File Name: consuming habits drugs in history and anthropology .zip
Anthropology is the scientific study of humanity , concerned with human behavior , human biology , and societies , in both the present and past, including past human species. Linguistic anthropology studies how language influences social life.
Materiality: An Introduction
There is an underlying principle to be found in most of the religions that dominate recorded history. Wisdom has been accredited to those who claim that materiality represents the merely apparent behind which lies that which is real.
Perhaps the most systematic development of this belief arose over two millennium within South Asia. For religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, theology has been centred upon the critique of materiality.
At its simplest Hinduism, for example, rests upon the concept of maya , which proclaims the illusory nature of the material world. The aim of life is to transcend the apparently obvious; the stone we stub our toe against, or the body as the core of our sensuous existence. Truth comes from our apprehension that this is mere illusion. Nevertheless, paradoxically, material culture has been of considerable consequence as the means of expressing this conviction.
The merely vestigial forms at the centre of a temple may be contrasted with the massive gates at the periphery. The faded pastels of an elderly woman are in stark contrast with the bright and sensual colours of the bride precisely in order to express in material form the goal of transcending our attachment to material life [i]. But the history of South Asia is not just the history of its religions. There is a parallel history, which tells of the endless struggle of cosmology with practice.
This is the history of accumulation, taxation, wars and looting, empire and excess. It culminates in the integration of this region within a global political economy in which politics is increasingly subservient to an economics whose premise with respect to materiality could hardly be more different. In economic thought the accumulation of material commodities is itself the source of our extended capacity as humanity [ii] Poverty is defined as the critical limit to our ability to realise ourselves as persons, consequent upon a lack of commodities.
The focus upon materiality, though here in the form of accumulation, is therefore just as strong in economics as it is in Hinduism. For a discipline such as anthropology, that is concerned with what it is to be human, we need to therefore start our discussion of this issue with an acknowledgment that the definition of humanity has often become almost synonymous with the position taken on the question of materiality.
Furthermore this has been a highly normative quest, closely linked to the question of what morality is, in the society or period in question. Even within the most secular and self consciously modern systems of belief the issue of materiality remains foundational to most people's stance to the world.
The first major secular theory of humanity that seemed capable of dominating the world, Marxism, rested upon a philosophy of praxis, whose foundation also lies in its stance to materiality. Humanity is viewed as the product of its capacity to transform the material world in production, in the mirror of which we create ourselves. Capitalism is condemned above all for interrupting this virtuous cycle by which we create the objects that in turn create our understanding of who we can be.
Instead commodities are fetishised and come to oppress those who made them. Contemporary critiques, such as Naomi Klein's No Logo , whether expressed as environmentalism, or anti-globalism, may be cruder in their philosophical underpinnings, but seem to be just as focused upon the issue of materiality, for instance a loss of humanity in the face of commodities and brands, as is the neo-classical economics they confront.
The centrality of materiality to the way we understand ourselves may equally well emerge from topics as diverse as love [iii] or science [iv] and associated beliefs such as the epistemology of positivism. This constant return to the same issue demonstrates why we need to engage with the issue of materiality as far more than a mere footnote or esoteric extra to the study of anthropology. The stance to materiality also remains the driving force behind humanity's attempts to transform the world in order to make it accord with beliefs as to how the world should be.
Hindusim and Economics are not just beliefs about the world, but vast institutional forces that try to ensure that people live according to their tenets through priesthoods or through structural adjustment programmes. In this respect capitalism and religion are equal and analogous.
Chapters in this volume will attest to this foundational relationship between the stance to materiality and the stance to humanity through case-studies ranging from ancient to contemporary practices and based around topics as diverse as theology, technology, finance, politics and art.
This introduction will begin with two attempts to theorise materiality. The first a vulgar theory of mere things as artefacts and the second a theory that claims to entirely transcend the dualism of subjects and objects. It will then engage with theories associated with Bruno Latour and Alfred Gell that seek to follow a similar path, but with a greater emphasis upon the nature of agency. This is followed by a consideration of materiality and power, including claims to transcend materiality, and a consideration of the relativity of materiality where some things and some people are seen as more material than others, leading finally to an exploration of the plurality of forms of materiality.
