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Lecture 16

ANTH 3690 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Maurice Godelier, Ethnocentrism, Gananath Obeyesekere

Course Code
ANTH 3690
Marta Rohatynskyj

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Lecture 16 Nov. 06. 2011
History Without Europe
Are There Histories of Peoples Without Europe? A Review Article
Talal Asad (City University of New York)
Personal Background
A real cosmopolitan
Born of a Polish-Pakistani father and a Saudi Arabian mother
Grew up in India and Pakistan
Concerned with historical issues but taking the position of Foucault
So his unit of relating to the world is ‘discourse’
In this sense he is a post-modernist and also a post-colonialist writer
At the moment he works on secularism as an aspect of modernity
His Critique of Wolf’s Europe and a People without History
He applauds Wolf’s efforts in writing about the rise of capitalism and the impact it has had on a
global scale
But the title of his essay plays on the idea inherent in the title of Wolf’s book that is it possible
to have history of the non-western world that does not relate to Europe
In this sense he is saying that Wolf’s book is very ethnocentric in that it is a history of Europe
(or Capitalism) as exported to colonial countries
We must take his critique as that of ‘the other’ criticizing the discourse of a Western
There is another instance of such a critique on the part of Gananath Obeyesekere (Emeritus,
Princeton) and Marshall Sahlins (Emeritus, University of Chicago)
The Marxist Concept of Mode of Production
We find in Marx’s writings a set of classifications of mode of production
Mode of Production - a set of social and economic relations that organize production
Ex. Feudal Mode of Production, Capitalist Mode of Production, Oriental Mode of Production
It is a tribute to the richness of Marx’s thought that anthropologists at various times have tried
to use his concept of the mode of production and apply it to pre-capitalist societies
Asad’s main point is that Wolf glosses over the history of non-Western peoples in his book by
simply assuming that prior to contact with Western capitalism and colonialism production was
organized by kinship
The French Neo-Marxists
Claude Meillassoux and Maurice Godelier
1975 Maidens, Meals and Money: Capitalism and the Domestic Community
On the basis of research carried out in Cote d’lvoire, he posits a lineage mode of production,
sometimes called a domestic mode of production
The notion that production should be different when carried out by a domestic unit organized
by kinship is an old one in the discipline
This speaks to the huge divide that is sometimes seen between the modern and the traditional
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