between prehistorical "tradition" and capitalist "modernity" sur­ 2. to see receptive fields. patently. ETHNOGRAPHY. see. The journey began with the Naparama-or. as a caustic critic once put it. task is to establish how collective identities are constructed and take on historical anthropology. seeking to transcend them-if only provisionally and for the moment. power. and "life-style" were made over into signs of gross raphy. There is widespread evidence that this ideological opposition has continuing salience vives in the discourses of our age. popular and professional alike. "local" and It is to explain the great conjunctures. the processes and practices through "global" worlds. at least. They are both polymorphous and perverse. cultural ecology.

such studies tended to limit themselves to the role of ethnic his[Orical This has been a result. the final object of a probability derived from past rates of occurrence. however. 1938). to Geertz's (1973:29) allegorical suggestion that culrural analysis is a Smith 1960:Chap. in McCloskey'S (1985) study of the rhetoric of econom­ 13. in anthropology. cf. The most recent to do so are Crowder. theirs is the kind of account that 11. Jefferson. Homans and Schneider (1955). The phrase is from Ginzburg'S (1980:xx-xxi) brief but acid comment on those history. who take issue with our early work on the topic. McCracken (1988). The notion that Tswana inheritance and succession are governed by the ascriptive defy the "open-ended mystery" of experience. Croce ([1921] 1959:51) contrasts chronicle with history. Derrida. also 29. 19. in amended form. This has not been for want of trying.g. from Evans-Pritchard's curt reminder that In historiographic terms. Events his facts were selected in light of his theories (1940:261). There is an irony lurking here. For a sample of the issues involved. It should be clear that we do not use the term "statistical" here in its narrow. especially the statistics]. For an insightful exploration of the tropes that ethnographic writing shares with the sophisticated G01Jernment in Zazzau. perhaps.1988). Ikcall. and social anthropology at the London School of Economics. The comment is made in the specific context of his discussion of Febvre's treatment continues to struggle with the individual and the event. Comaroff 1990:561. Marcus (1986:190-191) adds that "experimental" ethnographers "perhaps do not theory. Foucault (1967) himself 26. For an especially clear example. n. to any inference of prevailing pattern or is difficult not to agree. for one. in the first sentence of the prologue to The Go-Between However. e. L. Comaroff (1990). e. . for example.. was "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. 24. it is not only cultural structuralism that 16.. which covered a span of 150 years. of the influence of cultural studies. on a curiously ethnocentric. most notably. Leach does not phrase the implications of his analysis in the terms that follow. e. J. Damton (1985:3) points out that there is no standard English translation ofl'bistoire ics. as Ginzburg (19S0: xiv-xv.14 for brief comment).. des mentalites. A very Parsons (1990:12f). . especially when he situates madness within the trap of cogently for a structuralist historical anthropology. See.g." whose "holistic commitments" 22. Nonanthropologists might wish to know that Raymond Firth was a senior professor of usually without question. and ostensibly the possibility of "alternative principle of primogeniture goes back to missionary ethnographies." 1954:212. they have made little lasting impact on the practices of the discipline as a whole. Sahlins (1990). L. sciences-most memorably. different from those we will discuss. 1972) accounts ofGuro political economy owe less to Marx than principally an act of thought. although it is often explanation. 15. the archeology of a silence. his object was less to disclose the logic of stasis than to arrive at the causes of change. We mean it [0 refer. Spitulnik (1991). like Fran~ois Furet. until recently a predominantly French historiographical movement (see. Structural Marxism has had similar of Rabelais. more theoretically 6. their methodological bases were nO phenomena (see. for some Barnes 1951). Leach (1951)." he preface to the second edition). 7.. in sustaining the opposition between "evocation" and "representation. However. he did much of his ethnographic research on the island of Tikopia in rebut their argument-which is based partly on a misrepresentation of our analysis and partly Polynesia. Comaroff (1982:143f). history of mentalities is an account of a particular ("popular") culture. Although approaches like change" to otherwise synchronic ethnographies.228ff). see Needham even recognize the priority or privileged validity of such abstractly represented realities (1962). As a result. Our irony will be dear to those familiar with the distinctly ahistorical debates during matter of "turtles all the way down. xxii-xxiv) indicates. History is living chronicle." attributed to the classic writings of Schapera (e. These. see Marcus (1986:191). Hartley's original phrasing. social lives. the exceptions prove the general rule here. generically. problems. Once more. treating them as different process without a subject" or. ever since. (1956).g. were no more than narrative ethnoscience and mathematical and cognitive antbropology have called for new methods and dumping grounds for everything that escaped the deadening vision of the descriptive present." It numerical sense. from J. "[Foucault's] history of madness itself is . over alliance 8. 9. and Roberts 1976. In this respect. The same general point has been made in a number of discourses on the human graphic sociology. Ikcent writings suggest that such conventions might be shifting at last. they flow from his comments on the nature of social change and history (see. chronicle is dead history. concludes lenged. has argued speaks much of silence in his History. Indeed. Parson. [00. Willis 1977. 25." Yet. act of will-that we seek to emphasize here. . L. We pass glancingly over this terrain in Chapter 4. Hall. Hebdige 1979. see Pratt (1986). This is not the place to distinguished scholar. from which the quote is drawn. himself perpetuates a straw man: a "realist ethnography. J. Smith's procedure remained aggregative in spirit." 27. then about to retire. Darnton himself suggests that "it might simply be called cultural history. 14. for example. that ethnographic accounts of social systems. a relatively new discipline consciousness in repetitive social processes. Lave (1988). of course..g. See. 78) claim "spiritual attitudes. see Martin (1987). This passage on biography and the diary is excerpted. typically. which explored "what [people] made of their history" in the course of their diverse examples. like native models. Some might say that there was also a fourth. most were produced within the "custom and that has challenged us by applying some of our own concepts and methods to Western conflict" approach of the Manchester School. more generally. are merely "as if" construc­ tions of the world. The evidence for this is everywhere at hand. through Leach's (1954:5f) insistence and relations were distilled into a generalized account of a political system that persis ted. have found panaceas for large-scale problems in demo­ 23. 8). in the words of the protagonists. Sahlins (1985). As Derrida (1978:35) notes. ETHNOGRAPHY. as if in equilibrium." the 1950s and 1960s over prescriptive marriage systems and. historians who. history is that Meillassoux's (1964. purely Vovelle 1990). exemplified by Cunnison (1959. and Levi-Strauss (1969. HISTORIOGRAPHY Ethnography and the Historical Imagination 47 46 5. Hindess and Hirst's (1975:45f. ." It is this last phrase-the image of an to methodological individualism. we do not dignify as history an old But it has also been helped along by a more general erosion of the boundaries between the practice of British structural functionalism: the appending of residual chapters on "social human sciences. makes it clear why history needs anthropology every bit as much as anthropology needs 12. But his exertions have not gone unchal­ Western reason (not to mention the repressive language of psychiatry). chronicle an act of will. until ruptured (by one of the forces specified in a set of abstract "laws". 20. culturally barren interpretation of the historical record (see also 10. IS. 28. In contrast to Barnes (1954). theories. 2!. in part. Indeed. However. Social scientists have reiterated it. earlier genre of travel writing. the debates surrounding Althusser's portrayal of history as "a 17. A few years later Smith (1960) published the more ambitious. THEORY.