In turn, three case-studies of finance and religion are used to explore the plurality of immateriality and the relationship between materiality and immateriality. Throughout these discussions two issues emerge which are then considered in their own right. The first is the tendency to reduce all such concerns with materiality through a reification of ourselves, defined variously as the subject, as social relations or as society.
In opposition to this social anthropology several chapters critique definitions of humanity as purely social or indeed as homo sapiens, and critique approaches which view material culture as merely the semiotic representation of some bedrock of social relations.
Finally in the conclusion we return to a meta-commentary upon the whole. It will become evident that we can indeed resolve the dualism of subjects and objects through philosophy. What anthropology offers, by contrast, is not just philosophical solutions or definitions, but a means to employ these understandings within forms of engagement that yield analytical insight, but which must be realised again and again with respect to each situation, because we live in a changing and varied world of practice.
A volume that spans topics as diverse as cosmology and finance cannot afford to rest upon any simplistic definition of what we mean by the word material. It needs to encompass both colloquial and philosophical uses of this term. We may want to refute the very possibility of calling anything immaterial. We may want to refuse a vulgar reduction of materialism to simply the quantity of objects. But we cannot deny that such colloquial uses of the term materiality are common.
The standard critiques of materialism found in newspapers and everyday discussions, take their stand against the apparently endless proliferation of artefacts, what Simmel termed the increase in material culture. An anthropological volume devoted to materiality should not ignore this colloquial usage and I will, for this reason, start this investigation with a theory of the most obvious and most mundane expression of what the term material might convey - artefacts.
But this soon breaks down as we move on to consider the large compass of materiality, the ephemeral, the imaginary, the biological and the theoretical; all that which would have been external to the simple definition of an artefact.
So the second theory of materiality to be introduced here will be the most encompassing, and will situate material culture within a larger conceptualisation of culture. Certainly I confess that when I first took up a post as a professional academic in the field of material culture studies in , this seemed to be the limit to the ambition of those studies.
At that time I employed two sources in this quest. The first was the book Frame Theory in which the sociologist Goffman argued that much of our behaviour is cued by expectations which are determined by the frames which constitute the context of action. We look for signs by which people distance themselves from the social roles they are playing. We take note, usually unconsciously, of the place in which the action is set, or the clothes they wear, to give us clues.
If a lecturer suddenly started a private conversation with a student in the middle of a lecture, everyone would become acutely aware of the underlying norms of lectures as a genre. My second source was The Sense of Order by the art historian Gombrich Unlike all his other books, this focused not upon the art work, but the frame in which the art work was set. Gombrich argued that when a frame is appropriate we simply don't see it, because it seamlessly conveys to us the appropriate mode by which we should encounter that which it frames.
It is mainly when it is inappropriate a Titian framed in perspex, a Picasso in baroque gilt that we are suddenly aware that there is indeed a frame. It is the frame rather than any quality independently manifested by the art work, that elicits the special response we give it as art.
The less we are aware of them the more powerfully they can determine our expectations by setting the scene and ensuring normative behaviour, without being open to challenge. They determine what takes place to the extent that we are unconscious of their capacity to do so. This somewhat unexpected capacity of objects to fade out of focus and remain peripheral to our vision and yet determinant of our behaviour and identity had another important result. It helped explain why so many anthropologists looked down upon material culture studies as somehow either trivial or missing the point.
The objects had managed to obscure their role and appear inconsequential. At a time when material culture studies had an extremely low status within the discipline, it seemed that objects had been very successful in achieving this humility, at least within anthropology.
In this book Bourdieu showed how the same ability of objects to implicitly condition human actors becomes the primary means by which people are socialised as social beings.
The foundation of these ideas came from Levi-Strauss who played Hegel to Bourdieu's Marx, in the sense that Levi-Strauss demonstrated at an intellectual level how anthropologists needed to abandon the study of entities and consider things only as defined by the relationships that constituted them. But while for Levi-Strauss this became a rather grand ordering implying, if not a cognitive, at least a largely intellectual foundation, with myth as philosophy, Bourdieu turned this into a much more contextualised theory of practice.
