ANTH 264: ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE USES OF HISTORY
Professor: Michael Herzfeld
Seminar: William James Hall 301, Mondays: 1-3 pm.
Goals of the course:
The purpose of this course is to explore the idea that history,
far from being a straightforward set of facts, is a highly
contested, malleable, and ambiguous dimension of everyday social
life. It is something about which people argue, and to which they
give widely meanings. By looking at the uses that people make of
various kinds of history for political and social ends, we shall
find that "the past" informs everyday experience and gives it
meaning, but that it is in turn suffused with interpretation based
on the present. This course is about the history that "ordinary
people' know, and about what techniques might help us to recognize
that knowledge even when it is embodied in casual talk, sensations
such as touch and smell, or encoded in cryptic language designed to
evade the state's powers of surveillance. Some view this
perspective on the past as subversive because it challenges official
definitions of the truth; others see it as a rich storehouse of
practical and intimate knowledge about the past in all its contested
complexity. Whatever view one takes, this kind of history often
conflicts.with official" interpretations, including those of the
We shall pay particular attention to the role of nationalism.
This ideology requires a group of people to recognize a common
identity grounded in a common past. But is that past really common
to the people who claim it? How can those who do not feel that they
belong be persuaded to change their view of the past so that they
become more fully incorporated? Do such processes really work?
What are their long-term effects? We shall also ask similar
questions, about colonialism.
Anthropology itself is heavily implicated in some of the major
issues at stake. The role of anthropologists in contributing to the
"invention of tradition' has been questioned to an increasing
extent. What are our responsibilities? What are the limitations to
which anthropological inquiry is or should be subject?
We shall organize the semester's work around several key debates.
We shall initially examine the utility or otherwise of what is
usually called the "constructivist" position, and will question the
value of the notions of "tradition" and "invention of tradition."
Then we will turn to a discussion of the politics of identity in
local historical conservation efforts -- one in the U.S., the other
in Greece -- in order to develop a more agent-centered approach, and
to see how such intellectual issues are converted into the
management and experiencing of Dhvsical space -- the nexus of the
body personal with the body politic in all the latter's multiple
realizations. Finally, we will examine two major debates of recent
years -- one, the argument about Captain Cook as it has been played
out between Marshall Sahlins and Gananath Obeyesekere; the other,
the politicization of scholarship about Macedonia -- and will turn
to nonWestern models of historicity in -order to assess the cultural
value and limits of speaking about 'truth" as a central concern.
There will be a mid-term exercise consisting of a short paper
laying out key,issues. The major written assignment will be a term
paper (max. 30 pp. main text), the to be determined individually
after consultation with the instructor. Finally, credit may be
awarded on the basis of your participation in sections and class.
All written work must be fully referenced, with citations and
bibliography following Ame7ican Ethnologist style (styk-sheet
available on request) or similar system using author-year-page
references in parentheses in the body of the text; failure to comply
with this requirement may resuh in a failing or reduced grade. AR
papers should be typed, with double-spacing of lines and adequate
margins (at least 1.25 inches on each side and at top and bottom).
This is a seminar class. Thus, all participants will be expected
to make an active contribution. While preparation will be for
specific segments and debates, students may be asked to take a
specific position and advocate it, and may on occasion be asked also
to provide the opposing argument on the same issue.
Schedule of Topics:
- Weeks 1 & 2: Joanne Rappaport, Cumbe Reborn; Juan M.
Ossio, "Myth and History."
- Weeks 3 & 4: Marshall Sahlins, Islands of History;
Gananath Obeyesekere, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook.
- Gananath Obeyesekere, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook.- European
Mythmaking in the Pacific (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
- Marshall Sahhns, Islands of History (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1985) freserves onlv.)
- Marshall Sahlins, How 'Natives' Think.- About Captain Cook, For
(Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1995)
- Joanne Rappaport, Curnbe Rebom.- An Andean Ethnography of
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).
- Richard Handler and Eric Gable, The New History in an Old
Musewn: Creating the Past at Colonial Williarnsburg (Durham: Duke
University Press, 1997).
- Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The A .froasiatic Roots of
Classical Civilization (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,
- Michael Herzfeld, A Place in History: Social and Monwnental Time
in a Cretan Town (Princeton University Press, 1991).
