Current Anthropology 1980
Blust, Robert. Early Austronesian Social Organization: The Evidence of Language. Current Anthropology April, 1980 Vol. 21(2): 205-247.
Blust outlines a disagreement over the nature of early Austronesian kinship and social organization which he argues has significance both for the Austronesian specialist and the anthropological theorist. He cites F.A.E.van Wouden’s 1935 work, describing a pattern of descent groups bound to each other in asymmetric ties of matrimonial exchange throughout much of eastern Indonesia. This is to a considerable extent a historical reconstruction, according to Blust, since some of the crucial features of social organization van Wouden inferred are only represented in fragments in attested societies. After van Wouden’s book was published, other Dutch scholars noted elements of a similar system in northern Sumatra. So there was in the Dutch academic community a sense that van Wouden’s reconstruction might apply to a wider range of Indonesian societies than those originally mentioned. Levi-Strauss independently reached a similar conclusion in 1949, but acceptance of this view was undermined by the fact that extended corporate kin groups are absent in western Indonesia today, most descent being reckoned through bilateral kindred.
George Peter Murdock reached an entirely different conclusion on the basis of comparative ethnographic materials in the cross-cultural survey begun at Yale in 1937. Murdock pioneered the analysis of statistical associations between various aspects of social organization and between those aspects and kinship terminology. He developed a “technique of historical reconstruction” and based on this, he suggested that early Austronesian society was of the “Hawaiian” type, i.e. it lacked exogamous unilineal kin groups and was characterized by bilateral kindreds. His views were consistent with those of previous American ethnographers, A.L. Kroeber and E.M. Loeb.
Blust attempts a resolution based on comparative linguistic evidence, using a method similar to that proposed by I.Dyen and D.Aberle in 1974. It assumes that the relationship between terminology and behavior in reconstructed languages is no different from that in attested languages. If the terminology can be plausibly reconstructed with the comparative method, then aspects of prehistoric social organization can be reconstructed in accordance with the reliability of statistical associations established between terminology and behavior in attested languages.
Based on an analysis of Proto-Malayo-Polynesian sibling terms, affinal terms,and metaphors of consanguinity, Blust concludes that descent groups were characteristic of a continuous area of the Malay Peninsula, Java, Sumbawa, Borneo, parts of Sulawesi and the Philippines, though bilateral kindred structure now is dominant. The larger theoretical implication of his conclusion is whether Murdock erred in the application of a valid method or was his method defective, since Murdock’s conclusions were in conflict with those produced by comparative linguistic evidence. Blust recommends a reexamination of the evidence using Murdock’s method.
Aberle (the author along with Dyen of the method Blust used) objects that Blust presented their method incorrectly, especially that Blust’s choice of subgroupings for the Austronesian language family is without supporting evidence, which calls the entire reconstruction into question. Fox agrees that the formulation and application of the method is faulty and argues that none of the evidence cited provides convincing support for prescriptive asymmetric marriage practices. Chowning supports Blust’s conclusion that there is linguistic evidence for descent groups but objects to his proposing the asymmetric marriage model as the only option.
Blust replies that the subgrouping of Austronesian languages he used has been long established by scholars in the specialty and cites eight references in support. Aberle’s citing of Dyen’s work on that issue, Blust writes, ignores the fact that virtually no researcher in Austronesian linguistics accepts it. He points out that the 11 linguistic observations he makes all are in conflict with Murdock’s hypothesis and that the attribution of descent groups to Proto-Malayo-Polynesian is clearly justified. As to his assertion of asymmetric marriage pattern, he clarifies his position that some of the linguistic observations suggest a social organization based on asymmetric alliance.
SARAH ROGERSON California State University Hayward (Peter Claus).
Book Review: Social Anthropology of Work. Current Anthropology June, 1980 Vol.21(3):299-314.
The papers included in this volume were presented at the A.S.A. Conference in 1979 which focused on “The Anthropology of Work.” They include examples from pre-industrial, industrializing, and late industrial stages of development and present a comparative analysis of the dimensions of work and the relations between them. The editorial framework consists of two questions: What is “work” about? What does social anthropology have to say about it that has not already been said?
The editor’s Preface and Introduction are included prior to the reviews. The dimensions of work considered are energy, incentive, resources, value, time, place, person, technology, identity and alienation, and domains.
Applebaum welcomes the volume as a stimulus for the research area, but states that one of its serious deficiencies is the lack of articles on any of the major work areas of a modern industrialized culture – factory, white-collar, construction, railroading, mining, the professions, health work, teaching, or banking. A satisfactory concept of work cannot be developed without analysis of the blue-collar and white-collar jobs that make up the bulk of work in modern society. Applebaum thinks this omssion reflects the undeveloped nature of anthropology’s interest in industrial societies.
Benson argues that any anthropological examination of work should begin with the sexual division of labor, which is universal and likely basic in the development of early human societies. The undervaluation of women’s labor, even in non-industrialized countries, is another important issue and the papers in the volume by Parkin and Schildkraut address the way commercialization further devalues women’s work.
Ingold addresses the theme of work as an expenditure of physical energy and how this aspect constitutes the link between social and ecological systems. It therefore can also be a link between the perspectives of social and physical anthropology, but the implications of this are hardly mentioned in the book. He attributes this to a disdain among British social anthropologists for various types of “ecological-cum-technological determinism” popular in the United States, and recommends less metaphysical speculation on topics like value and more focus on transformations involved in physical labor.
Partridge criticizes the volume for neglecting the problem of defining and measuring work in a way that can assist economists, engineers, and planners working in development to improve their social impact forecasts. Only one article, by Murray, provides a case study of two different ways to measure the productive activities necessary to support male migration to workplaces in South Africa. The conventional economic model completely misses the value of women’s contributions. Anthropologists who study work, Partridge writes, should provide alternative measurement techniques which can lead to a new understanding of work currently hidden by conventional economic analyses.
Teitelbaum points out that even though some of the authors in the volume argue that Marxist models are inadequate to analyze work in nonindustrial societies, those models are either explicitly used or implicitly invoked in most of the articles. Many of the articles express the need to broaden definitions of work to include noneconomic end, there are few innovative suggestions for new models.
SARAH ROGERSON California State University, Hayward (Peter Claus).
Brace, C. Loring. Australian Tooth-Size Clines and the Death of a Stereotype. Current Anthropology April, 1980. Vol.21.No.2:141-164.
The author believes that the concept of human biology and culture being completely independent has gone to far. He feels that demonstrating the areas of interplay between these two areas should be the purview of biological anthropologists and not sociobiologists. Within that context, the author attempts to demonstrate that Australian aboriginal tooth size has decreased over time due to introduced genes from the Northeast and that it was cultural change which altered the selective forces favoring larger teeth.
To support his argument, the author first justifies the use of teeth as representative of the phenotype. Likewise he goes through his justification for the types of measurement made and the statistics chosen to view the data. He measured over 130 modern individuals and notes the large amount of variation within aboriginals as demonstrated by statistical tables. These statistics were then compared to measurements from ancient Australians, and it is established that these differences are not random but follow a geographic pattern.
The tone of the article is then shifted to a more hypothetical one in which the author looks at various cultural changes that might fit the distribution pattern seen in tooth reduction. He looks at several possibilities, but focuses particularly on fishing net technology and the use of spear throwers as this evidence seems to support his hypothesis of culturally influenced biological change moving in from the Southeast. Finally, he attributes the reduced selective pressure for large teeth on the grinding of seeds and improved food preparation. This changes, he believes, also allowed these aboriginals to expand into the marginal desert areas of Australia’s interior.
The author realizes that his evidence for the connection between the cultural aspects and dental statistics is weak. He states outright that generalizing from one biological dimension is tenuous, but also notes that his evidence does contradict the idea that aborigines represent a homogenous type. To shore up his hypothesis he points out that the areas of large tooth retention are in the more habitable areas where one would logically expect more genetic influence from the original inhabitants. The author adds this all up to suggest that after initial occupation there was a continuous trickle of cultural and biological influence from the Northeast through the center of Australia.
Most commentators applauded the author’s efforts, but found fault with his use of tooth size, his statistics or his evolutionary conclusions. Several individuals noted that tooth size is not as strongly inheritable as the author suggests and that the measurement of tooth size is not easy. Others pointed out that the supposed stereotype of a uniform aboriginal “type” has in fact been discredited for some time. Finally, it is pointed out that his conclusion that improved food preparation would lead to a change in selective pressure for tooth size is faulty evolutionary logic.
The author replies that although the stereotype of a homogenous aboriginal type may be dead to these writers, it is still stated frequently. He also addresses and clarifies some of the comments about technique, explaining how measurements were made and teeth selected. However, he also states that while details of technique and the nature of his sample are important, to focus on them alone clouds the larger picture that there was greater size differences between aboriginal groups than between other groups of people. Finally, he explains that he views tooth wear as the selective pressure at work in the case of improved food preparation.