e. who sometimes fault historical anthropologists for not writing "real" 2 histories.~ . THEORY. This difference is often not acknowledged by social historians. moreover. those processes involving the rise of ethnic consciousness in Mrica and elsewhere. n Of Totemism and Ethnicity well-known in some quarters. ETHNOGRAPHY. _. See Comaroff and Comaroff (199l:34f). political. and. For we are concerned to examine. but by stating five propositions about the nature of ethnicity. HISTORIOGRAPHY 48 30. come from a variety of sources. These propositions. When each has told of all he has learned. these questions. about T HERE IS A SOCRATIC PARABLE. sometimes simultaneously. on various Mrican contexts. 31.­ ranging from orthodox structuralism to Jakobsonian pragmatics and Bakhtinian dialogics. that is. In so doing. we shall use a wide-angle lens rather than a magnifying glass. something to be explained? Or is it an explanatory principle capable of illuminating significant aspects of human existence? Does it really refer to "idols of the tribe" (Isaacs 1975). Whereas the first implied a static conception of culture-a conception now heavily under attack-both the second and third inform current concerns with the practical. As a result. the theoretical terms by means of which ethnicity may itself be comprehended. we proceed not by situating our discussion within the relevant literature. class. "the thing you have seen or the thing through which you have seen it?" The same conundrum lurks. and transformative qualities of meaning." he asks.other forces and structures? Do its roots lie in so-called primordial consciousness or in a reaction to particular historical circum­ stance? And how is it related to race. somewhat eclectically. detailed chronicles of events (see. and nationalism? In addressing I "j. after Ricoeur.ftfy1 Has it the capacity to derermine-sociai-activity. usually unremarked.or IS it a product of . on the other. a coup de grace: "Of what have you told me. terms a "synthesis of the heteroge­ ncous. ambiguous.. and shall focus it. behind the study of ethnicity. both an analytic object and its conceptual subject: on one hand. Shillington 1987). This is what Sahlins (1990:47). though. there is still a notable lack of agreement on even the most fundamental of issues: \YhaL is ethnicity? Is it a monothetic or a polythetic class of phenomena. the sage delivers his lesson in the form of a question. 0i!e ~mg. Contrary to the usual canons of scholarly enquiry. These models. are 49 . Is the latter an object of analysis. many of them originating in linguistics. or is it in fact an idol of the scribe (Mafeje 1971)? It certainly has been treated in both ways. at once. 32.or-nf.g. we seek deliberately to turn the sage's moral on its head. a teacher who gives his students two magnifying glasses and invites them to look at the one through the other.

a particular species of conscience collective. was the point that Bergson (1935:172-5) made about the essence of totem ism. consider. "their duality". after all. "status groups" (stande )-everywhere entertain an intrinsic identities in cpntrast to one another. in the "JIVttberian tradition. but also to establish its place in the sociological This. is a relation inscribed in culture. their theoretical significance lies more in the system­ far as this is true. 1 ethnicity always has its genesis in specific historical forces. a "first cause" in and of itself (Moerman 1968:160f). And. in those identities. was never so some. the social and material bounda­ forces which are simultaneously structural and cultural. the precapitalist world. whatever the substance of particular relations 1979:Chaps. The genius of Bergson's insight lay in the observa­ addressed. 3 capable of accounting for the genesis. Nor is it to ignore that such action has concrete implications existence. rather. 60]. in awareness of their own identity. Whatever their individual atomistic that communities did not have relations with others. ity") that gave them their significance.10. This thesis rests. they are developed and exemplified lenged. in Weber­ ~iC!n. It is one in which groupings define themselves as independent or ~nterdependent units within a common humanity. in large part. that is. this form of awareness is distinctly different from ethnic consciousness suigeneris (Skinner 1978: 193). where primordial affiliations and regarded in isolation. received wisdom. goes the argument. the point upon which Levi-Strauss (1963b) chain of being. to recognize that. p. order to understand ethnicity at all. as similar yet different.-the not to deny either its reality or the fact that action is regularly conducted meaningful construction of the world. is necessarily new-although each flies in the face of loyalties are tacitly presumed to have had their origins. For ethnicity. however. like totemism. it will be recalled. ethnicity and ethnic consciousness. Wallerstein [1972] processes [see below]. 50 THEORY. is a necessary condition of social in its name. and portray themselves and others. Totemism. it is invariably founded on a trary to the tendency. formulate collective ian terms. it is the marking of relations-of identities in opposition to one another-that is "primordial. then. It was. and not an ontological feature ofhuman organization. and sometimes most. tions. primordial ties. The corollary of this -ries involved in any such relations-not to mention their content-are proposition ought also to be underscored. are simultaneously correct and incomplete. It is. of course. If it is true that ethnicity is a historically wrought. between groupings. The counter thesis. rather. All this merely echoes the anthropolog­ principle. for example. we believe. exists above all else as a set of . groupings. ETHNOGRAPHY. could have lacked common identities or a concern for sociocultural differ­ ences. the irreducible fact of identity implies the cultural it follows that it cannot be treated as a truly "independent" explanatory structuring of the social universe. an historically specific form-of the universaL process of dassifica. is just one form-and. But. for it is only by resolving them that the first proposition-and tion that it was not the intrinsic nature of totemic objects ("their animal­ the overall position to which it speaks-may finally be sustained. On the one hand. the tenacity of the "primor­ added. and transformation of Both these theses. the acute awareness that the diverse peoples of the Luapula valley are known to have had for each others' "customs" (Cunnison 1959:53-61). in so provenance.­ dial" thesis is itself significant. rather. HISTORIOGRAPHY Of Totemism and Ethnicity 51 not presented in axiomatic form." not the substance of for everyday relations [see below. it is to be and ascribed status group affiliations. ~ • roots of ethnicity lie in the original "fact" of human cultural difference groups (1935:175). a very Let us elaborate. persistence. if yet tentative. This is not to pretend that any of them.2 This is ical truism. Whether such relations are signified this identity are the source of ethnic consciousness and affiliation. on the compound notion (i) that culturally defined communities-or. The first proposition is intended primarily as a point of departure. In as much as collective social identity always entails general statement of orientation toward the conception of ethnicity: Con­ some form of communal self-definition. that dassifu::ation. suggests that expressions of ethnicity Ethnic consciousness also entails the formulation of collective identities do not arise in any community save as a reaction to threats against its and their symbolic embodiment in markers of contrast between social integrity and self-determination. identity. On the other hand. steps in pursuit of an analytic position dormant. These are the media that the latter provide the basis for collective action and intergroup rela­ of totemic conscioumess. and (iii) tn animate or inanimate objects makes little difference. it would be plainly absurd to pretend that their members atic relations among them than in the substance of each in its own right. we stress. the It is instructive to begin with the long-standing contention that the fact that relations between these objects stood for relations between social -t 'ii. they change in the course of economic and political product of particular historical conditions (cf. It is to these two problems that much of this essay is was to build his thesis. we have not merely to reveal the conditions of its genesis. Patently. after Durkheim and Mauss (1963). ethnic sensibilities either do not exist or remain as cumulative. (ii) that the traditional loyalties vested in ~mbolic terms. As long as that integrity remains unchal. 11). Still. to view it as a function of 'marked opposition between "ourselves" and "other/s".