Structuralism was turned into both a material, and a much more fluid and less deterministic engagement with the world. We are brought up with the expectations characteristic of our particular social group largely through what we learn in our engagement with the relationships found between everyday things. Bourdieu emphasised the categories, orders and the placements of objects, for example, spatial oppositions in the home, of the relationship between agricultural implements and the seasons.
Each order was argued to be homologous with other orders such as gender, or social hierarchy, and thus the less tangible was grounded in the more tangible. These became habitual ways of being in the world and in their underlying order emerged as second nature or habitus.
For Bourdieu, who wore another cap as a theorist of education, it was these practical taxonomies, these orders of everyday life, that stored up the power of social reproduction, since they in effect educated people into the normative orders and expectations of their society.
What we now attempt to inculcate in children through explicit pedagogic teaching, based largely in language, had previously been inculcated largely through material culture. As habitus this become the social equivalent to Kant's system of categories. On analogy with space, time or mathematics, there exist for each social group certain underlying parameters by which they come to apprehend the world, an order they come to assume and expect in any new set of objects they encounter.
So this was a theory of objects, but not as lame, sole, artefacts. Material Culture as a network of homologous orders emerged as the powerful foundation for more or less everything that constitutes a given society. This theory also helps account for the initial observation that even within a religion such as Hinduism, a belief in the ultimate truth as a form of immateriality is still commonly expressed through material forms and practices, such as temple architecture or yogic control over bodies.
What this example hopefully demonstrate is that, yes, it is entirely possible to have a theory of objects as artefacts. Indeed there are likely to be many of these. A particularly influential example in anthropology was that created by Appadurai's book The Social Life of Things in which the editor's introduction in combination with the chapter by Kopytoff re-considered objects in respect to a core anthropological dualism between the gift and the commodity.
It plotted a trajectory for things in their ability to move in and out of different conditions of identification and alienation. Just as Bourdieu softened and made more applicable the harder structuralism of Levi-Strauss, Appadurai's work had the virtue of softening the dualistic frame in to which this debate about gifts and commodities had become lodged and helping to ease its application to the analysis of exchange and indeed the larger social life of things.
As already noted, while it is possible to have theories of things, any such theory seems to ignore the evident lack of any defensible definition of thingness. Is an ephemeral image, a moment in a streaming video, a thing?
Is a dream, a city, a sensation, a derivative, an ideology, a landscape, a decay, a kiss? I havn't the least idea. But the questions that are left begging indicate that in practice a theory of material culture will tend to stand as a subset of some more general theory of culture.
But the term culture when put into the spotlight may be at least as problematic as the term material culture. Indeed it is probably the single most criticised concept within contemporary anthropology. It too seems to be best understood as a pragmatic limitation upon some still larger understanding of the world. So the temptation is to start instead from the top, from the most encompassing and definitive definition of our object of understanding and then to work downwards.
The system of thought he developed does, at the highest level, resolve many of the major issues of philosophy including that of materiality. In his Phenomenology of the Spirit , Hegel suggests that there can be no fundamental separation between humanity and materiality.
That everything that we are and do arises out of the reflection upon ourselves given by the mirror image of the process by which we create form and are created by this same process.
Consuming habits:drugs in history and anthropology
Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. DOI: A persistent feature of human cultures is the use of substances that alter mental states, which are incorporated into rituals, social life, and patterns of trade. View via Publisher. Save to Library. Create Alert.
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There is an underlying principle to be found in most of the religions that dominate recorded history. Wisdom has been accredited to those who claim that materiality represents the merely apparent behind which lies that which is real. Perhaps the most systematic development of this belief arose over two millennium within South Asia. For religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, theology has been centred upon the critique of materiality. At its simplest Hinduism, for example, rests upon the concept of maya , which proclaims the illusory nature of the material world.
Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy PDF file of the complete article K , or click on a page image below to browse page by page. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Med Hist v. Med Hist.
Consuming models: drugs in history and anthropology. Old text is available as a bad copy of the original question version. Get a printable copy PDF eating of the or even on a page image below to make page by page.
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