PAULINE STAHL California State University, Hayward (Peter J. Claus)
Brumfiel, Elizabeth M. Specialization, Market Exchange, and the Aztec State: A View from Huexotla. Cultural Anthropology, August 1980 Vol. 21(4):459-478
Brumfiel analyses the data of specialization and exchange of goods within the Aztec State through the site of Huexotla (located in the Valley of Mexico). Her assumption states that such exchange might occur in association with state level policies which, through legal force, would prevent the exchange system from collapsing. Her investigation focused on the interrelationships of specialization, marketing activity, and state-level polities. Her inspiration comes from Sanders’ work in pre-Hispanic states in highland Central Mexico. It is Sanders’ view that a territorial political central unit was favored in order to maintain a market exchange which included specialized goods. This system would be needed unless the parties involved were part of a larger sociopolitical structure.
The Huexotla site dates to the Aztec period ca A.D. 1150-1519. Sanders cites several sources written by authors who were present in Mexico during the time of the Spanish conquest. These include Duran and Diaz del Castillo, Spaniards who recorded their impressions of a world new to them. These historical sources do confirm the environmental diversity within the Valley of Mexico being associated with economic specialization before and at the time of the Spanish conquest. However, Sanders reflects that the extensive historical documentation is not enough to answer questions regarding specialization, exchange and Aztec political history. Archaeological data from Huexotla could provide information on Early Aztec political structure, political unification, market system and so on.
Sanders gives geographical data on the Valley of Mexico and Huexotla. The agricultural crops during pre-Hispanic times as well as conjectures regarding specialization in the processing of non-local raw material are mentioned. Sanders reports on the archaeological research at Huexotla which took place during the summers of 1972 and 1973. A brief description of the artifact collection as well as the methods by which the artifacts functions were deducted is mentioned. Sanders then analyses the data collected and concluded that the internal economy of Huexotla was not characterized by a complex division of labor dependent upon a stable local market system. Markets probably worked on the regional level.
Sanders also discussed other valley settlements’ issues with food supply and concludes with a possible scenario of changes within the Aztec market system which “…originally serve(d) as a means of distributing the products of local specialist to a regional population of consumers.” (467) It later evolved into a tribute-paying system.
Brumfiel’s study is welcomed by most of the commentators. Yet, these same commentators also point out weaknesses in Brumfiel article. For example, Pedro Carrasco points out the use of the term “Aztec”. Brumfiel, Carrasco claims, applies the term “Aztec” to all post-Toltec peoples in the Basin of Mexico. The problem arises because it suggests an ethnic or political unit which did not exist.
William T. Sanders on the hand is unsatisfied with all of Brumfiel conclusions. He feels her conclusions are not supported by the ethnohistoric data nor her own archaeological data. Brumfiel, according to Sanders, does not use ethnohistorical sources appropriately.
Brumfiel replies by focusing on the validity of the Huexotla data. Is it a good source of information about the Late Postclassic economy in the Valley of Mexico? Also, is her model of the economy able to stand the test of the new information given by the commentators?
Brumfiel rebuttals the issues raised by most of the commentators such as the size of the sample drawn from Huexotla. Brumfiel defended her sample arguing for the absolute size of the sample that matters rather than the percentage which determines the accuracy of statistical inference. Brumfiel also addresses the model Sanders mentions in his comment. Brumfiel likes this model and adds that Sanders had misunderstood her position.
CLARITY : 3
ADELHEID SCHMITT, Cal State Hayward (Peter Claus)
Brumfiel, Elizabeth M. Specialization, Market Exchange, and the Aztec State: A View from Huexotla. Current Anthropology 21(4):459-478, August 1980.
Brumfiel’s purpose in writing this paper is to investigate the relationship between craft specialization, market exchange, and state-level polities in highland central Mexico. Her hypothesis is that Mexican states expanded to facilitate specialization and market exchange. She tests this with archaeological evidence from her own fieldwork at Huexotla, the archaeological record of the Aztec period (1150-1519 C.E.), and historical records. She acknowledges influence from Sanders, who suggests the balance of specialization and exchange is mediated by a central polity. Sanders has argued that the environmental diversity and localized distribution of raw materials leads to market system specialization. His theory is that specialization favors political coordination because it organizes and regulates economic interests.
Brumfiel says that while the historical record is not complete, it paints a vivid picture of how and why exchange occurred. She cites several authors, including Cortes, Duran, and Diaz de Castillo, who note exchange was used to acquire much needed construction materials from outside the sphere of direct Aztec exploitation; they traded local goods, or exotic ones. She points to the existence of the market in Tenochtilan as evidence for massive exchange. Lastly, she notes the expansion of territory from localized city-states to incorporation into a regional empire, and that there was a movement toward greater centralization in the Aztec State. Brumfiel states that while this historical record is extensive, it cannot produce enough details relevant to her hypothesis. Her fieldwork produced several facts: 1) the local economies of early city-states were not complex; 2) the political unification of Central Mexico during Late Aztec times was accompanied by an intensification of regional exchange, with increased levels of production and importing; 3) early market focus appears to have been on distribution of local specialists to specific regional populations; and 4) in Late Aztec times, exchange and tribute extraction were closely linked. Later in her paper, she argues that a reorientation to tribute extraction occurred because of the heavy demand for foodstuffs in market places. The resulting shift from heavy non-food exporting to importing and to increased foodstuff importing is evident in Brumfiel’s archaeological data.
She concludes that the data from her site suggest that this reorientation was related to expansion of the Aztec State. She originally believed that the major drive behind the commercial machine was the streamlining of specialization in an ecologically-diverse environment. Now Brumfiel feels that the emergence of urban areas, especially regional capitals, led to commercial intensification. Tribute allows cities to pay for foodstuffs, in turn affecting rural production. She concludes that her original hypothesis, that the state arose to facilitate exchange between specialists, is incorrect. Rather, after examination of data from Huexotla, she believes that exchange of tribute for food between urban and rural populations encouraged the trend of market exchange.
The commentators do not shy away from pointing out inconsistencies and inaccuracies in Brumfiel’s paper, but generally agree with her main argument that market economies are encouraged by the state. They feel a heavier concentration on historical documents, especially more Aztec sources, is necessary; also that generalization from ambiguous evidence has occurred in analyzing the data from the Valley of Mexico before, and Brumfiel should take that into consideration. Sanders, a source Brumfiel cites several times in her introduction, states that her conclusions are not warranted. He says her sampling is inadequate, as she sampled only 1% of the urban core. Sanders believes that Huexotla was a poor choice for a test of his model, and reconstruction of the Tlateloco market at Tenochtilan is unjustified by any data she used. Lastly, he criticizes her lack of attention to ethnohistorical data.
With regard to the adequacy of sampling from Huexotla, Brumfiel replies that every concentration of prehistoric debris was sampled without bias. On dissatisfaction with the 1% urban core sample, she argues that the absolute size of the sample is important, not the percentage value. Concerning alleged ethnohistorical shortcomings, she states that she cited ethnohistorical data many times in her paper. One reason she did not rely on such data more is that they have limitations as well; only their use in combination with archaeological data is appropriate, which she did.
PETER ZERBE Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Steve Froemming)
Cochrane, Glynn. Policy Studies and Anthropology. Current Anthropology August,1980 Vol.21(4):445-457.
Cochrane discusses anthropology’s increasing involvement in policy studies, focusing on characteristics of policy studies that differ from academic anthropological research and the implications of those differences for graduate training. There is little agreement, he writes, on a definition of policy, but it can be distinguished from politics in that politics involves a struggle for power over certain decisions, whereas policy is a guide for decision making in a general class of decisions. Policy studies are for shaping decisions in a certain area and for planning implementation of those decisions.
He lists seven characteristics of policy studies:
1. Policy studies are of short duration, unlike anthropological fieldwork which can go on for decades.
2. Choice of and access to research situations are different. An individual’s personal career and history are more important than strict academic qualifications. Access to those who will be implementing policy is crucial before the research begins to determine the needs and interests of those who will be reading the report.
3. Policy studies must try to assess and predict future events. Anthropologists, knowing the limits of social change theory, do not like to make predictions and are generally not trained to do so. Recognized expertise in the formulation of policy is linked to assessing future events and planning resource deployment to take advantage of correct assessments.
4. Policy studies will be viewed with anxiety or anticipation by those who will be affected by them, creating either hostile or friendly environments in which to work.
5. Policy researchers usually have low status within the organizations they study and must work to improve their status so that the study will receive serious attention. Writing policy reports differs significantly from academic writing. Anthropologists who want to join the type of organization they are studying have to realize that they are writing, not for academic colleagues, but for the recipients of policy studies.
