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Return from the Natives
: Peter Mandler
: Culture Cracking for War: I, Among the Natives of Great Britain, international relations
: Yale University Press
: 2013
Call Number
: ebook 568
Ringkasan :
The journey out is also a journey home. When, at the end of the nineteenth century, the first modern anthropological fieldworkers went out in search of ‘primitive’ peoples in the South Pacific and in the remoter parts of North America, they were not only looking for people different from themselves, they were looking for themselves as well. The common view then was the social-evolutionary one, that the varieties of humanity were arrayed along the rungs of a ladder of civilization, with ‘primitive’ peoples at the bottom and modern Western peoples at or near the top – but it was a ladder that peoples might travel along, some more slowly than others. The study of ‘primitive’ peoples could therefore be a study of one’s own ancestors, and perhaps not so very distant ones, either. Some of these early fieldworkers developed such a sympathy for the ‘primitive’ peoples among whom they lived that they began to doubt whether the ladder of civilization was really so long, or indeed whether it existed at all. And when the Great War dealt a series of stunning blows to the ideals of ‘civilization’ – those who witnessed mechanized slaughter in the fields of Flanders found it hard to feel superior to anyone, and the appeal of ‘primitive’ simplicity (always an undercurrent in Western culture anyway) was vastly enhanced – the anthropological enterprise changed dramatically. The ladder of civilization crashed down and appeared to come to rest on its side; the array of cultures now presented itself not vertically but horizontally. Peoples were still very different, but no longer stood in any obvious hierarchy. The idea of ‘cultural relativism’ blossomed. In this new relation, ‘primitive’ cultures in some ways seemed more different from so-called ‘civilized’ ones: they were no longer the ancestors, just people who did things differently. This relation also offered new ways to compare cultures. ‘Civilization’ was no longer the norm. If ‘they’ do things differently, how does that make us look? Or, more powerfully, if ‘they’ do things differently – and we are no longer so obviously superior to them, so obviously the future of the past – what might we learn from them?


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