Stanley Diamond: PRIMITIVE, The Critical Term

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:47 AM
Primitive is, I believe, the critical term in anthropology, the word around which the field revolves, yet it remains elusive, connoting, but never quite denoting, a series of related social, political, economic, psychological, and psychiatric meanings. That is, primitive implies a certain level of history, and a certain mode of cultural being, which, in this paper, I shall make a further attempt to formulate.

This mode of cultural being is continuously obliterated or attenuated by the processes of civilization, and more radically so than we are usually able or willing to acknowledge; as a result, the image of an identifiable, cross-cultural, pre-civilized, and, yes, a priori human nature has practically disappeared from our conceptual lexicon. Unyielding cultural relativism, cultural determinism and social scientism are, in part, and each in its own way, rationalizations of a civilization that has forgotten what questions to ask of itself. These attitudes have helped blunt the sense of universal human need, conflict and fulfillment which has been most adequately expressed, in the past, through art and religion. It is, I believe, a singular task of anthropology, no matter what its practitioners call themselves, to assist in the reformulation of pertinent life-preserving questions.

The search for the primitive is the attempt to define a primary human nature. Without such a model, or, since we are dealing with men and not things, without such a vision, it becomes increasingly difficult to evaluate, or even to understand, our contemporary pathology and possibilities. More pertinently, without an anthropology bent on rediscovering the nature of human nature, the science of medicine may survive, but the art of healing will wither away. For healing flows from insight into primary, "pre-civilized" human processes, into a comparative and individualized sense of human needs; that is, it presumes a knowledge of the primitive, a sense of the minimally human, that is, of what is essential to the condition of being human.

Human consciousness is historical; in order to understand ourselves, to heal ourselves, in this age of abstract horror, we must regain the sense of the totality and the immediacy of human experience. In order to determine where we are, we must learn, syllable by syllable, where we have been. The sense of history is, for society in crisis, what relentless self-searching, psychoanalytic or otherwise, is for the individual in crisis, that is, it can be releasing and enriching, cathartic and creative; it may be the only thing that can save our lives. History implies exhortation, because it is confession, failure and triumph. It is the measure of our capacity, the link between man and man, the key to ourselves. The lack of the sense of history, or the mechanization of history, that is, the view of its processes as immutable and inevitable, is the death of man. The only inevitable, literally unavoidable, events are, in the cultural sphere, accidents, and certain categories of natural phenomena, which, from the human perspective, have the fatality of accidents.

Yet, the "post-historic" creature, necessarily congealed in a bureau and reduced to a function, is a common enough plotting of the future. This image of the human termites of tomorrow, each exuding its specialized bit of culture to what is conceived as an infinitely rich and almost palpable social whole, used to be one of Kroeber's favorite predictions, based, as it was, on Wheeler's work with insects, and attitudes toward men. All those who assimilate human history to natural history, or mechanize it, help dull the sense of history and prevent men from confronting themselves. The penalty we pay for blunting the historical sense is dissociation,both social and individual; the tripping of the fuse on the bomb, will, under such conditions, become only the ultimate incident in the course of a chronic cultural illness – something abstract, that we nevertheless do.

"When we contemplate the past, that is, history," Hegel said, "the first thing we see is nothing but ruins." Out of these ruins of civilization, we must win through to a whole, but concrete, vision of man. Every thinker of consequence from the beginning of the industrial revolution, to the present has, in one way or another, warned us of this necessity. Darwin, Freud, Marx, Einstein, L. H. Morgan, Tylor, Henry Adams, Paul Tillich, Boas, Kierkegaard, Sartre (We read these names like Moslem beads, but do we understand them?), have, while concentrating on particular problems, urged us to a vision of the unity and autonomy of man. Modern anthropology itself, as Lévi-Strauss has, in effect, argued, probably germinated in a search for the historical contrast to our own intolerable condition, in a search, that is, for the primitive; it was, no doubt, as he also implies, an expression of remorse for the ideological and technical conquest of the planet by western Europeans, themselves restive in a culture they had learned to wield as a weapon. It follows that the anthropologist has been the disengaged man par excellence. dissatisfied at home, questing abroad.  He is a scout sent out by a civilization in turmoil to find a resting place, and learn the lay of the land. He is, if true to his origins, a type of Ulysses, though, I am sure, more Joycean than Homeric.