- Andrew Shryock, Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagination:
Oral History and Textual Authority in Tilbal Jordan (Berkeley:
University of California Press,1997).
- Michael Herzfeld, Portrait of a Greek Imagination: University
- Anastasia Karakasidou, Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood: Passages
to Nationhood in Greek Macedonia, 18 70-1990 (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1997). (Optional.)
- Mary R. Lefkowitz, Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an
Excuse to Teach Myth as History (New York: Basic Books, 1995).
Supplementary readings (Tozzer Reserves)
- Jonathan D. Hill, ed., Rethinking History and Myth: Indigenous
South American Perspectives on the Past (Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 1988). ,
- Bender, Barbara, Stonehenge: Making Space (Oxford- Berg, 1998).
- George C. Bond and Angela Gilliam, eds., Social Construction of
the Past. Representation as Power (London: Routledge, 1994).
- Lowenthal, David, The Past is a Foreign Country (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1985).
- Garry Wills, Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of
Independence (New York: Vintage, 1978), pp. 323-362.
- Eric Hobsbawm, "Introduction: Inventing Traditions." In Eric
Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., 2'he Invention of Tradition
(Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 1983), pp. 1-14.
- Richard Handler, "Authenticity," Anthropology Today 2(,l)(Feb.,
- Hugh Trevor-Roper, "The Invention of Tradition: The Highland
Tradition of Scotland. " In Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds.,
The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University press,
1983), pp. 15-41.
- Jane Nadel-Klein, "Reweaving the Fringe: Localism, Tradition,
and Representation in British Ethnography," American Ethnologist 18
- Richard Handler and Jocelyn Linneldn, "Tradition, Genuine or
Spurious," Journal ofamerican Folklore 97(1984): 273-290.
- Richard Maddox, 'Revolutionary Anticlericalism and Hegemonic
Processes in an Andalusian Town, American Ethnologist 22(1995): 125
- Juan M. Ossio, "Myth and History: The Seventeenth-Century
Chronicle of Guaman Poma de Ayala. " In Ravindra K. Jain, ed., Text
and Context.- The Social Anthropology of Tradition (Philadelphia:
Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1977), pp. 51-93).
- F. Allan Hanson, "Syntagmatic Structures: How the Maoris Make
Sense of History," Semiotica 46-2/4(1983): 287-307.
- Robert Borofsky, "Cook, Lono, Obeyesekere, and Sahlins, Current
Anthropology 38(1997): 255-282.
- Bruce M. Knauft, "Monument of Miscast Error: Obeyesekere versus
Sahlins and Captain Cook," Social Analysis 34(1993): 34-42.
- Jonathan Lamb, "Social Facts, Political Fictions and Unrelative
Events: Obeyesekere on Sahlins, " Social Analysis 34(1993): 56-60.
- Richard R. Flores, "Public Culture: The Making of the Alamo,"
Cultural Anthropology 10 (1995): 99-115.
- Gable, Eric, Richard Handler, and Anna Lawson, "On the Uses of
Relativism: Fact, Conjecture, and Black and White Histories at
Colonial Williamsburg," American Ethnologist 19 (1992): 791-805.
- Yannis Hamilakis and Eleana Yalouri, "Antiquities as Symbols in
Modem Greek Society," Antiquity 70(1996): 117-129.
- Rubie S. Watson, "Memory, History, and Opposition under State
Socialism: An Introduction. " In Rubie S. Watson, Memory, History,
and Opposition under State Socialism (Santa Fe: School of American
Research Press, 1994), pp. 1-20.
- C. Nadia Seremetakis, "The Memory of the Senses, " Visual
Anthropology Rewew 9(2) (Fall, 1993): 2-18.
- Ellen Badone, "Ethnography, Fiction, and the Meanings of the
Past in Brittany,' American Ethnologist 18 (1991): 518-545. .
- Michael Herzfeld, 'Factual Fissures: Claims and Contexts,'
Annals of thge
Amefican Academy of Political and Social Science 560(1998): 69-82.
In addition, a file of materials related to the publication of
the Karakasidou book will be placed in the Tozzer Reserves.
Created: 01 March 1999.
Last updated: 01 March 1999.
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