Notes Concerning Premise and Presupposition-I

Notes from Engaging the past: The Uses of History across the Social Sciences by Eric H. Monkkonen; Duke University Press, 1994. 

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from the essay


Ten Years of Historical Research and Writing

by Anthropologists, 1980-1990

Susan Kellogg

[test embolden by tes]

Page 10)

“But interest in history among anthropologists was not confined to these particular fields. Even in the dominant areas of study (structural-functional or cultural-symbolic), history was not wholly ignored. Prior to the 1970s, ethnographers working within these frameworks tended to treat history in three distinct ways. The most common was "history as preface." Anthropologists often began books with a few paragraphs, in a preface or introduction, offering historical background to a particular geographic area or social group. While they might allude to the impact of historical trends or developments treated in the main body of the text, these scholars made little effort to integrate historical themes systematically into the argument. It was also common for anthropologists to use "history as contrast": the distinctiveness of present forms gained resonance by comparison with past ones. 4 Finally, those who drew on "history as data bank" used historical examples precisely because they were assumed not to differ fundamentally from the present.” 5

Page 11)

“At least three alternative ideas about what culture is have emerged in recent anthropological writings in response to these different movements [Marist scholarship, literary studies, and social history].

and the third, [culture] as a process inevitably involving contradiction, conflict, and accommodation and emphasizing actors' agency ( Ortner 1989; Fowler 1987). For all their differences, these views each require that some account be taken of temporal phenomena as the sources of multiple social groups, beliefs, symbols, and actions.”

Page 12)

"Data," whether ethnographic or textual, are viewed no longer as reservoirs of fact but increasingly as texts from which to decipher unstated but culturally fundamental assumptions.”

“As anthropologists turn to analyzing how the many different groups and societies they study have themselves constructed their own histories, material processes, and social and cultural dynamics, they have also been moved to examine how anthropologists and historians construct some broadly shared basic concepts ( O'Brien and Roseberry 1991). The practical effect of each of these developments has been to encourage anthropologists to conceive of culture as a process. Instead of presenting static pictures of societies in an ethnographic present, anthropologists increasingly have sought to describe a dynamically changing world in which groups survive by making decisions, altering strategies, and changing, sometimes consciously and sometimes as an unexpected consequence of previous decisions or actions.”

Page 13)

“Many have adopted a third approach, treating history as a process of social and cultural construction ( Cohn 1987; Dirks 1987; Frykman and Lofgren 1987; Moore 1986; Thomas 1990).”

Page 14)

“A second very broad theme entails the reactions of peasant societies to colonialism, capitalist transformation, and state building. Anthropologists have often viewed non-Western people as agents as much as victims in this historical process. They have focused on marginalized groups' strategies of coping and resistance, in both domestic life and the world of work, in the face of assaults on land, labor, and religious practices.”

Words! Mere Words! Was there anything so real as words? - Dorian Gray