" he said.l. 52 THEORY. the Tswana. the second to class. he tells an anecdot~ that makes the been defined in very many ways (see. sociological reality. Similarly. In this respect. Indeed. HISTORIOGRAPHY Of Totemism and Ethnicity 53 relations. Although these Sarwa allegedly controlled wondrous knowledge to reiterate that. pI.~Ci1iality. to be sure. However the former is defined-and.] "you Wouldn't be able to explain how the Black j involves the stereotypic assignment of these groupings-often hierarchi­ man got here. the particularity of ethnicity: why should the quoted in Crapanzano 1985:31. then. they may begin to assert a shared commitment to an order of symbols and meanings and. it includes such terms as legodu (thief) all 1956:181)-it takes on the assertive stamp of a protectionist ideology. too. In sum. is often to easy definition (Hechter 1975:311 )-but the way in which it is experi­ expressed in the reciprocal negation of the humanity of those who dominate enced and expressed may vary among social groupings according to their them. it has ago.I pervisors «think we are animals.l Sarwa ("bushmen"). and its sub. of has taught us. correctly. Those same Kavango and Ovambo mineworkers. prefix: leo. beneath this difference. On occasion. For dominant group­ their degradation by referring to the Europeans as "barbarians" (R. Gordon ings-be they Mrikaners. who peopled their underclass. through it. its character change over time-which is one reason why it is so resistant sometimes. as phologoloJ beasts We shalrexptore~these substantIve features below. for instance. in which circumstances it usually involves what has been termed "the invention of tradition" (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983). It took evolution to totemism. there is. This. it "white bush lice" associated with the hindquarters of large animals (1. and were only allowed into the towns of their masters by are. self-styled chosen people of South Mrica (Adams 1978:216). would be an evolutionary one: that totemism is the precursor of ethnidty. of r the world into social entities according to cultural differences.. sub­ ordinate groupings typically come to define their "ethnicity" as an emblem " There is a good deal more to ethnicity than this. For the subordinate.4 Neither property. often on putative Comaroff 1985:137). Concomitantly. hu~. of course. Herein. The word makgoa itself originally denoted the a legitimation of control over economy and society.. For now. Not only may of common predicament and interest. Thus Robert Gordon (1978:215f) notes that Kavango and the complementary assertion of the collective self and the negation -of the ! • >~. appears to have two generally recognized and closely related properties. But they differ clearly in their substance. For it calls into question the roots of the become known to the whites as skepselsJ "creatures" (cf. markers night (Mackenzie 1871:368). they were thought properly to live in the undomes­ tOtemism. the creation of such identities has little foundation in pre-existing universe impress themselves upon human experience. is unique to ethnic consciousness. spreading to a class of nouns (sing. Coetzee 1978:249). p. But even where they have had a sodal identity contrived for them. the Tswana vernacular for "whites. It IS enough the wild. it is not coincidental that these features.JoY!Iich always assumes cultural or «dvilizational" grounds. that their white su­ collective other. of the consciousness of identity and Crapanzano (1985:40). But it is in their fusion that the particular create the Black man. 54]. as we shaH they reflect the manner in which the forces that yield an ethnically ordered see. had developed a quixotic theory as to why the bible should not be taken literally: One refers to the subjective classification. ~ i Ovambo mine workers in Namibia believe. prefix: ma-) reserved for non-human their particular concept of chiefship over the hinterland of Uganda (South­ animate objects and human pests. for example.. in fact." character ofethnicity resides [below. ultimately. modes of social classification and consciousness. the . who did fieldwork among Afrikaners some years distinction." And nineteenth century Tswana saW Stance is likely to reflefuhe tensl~ns~mood~eaIn 'fclations of. involves the negation of similar entitlements to others. Cohen 1978)-it point with frIghtemng clanty. themselves being ?f identity and collective relations. collective identity to them on the part of others. Ironically. though deeply religious. ethnic affiliation may originate in an attribution of are the most commonly observed: for reasons which will become evident." makgoa belongs J and Giliomee 1979. Contrast and. while ethnicity is quite different in its content from of herbal substances. and may call into doubt their shared both an experiential and a practical saIifnce. this perc~ption persists. it may 9l! into question shareq. moreover. God course. lies the point of subjected increasingly to the domination of Boer (Mrikaner) settlers. they are formally similar. That. "They come from baboons. ETHNOGRAPHY. repay positions in a prevailing structure of power relations. That's what evolution cally-to niches within the social division of labor. R. had Interrogating them together. Moreover. The other [If you read it literally . by extension. or precolonial Alur. a common denominator: both ticated bush. also Livingstone 1857:37). and letagwa (drunkard). the Bible teHs us. however. According to primordial fact of social classification. entails humanity. Marais 1939. take on such diverse forms? The easy answer. It concerns an elderly mformant who. by the members of a society. among all those associated with ethnic consciousness. ethni0Q~nt~~J. a moral code (Moerman 1968). and the Bible doesn't say anything about evolution.forthose who bear it. the first applies equally to created the White man in a day.

