Order and Rebellion in Tribal Africa: Collected Essays, with an Autobiographical Introd

Order and Rebellion in Tribal Africa: Collected Essays, with an Autobiographical Introd

Order and Rebellion in Tribal Africa: Collected Essays, with an Autobiographical Introd

Order and Rebellion in Tribal Africa: Collected Essays, with an Autobiographical Introd

Excerpt

In his Mirror for Man, at the very beginning, Clyde Kluckhohn sums up the origins of anthropology by citing a nineteenth- century wit who described the subject as the study of oddments by eccentrics. The facts treated by our discipline's founders were indeed oddments in two sorts of ways. First, they were odds and ends of facts that were not studied by other disciplines: by such medical experts as there were, by jurists and political scientists, economists, classical archaeologists and so forth. Secondly, when assembled together they made a collection of oddments: folkways and folktales, the out-of-the-way customs of the Western world, the artifacts and other material products of tribal societies, the customs of these societies and their ways of reckoning time, bone and skull shapes and the surface appearances of the stocks of mankind, the position of man in relation to the other mammals, the implements and other remains of prehistoric man, etc. It was a great achievement of our ancestors that, out of studying this illogical assortment, they should have given birth to the well- established discipline -- or, now, the several disciplines -- of anthropology. For though their original theories, cast first in evolutionary form and then in a series of historical reconstructions, may seem to us to be Procrustean in their forcing of facts, and though they may seem to have searched in what Goldenweiser called 'a chronological vacuum', they nevertheless drew attention to many neglected aspects of social life and they cleared the way for a more systematic treatment of that life. It was perhaps inevitable that as scholars pursued their analyses of these oddments, each category of oddments should have become the field of study of a more specialized discipline -- as, for example, physical anthropology has done. Inevitably, also, each of these specialized branches has linked up with other disciplines attacking facts in like manner: as, again, physical anthropology has linked up with comparative anatomy, physiology, and zoology.

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