Modern anthropology is the search for man in history. undertaken by society threatened with automatism In broader perspective, anthropology may be said to begin with civilization, certainly with the Greeks, and perhaps with the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the ancient East Indians or the Chinese. It would be instructive to study the records of the latter four non-western civilizations in order to determine how far anthropology had advanced among them and what forms it took. Wherever civilization arises, the primitive in Man is subordinated; it withers away, grows attenuated or is replaced. Thus the puzzled search for what is diminished, the search for different ways of being human, for the primitive, which is anthropology, begins. Even Plato, who was probably the most beneficently civilized man in history, pays tribute, in the beginning of The Republic, to the satisfactions of his bucolic version of primitive life, which he feels plausibly constrained to replace by his towering and totally civilized Utopia. Plato understood that, in civilization, we cannot know what has been gained until we learn what has been lost.

Later, when brought down to earth in The Laws, the last of the Dialogues, the Heavenly city turns into a rather ominous polity. Plato spent his life trying to define and create a model of civilized man in civilized society. All of his work is a kind of anthropology of civilization, a vast exploration of political society, and it should interest us that it ends on a note of despair. For The Laws is no longer Plato struggling to grasp, to create, civilization as part of an expanding human consciousness; his final social statement is frankly repressive and pragmatic, and prophecy becomes mere prediction. In The Laws, human nature has become the enemy, and we recognize civilization. Freud, had he permitted himself the luxury of philosophizing, would have analyzed the Plato of The Laws perfectly, just as Plato, had he acknowledged the primal necessity of poiesis, of ritual, would have been able to penetrate more deeply into the nature of that “primitive," actually rustic, life which he nostalgically abandons in favor of the ideal state. Yet in The Republic, in contrast to The Laws, whether we like it or not, we are caught by a vision of man finding himself in civilization, although in ways that are hardly viable since they exclude, rather than incorporate, the primitive.

If Plato concerned himself with the problems of civilization, ranging from the aesthetic to the technical and legal, at a time when civilization in Greece had become an insoluble problem,
other philosophers, writers, travelers, and historians have been more deeply concerned with uncivilized people. Their descriptions vary immensely, and many are clearly projective, or otherwise distorted, but what runs through them all, whether drawn by Herodotus or Tacitus, Ovid, Seneca, or Horace, Columbus or Camoens, Montaigne or Gide, Rousseau or Monboddo, de Bougainville or Melville or Conrad, is the sense of contrast. Civilized men are here confronting what they presume to be primordial; they are saying, "this is the way we were before we became what we are, this is the other side of our humanity." That is the anthropological statement, and it will always remain the anthropological question.

Paradoxically, as civilization increases in depth and scope, anthropology proliferates, but it becomes increasingly professionalized.  The urgency of the central question is lost sight of, it is even denied. This question of our humanity is repressed because of its awful urgency, and the risks we must undergo in attempting to answer it. The very circumstances, then, that lead to the deepening need of the anthropological search, that is, the expansion of civilization, also convert anthropology into a mere discipline with narrowing borders, more mechanical techniques, and more trivial goals. It may even come to pass that the central question, the question of what part of our humanity we have lost, and how and why we have lost it, and how and in what form we may regain it, will soon cease to be a concern of anthropology. Perhaps significant statements about man will no longer be made by anthropologists, just as most sociologists no longer say anything very compelling about society, or political scientists about politics, economists about economics, and so on, precisely because these fields, reflecting the larger division of labor in our culture, and increasingly analytic attitudes, have grown .further and further apart. But man cannot be subdivided endlessly; moreover, the most critical tissues escape the scalpel;. it is the entire organism which must be studied.  Correlatively, history cannot be quantified; we must win back the courage to evaluate.

