Key Debates in Anthropology Edited by Tim Ingold General introduction Tim Ingold the nature of anthropological theory



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NOTES

1

M. Merleau-Ponty, The phenomenology of perception, trans. C. Smith, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962, p. 187.










2

C.Lévi-Strauss, Structural anthropology, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1968, p. 83.










3

R. Wollheim, Art as a form of life’, in Philosophy as it is, eds T. Honderich and M. Burnyeat, London, Allen Lane, 1979.










4

A. Kendon, ‘Some considerations for a theory of language origins’, Man (N.S.) 26, 1991, pp. 199-222, esp p. 215.










5

W. Noble and I. Davidson, The evolutionary emergence of modern human behaviour: language and its archaeology’, Man (N.S.) 26, 1991, pp 223-54.










6

D. Anzieu, The skin ego, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1989.










7

M. Bloch, ‘Language, anthropology and cognitive science’, Man (N.S.) 26, 1991, pp. 183-98.










8

S. Alpers, The art of describing: Dutch art in the seventeenth century, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1983.










9

See also T. Eagleton, Literary theory, Oxford, Blackwell, 1983, p. 71.










10

Even with such cultural forms as these, linguistic terms tend to pervade their description. Alfred Gell has himself referred elsewhere to ‘the restricted language of smells’, while Foucault calls smell ‘a great sexual sermon’. See




A. Gell, ‘Magic, perfume, dream’, in Symbols and sentiments: cross-cultural studies in symbolism, ed. I.M. Lewis, London, Academic Press, 1977, p. 26; M. Foucault, A history of sexuality, vol 1: an introduction, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1981, p 7.










11

Readers dubious of the spread of television sets to native huts are referred to the Far Side cartoon, Anthropologists! Anthropologists!’, by Gary Larsson.










12

F.de Saussure, Course in general linguistics, translated and annotated by R. Harris, London, Duckworth, 1983, pp. 87-9.










13

B. Moeran, ‘Individual, group and seishin: Japan’s internal cultural debate’, Man (N.S.) 19, 1984, pp. 252-66.










14

See, among others, Benedetto Croce, Aesthetic—as science of expression and general linguistic, London, Macmillan, 1909.










15

See P. Bourdieu, Distinction, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.










16

See H. Becker, Art worlds, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1984.










17

L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.










18

P. Bourdieu, In other words, Oxford, Polity, 1989, p. 9.










19

L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical investigations, Oxford, Blackwell, 1953, No. 97.










20

D. Davidson, A nice derangement of epitaphs’, in Truth and interpretation, ed. E. LePore, Oxford, Blackwell, 1984.










21

N. Goodman, Problems and projects, Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1972, p. 24.










22

See J. Derrida, Of grammatology, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.










23

P. Bourdieu, The historical genesis of the pure aesthetic’, in Analytic aesthetics, ed. R. Shusterman, Oxford, Blackwell, 1989, p.154.










24

K. Basso, “To give up on words”: silence in Western Apache culture’, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 26, 1970, pp. 213-30.










25

H.L. Dreyfus, Being-in-the-world: commentary on Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time, Division I', Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1991, pp. 17-18.










26

A. Kendon, ‘Some considerations for a theory of language origins’, Man (N.S.) 26, 1991, pp. 199-222.










27

R.E. Myers, ‘Comparative neurology of vocalization and speech: proof of a dichotomy’, in Human evolution: biosocial perspectives, eds S.L. Washburn and E.R. McCown, Menlo Park, CA, Benjamin Cummings, 1978.










28

K.R. Popper and J.C. Eccles, The self and its brain, Berlin, Springer International, 1977.










29

R.M. Seyfarth, D.L. Cheney and P. Marler, ‘Monkey responses to three different alarm calls: evidence of predator classification and semantic communication’, Science 210, 1980, pp. 801-3; D.L. Cheney, ‘Category formation in vervet monkeys’, in The meaning of primate signals, eds R. Harré and V. Reynolds, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1984.










30

D. Bickerton, Language and species, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1990.




A. Gell, ‘Magic, perfume, dream’, in Symbols and sentiments: cross-cultural studies in symbolism, ed. I.M. Lewis, London, Academic Press, 1977, p. 26; M. Foucault, A history of sexuality, vol 1: an introduction, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1981, p 7.










11

Readers dubious of the spread of television sets to native huts are referred to the Far Side cartoon, Anthropologists! Anthropologists!’, by Gary Larsson.










12

F.de Saussure, Course in general linguistics, translated and annotated by R. Harris, London, Duckworth, 1983, pp. 87-9.










13

B. Moeran, ‘Individual, group and seishin: Japan’s internal cultural debate’, Man (N.S.) 19, 1984, pp. 252-66.










14

See, among others, Benedetto Croce, Aesthetic—as science of expression and general linguistic, London, Macmillan, 1909.










15

See P. Bourdieu, Distinction, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984.










16

See H. Becker, Art worlds, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1984.