the final true that. 57 below]. arise is perpetuated. such relations are latter being a product of the movement from "simple" to more "complex" enshrined in cycles of exchange of varying kinds. in the historically units bear formal structural similarity-the overall symmetry of relations specific social contexts in which totemism and ethnicity. is to be sought elsewhere. we suggest. and their associated modes of con­ in. the added qualification that the particular content of these identities will Drawing all this together. a form of totemic pluralism tends to emerge. moreover. Significantly. as long as it is. hostility and warfare. in and persist. ritual contexts (Schapera 1952). fashion . to be sure. for instance. whose to-I ethnicity no less than any other. the social and cultural correlates of a specific mode of articulation alence or complementary interdependence and. It is. But. But this explanation will not do. not as a We reiterate that the marking of contrasting identities-of the opposition subordinate class. namely. 7 \ omy. which regularly 1. we and they-is "primordial" in the same sense that situations. they may entail social systems. historically. were generally established I material and cultural exigencies of history. totemic consciousness arises with the interaction of The emergence of ethnic groups and the awakening of ethnic consciousi I social units that retain-or appear from within to retain-control over the ness are. among them. in relations social order. though. at others. totemic identities and affiliations. but also of quite separate levels of analysis. this seems to happen only when of twO modes of consciousness. Comaroffl 1973).\ tial divisions within Tswana polities. this thesis flows from a confounding not merely quered populations. in short. For the signs and practices involved in each have their source the general terms in which we have defined them. It is This proposition also has important corollaries. relations and a mode of consciousness. in fact usual. but as units of structure like those already there. The most striking classification is a necessary condition of social existence. the product of historical processes which structurd • means of their own production and reproduction. totemic consciousness occurs in industrial societies. say. In such of self and other. a function relations of inequality between discrete social entities. distribu. its meaning and practical Totemic consciousness. But the way in case of this is provided by the Tswana merafe ("nations"). In its most general form. Tswana chiefdoms usually contained a large number This leads directly to the third proposition. depend­ emerges with the establishment of symmetrical relations between structurally ing on the manner in which social units are ordered within the polity. Just as it is demonstrable raiding. totemic relations have also arisen in circumstances repudiation of the "primordial" thesis. the ethnographic literature abounds with examples. if each retains its integrity and is not 1963b:7-8). occurred salience varies for different social groupings according to their positions in the widely in precapitalist Africa. in otherl of processes in which autonomous groupings enter into relations of Words. in the "snowball state" of nineteenth century incorporation of structurally dissimilar groupings into a single political econ-·· Ngoni (Barnes 1954)-the historical conditions for the production of totemic consciousness may be expected to take their due course.\ rions of authority and productive arrangements became an indistinguish­ III able element of the structure in place (Schapera 1938. But. far from being a unitary ((thing. such populations are assimilated into an existing social order. possible. j sciousness. These incoming groupings. respectively. as Linton's classic ethnographic vignette proves (1924.6 As this implies. similar social groupings-groupings which mayor may not come to be inte­ Where they are incorporated into symmetrical relations with other like grated into one political community-ethnicity has its origins in the asymmetric units-as they were. as integral and independent wards and sections. 4). which social classification is realized in specific forms of collective identity. HISTORIOGRAPHY 54 collective identities by contrast to one another. then. The subordinated as a group in and of itself-which is most likely where the solution. totemic consciousness) ~ '4 '. by contrast. it is one among many-totemism among Sotho-Tswana chiefdoms. J. and between so-called acephalous soci­ being another-each of which is produced as particular historical structures eties such as the Nuer and Dinka in the Sudan (Evans-Pritchard 1956:82­ impinge themselves on human experience and condition social action. For. the second proposition may be stated depend both on the sociocultural orders of those who bear them and on thus: ethnicity. in so doing. the major politico-residen. as the comparison of totemism where a political community has incorporated either immigrant or con­ and ethnicity has revealed. their internal organization. will be sustained-with in the very construction of economy and society. that such encounters yield short-term inequalities so. Moreover. It was realized. it may be put as follows: while totemistn mIght also surface in the wake of conquest and in complex states. it is that ethnic consciousness existed in precapitalist Africa [see p. ETHNOGRAPHY. . is always a matter to be decided by the 5 terns differed from those of the host chiefdoms. More specifically. absorbed groupings from outside.» describes both a set of the exact nature of their engagement with others. which addresses those forces of totemic groupings whose identities in contrast to each other were marked· that produce totemism and ethnicity. At times. and the processes that give rise to it. see Levi-Strauss among the parties to them. And. as a form of consciousness. Of Totemism and Ethnicity 55 THEORY. L. They are. Consequently. often they embrace both.

there appear to have been been established. Moffat . HISTORIOGRAPHY Of Totemism and Ethnicity 57 56 1842:244. And. of articulation which contrived that identity in the first place. it emerges as group­ litical economies of Europe. polit­ immediately familiar one (Oberg 1940). the substance of their identities. Prior to their conquest by the Merina. created the Betsileo province of the Merina state . that they are accurately represented in the identity the imposition of British rule and the alienation of land to the settlers. Their conquerors ." then. Less well-known is the case of ical and social power by virtue of group membership. and. For the construction of the collective self-and. assigned to others-this being true even where emergent ethnic affiliations distinctive groups like the Sikhs in India. just as the agencies of British colonialism had little appreciation of African But there were differences between the forms of ethnicity which had social orders and acted upon distorted impressions of them-witness the preVailed in the precolonial epoch and those bred in the wake of the common view that black South Africans had no religion (e. as we stated earlier. they are. any account­ ing of its entitlements (for the dominant) or predicament (for the subordi­ Kottak goes on to note (1980:303. the as a function of political consolidation. as contrived division of labor. Thus.. there can. metrical "we-them" relations. had no certain identity before for reasons just given. Perhaps the most celebrated instance in the precolonial context noted. although both did (and do) contain the requi­ process. Rather. the division of labor without its representation in culture. 1) that Bara ethnicity also originated nate)-depends on its differentiation from the collective other. Janus-faced nature of ethnic consciousness-the fact that it involves both With colonial penetration into Africa. the dominant grouping Ethnic consciousness. history of which conformed closely to the above characterization. constitutes both itself and the subordinate population as classes. demands meaningful signification. Indeed. moreover.j. is inevitably a bricolage fashioned in the production and/or reproduction. indigenous populations were the assertion of a collective self and the negation of collective other/s-is integrated-to differing degrees and with varying rapidity-into the po­ a cultural expression of the structuring of inequality.. as we have already ethnicity. regulates the terms upon which value very historical processes which underwrite their subordination. and. . it is rarely the case. there were several statelets and chiefdoms located in different parts of what is now the Betsileo homeland. and Malays in are created out of previously bounded. actualized as groups an sich. ascribe such inequalities to the intrinsic nature of the groups concerned. of whom Kottak (1980:4-5) writes: definition. violent or otherwise. thereby becoming part of an increasingly ings come to signify and symbolize their experience of a world of asym­ ~obal division of labor.2:383)-so Tswana held an equally skewed between groupings. by the Betsileo of Malagasy. Ethnic consciousness. It is thus that the "ascriptive" character of each becomes its Betsileo have not always shared . Burchell 1824..g. has increased throughout Malagasy not an empirical description of any particular population. Greenberg (1980:14) observes: cultures tend to be transformed as the groups who bear them interact with The Kikuyu. It follows that the identity imputed to a social group from the outside provided a basis for Betsileo ethnic consciousness to develop through the may be quite different from that same identity as subjectively experienced. consciousness of themselves as a distinct "ethnic" identity-even though the groups themselves might only have ethnic unit. existed in precapitalist Mrica. the conquest and into identifiable classes. in the very process no Betsileo. at least in their contemporary mold. may be extracted from it. THEORY. . this entails marking out the social world are many other examples (see Wallerstein [1972] 1979). Malaysia were barely conscious of their "sameness" one hundred years ago. in a stratified. by removing from it final control over the means of from both within and outside. 9 Now these representations are not arbitrary: since subordination of the Bairu by the Bahima in Ankole providing another they apprehend and rationalize the unequal distribution of material. be no social lay in Tutsi-Hutu relations in Rwanda and Burundi (Maquet 1961). But even if they were not. standing Kenyatta and nationalism in Kenya. in which one extends its dominance over another by image of the culture of their nineteenth-century Sarwa serfs. whatever It was not purely the product of colonialism or urbanization. lncorporation into a wider order of productive and exchange relations The extent to which ethnic identities are rooted in previous cultural yielded novel ethnic affiliations and groupings (Wolf 1982:380f).. in so doing. their asymmetric ". ETHNOGRAPHY. as has the prior sociological character of these aggregations. is highly variable (Young 1976:34). And. homogeneous populations. by extension. for example. 1974). This is yet some form of coercion.". But there segmentary social environment. n. By virtue of so doing. As realities. whose coherence is now so important to under­ one another (Sahlins 1981). site conditions and have generally been accompanied by manifestations of The creation of structured inequality of this kind. Apart from all else. after all. Ibo in Nigeria. present.8 situates the latter as a more likely to occur when underdasses are composed of people of diverse bounded unit in a dependent and unique position within an inclusive origins: in such circumstances. in the sometimes been suggested. they must. it seems. "Other­ in the nineteenth century under very similar conditions (see Huntington ness. becomes a contrivance in the counter image of social selfhood. as we might expect.