In the beginning, bureaucracies counted – people, goods, land, in order to muster, levy and control, to record those facts which became the basis for civil imposition. It follows that in the logic of history, a bureaucratized discipline is, first and foremost, a quantifying one. Later, quantification becomes an end in itself, not just, as it always is in the human sciences, a problematic and limited means. The principle of evaluation is absorbed into, or subordinated by, this numbers game - an abstract ploy of counters that avoids policy, principle and meaning by presuming to rise above them. The new pedantry is the pedantry of the machine.  The danger that anthropology faces, then, is literally this: it is becoming too civilized, too abstract, too bureaucratized. It is being transformed into just another specialized exercise, a symptom of our civilization, congruent with, rather than antithetical to it.  The latter is its true patrimony, and it should be a vocation of anthropologists to make this truth known.

My contention, then is that the term primitive has content in anthropology; that it cannot be evaded; and that the attempt to explore its implications remains our central task, precisely because we are so civilized, and so in need of a deeper vision of man. It is in this way that anthropology can remain one of the most instrumental and useful, though it may often seem the most remote and eccentric, of disciplines.

[From Diamond's essay, "The Search for the Primitive, " which appeared in full in Ashley Montagu's The Concept of the Primitive, The Free Press, 1968.  This excerpt was later reprinted by Dennis Tedlock and me in the second number of Alcheringa (1971), now available with the complete run of the journal at]