17

L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.










18

P. Bourdieu, In other words, Oxford, Polity, 1989, p. 9.










19

L. Wittgenstein, Philosophical investigations, Oxford, Blackwell, 1953, No. 97.










20

D. Davidson, A nice derangement of epitaphs’, in Truth and interpretation, ed. E. LePore, Oxford, Blackwell, 1984.










21

N. Goodman, Problems and projects, Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1972, p. 24.










22

See J. Derrida, Of grammatology, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.










23

P. Bourdieu, The historical genesis of the pure aesthetic’, in Analytic aesthetics, ed. R. Shusterman, Oxford, Blackwell, 1989, p.154.










24

K. Basso, “To give up on words”: silence in Western Apache culture’, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 26, 1970, pp. 213-30.










25

H.L. Dreyfus, Being-in-the-world: commentary on Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time, Division I', Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 1991, pp. 17-18.










26

A. Kendon, ‘Some considerations for a theory of language origins’, Man (N.S.) 26, 1991, pp. 199-222.










27

R.E. Myers, ‘Comparative neurology of vocalization and speech: proof of a dichotomy’, in Human evolution: biosocial perspectives, eds S.L. Washburn and E.R. McCown, Menlo Park, CA, Benjamin Cummings, 1978.










28

K.R. Popper and J.C. Eccles, The self and its brain, Berlin, Springer International, 1977.










29

R.M. Seyfarth, D.L. Cheney and P. Marler, ‘Monkey responses to three different alarm calls: evidence of predator classification and semantic communication’, Science 210, 1980, pp. 801-3; D.L. Cheney, ‘Category formation in vervet monkeys’, in The meaning of primate signals, eds R. Harré and V. Reynolds, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1984.










30

D. Bickerton, Language and species, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1990.

1992 debate
The past is a foreign country
Introduction

Tim Ingold

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

The ethnographic present is dead, but we do not know with what to replace it. The trouble with the ethnographic present—that style of describing forms of life other than our own as though what people say and do now they have always said and done, and always will barring external intervention—is that it robs the life of these people of its intrinsic temporality, removing their society from the ‘timestream of history in which ethnographers and their own societies exist’. 1 For the ethnographer there is life after fieldwork, and for the people, too, life goes on after the ethnographer’s departure, just as it did before his or her arrival on the scene. The ethnographic encounter is, after all, but a moment in the historical unfolding of a field of relationships in which all parties are inevitably bound up. But to represent the people as existing forever within that moment, caught—as it were—in suspended animation, is to consign their lives to a time that, in the experience of the ethnographer, has already been left far behind. As with the dreamlike world of our childhood recollections, where time stood still, the ethnographic present is the projection, on to another place and another people, of our own past—a ‘foreign country’, where they ‘do things differently’.

These memorable words, penned by L.P. Hartley in his novel The Go-Between, strike at the heart of the problem: that to replace the ethnographic present as a convention for describing the life of other peoples, we have to think again about the ways in which we understand the past in our own lives. And it was to address this problem that Hartley’s phrase, ‘The past is a foreign country’, was adopted as the motion for the fifth debate in this series. As the exchanges recorded here reveal, the debate opens up a series of quite fundamental issues concerning the relation between past and present, the construal of difference, the awareness of time, and perhaps most importantly, the respective roles of history and memory as modes of apprehending the past or of bringing it to bear in the present. Indeed, the contrast between what could be called historical and memorial approaches to the past emerges as a key axis of division between the two sides of the debate. David Lowenthal, proposing the motion and the author of a book that bears Hartley’s phrase as its title, is himself a historian; Gillian Feeley-Harnik, opposing, is an anthropologist, as are the two seconders, Penelope Harvey and Susanne Küchler. This is not primarily a debate, however, between the disciplinary orientations of history and anthropology. To the extent to which these orientations can be distinguished at all (a moot point), the issues addressed here are common to both.

Persons and events are not, of course, intrinsically of the past. They become so, as Harvey points out in the discussion, only in relation to the moving prospect of the present. But this observation immediately raises a dilemma. On the one hand the past, being by definition that which is not directly ‘present’ to consciousness, seems cut off from the world of our contemporary experience. In Lowenthal’s words it is over, finished. Like our childhood we have left the past irrevocably behind. Yet on the other hand, have not the events of our childhood played a formative role in the development of our own capacities of awareness and response? If, as history, the past lies behind us, as memory it remains very much with us: in our bodies, in our dispositions and sensibilities, and in our skills of perception and action. In the first sense, the past seems alien to present experience, in the second it appears to be generative of that experience. Is the past, then, as the proposers of the motion would have it, a foreign country, or are we rather—to paraphrase Küchler’s position in this debate—creatures of the past abroad in the present?