6. Policy studies require advocacy. A thesis is not the same as a policy study. The study must be explained to policy makers as research progresses and likely support or opposition gauged. The final report should include responses to early reactions so that there is a better chance for implementation.
7. Policy studies must employ measurement because progress towards achievement of policy goals must be measurable.
Cochrane does not think that students are well prepared to do policy studies, as their training is too narrow. Policy studies require more than the application of science. Anthropologists who work on policy matters must develop a sense of public service as strong as their loyalty to science.
Several reviewers disagreed with some of Cochran’s characteristics above e.g. policy studies do not have to be of short duration and generally are undertaken as the result of previous work in the area. Others thought that he presented policy work primarily as an employment alternative in a tight academic job market without listing what anthropology can contribute to policy studies. Some raised the issue of political and ethical compromises when working with international organizations.
Cochrane asserts that the reviewers misinterpreted his comments on the length of fieldwork. He agrees that he failed to discuss how anthropology’s heritage relates to policy studies, suggesting that one of the first tasks in every research effort is to do a social anthropology of the organization that would be affected by the results. He thinks compromises are not confined to work with large organizations and are found in the same areas of work in which those who raise these concerns are employed.
SARAH ROGERSON California State University Hayward (Peter Claus)
Cochrane, Glynn. Policy Studies and Anthropology. Current Anthropology 21(4):445-458, August 1980.
Glynn Cochrane explores the possible implications of the growing number of anthropologists entering the field of policy studies. He argues that some of the basic fundamentals of anthropology need to change, both in fieldwork and in the classroom, in order to fairly study policy. Cochran has many questions for the reader on what exactly policy studies are. He discusses how graduate school does not well prepare students to get into policy studies. He suggests some ideas that traditional graduate programs need to adhere to in order for students to be sufficiently prepared to enter cultures they are not familiar with.
One of the problems Cochrane has is with the looseness of the definition of a “policy study”. There is no agreement as to what the correct definition is, and most anthropologists define it as “what governments do,” with a softer definition of politics in general. This formulation begs to ask what the difference is between policy and law? Cochran answers this by saying policies affect a whole number of decisions made in a society, whereas a law only affects one decision or one situation. The problem with not having an agreed upon definition of policy is that one can’t answer the question of what impact anthropological research will have on a society. He argues that one needs more than science to study this process; there is a lot more involved in having the ability to understand social policies, including judgment and experience. Neither of these things can be learned in traditional graduate schools.
Cochran feels there are a few characteristics of traditional anthropological policy studies that really don’t suffice for accurate policy studies. These include: policy studies are of short duration, policies studies must try to assess future events, and policy studies make friends and enemies. Others he deems important are: the choice of and access to research situations are different, policy researchers usually have low statuses, policy studies must employ measurements, and policy studies require accuracy. Cochran concludes that graduate students are not fully prepared to go into fieldwork for policy studies right after graduation. He argues that their training is limited and that necessary characteristics to enter this field are lacking. In anthropology the willingness to tackle a project that requires more than one person is rare. Policy studies require some predictable convergence in the work of individual professionals as well as a predisposition to show commonalities between peoples, events and situations. Anthropologists personalize their work and mix their morals and politics into their research; this leads to incorrect publications and the misunderstanding of policy.
The comments are mostly constructive criticism; a lot of Cochrane’s arguments were agreed upon but with minor additions. Most commentators agreed that policy study is an important emerging field and the anthropological community has indeed neglected it. The article stated that the exact definition of policy study is not agreed on, and this showed in the comments. Everyone had his or her own idea of how Cochrane’s article could be tweaked to fit into this evolving definition.
Cochrane appreciated the feedback and the constructive criticism, however he stated that there were a lot of misunderstandings of his position. He felt that a lot of his colleagues thought that his work was conservative, and because of this false assumption he felt his works were a target for criticism. Cochrane then went on to tackle some of the points people made and to clarify statements that weren’t clear.
SARAH FARKAS Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Steve Froemming)
Conkey, Margaret W. The Identification of Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherer Aggregation Sites: The Case of Altamira. Current Anthropology 21(5):609-630, October 1980.
Margaret Conkey seeks to provide a framework with which archaeologists can identify prehistoric aggregation sites. She begins with a description of the aggregation/dispersion pattern as it has been seen and documented by ethnographers. In studied hunter-gather societies, the trend has been for scattered bands of people to come together at times for various reasons. The primary reason for this aggregation/dispersion lifestyle stems from subsistence ecology. Large groups of people would gather together in certain locations when environmental factors enabled them to do so. The basis for large aggregations of people also stems from ritual and social activities. The ritual and social components also play a key role in the day to day interaction of people. Rather than just having to deal with closely related individuals, people in aggregations must be able to interact with fairly unfamiliar individuals. As Conkey explains, “Such large groups are “inherently unstable,” but the collective gatherings are “stabilized by a distinctly cultural method: the use of the sacred.”
One drawback of most research and evidence for present-day aggregation and dispersion is the assumption that this pattern has been prevalent in prehistoric hominid hunter-gatherers. As already mentioned, social and ritual mechanisms are necessary in large aggregations, but they can only be achieved in humans that have developed the capability to comprehend these mechanisms. The evolutionary implications need to be studied within a framework that identifies common patterns that exist in aggregations. This framework is based on current ethnographic research in conjunction with the primary conditions that aggregations may take place in. These primary conditions are time, space, personnel, and context. With the focus on these conditions, the ability to test implications is possible. The combination of these conditions is where the difficulty comes in. These conditions vary drastically in different sites, but can still be considered an aggregation.
Conkey uses data collected at a Magdalenian III site to provide an example of how these test implications could be used to confirm or deny the presence of an aggregation. She focuses on the engraved designs present on bone to set up expectations that would be present if the site is an aggregation. For example, a wider range of diversity should be present at the Altamira site in contrast with other sites in the area. The Altamira site should also contain the design elements that are associated with the Magdalenian repertoire. As an aggregation, Altamira should contain design elements that are exclusive to it, and design elements that are not present at Altamira will not be present elsewhere. Conkey’s collection and analysis of the data supports the theory of Altamira being an aggregation. By using engraving on bone, Conkey proves that a systematic framework can be used to designate areas of intense occupation.
A majority of the commentators praised Conkey for her innovative and scientific approach to identifying aggregation sites. She choose a rather difficult medium to support her theory. Most research on aggregation sites has been done with the variety of floral and faunal depositions. A few commentators found her choice of research location to be arguable. The dense layer used to identify the Magdelenian era was called into question. They felt that the intense deposition could be caused by continuous occupation rather than a single event. The data itself was also called into question. The fairly old collection lacks the specific guidelines that are prevalent in todays excavations.
The author’s reply addressed an issue that many of the commentators failed to notice in her article. By using the Altimara site as her data focus, she was attempting to “encourage the formulation of more explicit and diverse models for interpreting hunter-gatherer settlement systems and site utilization.” Most of the commentators focused on the data from the Altimara site, rather than the actual point of her article. Most of the problems that were addressed by the commentators were actually mentioned in her initial article. Conkey responds to all the points that were offered to her.
JOANNA SALICKI Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Steve Froemming)
Diener, Paul. Quantum Adjustment, Macroevolution, and the Social Field: Some Comments on Evolution and Culture. Current Anthropology August,1980 Vol.21(4):423-443.
Stability models have been dominant in biology since the neo-Darwinian synthesis and have discouraged the study of progressive evolution. Recent developments, however, have turned attention back to this neglected area. The introduction of biological models, such as cultural ecology, into cultural anthropology has likewise focused on stability models but Diener utilizes the new ideas in biological theory as creative analogies to explore progressive evolution in cultural systems, taking the origin of India’s sacred-cow practices as an example. He discusses three issues important to a proper understanding of progressive cultural evolution: quantum adjustment, macroevolution and the role of the social field.
He first critiques some of Marvin Harris’ assumptions: that cattle management techniques can be treated in isolation from other cultural factors and in relationship to environmental limits, and that the behavior-environment interface (analogous to phenotype-environment) is primary and the belief-behavior interface (analogous to genotype-phenotype) is derived. Neither of these assumptions is consistent with biological models of evolutionary change, which assume that the genome cannot be conceptualized as a collection of individual, isolated genes, but must be recognized as a system in which sets of genes operate in a coordinated manner, and that genetic modification is essential to change in biological systems. In cultural theory, this would require that the sacred-cow complex be recognized as part of a wider social-political-economic system and that belief be recognized as equally important to behavior in understanding cultural processes.