ciousness may lie in the structurin. but as they are construed in of an "African culture". in places. But the overall structure of nesting. It applies as much to those for whom ings.s. most notably in Uganda (Mazrui 1978) and Kenya ( abels are signs of subordination. is apposite here: the origins of ethnic emergence of a hierarchy of identities. opposed identitie~-:-of "tri~e. which often became bounded political which they are experienced in everyday life. And. For." "?ation".r_~~y. The fourth proposition.g ]}rinequai:ity:--But. The alliance of these movementS. and so on­ interrelated products of an historically specific confrontation between the and not class or status that decides ethnic identities. each of which spawned the Underclass Butu in Rwanda or Kgalagadi in Botswana see their status as of a (supratribal) nationalist movement.. In fact. black Americans do not view their blackness as a function of their class even. As this suggests. it does seem ethnic consciousness in its more complex segmentary guise. takes on such as "supertribalism. At the highest levels. They are to be ethnicity which orders social status. the conjuncrure of "Europeans" and "Mricans" expressed itself in an encompassing ethnicity. in so doing. rather than the forces that generate it." But all had their genesis alike in the processes that gave rise to shapes careers and biographies. It also fostered the pre-eminence position. if not always with the same climax. L. distinction between historical forces and structures. J. Similar processes. mutually determining interaction. To wit. have occur fthnic ideologies legitimize dominance as it does to those for whom ethnic in East Mrica. The exact hierarchy of groupings yielded . later.. 5). in the growth of pan-Mricanism and the concept contexts not as they are formally constituted. then. all culturally marked and politicallY groups_and ~()!1." between global forces and the diverse social orders of Mrica and elsewhere. ethnic tionalism. Nor is this confined to divides southern Mrica into inclusive (transnational) pigmentary any particular sociological category. and the manner in At the lowest levels.. the colonial history of Zimbabwe caned into being an intricate eth­ ethnicity assumes the autonomous character of a prime mover in the nological map of "tribes" whose administration under indirect rule de­ unequal destinies of persons and populations." in turn. class membership. postcolonial-states. which takes all this a step further. a nesting hierarchy of ethnic identities. since the limitations (Lichtman 1975:49). viewed from within any such social context. and the highest. a "dialectic of articulation. the "given" character of the world with beyond the national borders-riven along the racial line of fault regard to which people must conduct their lives. sought and gained dominance over others within which pr09_t1-c:e_s()rJsciousness:::-::--lQ1CJ!!i~~~1!~ ." sometimes with the qualifier "ethnic". where it becomes the basis of social classification and reference to shared cultural affinities. multilevelled structures of inequality both IV within Africa itself and between Africa and Europe. This encounter established new. these have been described by terms status relations. on the one hand. ETHNOGRAPHY.J:he colonial-and. it laid the basis for what might be termed "segmentary ethnicity" (cf. where they had none. the leitmotif of modern "Third World" history lies in a refraction of ethmClty-mamfests Itself with remarkable frequency. such labels are not 1978). within a "patriotic front. just as working class manded that their "traditional" political constitution be recognized-. R. ethnicity becomes a dominant medium there developed a variety of middle-order allegiances. significantly.m and Ethnicity 59 58 such processes varies. expanding world system. concerns the Cohen 1978:387). With the emergence of class formations in which colonial social order wrought largely out of a caricature of (aristocratic) positions in the division of labor are signified by the labels of ascribed Victorian English society (Ranger 1983). being ascribed by virtue of their ethnic affiliation and not vice versa. HISTORIOGRAPHY 0/ Totemi. And. a war between adversaries-each with the "natural" order of things." each a particular Comaroff 1982). For exam­ once objectified as a "principlc~' by which the division oflabo'r-fs-organized." Of the three levels. has been a recurrent theme throughout modern Africa. Marx's image populations of Mrica and the various agencies of colonial domination. the Shona and Ndebele. as "na­ groups. ot~~E___)j~__i!l. We have argued that ~ units by bureaucratic fiat.lO so tWO such entities. thereby constructing internal construction and transformation of economy and society. As has been argued elsewhere (Long 1984. between these polarities. the lowest has the ineffable appearance of determining the predicament of individuals and conventionally come to be portrayed as "tribalism". and in West Africa. ethnicity becomes an essential feature of Zimbabwean independence. ethnicity. fought the war of liberation that led Under these conditions. whatever its other It is not difficult to point to cases of segmentary ethnicity. at the experiential level. attachments that through which the social order is to be interpreted and navigated. local groups. as affiliation cannot but be represented as the "independent variable" that "race. crossed parochial boundaries but justified common political cause with In other words. ple. that is. THEORY. of course. and "race. status and cultural distinction. but their class position as a function of their blackness. But the terms in ethnic relations. of the camera obscura ([Marx and Engels] 1970:36). This was re­ which they are unde~st~o-d hy' -soclilactors-haYe fo -do with the way in which the world is signified: human beings perceive and act upon their flected. salient. it saw the crystallization of a settler­ shared signs and symbols. Mter all. on the other. the middle.