In this question lies the problem of the relation between history and memory. The problem is a formidable one, not least because remembering is a notion that can be interpreted in so many different ways. One sense refers to acts of recollection or commemoration, in which events which actually or supposedly took place in the past are represented (literally, made present again), whether in writing, oral narrative, monumental sculpture or dramatic performance. However much it may strain towards authenticity, such representation can never evoke the same response from readers, viewers or audience as did the events depicted from those who lived through them, if only because current perceptions are coloured by what came after, and because background features of an event, that may have gone unremarked by the original participants, are foregrounded in its representation as ‘signs of the times’. For this reason authentic reconstruction, far from bringing the past to bear in the present, tends to highlight the disjunction between them. Indeed, as Weiner observes in an acute comment, it is the very fact of repetition—the going over again of past events that is always entailed in the production of history—that establishes the horizons of the present, dividing the witnessing of events from their commemoration, perception from recollection.

There is another sense, however, in which remembering is not so much something people do, as something that is implicated in all that they do, in that it underwrites their capacity to act effectively, and without accident, in their surroundings. This capacity is not, of course, unique to human beings; indeed, many other animals may be said to deploy memory in this sense, even though they presumably lack the linguistically grounded ability of humans to reflect upon, and to commemorate, past experience. Memory, here, refers to the way in which specific competencies are built into the bodily modus operandi through repeated trials. In human societies, this is the essence of learning by apprenticeship. 2 Our everyday lives call for the employment of countless skills, in moving about, using tools, speaking, writing, wayfinding and so on, most of which have been acquired through long and sometimes arduous practice. By and large, the work of memory in the performance of such tasks is concealed behind their smooth and successful accomplishment. Memorization is a problem for the novice, not for the experienced practitioner. It is when things go wrong, due to an insufficiency or deterioration of know-how, that our normal dependence on mnemonic processing becomes painfully evident.

There is an intimate relation between commemoration and memorization that has yet to be fully unravelled. Both involve repetition. The telling of stories, for example, may be regarded in two ways: from the point of view of the narrator, as a celebration of the characters and events of the tale, and from the point of view of the listeners, as part of an ongoing education of the senses. This duality is evident even in the meaning of the verb ‘to tell’. This can, on the one hand, refer to the act of narration in recollecting events that took place long ago. But it can also refer to the discriminating judgement of the perceptually skilled practitioner, who can ‘tell’—for instance—whether a note is out of tune or the whereabouts of an animal from its tracks. In the first sense—telling as narration—the past is set off as the object of an account told in the present; in the second sense—telling as perception—past experience provides the very foundation, through practice and training, for present skills. Thus the two meanings of telling correspond closely to the varieties of remembering outlined above, as well as to the contrary senses of the past—as behind us and as with us—that characterize the initial positions of the proposers and the opposers of the motion.

Overshadowing the entire debate, however, is the spectre of ‘presentism’, the doctrine—classically enunciated by Malinowski—that perceptions of the past, understood as facts of the present, are wholly responsive to current interests, unconstrained (in Peel’s words) ‘by the “otherness” of what the past really was’. 3 The case for the proposition lies largely in the need to recognize this otherness, and to quell the tendency towards presentism in our own thinking. We are all too inclined, Lowenthal observes, to populate the past with people like ourselves, pursuing the same aims and responding with similar feelings, albeit dressed up in different cultural costumes. A similar view of cultural diversity—that Marett once called a ‘tissue of externalities’ 4 —lies behind the commercially motivated attempts, described by Harvey, of the world’s nation-states to put their traditions on display for the enjoyment of the universal tourist. Whether the concern is with people of the past or of the present, otherness is here reduced to the cosmetic variety of consumer choice.

But if the terms of the motion set it explicitly against presentism, the speakers for the opposition are equally concerned to show that their rejection of the motion is in no way based on presentist assumptions. It is of course true, as Feeley-Harnik recognizes, that we have no way of knowing people of the past save through our present selves. But the self is not to be identified with a free-floating intellect, detached from the conditions of human bodily existence in the physical world. It is rather a unity of mind and body, whose very placement in the world presupposes a history of past relationships. Enfolded in the consciousness of the self, as its memory, this past is active in the present. Implied here is a radical critique of the orthodox notion, in cognitive psychology, of memory as a store, a cabinet of images and recollections from which the mind can pull out whatever it needs for current purposes. This is the kind of memory that we attribute to computers, as measured by their information storage capacity. Yet for Feeley-Harnik, such memory is fundamentally amemorial, divorced as it is from the movement of consciousness, the passage of generations and the flow of real time. It is precisely this effacement of time, collapsing all lived experience—past, present and future—on to a single plane of virtual reality, that characterizes what Feeley-Harnik sees as the intense presentism of contemporary perspectives.

Much has been written on the relation between history and anthropology. Curiously, however, this literature makes little mention of memory. Perhaps this is because the study of memory was assumed to be exclusively a matter for psychologists. It is no wonder, then, that they came up with a concept of memory that was remarkably insensitive to both time and social context. Such a concept is no longer tenable. With this debate, remembering is at last returned to where it belongs, in the active and creative involvement of real people in a real world.

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