0 Response to 'Stanley Diamond: PRIMITIVE, The Critical Term'

Post a Comment

Tattoos Picture Page 1 Tattoos Picture Page 2 Tattoos Picture Page 3 Tattoos Picture Page 4 Tattoos Picture Page 5 Tattoos Picture Page 6 Tattoos Picture Page 7 Tattoos Picture Page 8 Tattoos Picture Page 9 Tattoos Picture Page 10 Tattoos Picture Page 11 Tattoos Picture Page 12 Tattoos Picture Page 13 Tattoos Picture Page 14 Tattoos Picture Page 15 Tattoos Picture Page 16 Tattoos Picture Page 17 Tattoos Picture Page 18 Tattoos Picture Page 19 Tattoos Picture Page 20 Tattoos Picture Page 21 Tattoos Picture Page 22 Tattoos Picture Page 23 Tattoos Picture Page 24 Tattoos Picture Page 25 Tattoos Picture Page 26 Tattoos Picture Page 27 Tattoos Picture Page 28 Tattoos Picture Page 29 Tattoos Picture Page 30 Tattoos Picture Page 31 Tattoos Picture Page 32 Tattoos Picture Page 33 Tattoos Picture Page 34 Tattoos Picture Page 35 Tattoos Picture Page 36 Tattoos Picture Page 37 Tattoos Picture Page 38 Tattoos Picture Page 39 Tattoos Picture Page 40 Tattoos Picture Page 41 Tattoos Picture Page 42 Tattoos Picture Page 43 Tattoos Picture Page 44 Tattoos Picture Page 45 Tattoos Picture Page 46 Tattoos Picture Page 47 Tattoos Picture Page 48 Tattoos Picture Page 49 Tattoos Picture Page 50 Tattoos Picture Page 51 Tattoos Picture Page 52 Tattoos Picture Page 53 Tattoos Picture Page 54 Tattoos Picture Page 55 Tattoos Picture Page 56 Tattoos Picture Page 57 Tattoos Picture Page 58 Tattoos Picture Page 59 Tattoos Picture Page 60 Tattoos Picture Page 61 Tattoos Picture Page 62 Tattoos Picture Page 63 Tattoos Picture Page 64 Tattoos Picture Page 65 Tattoos Picture Page 66 Tattoos Picture Page 67 Tattoos Picture Page 68 Tattoos Picture Page 69 Tattoos Picture Page 70 Tattoos Picture Page 71 Tattoos Picture Page 72 Tattoos Picture Page 73 Tattoos Picture Page 74 Tattoos Picture Page 75 Tattoos Picture Page 76 Tattoos Picture Page 77 Tattoos Picture Page 78 Tattoos Picture Page 79 Tattoos Picture Page 80 Tattoos Picture Page 81 Tattoos Picture Page 82 Tattoos Picture Page 83 Tattoos Picture Page 84 Tattoos Picture Page 85 Tattoos Picture Page 86 Tattoos Picture Page 87 Tattoos Picture Page 88 Tattoos Picture Page 89 Tattoos Picture Page 90 Tattoos Picture Page 91 Tattoos Picture Page 92 Tattoos Picture Page 93 Tattoos Picture Page 94 Tattoos Picture Page 95 Tattoos Picture Page 96 Tattoos Picture Page 97 Tattoos Picture Page 98 Tattoos Picture Page 99 Tattoos Picture Page 100 Tattoos Picture Page 101 Tattoos Picture Page 102 Tattoos Picture Page 103 Tattoos Picture Page 104 Tattoos Picture Page 105 Tattoos Picture Page 106 Tattoos Picture Page 107 Tattoos Picture Page 108 Tattoos Picture Page 109 Tattoos Picture Page 110 Tattoos Picture Page 111 Tattoos Picture Page 112 Tattoos Picture Page 113 Tattoos Picture Page 114 Tattoos Picture Page 115 Tattoos Picture Page 116 Tattoos Picture Page 117 Tattoos Picture Page 118 Tattoos Picture Page 119 Tattoos Picture Page 120 Luxury Villa and Home Page 1 Luxury Villa and Home Page 2 Luxury Villa and Home Page 3 Luxury Villa and Home Page 4 Luxury Villa and Home Page 5 Luxury Villa and Home Page 6 Luxury Villa and Home Page 7 Luxury Villa and Home Page 8 Luxury Villa and Home Page 9 Luxury Villa and Home Page 10 Luxury Villa and Home Page 11 Luxury Villa and Home Page 12 Luxury Villa and Home Page 13 Luxury Villa and Home Page 14 Luxury Villa and Home Page 15 Luxury Villa and Home Page 16 Luxury Villa and Home Page 17 Luxury Villa and Home Page 18 Luxury Villa and Home Page 19 Luxury Villa and Home Page 20 Luxury Villa and Home Page 21 Luxury Villa and Home Page 22 Luxury Villa and Home Page 23 Luxury Villa and Home Page 24 Luxury Villa and Home Page 25 Luxury Villa and Home Page 26 Luxury Villa and Home Page 27 Luxury Villa and Home Page 28 Luxury Villa and Home Page 29 Luxury Villa and Home Page 30 Luxury Villa and Home Page 31 Luxury Villa and Home Page 32 Luxury Villa and Home Page 33 Luxury Villa and Home Page 34 Luxury Villa and Home Page 35 Luxury Villa and Home Page 36 Luxury Villa and Home Page 37 Luxury Villa and Home Page 38 Luxury Villa and Home Page 39 Luxury Villa and Home Page 40 Luxury Villa and Home Page 41 Luxury Villa and Home Page 42 Luxury Villa and Home Page 43 Luxury Villa and Home Page 44 Luxury