system is experienced from within. while ethnicity is the product sociocultural differences may be negotiated. their internal lines of division more or less porous. in time. . groups and identities. Thus. in order to have meaning. economic. fore. that However. For social action gives it the appearance of being an autonomous factor in the ordering of conducted in the name of ethnicity also reveals contradictions inherent in the social world. such systems represent themselves as potentially navigable. in the very nature of social experience. and interests to be an autonomous force. (iv) a dominant. if the signs and principles which apparently mutually constitutive. repro­ protection their exclusive cultural identity and. In ideological terms. p. for the (iii) realizes manifest relations. by (i) configuring the particular manner in which a social examine each. This. Let us life. social resources for pursuing individual and com­ phenomenon. it tends to take on the «naturafJ appearance 0/ appropriate terms in which social action is to be joined. establishes the of specific historical processes. as we shall see. there lies a subtle relationship would miss the point. and political life (cf. at the levels of both collective and individual enterprise. any sign must imply its tation.. fication and organization. They also become a pragmatic basis for the formation of interest phenomenon to be distinguished from those that sustain it. once created. existential reality. If and when any cohesive response to the common predicament This brings us to the fifth and final proposition. ethnicity may upon experience as an (apparently) independent principle of social classi­ be perpetuated by factors quite different from those that caused its emnlfence. signified is an irreducible part of its reality. it provides a powerful motivation for collective and may have a direct and independent impact on the context in which it arose. however. 52]. For the way in which relations in any system are between social experience and the exigencies of collective and individual practice. the logic of common interest is. That is. And this. and. but a complex connection obtains between them. the one cannot exist mandate relations of inequality were no longer to apply. with it. see Greenberg 1980:390) puts it. It is this process of reification. may acquire the capacity to affect the structures munal utilities. possible (for persons) if the relevant cultural markers could be reversed or Indeed. ethnic consciousness enters a dialectical that gave rise to it. although the creation of alliances With particular groupings. in turn. Behind it. but any such groups and networks. within. As a result. For reasons already given. two options present themselves. the internal segmentation of the underclass. may become strategic consid­ erations in the defense of privilege. activity. this functionality All this may sound much the same as saying that ethnicity is merely a may itself seem to sustain the practical relevance of ethnic affiliation for form of false consciousness. ethnicity takes on a cogent social order that gave rise to ethnic consciousness in the first place. by turn. Either they can analytic injunction: not only are the conditions that produce an historical engage in some form of concerted direct effort-usually. once an ideology arises it alters profoundly the material reality and in asymmetries would be eliminated (for groups) and upward mobility be fact becomes a partially autonomous feature of that reality. At the level of collective action. so. thereby reproducing the very differences rationalize structures of inequality. a pervasive functionality in everyday social. As Genovese (1971:32. that such . must perforce realize an everyday world We have already stressed that. but not always. the very essence of economy and society. such protectionism entails a stress upon the Contrasts between themselves and others. and v the admission of individuals into their ranks. in sum.. a «principle)) capable ofdetermining the course of social pursued. plain enough [see above. ethnic identities regularly assume. So it is with ethnic identity. In practice which shapes concrete social and material relations-and. for not only do they have contrasting dynamics. whether they be subsumed in "ethnicity" or anything else. structures of inequality and the terms of their cui rural represen­ relinquished. it (ii) motivates social practice and rationalizes the pursuit of individual and collective utilities. the matter is yet more complex. there­ other words. which echoes a very general IS perceived as possible. the issue is not so . After all. for those systems of structured inequality and may transform those systems from who share them. the inequality without the other: both alike are elements of the dialectic of structure and itself would be removed-or so it seems from the actors' perspective.60 THEORY. as we have seen. ETHNOGRAPHY. It lies in the authoritative dialectic is established between structure and practice that.~Iear cut. For the subordinate. it follows. to the extent that The fourth proposition. But that both persons and groups. lVhere it becomes an relationship with the structures that underlie it: once ethnicity impinges objectified (<principle)) in the collective consciousness of a society. Patterson 1977:102f). in systems where "ascribed" cultural dominated by ethnic groups and relations. a "phantasmic" mystification of class. HISTORIOGRAPHY Of Totemism and Ethnicity 61 merely terms in a system of classification. What is more. This. are complementary opposite. although they are certainly that too. their material duces and/or transforms the character of the social order itself. in turn. argues that. Consequently. POsition. Since it is cultural indices that are perceived to underlie inequalities in these systems.

the lines In consequence. At this level. in turn. the protectionism of the dominant they contrived to escape-or sustain the contradiction of being a member and the responses of the dominated alike serve to perpetuate an ethnically of a group whose primary class position is different from their own. And able choice. lower order ethnic groups often labor at the expense of similar groupings. nate to lie in the negation of ethnic differences. to claim their civil rights by establishing that they had "become" sufficiently like those who oppressed them (i. Both as individuals and as a group. there are few other exertions. there is abundant documenta­ provide the terms of communal action. an emergent local bour­ reinforcement of its pragmatic salience. marks the predicament from which as long as social practice continues to be pursued as if ethnicity did hold the key to the structures of inequality. under colonialism. II In addition. the promise of upward relevant: vide the attempts of South Mrican and American blacks. Or they can seek to negate cultural differences by "proving" that these have ceased to be as is indicated by the entire history of capitalism. and gives way sooner or later to overt underclass itself Thus Wallerstein ([1972] 1979). while not removing higher order inequalities. assumed the character of fractions of the underclass. as just reward for properly industrious achievement. of course. on leaving the underclass. has shown political action. on the part of the them is frequently the subject of social management. bounded units (cf. is the very stuff of the basis of collective self-definition and action. this century. Barth 1969). their situation is paradoxical. but failure also "situational ethnicity" (R. traverse the route. fractions more or less However these historical movements work themselves out in particular exclusively associated-much as in the segmented labor markets of the contexts. opens the way for individuals to manipulate ethnic ofethnicity as a principle of social differentiation: the very fact such activity identities so as to ascend within the nether echelons of the hierarchy: it is conducted by and for groupings marked by their cultural identities charts a series of steps that may finally lead out of the underclass itself. dominant. ethnic groups must inevitably become internally stratified. is ordinarily seen to enjoy both practical and ideological virtue. a fundamental contradiction inheres in them. "tribes". they must either seek to discard their ethnic identities-which. again. [see above. HISTORIOGRAPHY Of Totemism and Ethnicity 63 political-to remove entirely the structures of inequality. then. it will be evident that the reproduction of ethnicity. Cohen 1974). Greenberg 1980:7-8).e. earlier mobility. 