Next, he demonstrates that Harris’ theory of slow gradual change from beef-eating to beef-prohibition is unlikely, even if he grants Harris his assumptions. Recent biological theory proposes that gradual environmental changes usually give rise to quantum adjustments in system behavior when the response under study is complex. Applying this to cultural change, Diener shows that environmental changes in ancient India which lowered the evolutionary “fitness” of beef consumption could not have led to beef-prohibition until the fitness became so low that it was rational for farmers to make a rapid change or quantum adjustment, which is in fact what happened historically. Nevertheless, he thinks that the quantum adjustment concept is limited in its usefulness to cultural analysis since it assumes the stability model.
A more fruitful analogue from biology might be the speciation event. Cultural transformations must be seen as qualitatively different from local adjustments to environmental change, just as speciation is increasingly being viewed by biologists as qualitatively different from local adaptations within populations. He contends that the punctuated equilibria model of Gould and Eldredge is applicable to civilizational history.
A consideration of the social field, a concept Diener borrows from Lesser, provides new ways of thinking about how old “cultural control hierarchies” are overthrown and replaced.
Most commentators found the biological analogies thought-provoking, though their limitations in social theory must be recognized. Robkin pointed out that the interest in using models from other disciplines in anthropology lies in the questions generated and not in any unrealistic hope of “cranking out answers,” but the unexpected relationships between factors which can be uncovered with models can be very beneficial.
Diener agrees that the analogies cannot be used simplistically, that careful research and formulation of concepts is needed, but disagrees with some commentators’ interpretations of the biological concepts involved.
SARAH ROGERSON California State University Hayward (Peter Claus)
Dirks, Robert. Social Responses during Severe Food Shortages and Famine. Current Anthropology February, 1980. Vol.21.No.1:21-44.
As the title implies, Dirks is interested in the social aspects of famine. In this article he reviews prior literature on famine and proposes a model for behavioral change diachronically due to famine. His general theoretical perspective though is a biological one, and he seems to be line with the cultural evolutionists. In fact, the model that he supports to explain what he sees as universal behavioral adaptation was originally a physiological model.
Dirks’ article is laid out as if it were in a science journal with an introduction, background, a discussion of the material reviewed, the application of his model and a conclusion. The background covers the physiological aspects of starvation and its roots that can be attributed to biological as well as social-political phenomena. He then goes on to describe how famine has been recorded ethnographically and explain why these descriptions are very contradictory. He states that to see adaptation to famine one needs to have data from times of plenty to want and back. Its unpredictable nature in times of plenty, make this extremely difficult to obtain.
From the material reviewed, Dirks compares behavioral changes to physiological ones, pointing out the similarities. He then describes Selye’s triphasic hypothesis of general adaptation to stress. It proposes that a body responds to lack of nutrition in three stages, and Dirks claims that the same can be seen in social institutions. This section includes a table listing the ethnographies reviewed and checking off which of the three phases were applicable in each situation. He then takes each of the phases in turn, describing examples in detail.
Although his model is logical, it is also quite commonsensical. He points out that in the first phase individuals try to help each other out, but as starvation progresses we concentrate on helping our own and in the final stages it is “every man for himself”. He tries to add weight to his article by including close to 200 citations and by tying his hypothesis to physiological facts, which are also quite commonsensical, e.g. as lack of nutrition continues, the individual has less tolerance for exhaustive work.
This article drew many comments, predominately positive. Criticisms seemed to focus mainly along the lines that Dirks’ argument needs to be more specific. It is pointed out that the subject needs a more systematic approach; that Dirks skips over cultural differences to food shortage. These differences can relate to periodic religious and community fasting as potential mechanisms of resistance. Several commentators also state that further work on famine could lead to better relief efforts in the future. However, studies need to be done that deal with famine’s affect on social structures, particularly how power is involved with food distribution. Finally, one commentator mentioned that it would be nice to read about this important topic in plain English rather than Dirks’ excessively arcane language.
Dirks states that he recognizes the “sketchy” nature of his work and that it is not detailed enough. However, he states that analyses can only be as deep as its database and that more empirical data is needed. He goes on to refute the notion that his model should be more specific. He states that it is the very generality of Selye’s model which drew him to it. By concentrating on the general processes he feels that the model transcends the “host of environmental variables involved in particular cases.” To other specific faults he states that they would make excellent further research. Finally, he hopes that his universal approach will help in future relief efforts.
PAULINE STAHL California State University, Hayward (Peter J. Claus)
Dirks, Robert. Social Responses During Severe Food Shortages and Famine. Current Anthropology 21(1):21-44, February 1980.
In this article, Dirks presents data that was collected to analyze the socio-cultural effects of famine and starvation on a population. He argues that more work needs to be done on understanding these effects in non-industrialized nations, and on developing models of cross-cultural regularities in social behavior during periods of famine and starvation. Through greater understanding, Dirks suggests that more sensitive relief strategies could be utilized.
Starvation, a condition in which the energy demands of an organism exceed supply, has both cultural and biological components. However, when experienced simultaneously by all members of a population, it becomes more of a cultural, rather than biological phenomena. Starvation and famine are undoubtedly great stressors on a system. After coping with repetitive stressors, systems become conditioned. Because of this conditioning, no two cases of starvation or famine are alike. Sources of variation lie in external environing conditions, as well as conditions internal to impacted individuals and populations.
Variations can occur not only between cultures, but within a culture as well. Variations within a culture group may be a result of socio-economic status. Those with low socio-economic status may already have a very low caloric intake at the start of a period of starvation. They are thus more susceptible to disease during these periods. In contrast, individuals with higher socio-economic status are often in a position where they barely feel the effects of starvation, if at all. Variations between cultures involve both “progressive” and “recursive” changes in order for adaptation to occur. Progressive changes are mainly precautionary and preventative. Recursive changes are brought about by stressors and include coping strategies as well.
Just as there exists a great deal of variation between cultures during periods of famine and starvation, there are universal tendencies as well. Dirks references Selye’s idea of a general adaptation system with triphasic organization. This first phase of the syndrome is the “alarm reaction.” During this phase a culture experiences drastic levels of anxiety which at first increases communal cooperation, but then decreases. At the beginning of such a disaster individuals unite as a community to help one another. However, as the famine progressively worsens, the community members become more irritable and excitable, creating a volatile environment. The second phase is the “resistance” phase. During this phase, activity, including social interaction, decreases. The third phase is the “exhaustion” phase. During this phase even family ties, which were the basis of survival during the “resistance” phase, are broken. This is the phase where only one’s own self matters to a starving individual.
Dirks concludes that although a great deal of variation occurs, universally there exists a series of social adaptations to famine and starvation. These adaptations come about in a process of coping mechanisms.
BRANDI BURLINGAME Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Steve Froemming)
Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi, Gabriella. The Female Lingam: Interchangeable Symbols and Paradoxical Associations of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Current Anthropology February, 1980. Vol.21. No.1: 45-68.
The author is applying categorization using binary characteristics, as usually seen in linguistics, to Hindu symbology. Her particular argument is that Freudian deterministic explanations of universal symbolic meaning are sometimes too confining, and that the structuralists who would say that symbols only acquire meaning in the context of a myth, rite, etc., are likewise not always correct. She states:
The main purpose of this paper has been to demonstrate that symbolic associations are less psychologically determined than Freudian psychoanalysts are accustomed to think and that ‘scenic opposite routes’ of symbolic thought exist, leaving a margin of arbitrariness. At the same time, I hope to have established that symbolic meanings are less arbitrary and also less context-bound than structuralists are accustomed to think.
Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi uses various symbolic representations of Hindu deities to show that the same symbol can be used for either male or female, counter to a Freudian unisexual interpretation of the symbol and that this is not context specific. Her examples are: the tree, the white-anthill, the lotus, the pointed weapon, the vessel, the lingam, the cow, the female breast and the term “mother”, which have been arranged, “in a scale of roughly increasing conceptual difficulty.”
For each of these symbols, taken in turn, Eichenger Ferro-Luzzi discusses the main Hindu representation (either male or female) and points out the Freudian interpretation of the symbol. She then gives counter examples from the Hindu religion where the same symbol is used to represent the opposite sex also. According to the Freudian deterministic interpretation, the symbol should be universally associated with only one sex. After discussing the tree’s symbolism, both male and female aspects, the author states, “this latter example, in my opinion, not only contradicts Freudian psychoanalytic theory concerning the tree, but also constitutes a paradox from the structural point of view, since the opposition god/goddess would seem to require opposed symbolic expressions.”
In summation, the author states that binary associations are relevant and that “the interchangeability of male and female symbols and associations in Hinduism…teach us something about our use of such binary categories in creating symbols.” She feels that our minds do not always stay on the “thought highway” as Freudian and structuralist theory would support, but that we also like to take the occasional “scenic route”. Her final statement is, “We may avoid the ‘highway’ of symbolic thought, but behind it another highway opens, that of binary categories. Even though we succumb to the lure of the latter, or because we do so, however, we still have the possibility of thinking the unlikely.”