Villa and Home Page 45 Luxury Villa and Home Page 46 Luxury Villa and Home Page 47 Luxury Villa and Home Page 48 Luxury Villa and Home Page 49 Luxury Villa and Home Page 50 Luxury Villa and Home Page 51 Luxury Villa and Home Page 52 Luxury Villa and Home Page 53 Luxury Villa and Home Page 54 Luxury Villa and Home Page 55 Luxury Villa and Home Page 56 Luxury Villa and Home Page 57 Luxury Villa and Home Page 58 Luxury Villa and Home Page 59 Luxury Villa and Home Page 60 Luxury Villa and Home Page 61 Luxury Villa and Home Page 62 Luxury Villa and Home Page 63 Luxury Villa and Home Page 64 Luxury Villa and Home Page 65 Luxury Villa and Home Page 66 Luxury Villa and Home Page 67 Luxury Villa and Home Page 68 Luxury Villa and Home Page 69 Luxury Villa and Home Page 70 Luxury Villa and Home Page 71 Luxury Villa and Home Page 72 Luxury Villa and Home Page 73 Luxury Villa and Home Page 74 Luxury Villa and Home Page 75 Luxury Villa and Home Page 76 Luxury Villa and Home Page 77 Luxury Villa and Home Page 78 Luxury Villa and Home Page 79 Luxury Villa and Home Page 80 Luxury Villa and Home Page 81 Luxury Villa and Home Page 82 Luxury Villa and Home Page 83 Luxury Villa and Home Page 84 Luxury Villa and Home Page 85 Luxury Villa and Home Page 86 Luxury Villa and Home Page 87 Luxury Villa and Home Page 88 Luxury Villa and Home Page 89 Luxury Villa and Home Page 90 Luxury Villa and Home Page 91 Luxury Villa and Home Page 92 Luxury Villa and Home Page 93 Luxury Villa and Home Page 94 Luxury Villa and Home Page 95 Luxury Villa and Home Page 96 Luxury Villa and Home Page 97 Luxury Villa and Home Page 98 Luxury Villa and Home Page 99 Famous People Page 1 Famous People Page 2 Famous People Page 3 Famous People Page 4 Famous People Page 5 Famous People Page 6 Famous People Page 7 Famous People Page 8 Famous People Page 9 Famous People Page 10 Famous People Page 11 Famous People Page 12 Famous People Page 13 Famous People Page 14 Famous People Page 15 Famous People Page 16 Famous People Page 17 Famous People Page 18 Famous People Page 19 Famous People Page 20 Famous People Page 21 Famous People Page 22 Famous People Page 23 Famous People Page 24 Famous People Page 25 Famous People Page 26 Famous People Page 27 Famous People Page 28 Famous People Page 29 Famous People Page 30 Famous People Page 31 Famous People Page 32 Famous People Page 33 Famous People Page 34 Famous People Page 35 Famous People Page 36 Famous People Page 37 Famous People Page 38 Famous People Page 39 Famous People Page 40 Famous People Page 41 Famous People Page 42 Famous People Page 43 Famous People Page 44 Famous People Page 45 Famous People Page 46 Famous People Page 47 Famous People Page 48 Famous People Page 49 Famous People Page 50 Famous People Page 51 Famous People Page 52 Famous People Page 53 Famous People Page 54 Famous People Page 55 Famous People Page 56 Famous People Page 57 Famous People Page 58 Famous People Page 59 Famous People Page 60 Famous People Page 61 Famous People Page 62 Famous People Page 63 Famous People Page 64 Famous People Page 65 Famous People Page 66 Famous People Page 67 Famous People Page 68 Famous People Page 69 Famous People Page 70 Famous People Page 71 Famous People Page 72 Famous People Page 73 Famous People Page 74 Famous People Page 75 Famous People Page 76 Famous People Page 77 Famous People Page 78 Famous People Page 79 Famous People Page 80 Famous People Page 81 Famous People Page 82 Famous People Page 83 Famous People Page 84 Famous People Page 85 Famous People Page 86 Famous People Page 87 Famous People Page 88 Famous People Page 89 Famous People Page 90 Famous People Page 91 Famous People Page 92 Famous People Page 93 Famous People Page 94 Famous People Page 95 Famous People Page 96 Famous People Page 97 Famous People Page 98 Famous People Page 99 Famous People Page 100 Famous People Page 101 Famous People Page 102 Famous People Page 103 Famous People Page 104 Famous People Page 105 Famous People Page 106 Famous People Page 107 Famous People Page 108 Famous People Page 109 Famous People Page 110 Famous People Page 111 Famous People Page 112 Famous People Page 113 Famous People Page 114 Famous People Page 115 Famous People Page 116 Famous People Page 117 Famous People Page 118 Famous People Page 119 Famous People Page 120