Midterm

1: The concept of unilinear evolution has its root in the nineteenth century. It dealt in particularities of culture, and after identifying the particularities of the culture, the next step was to put them in a sequence. There was a concept of universal progress working behind such formulations. The culture was placed in stages of a universal sequence. The nineteenth century model was later taken up and revamped. This new model followed the same universal causal sequence and its preoccupation with culture rather than cultures.

The nineteenth century understanding of unilinear evolution grew among an invigorating scientific climate.  Linnaeus and Buffon in the eighteenth century had set put phyla, orders and genera of living organisms.Lamarck enunciated a theory based on such categories in the later part of the nineteenth century. The next break came with Darwin and Wallace. Now the word ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ became stratigraphically located.

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Darwinian  intervention sought to  inject words like ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ with a certain value neutrality, where ‘higher’ would mean ‘later than’ and ‘lower’ signified ‘earlier’. Ethnographers tried to project these hierarchic value neutered orders onto the growing mass of odd customs, rites and beliefs that were being contemporarily recorded with even greater historical ‘accuracy’. The key work of such an enterprise would be Herbert Spencer’s Social Statics published in the year 1850. Here society was made equivalent to an organism. Spencer worked with a concept of supra organic evolution and this was called growth.

“Though taking time the entire assemblages of societies, evolution is inevitable, it cannot be held inevitable in each particular society or indeed probable.” (Kar, 2006)Spencer talks of a certain hierarchy based on an abstract society where ‘growth’ is the most important motor. As organisms ‘grow’ society ‘grows’. His brand of comparative ethnology is flawed because the abstract societal hierarchy is based on certain prejudicial favour for bourgeois democracy. This direction was later taken up by Henry Maine (Ancient Law 1861) and Bachfen (Das Muitterecht 1881). E. B.

Taylor followed the Spencerian line under the banner of Union Jack. The claim was that of a homogeneous man in nature graded in their respect stages of civilization. So instead of a connected inclusive reading he take sup an isolated  character of a culture and picks it out of context and compares it with another character (similar of course) of another culture/civilization, ripping both of them apart from their contexts and bringing them on a rarified plane for comparison from which he derives uniform laws of evolution. Next important break in the biography of the concept of unilinear evolution comes with Henry Morgan.

Morgan’s index for comparative ethnography was technology.Spencer and Morgan’s works betrayed the rabid racism that was the underbelly of nineteenth century romanticism. One must keep in mind the social background of these movements.

  The parameters were set by the liberal democratic environment of welded to Anglican Christianity. To come back to Morgan, he worked with a three fold sequence. These were: savagery, barbarism and civilization. Later Gordon Childe would take up Morgan’s division in trying to conceptualize an idea of social evolution. This idea of social evolution though it distanced itself from Spencer and Taylor remained a teleological universal sequence. (Lamb, 2004)2.

As Kroeber had said, one principle that anthropology already has in hand to serve towards a larger synthesis of understanding is the concept of culture. The idea of culture here is something like this: Of human civilization rudimentary or advanced as something a part of nature, wholly an evolutionary development within nature and therefore investigated by methods of fundamental natural science. The question whether cultural anthropology belongs to the domain of science or humanities is now an outdated one. The subject of anthropology is human and things that are human belong both to the domain of social sciences and sciences.The binary between humanities and science is a constricting binary, foe as Levi-Strauss had shown both of them, that is, things that are thought to be purely concerns of humanities and social sciences and elements of natural science are both forms of knowledge that represent the ways that any social unit organizes its world. The claim of ‘objective’ truth commonsensically assigned to sciences has been greatly undermined since the enunciation of the Heisenberg principle.  Human beings organize their worlds in certain ways and this organization is carried out through language. Both the social science and science have a language of its own, but the existence of these languages do not mean that these are two hermetically sealed  forms of knowledge, rather  these are different expression of the human engagement with the world around.

Recent works on cultural anthropology concentrate multi sited ethnography. The earlier method of treating local cultures as bounded and isolated has been rejected. The new trajectory seeks to integrate the local experience to broader social, cultural, political frameworks.The argument is not to gloss over the particular experience of the local but to place these experiences in a wider global grid to understand how the local experiences are shaped and in turn shape the wider global grid. Through this understanding the networks of exploitation and subservience that a certain world order imposes is understood more clearly as the local everyday manifestations can be read more critically through such a method.

Culture here is seen as the embedded macro constructions of a global social order. Arjun Appadurai, James Clifford, Michael Taussig are important scholars in this working in this direction. (Fletcher, 2005)3. Neolocal residences are a part of the mobility that has been brought about by nuclearization of families.

This happens when a couple goes and settle somewhere that is far from both the set of relatives. Both the partners move out of their present household and create this separate space for the new nuclear family. Neo local residences seen thus form the majority the Western domestic structure.

Neo local residences, theoretically would mean the creation of a new household every time a child marries or even when he or she reaches adulthood, or become financially independent. So theoretically again, each succeeding generation would see an increase in the number of local residences. Here one of course one is assuming that mortality rate in that society is lower than fertility rate and there is a general status quo scenario prevailing, socially and politically. Again the creation of neolocal residences is intricately intertwined with the velocity of global capital. The acceleration of capital circulation in one particular local region stimulates, encourages or limits the movements that the inhabitant population can think of undertaking.Neolocal residence and nuclear family domestic structures are found in societies where geographical mobility is important. In Western societies, they are consistent with the frequent moves necessitated by choices and changes within a supply and demand regulated labour market.

And it is not solely a western phenomenon, but rather the by products of circulation and accumulation of capital in certain area. (King, 2006)