This article received numerous comments, both positive and negative. Some Commentators took objection to Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi’s use of Freudian theory, stating that Freud did not see symbols as strictly unidimensional and that she oversimplified. Others felt that her portrayal of the choice of symbol as capricious is incorrect. Along the same line, one commentator thought that she needed to look at historical conditions before she could present the symbols as context-free. Some of the commentators also criticized her choices on the basis of linguistic theories. Finally, one individual felt that she should not use the term “symbol” when referring to the Lingum, as Hindus do not think this is a representation but rather is Siva.
Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi writes a five page response tackling almost all criticism rendered. She divides the criticism up into categories: Freudian questions, Indian questions, structuralism and linguistic questions. She then goes into detail clarifying the criticism and using further references to support her original argument. It becomes clear that she is well versed in these fields and makes excellent counter arguments to each of the commentators concerns.
PAULINE STAHL California State University, Hayward (Peter J. Claus)
Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi, Gabriella. The Female Lingam: Interchangeable Symbols and Paradoxical Associations of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Current Anthropology 21(1):45-68, February 1980.
Ferro-Luzzi addresses the issue of how we choose certain symbols to represent certain meanings. Freudian thinkers believe that symbols are chosen because of an innate “inborn quality” being that “universal symbols are rooted in the experience of every human being.”
She focuses on the “scenic opposition route,” stating that there are other views, often more exciting, than the “highway” view of Freudian theory, which states that we will choose certain objects as symbols and attribute certain meaning to them.
She further elaborates, “…symbols acquire their meanings only in the context of a myth, a rite, a social setting, etc. I do not deny that context is important for the interpretation of symbols, and in some of the examples…the meaning of the symbol does indeed change with the context…in some cases, however, context is irrelevant; the symbol may have the same meaning in different contexts and different meanings in the same context.”
The symbols she uses to elaborate further include the Hindu Gods and Goddesses as represented by the tree, the snake, the white anthill, the lotus, the pointed weapon, the vessel, the lingam, the cow, the female breast, and the term “mother.”
She argues that the symbols are interchangeable between male and female. They can represent any number of things and it may not always be for the most obvious or universal reason. She points out that in each of these cases; the Freudian view contradicts itself.
Her most important argument challenging Freud’s theory is that the interchanges between male and female symbols are due to the use of binary opposites. Different characteristics of the same object may be selected, causing a male or female association, the same characteristic may be seen from different perspectives, or the male/female opposition may vanish in a common denominator at a higher level of abstraction.
Although Ferro-Luzzi was praised for her approach to examining the subject of interchangeability of Hindu male/female symbols and her use of ethnographic and scholarly data, several commentators criticized her for falling short in some areas. Criticisms included the failure to offer a solution to the “enigma,” neglecting historical conditions in her attempt to present “context-free” symbolic meaning, lack of conceptual and terminological distinctions, and the use of the term “symbol” when there is no real Indian translation of the term.
Ferro-Luzzi responds to her critics in a gracious manner thanking them for giving her more angles to look at, and for pointing out where she needed to elaborate or improve her argument. In addition, she responds to each point brought to her attention, including concerns about Freudian theory, how the Indian culture is predisposed to inversions and paradoxical associations, symbolism, structuralism, linguistic questions, and questions about the unconscious. Her response reiterates her stand and explains why she still believes what she does.
ASHLEY MANOOGIAN Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Steve Froemming)
Epstein, Jeremiah F. Pre-Columbian Old World Coins in America: An Examination of the Evidence. Current Anthropology February, 1980. Vol.21.No.1:1-20.
Epstein addresses this topic from the perspective of objective scientism. His greater ideology is in line with those who created the “new archaeology.” That is, those, like Binford, who thought that archaeology should be viewed as a “hard” science. His title would seem to imply that he is looking for some definitive truth, but he is most interested in disproving the diffusionists who would attribute the presence of these coins to pre-Columbian contact. His basic argument is to show that the record of ancient coins found in America can be explained as a modern phenomenon.
The author constructs a very logical argument to discredit the idea that the coin’s presence is due to diffusion. He has collected a great deal of data about each coin and where and when it was found. This data is presented in numerous tables that have been arranged to illustrate the patterns purported by Epstein. He then address the history associated with the find of each of these coins in turn. Finally, he suggests that many are forgeries.
Patterns in the data point out that ancient coins have been found largely in places such as towns and fields and sites have been geographically centered in the South. In each case he is able to point out a lack of provenience that would tie the presence of the coin in America to a pre-Columbian date. To further his hypothesis that these coins were lost or planted in modern times, he presents information as to the abundance of these coins and their relatively inexpensive price. Thus, he counters the diffusionist’s argument that the rarity of these coins would prohibit their casual loss. His final argument addresses the issue of deliberate forgery. Here he examines several of the coins, particularly those that come from areas with numerous finds, and points out how they are forgeries.
Epstein’s motives here are to disprove the diffusionist argument for pre-Columbian contact with the New World. His perspective is that this argument is mere speculation and is not tied to factual data. The “new archaeology” follows the Western scientific paradigm that one’s task is to collect data and support hypotheses from that data. His logical argument supports the conclusion that a pre-Columbian provenience has not been established for these coins and that the more parsimonious answer is that they are personal possessions lost recently.
The majority of commentators were glad to see “professional anthropology” supported and diffusion discredited. In fact two commentators stated that they thought debunking of diffusionism akin to “beating a dead horse” as no professional anthropologist could take it seriously. However, some criticisms were leveled. Some pointed out that they thought Epstein was trying too hard to discredit diffusionism, and that an idea should not be dismissed simply because evidence has not yet been found. It was also noted that other forms of evidence for pre-Columbian contact were not addressed and that they offered better evidence.
In his reply, Epstein immediately states that his work was meant as a methodological contribution and not a debunking. He further reiterates that the data speaks for itself and that, surely, any review of it would show the same answer. Finally he addresses three general criticisms and delineates how each one does not logically follow data and that this must be the bottom line.
PAULINE STAHL California State University, Hayward (Peter J. Claus)
Epstein, Jeremiah F. Pre-Columbian Old World Coins in America: An Examination of the Evidence. Current Anthropology 21(1):1-20, February 1980.
This article examines the presence of pre-Columbian Old World coins in America. Such coins have been turning up quite frequently in America since the end of World War II. The question is, are these coins an indication of pre- Columbian contact, or are they simply collectors’ coins that were lost or strategically “planted” much more recently? The significance of these coin discoveries is difficult to assess, not only because the finding of a genuine pre-Columbian coin is rare, but also the fact that when a discovery of this nature is made it is often not documented adequately. Diffusionists argue that Europeans or other Old World peoples had to have reached the Americas long before Columbus did in 1492, and they see any pre- Columbian coin discovery on this continent as evidence. Most anthropologists however, try to avoid drawing conclusions from such limited and often fraudulent data. The author attempts to prove that there is so far no sufficient evidence for pre-Columbian contact in the Americas.
The author gives substantial evidence to back up his claims. There are several charts within the article that present the data collected. The dates of the coin discoveries, the minting periods of the coins, and the distribution of the finds are all documented. It shows that the coins were all most likely lost recently. A majority of the coins appear to be lost post World War II. The minting dates of the coins further dispute the diffusionist position. If indeed, the Europeans had made contact, one would expect the minting dates to be clustered around a certain time period. However, the coins found in America are dated to all different historical time periods, with almost no overlapping. Pre-Columbian coins are found in all different regions of the US, inland and coastal, north and south. If these coins did come from a drifting Roman ship or such, a majority of the coins would be expected to be located in the coastal regions, but that is not the case. The author also conducted a survey with coin sellers and collectors, and even sent a question into a coin collecting magazine, inquiring into how often people lose these coins. Apparently many do. It is estimated that approximately 1,000,000 Roman coins are in America today, so it is very plausible that a few would be lost. The author also points out that many of the coins found were proved to be counterfeit, or placed purposely to fool the public. The most convincing evidence lies within the context that the coins were found. Most were found on the surface or only a few inches below it. Obviously, the older an object is, the lower it will lie in the soil if there is no disturbance.
In conclusion, the author has a reasonable amount of data from diverse sources. The author provides a strong argument that at this point in time there is not substantial evidence from the coins found to point towards trans-Atlantic contact before Columbus.
In the pages following the article, Epstein is both applauded and criticized for his study. He is praised for making a compelling, concise argument against the diffusionist position. He is said to have excellent charts and arrange his evidence clearly and orderly in the article. He collects his data from a number of varying sources. Critics however, remarked that he did not go deeply enough into the issue, and only touched on a few important pieces of evidence. His attack on the diffusionists in the opening paragraph, labeling them as unprofessional anthropologists, also solicited a few negative remarks. Some colleagues even argued that conducting a study on pre-Columbian contact is like “beating a dead horse” because it has been proved many times before that the diffusionist position on this subject lacks evidence.