63]. individual mobility is often perceived as a matter of relinquishing those cultural attributes which appear Drawing together the collective and individual perspectives. In ordered world. Fanon 1968). ETHNOGRAPHY. there may be little resistance. is as much a function of efforts geoisie. For.e. and the attribution to them of social management of personal identity for social and material gain. after all. The confirms the perception that these identities do provide the only available regular effort to navigate this route. indeed. in order to garner the assets with which to renegotiate their class the one of first resort (cf. as "colored" in South Mrica (Watson 1970). the strategic tends to affirm shared affiliations. themselves upon human consciousness. in light of the manner in which such systems engrave to achieve it.62 THEORY. however. perhaps the most diate goals. and the an identifiable fragment of the dominant class. In the colonial context. a significant to ascribe social status. p. For any activity industrialized world-with relatively stratified niches within the division aimed at the reversal of "ascribed" inequalities may reinforce the primacy of labor. at the individual level. For individuals. to the rise of a limited proportion of the underclass. since the two dimensions of their For the same reasons that collective melioration is held by the subordi­ identity are at odds with each other-a contradiction most vividly embod­ ied in the classical "black white men" of Africa (cf. A. and regardless of the successes or failures of any given group­ poignant case being the practice of "trying for white" by those classified ing-reinforces the experiential salience of ethnicity as a social principle. as long as ethnic affiliations and identities relatively easier than it is for groups. It gives rise to what is usually glossed as case where common action is seen to have been successful. the achievement of upward mobility effects a transformation in the relationship of ethnicity and class. success as they "rise" within the lower reaches of the (colonial) division of where segmentary ethnicity developed. individuals require first to consolidate their situations within the understand why it regularly fails. bring relative contexts within which they might do so. too. The affirmation is clearly tautological. so. in analytic terms. that the second option tends to be For. It Once upward mobility is seen as a possibility and energies are expended is not surprising. they face an unavoid­ directed at its erosion as it is of activities that assert its positive value. among others. Those who predicament. such action-whatever its imme­ tion from Mrica of the renegotiation of such identities. parochial groups (i. nor is it difficult to position. 58]) find that such acquire the resources for upward movement. For it leads both . This is more dramatically the ethnography of urban Africa. and ascend far enough within the class structure. either case. with the emergence of segmentary that intra-ethnic relations provide the arena in which such persons might ethnicity. the seemingly ascribed character of ethnic identities is repeatedly confirmed. On one hand. "civilized"). If anything. the adoption of new identities is pattern emerges. also. On the other hand. is the conception of ethnic groups as of ethnic division may indeed be breached if and when particular persons accumulate the social and material wherewithal to do so [see below. despite the reality that membership in As noted before. become though. 12 This. Cohen 1978. p.

words. Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement bourgeois fractions. and Greenberg 1980:6). with the emergence of in Jamaica in the 1930s. In other among populations that were once subordinated en toto but. However. In the latter case. In some instances they have a single More generally. they masked those ~leavage. ought to come before those continuities in the articulation of ethnicity and class. Now there is a double theoretical irony in divisions. to invoke achievement. These movements are often joined. especially when it either receded into Ras Tafarian millenia 1­ All this is nicely exemplified in ethnic political movements which arise ism. and its mass support comes from those who most palpably class structures. it rationalized the possibility of upward mobility and an ethos of of protest and resistance. THEORY. it continued to provide a cultural upwardly mobile members-sometimes. as a statistical frequency-and as an "in the natural order of things" (1978:145). by leaving intact tty not only give ethnicity the appearance of an objectified "force". economic. and. on the the contradiction in their own lives-and are usually framed in the rhetoric other. they based on class. In the Weberian tradition. they the correlation between ethnicity and class. we suggest. This does not obliterate the fact that. ethnic struggles certainly had an consciousness is brought to the fore. HISTORIOGRAPHY Of Totemism and Ethnicity 65 64 to the internal differentiation of ethnic groups and. But. by virtue of its dualistic quality. class and sociocultural ultimately "refracted and atomized potential collective class consciousness" differences cease to be coterminous in any absolute or prescriptive sense. eventually. their dominant lines of remove the structures of subordination. opposite trajectory to that theorized by Weber. Quite of underclass resistance. reinforcing yet refracting. at once. ethnic political movements underscore. over time. let alone enter a complex dialectical relationship with suffer inequality. For the contradictions inherent in structures and signs of inequal­ structures in an ideology of individual achievement. of rebellion rather than revolution. by such by marked asymmetries. Gluckman's well-worn distinction. patently. give the appearance of being manifestations of status group solidar­ rise and persistence of ethnic groupings. and a large individual action would either not surface. they may reinforce a shared symbolic order this. the dualistic character of these movements-as statements ethnicity should not appear with the emergence of class differences. the continuities and dis­ affinities based on status. and weld a relatively heterogeneous status groups by virtue of such historical processes. far from disappearing. then. and as assertions of status group unity-may have the converse: the processes that produce class societies ought to submerge implications that are not envisaged by those who engage in them. self-evidently. (1978) reveals. with relations of collective inequality. 13 (1978:187). 1978:208). ethnic identity lead to significant liberal reforms. cause them to wither away as class Thus. First. directed against a prevailing distribution of social. "traditional" ideologies and. that ethnicity truly is a pervasive force in the social World. ities. it is not only Weber who is turned on his head by the such. or sufficed itself with the crumbs of economic palliation. Yet they also breach the lines of class division and. and lose their uniform correspondence to class-as they must inevitably like the Mrican National Congress in South Africa and many nationalist do in the long run-they mature into status groups in the classical political parties throughout the continent. they cut across local "tribal" Weberian sense of the term. as them. They certainly should not emerge with the genesis of political power. they have precisely the social entity into a bounded status group that acts for sich. served ultimately to consolidate also motivate and rationalize the very social practices which assert. Post indigenous perception-ethnic groups continue to be predominantly as­ goes on to argue that such "generalized Black Nationalism" (1978:161) sociated with particular class positions. (Were that correspondence to be solidly middle class leadership (for whom political action often involved sustained. much the same applied to black nationalist organizations . in others. or impact on the surface contours of the social world. In one respect. to the loss of a one-to-one correspondence between Association (UNIA) among them. In classical Marxian terms too. and led. insofar as they refracted class aSSUmes an important role in the dynamics of many historical systems­ antagonisms in the cause of status group interests. they did not finally Sustaining yet masking. and they should only give way to the latter with the growth express the strong (statistical) association between the two. such action is. Moreover. too.) following among the poor. as the heritage of color. Nor was this restricted to Africa. As Post baroque circularity. as did Mau Mau in Kenya. the paradoxes involved in both collective and demands made in their collective class interest. If anything. In so doing. of an increasingly rationalized industrial economy (Hechter 1975:313. and they did occasionally remaining a mere epiphenomenon of "real" antinomies. But. in as much as ethnic affiliations are realized and solidify into where it existed only tenuously before. as ethnic groups become internally differentiated sociocultural grouping at their core. second. being primordial. Nonetheless. in the effort to resolve and organizational basis for a highly stratified division of labor. ETHNOGRAPHY. ethnicity itself became a factor in have become diversified to the extent that some of their number have left the maturation of a colonial and post-colonial capitalist order characterized the underclass. who had come to experience their suffering. On the one hand. or would take a different form. under colonialism in Africa. These organizations tended to acquire a ethnic affiliation and class membership.