Epstein replies candidly, saying that he considers his study to be a “methodological contribution, rather then a debunking effort.” Epstein thanks those who helped him with the study, and for the comments of his colleagues. He even admits to making some minor mistakes in a few details. Epstein then goes on to supply further evidence for his position, citing previous fieldwork on this topic. He ends by reasserting his stand that evidence for Pre-Columbian contact is lacking, while evidence that these coins are associated with a later time period is more viable.
SARAH NEMETH Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Steve Froemming)
Espinola, Julio Cesar. Apropos of the Typological Model of Social Change: In Memory of Marcelo Bormida. Current Anthropology June,1980 Vol.21(3):329-355
Espinola traces the intellectual history of the typological model of social change in Latin America. Redfield’s theoretical scheme of folk-peasant-urban, developed in 1953, has been the main model for social change studies, though criticism led to the adoption of the traditionalism-modernism model around 1960, which employed very similar variables, but was more complex . By the time of this article, written in 1979, the dominant theoretical approach was the Marxist dependency model which denied the dualism between underdevelopment and development as evolutionary stages, asserting that they are parts of a single world economy, Marxism being the all-encompassing theory for analyzing world economic development.
Espinola discusses the following as variables in the explanation of social change: urbanization, values, social structure, social mobility, relative provincial status, and socioeconomic status. He sets out to test several hypotheses under the traditionalism-modernism scheme, using urbanization as the independent variable for attitude towards change, complexity of social structure, and social mobility in the particular situation of Argentina. He then compares urbanization, relative provincial development, and socioeconomic status as independent variables determining social change as it is reflected in attitude toward change, complexity of social structure, and social mobility.
His method was to select three provinces, one each of low-relative, medium-low, and medium-relative development on the basis of socioeconomic data and social structure. In each province, he selected a rural village, a ruro-urban town, and an urban center. (He excluded the three largest urban areas, including Buenos Aires.) He administered a questionnaire and did extensive interviews with the head of family in a sample of dwellings. He stayed for 1-2 years in each province.
His conclusions are that neither urbanization nor relative provincial development provides an adequate explanation of complexity of social structure, social mobility, or attitude toward change in Argentina, i.e. neither of his variables are strongly correlated with his chosen features of social change. However, there is a correlation between socioeconomic status and social mobility and favorable attitude towards change. These data are at odds with studies in some other Latin American countries and he posits that urbanization is more highly correlated with aspects of social change in countries less developed than Argentina, while socioeconomic status is more highly correlated in countries with development similar to or greater than Argentina’s. The traditionalism-modernism model appears to be inadequate in countries with relatively more development because differences between rural and urban environments are decreasing. A new theoretical scheme is needed.
Twelve reviewers commented on the article. Most of them found fault with his methodology on one or more of the following grounds: he makes no distinction between his subjects’ attitudes and their actual behavior; his exclusion of the wealthiest urban provinces is not justified in his research design; his definition of the three types of study sites (rural, ruro-urban, and urban) is based entirely on the number of inhabitants of each and does not take into account migration of inhabitants between country and city; and he does not distinguish between correlation and causation in his conclusions. One reviewer applauded his critique of the dichotomous model of social change and his data on types of community level change. Several thought his criticisms of the Marxist dependency model were made without adequate justification.
Espinola responds that attitudes toward change were included in the study only as indicators of modernism, without any implication for behavior. He explains his exclusion of Buenos Aires from the sample with reference to the purpose of the investigation. His selection of sites was based on multistage sampling, which is why the populational values can be estimated fairly accurately. He appears to agree with the shortcomings of the causal character of his model and is interested in more sophisticated models proposed recently. His reservations about the Marxist model are based on the looseness of rules of the method, the a priori interpretation, and the arguments over terms into which its adherents tend to fall, which confuses the social science and the philosophical treatise.
SARAH ROGERSON California State University Hayward (Peter Claus)
Guthrie, Stewart. A Cognitive Theory of Religion. Current Anthropology April, 1980. Vol.21.No.2:181-203.
Guthrie’s attempt to provide a definition of religion places him historically in the tradition of scientism within anthropology. He looks for a general theory to explain the role of religion within cultures. This tradition harkens back to Tylor, Durkheim and Freud who are quoted liberally in this article. Guthrie specifically expounds a theory that religion is “the systematic application of human-like models to nonhuman in addition to human phenomena.” By human-like models, Guthrie means that religion is a model that “anthropomorphizes the world in some significant way” and that this is a rational system of thought and action that “is principally an effort to explain and control the world at large.”
In his argument, Guthrie quotes a great deal from historical texts pointing out where he feels the authors are correct and where they have logical problems. This is particularly true for his first section, “The Need for a Theory”, where he puts himself in line with Tylor, Durkheim and Freud. In a later section entitled, “A Cognitive Approach”, Guthrie lays out the evidence that he sees supporting his argument in “five propositions and two informal deductions.” Here he sites individuals to support each proposition and deduction in turn and then goes on to state potential arguments against these items and then refutes them.
He further stresses the cognitive, rationalistic nature of his approach which is a way to control the world at large. This rationalist approach applies equally to religion and science, “it is important that religion and science both are concerned to explain and control experience coherently and economically.” Guthrie, therefore, refutes those that see religion as irrational or consistent with superior scientific thought. He insists that religion and science (as well as other secular thought) are model based and that they share a cognitive framework. Further, he claims that “the common denominator is language, necessarily based on analogies and metaphors whose final aims are to explain and to control the world (comments by Earhart, 195).”
Common among the many comments engendered by this article was that Guthrie’s theory was too vague and that his definition falls short of being just that. It was also noted that just putting forth a theory or definition doesn’t really add to the intellectual discourse, that it does not tell us much about real people or how societies work. Finally, several individuals thought Guthrie’s idea of what religion is falls short of its entirety. One commentator thought that religion is too multi-functional to be definable. Another pointed out that religion goes beyond anthropomorhism and delves in the mysterious. Similarly, one commentator thought that Guthrie’s approach was overly intellectual, ignoring the emotional aspect of religion.
Guthrie notes that many of the comments are polar opposites, “either my assertions are true but obvious or they are new and interesting but untrue.” He feels that to be rejected is common for new theories that will eventually gain acceptance. He then takes the main points of each of the commentators in turn and addresses them individually. He points out where their ideas are mistaken and how he feels that his original assertions are correct. He also repeatedly states that the problems commented on are ones of omission that were inevitable in this article for the sake of brevity.
PAULINE STAHL California State University, Hayward (Peter J. Claus)
Guthrie, Stewart. A Cognitive Theory of Religion. Current Anthropology 21(2):181-201, April 1980.
In this article Stewart Guthrie addresses several issues regarding the definition and cognitive theory of religious thought and action. He often refers to historical texts of the past through the use of quotes and explanations from scholars such as Tylor, Durkheim, Freud, and many others. He illustrates the inherently anthropomorphistic characteristics and views that are, in his opinion, universal to all religious beliefs and institutions. Guthrie makes the assertion that anthropomorphism is inevitable in human thought. As a result, religion, not unlike science, magic, and other forms of secular thought, is influenced by human personification. People make these assumptions and connections in an attempt to explain, control, categorize, and ultimately to simplify the oftentimes complicated, ambiguous, and mysterious world around them. Gods and spirits are perceived to be human-like entities simply because it is easiest for people to relate to and communicate with beings that are similar to themselves.
Communication, language and symbolism in particular, are the cornerstones of religion. We are pulled into systems of belief by our observations, experiences and interactions with both other people and the world around us. Religion involves systematic use of metaphors and analogies. The more organized a phenomena is, the greater the impact it has on society. Guthrie feels that religion, magic, science and other forms of secular thought differ mainly in organization.
When compared to science and other forms of secular thought, religion is often regarded as a polar opposite. Guthrie asserts that both religion and science aim to achieve a common goal: explanation and simplification of the world around us in an attempt to resolve ambiguity. Both are forms of model-use and both involve elements invisible to the naked eye (i.e., spirits and gods vs. neutrons and phlogistons).
A list outlining Guthrie’s cognitive approach to religion can be found on page 187 of the article. His approach is broken down into five propositions and two informal deductions that are as follows:
P1. Phenomena (aspects of the world known through our senses) initially are ambiguous.
D1. Therefore phenomena (at least salient or potentially significant ones) must be interpreted.
P2. Phenomena are interpreted by a set of models based on experience of analogous phenomena.
P3. A model by which to interpret a phenomenon in a context is chosen from the set by (a) its capacity to generate the phenomenon, (b) the likelihood of occurrence of the phenomenon from which the model derives, and (c) its subjective importance to the observer.
P4. Humans, (a) because they are complex and multifaceted, generate a very wide range of phenomena; (b) as social beings, are likely to be wherever the human perceiver may be; and (c) are the most important factor in the human environment.
D2. Therefore human-like models frequently are chosen to interpret ambiguous phenomena.
P5. Generalization and systematization of this choice is the cognitive basis of religion.
The message of the majority of comments made on this article is a feeling of dissatisfaction and still unresolved ambiguity. Most commentators felt that while Guthrie’s attempt at producing a universal definition for religion was poignant and in most cases factual, it is much too vague to account for all of the mystery and ambiguity that is involved in religious theory. His definition falls short of an all encompassing definition that involves human emotion, multi-functionality, and anthropomorphism.
Guthrie states that the comments made show a great diversity of criticism. He finds comfort in the idea that many of the great innovations and theories that have come to be accepted by society began in a similar pattern of criticism from “both sides of the fence.” Guthrie observes that the comments made on his article seem to fall at one of two poles. He goes on to explain that Buchdahl and Greenberg claim that the assertions made in the article are true but obvious, while Sharpe, Saliba and Saler feel that the assertions are new and interesting but untrue. Guthrie closes the article by addressing each commentator’s specific agreements and disagreements with his assertions.
KATHRYN PETERS Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Steve Froemming)
Minge-Klevana, Wanda. Does Labor Time Decrease with Industrialization? A Survey of Time-Allocation Studies. Current Anthropology June 1980 Vol.21(3): 279-298.
Minge-Klevana is investigating whether the transition from preindustrial food production to wage labor in industrial societies led to an increase or decrease in total labor time per worker? Certain anthropologists have suggested the former, while economists have suggested the latter. She surveys the most comprehensive studies available in two categories: agrarian household economies and urban/suburban wage labor households. While these studies contained a great deal of pertinent data, she concludes that there are not enough studies using a common definition of labor and a standardized methodology to answer the question she has posed.
There were a number of methodological difficulties which inhibit comparability of data. First, in the studies of agricultural societies, there was variation as to which activities were counted as labor. Some of the early studies measured garden labor only, which underestimated the total labor time of the family. Second, the labor of children was not measured in most studies, but those that did count it found the contribution of children to the family total to be substantial. Third, the work of childcare was difficult to measure in agricultural societies since it is often performed simultaneously with other tasks or performed by siblings rather than the mother.
In the studies of postindustrial societies, the individual’s time allocation was measured, not the family’s as a whole, making direct comparison problematic. Some studies measured only labor inside the home, omitting labor outside the home altogether, though Minge-Klevana asks why wage work should not be counted as family labor since income from wage work pays rent and purchases food.
Several interesting findings in the postindustrial studies concerned women’s time allocation. Whereas in agricultural societies, children are frequently cared for by siblings or by the mother while she is gardening, postindustrial women devote a much larger portion of their day to direct child care and child-related activities. The single most often-mentioned activity with regard to children was chauffeuring, especially in the United States. A second difference between agricultural and postindustrial home labor was the amount women in the latter devoted to consumer-related activities. Third, the most consistent pattern across all the studies was the increased labor time of employed women, who worked longer hours than both employed men and housewives.
Freedman suggests that the evolution of labor does not lend itself to quantification since time-allocation studies are informative only when the researcher is examining relationships within a single social system or where a specific task is being compared cross-culturally. Pospisil writes that Minge-Klevana’s conclusions are marred by imprecise definitions of the concepts of industrialization and labor. Her description of industrialization appears to include any family whose labor is no longer on the farm; and using Marx’s definition of labor as “a process between man and nature” in which use values are created, wipes out the difference between work and leisure. Erasmus, Parkes, and Taganyi raise the problem of the timing of work in agricultural societies, where people set their own pace and where the idea of time allocation is lacking due to the integration of work and household activities.
Minge-Klevana agrees with Pospisil that the definitions of industrialization and labor are fundamental to the discussion and that activities measured in the studies can be defined as labor only in the cultural context of the society. For example, childcare activities may be considered labor in the context of the socialization and educational requirements of industrial societies but not in peasant societies. Regarding industrialization, she is referring only to the aspect which has to do with family labor moving from the farm to other areas of production. More important in defining the Industrial Revolution is the fact that in the factory system, the pace of work is set by machines and not people. Erasmus, Parkes and Taganyi’s comments on the self-paced nature of work in agricultural societies reflect that fact.
SARAH ROGERSON California State University Hayward (Peter Claus).
Minge-Klevana, Wanda. Does Labor Time Decrease with Industrialization? A Survey of Time-Allocation Studies. Current Anthropology 23(2):279-298, June 1980.
Minge-Klevana discusses how time is spent throughout the day in pre-industrialized and post-industrialized countries. She specifically looks at two aspects of each type of country. One aspect is the time spent inside the home, including activities such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for the family in both agriculture and wage-labor societies. The other aspect is time spent outside the house, which consists of agriculture work in pre-industrialized countries and wage labor in post-industrialized countries.
Since the industrial revolution the hours worked by both men and women have gone up compared to the hours worked in agriculture societies. Whether in the house or out of the house the work hours have gone up for industrialized countries. Minge-Klevana not only compares men and women in these societies, she looks at how children have changed in the transition from pre-industrialized countries to post-industrialized countries. She uses time-allocation studies throughout the article for comparison. While only a few of these look at differences between children in different kinds of societies, a study that she cites from a post-industrialized country shows how the amount of time spent inside and outside the house has change throughout the course of modernization of the countries.
Minge-Klevana makes use of graphs from previous time-allocation studies to make her point that there is a difference between pre-industrialized countries and post-industrialized countries. She makes note that some of the studies may be a bit confusing in the way they determine what is house work and what is work outside the home and who participates in each of the two groups. She makes clear that children within each society play a different but equally important role. She suggests that within the post-industrialized societies there is a difference in the amount of time spent at work. While the time outside the house tends to decline, the work inside the house tends to increase due to the fact that the children are less likely to contribute until they are able to join the work force.
This paper was welcomed but there were some concerns raised. Kwane Arhin brought up the point that while trying to decide how much of a role children play, one must distinguish between a child and an infant. Charles Erasmus mentioned that some distinctions should be made between different types of labors that are done outside and inside the house. For example, is tending to livestock the same as tending to the fields?
CHRIS MANNING Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Steve Froemming)
Nag, Moni. How Modernization Can Also Increase Fertility. Current Anthropology 21(5):571-587, October 1980.
The primary concern of this article is the notion that modernization will somehow gradually decrease fertility. The author argues that this isn’t the case; in fact he believes that modernization can actually increase fertility. Nag’s basic argument is that there are ten proximate variables affecting fertility which aren’t being paid enough attention. These variables are (1) fecundity (ovulation and amenorrhea) as affected by breast-feeding, (2) fecundity (amenorrhea, menarche, and menopause) as affected by nutrition, (3) miscarriage and stillbirths, (4) sterility due to venereal diseases, (5) voluntary abstinence, (6) widowhood and widowerhood, (7) divorce and separation, (8) age at marriage and proportion never-married, (9) frequency of intercourse, and (10) involuntary abstinence.
The author examines each of these variables on an individual basis and provides qualitative statistical data to support his argument. Of the ten variables, Nag focuses most on fecundity as affected by breast-feeding and voluntary abstinence. He notes that prolonged breast-feeding delays ovulation, thereby delaying pregnancy. However, since the start of modernization, fewer women are breast-feeding and those who do choose to breast-feed are doing so for a shorter amount of time, thereby increasing fertility levels. Where voluntary abstinence is concerned, the author found in a cross-cultural study of 61 societies that one of the main factors related to variation in fertility was the duration of postpartum abstinence by women. He concludes the article by summarizing how each of the ten variables observed affect fertility as a result of modernization.
The majority of comments on this article were constructive. Most of the commentators had suggestions for additional information that they felt should have been included. However there were a few commentators who had some problems with the information provided. One critic was uncomfortable with the author’s apparent willingness to accredit any fertility increase that has been observed to modernization. Some commentators felt the use of the term “modernization” was unsatisfactory on the author’s part, while others questioned the reliability of birth rate data used in the article.
Nag’s reply addressed a few issues that commentators had with his paper. Some of those issues include the criticisms above in addition to the assertion that the author stops too soon “by not inferring that increases in fertility attended the early phase of industrialization in all of Europe, not just in England.” Nag also addresses a comment that was made about his statements regarding breast-feeding, explaining that his statements regarding breast-feeding are more cautious than those which appear in the comment section.
CASANDRA A. MOORE Bloomsburg University (Steve Froemming)
Orenstein, Henry. Asymmetrical Reciprocity: A Contribution to the Theory of Political Legitimacy. Current Anthropology February, 1980. Vol.21. No.1: 69-91.