the relative ease with which it is sloughed ofl'varies dramatically: for. out of the "efforts by those in control of the surrounding state apparatus to incorporate or along the way remain tentative for now. they are offered in the belief. whether or not "human nature. The treatment of ethnicity as a "first cause" capable of producing autonomous effects be brought to bear on his case. Notes 10. is not to account for the genesis and persistence-or even the But then. among others. It seems that Gordon has confused precisely the two levels of which we have spoken. 13. the bearers of "persistent cultural systems. indeed. Wilson's critics have argued that I. But why ethnic identity? For Gordon. it seems. Hechter skin color remains the main factor shaping the lives of blacks. and diverse skin pigmentation. Franklin with a loss of previously acquired privilege or conversely feel that it is an opportune moment Frazier's Black Bourgeosie (1957). however. and that. and (to a large extent) culture with their the once commonplace sociological tendency to predict its imminent oppressors-it was well-nigh undeniable. Rex (1970:48). For discussion of this tendency and its Weber ian origins." if it If the five propositions bear scrutiny. for example. du Toit (1978:lOf). See. but can never be a sufficient condition for ethnic antagonism. therefore. Fried (1967:15. which had equally well-defined niches in that division 5. a product of specifiable historical ethnicity. Yet the anthropological evidence and Marxian orthodoxies. Wilson. ETHNOGRAPHY. it shows. Bronfenbrenner (1979:258) of race. following Spicer (1971 :797). offers the parallel observation that ethnic groups. by E. The major problem. it seems always to have been negotiable. it reflects the ambiguities surrounding forces and processes rather than a primordial "given. Jews in character and historical relevance. "I" is fused into "we" in the construction . see Mazrui's account (1978) of colonial Uganda. for many anthropologists and comparative sociologists. culture. in spite of undergoing changes in its content. It identities in precapitalist Africa. We would go still further. whatever other arguments may 2. they class consciousness rises to replace it-if. for Central Africans on the copperbelt. however. Certainly. But. this ever happens in such became integral units in its social and productive structure rather than a subordinate class straightforward terms. to assimilate" minority populations. Walter 1969. how signs of inequality come to be elaborated into a coherent set of cultural representations. then. Schapera (1952) refers to these groupings as "ethnic. A comparable argument could be made for the rise of the Zulu state in the early nineteenth century. seems to us. But it is only realized when groups feel either threatened States-a point classically illustrated. see. Mazrui might easily have extended his analysis to take in the defining conditions for what sociologists treat under the rubric of "race relations. see Wallerstein ([1972] 1979). Once ethnicity is 6. the answer finally comes down to the assertion that it cannot be willingly shed. in both theoretical and empirical terms. this may be true. it . clearly. For a complementary discussion on ethnic treatment. its salience. as William Wilson has reminded us.66 THEORY." Indian of labor. Here. Milton Gordon (1978:73) holds that. ethnic consciousness and conflict is endemic. The purpose of the present exercise has been more modest. and of social experience with the forces that give rise to it." are born out of "opposition"." those issues become the term in the 1950s (du Toit 1978:1£). parody Levi-Strauss. Cohen and Middleton (1970). that is an irreducible social fact. For an especially clear example. When absorbed into the Zulu polity. Much more vexing. 9. HISTORIOGRAPHY Of Totemism and Ethnicity 67 *' *' *' f collective identity. And. Wilson (1981 :113) has countered by pointing out that this "human" predisposition is always mediated by social and cultural factors-the implica­ tion being that it may be a necessary. that ing the signs and practices ofinequality. Greenberg (1980:13f). in fact. if the propositions formulated is. politically to overcome long-standing denial of privilege. pace both Weberian ~xists at all. it is no wonder. Cohen (1978) of anthropology. sees them as the Contemporary division of labor. Guy 1980). and Wilson (1980) of sociology. in sum. is as Gordon asserts. Skinner (1978: 192f). that ethnicity is as ubiquitous and tenacious as is unequivocal. 4. skin color. flows from the confusion 3. and may be a highly situational attribute. Greeley (1974:300) makes much the same point about ethnic relations in the United ness is eternally latent everywhere. Ethnic identity often can be set aside. is that the life chances of blacks are determined primarily by other in respect of psychology. does not deny the experiential importance remains the norm throughout the human sciences: see. Sec Wilson (1984). have decreased.170). and. For example. readily understandable. The Controversy. to his credit. His thesis. But that is a problem which demands separate (cf." 12." By any current definition of understood to exist as a set of relations. These properties appear with equal regularity in Webcrian and Marxist discourses on where the cleavage between "Nilotes" and "Bantu" was unambiguously reflected in the ethnicity-albeit with different analytic weight. most vanquished populations had social orders which did argued. man defending himself. Warren's (1978) revealing study of collective identity among Guatemalan Indians­ among whom subordination Within a class society is vividly portrayed in ethnic terms-is built on this very premise. class differences. it refuses to vanish-notwithstanding Nazi Germany-who shared language. so too is "human nature." transformation-of ethnic consciousness and affiliation. ethnic mobility-like all social identity-is historically determined. "Ethnic conscious­ II. this usage is inappropriate. structural factors. is the question of when and why ethnic ideologies break down and not differ greatly from that of their conquerors. cannot (1975:313f). is 1lluminates and gives comparative support to this aspect of our discussion. given that "human nature" is aggressively narcissistic. that ethnicity is good to rethink. As Wallerstein ([1972] 1979:184) puts it. has been to explore just some of the fundamental analytic issues surround­ 8. McGuire (1982: 168). it is. Another variant of the "primordial" argument is the "human nature" thesis. Suret-Canale 1969. in light of everything we have 7. rather. it divided by language.and white settler communities. Quite clearly. since ethnicity cannot be shed by mobility. At the experiential level." Man acting in the name of his ethnic group. say. whose penetrating analysis of race and social policy in America "becomes incorporated into the self. in considerable detail. It is precisely this point that lies behind much of the debate over Wilson's claim (1980) that the significance of race is declining in America. for instance. although demise. experiential Of course. namely.