The author’s specific argument has to do with the direction of obligation between a leader and the populous. This issue however is being addressed within the larger context of creating political legitimacy, and that “political ideologies often entail a potential for their own alteration and/or for altering the social and political relations they are intended to sustain (pg. 69).” His argument is also meant to support the legitimacy of an anthropological discourse that was “no longer fashionable.” Orenstein states, “my functionalism is of a fundamentalist sort, leaning heavily upon Durkheim in a concern for social solidarity…it is a way of studying society that takes fully into account how customary actions may enhance or enfeeble solidarity (pg. 81).”
Orenstein claims that reciprocity is a human imperative, but that socially approved violations occur, which he calls asymmetric reciprocity, where giving is expected in one direction only. He goes on to define the two variants; centrifugal-when the demand right lies with the leader, and centripetal-when the leader must give to the people. These are but two of many forms used to legitimize political domination, and he attempts to show that they can lead to change within the society or alternatively can be changed by a society to enhance social solidarity.
To make his argument, Orenstein first lays out his basic premise defining his terms and elucidating their main characteristics. He goes on to state that his hypothesis makes certain claims that can be disconfirmed, establishing his work within the scientific paradigm. As evidence to establish the authenticity of the two variants of asymmetrical reciprocity, he uses many historical examples of societies from various parts of the world, pointing out how they fit the definition of either centrifugality or centripetality. He goes on to take two examples of centrifugality (as he claims it to be by far the more common), western feudalism and Melanesia, and in some detail shows the asymmetrical relationship involved and how it helped alter Melanesian society to sustain social stability and lead to instability and change in western feudalism. Finally, Orenstein points out that asymmetrical relationships must lose importance in a nation-state, “neither kind of asymmetrical reciprocity, unaccompanied by other legitimizing principles, can be effective in large-scale societies (pg. 80).”
He concludes by tying together the role of change and conflict within asymmetry and functionalism. He states that many people feel that functionalism fails to deal with issues of social change or conflict, but that using it to look at asymmetrical reciprocity as he has shown actually focus on them.
Commentators found fault with a number of elements in Orenstein’s argument. Many of these revolved around social relationships versus political ideology. One commentator stated that centrifugality and centripetality were based on concepts of ideology alone and not on social relations. Another person stated that because of this they were inadequate to explain legitimacy. Yet another individual felt that the two terms were really addressing social structure and not ideology. Another point of contention was the relationship between materialist and ideological explanations and what role they played in the modern world. Finally, one commentator thought Orenstein’s terms too narrowly defined, while others felt that his examples were too broad, cobbling together otherwise unrelated societies making the study not very useful anthropologically.
In his reply, Orenstein addresses each of the criticisms in a thoughtful and detailed manner. Several times he admits that he did not make himself clear or that he had been in error. For instance, he admits that he failed to distinguish between social and political effects of ideology and that some of his information about Melanesia were incorrect as he was not an expert on that society. Other criticism he dismissed giving examples of how he felt himself to be correct. To some of the commentators who took exception to the way that he dealt with centripetality, he stated that they were using it as the sole feature rather that one of other dominant ideologies at work in a society. As to the role of materialism, he agrees that it is very relevant and that it may be a defect in his study that he is construed as favoring ideology.
PAULINE STAHL California State University, Hayward (Peter J. Claus)
Stipe, Claude E. Anthropologists versus Missionaries: The Influence of Presuppositions. Current Anthropology April, 1980. Vol.21.No.2:165-179.
This article is part of the introspective process that was reshaping social/culture anthropology at that time. Anthropologists were critiquing the methodologies traditionally used and the theories underpinning them, as well as the very authority of the discipline. Within this context, Stipe addresses what he feels is a bias against Christianity in general and missionaries in particular that is counter to the relativistic principles espoused by anthropologists. He states that, “we realize that experiences shape attitudes and values, which in turn affect our evaluations. Presuppositions influence the way in which we look at situations.”
Stipe believes that most anthropologists have a negative view of missionaries as agents of culture change, although they don’t often write of this directly. He goes on to state that, among others, two contributing factors to this are that anthropologists believe in the concept of an organic-unity and that they find religious beliefs meaningless. His evidence comes from a search of the literature from which he quotes numerous examples to support his opinion as well as counter-examples.
The organic-unity principle, he feels, had been most recently a part of functionalism, portraying the primitive society as pure and “in perfect equilibrium”, and that outside contact was harmful. He refutes this idea by pointing out inconsistencies like the fact that “the seeming equilibrium of a tribe may have been largely created by the colonial situation.” He also quotes many individuals to support the idea that change is not necessarily bad and that the view of primitives being spoiled by contact makes indigenous people out as “passive spectators in the acculturation process and that missionization was a force which unilaterally impinged on passively recipient peoples.”
The second presupposition about missionaries that Stipe feels anthropologist bring into the field is that religion of any kind is meaningless. Again he quotes various sources who hold anti-religious beliefs and particularly anti-Christian. He states that “the majority of anthropologists are either atheistic or agnostic” and that “according to Evans-Pritchard, the early anthropological writers on religion had all had a relatively dreary religious upbringing which led to an animosity toward revealed religion. They were looking for a weapon which could be used with deadly effect against Christianity.”
Here though he is in the position of supporting what he supposes to condemn, coming to anthropology with presuppositions. In Stipes case his presupposition about anthropologists is that they are atheist with an axe to grind against Christianity.
Stipes article was commented on by a large number of people. In general, the commentators thought that this was a worthwhile addition to the introspection current in social/cultural anthropology, if somewhat superficial, and that many missionary functions are worthwhile. The most common criticisms were that organic-unity is an out-dated idea, not subscribe to by many at that time. One of the other frequent criticisms was that Stipe over-stated the case that anthropologists find religion to be meaningless. Commentators agreed that many anthropologists are atheist, but denied that they would declare religion to be meaningless. The final criticism commonly voiced was that Stipe’s article was overly general. Any anti-religious feeling was a characteristic of the individual with that opinion and not a part of some larger –ism, such as functionalism.
Stipe addresses each of the points raised by commentators under eight separate subheadings. He agrees that individuals are at the root of the problem and not the discipline, but that missionaries are also individuals who are all lumped together. He further stresses that anthropological relativism needs to extend to missionaries. As to the criticism that organic-unity is a thing of the past, Stipe would argue that we have not come as far from it as we would suppose. Finally, on the meaningless of religion, he states; “what I meant was that they (beliefs) are seen as growing out of sociopolitical systems and therefore as unimportant in influencing other facets of the society.”
PAULINE STAHL California State University, Hayward (Peter J. Claus)
Stipe, Claude E. Anthropologists versus Missionaries: The Influence of Presuppositions. Current Anthropology 21(2):165-179, April 1980.
This article is concerned with the negative attitudes of anthropologists towards missionaries and what contributes to these beliefs. Stipe writes that missionaries are often regarded as enemies because they cause cultural change.
Stipe notes that while anthropologists have undoubtedly come into contact with missionaries in their fieldwork, not much is written about them in textbooks and ethnographies. He also comments that the negative things that anthropologists say regarding missionaries are not written in their texts. Stipe lists some examples of textbooks that do discuss missionaries and what those comments are.
Stipe then asks the question, how do we explain the negative attitude of anthropologists toward missionaries if there is nothing written to teach them to think this way? He suggests that two commonly held ideas are the cause: that primitive cultures are characterized by an organic unity and that religious beliefs are essentially meaningless.
The concept of organic unity is that change produced by outsiders is very harmful to the cultures they are studying. He finds fault with this concept because anthropologists do not usually study a culture long enough to see the people seek changes for conditions that make them unhappy.
Stipe writes that a majority of anthropologists are atheistic or agnostic, and that when they study religion it is for the rites rather than the beliefs. He suspects that anthropologists’ strong dislike of missionaries may have to do with the fact that they take seriously and teach religious ideals that the anthropologists have rejected.
Stipe concludes that although missionaries have contributed to anthropology through their publications and ethnographies, the general attitude toward them has been negative. He suggests that in part this dislike is because anthropologists and missionaries are so similar. He writes that since these two professions will undoubtedly be involved together in the future, we should be concerned with the bases of this negative attitude and deal with it.
Stipe’s article is followed by eighteen comments by scholars. They come from all over the United States as well as Italy, France, Zaire, England, Austria, Australia, the Philippines, and the Netherlands. The comments are mainly positive, and express appreciation for addressing the significance of the topic.
Stipe begins his reply to the comments by expressing his gratitude to those who took the time to read his article and comment on it. He replies to general topics covered as opposed to responding to each comment. The topics he addresses include: positive aspects of missionary work, the nature of anthropology, similarities between anthropologists and missionaries, the organic unity concept, missionaries and culture change, freedom of choice in culture change, and the meaninglessness of religious beliefs.
FAITH KROGGEL Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Steve Froemming)