ANT204H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Dative Case, White Supremacy, Hamites
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Otherness and the Noble Savage
•Indigenous peoples’ portrayal, both self-portrayal and Otherness, towards the
ends of political goals.
•Often takes on a greening perspective (does this mask much of the current
•Can you claim first rights to a place?
•Dealing with European perspectives because of degree of influence: Beam of
European bias shines through most notably.
•Could go as far back as looking at how Romans talked about conquered
peoples…but we shall only mention this.
•14th-17th Centuries: Renaissance: Rebirth of interest in Classical learning and
art. Only main power was the Catholic Church, who determined what was
truth. This period signifies a rebirth of curiosity.
•16th Century onwards, initiated from 1492, we see this beginning of continuous
“interaction” across the Atlantic. Columbus looking West (Spanish), Portuguese
looking past Horn of Africa to find a way to China and India – precious trade
•Start to have to gradually reconceive their world as not just Them and the Asians
(Orientals): much broader categories of humans. They also have to encounter all
the different groups that exist along the coasts of Africa, as well.
•1492-19th Century: Hot debate as to how to make sense of these peoples; how to
we pigeonhole them? Where do we stand?
Monogenist vs. Polygenist
One origin vs. Many origins
•Different camps, re: where people came from.
•Monogenists took the Bible literally, as a literal history of the world. “Two
humans, Adam and Eve…” -> all humans descend from them.
•Polygenists argue that this doesn’t make sense: Very spread out (from
potential Garden of Eden in Middle East), look very different, act very
•Monogenists held the stronger argument at the time: In line with church
orthodoxy. Polygenists, suggesting that the Bible wasn’t necessarily literal, were
•Monogenists faced a great task: “How could people become so different and get
to the far reaches of the globe over such a short period of time?” (History of the
world as only six or seven thousand years…) – take number of begats, times
ninety…make a few exceptions: you get rough date of Earth’s creation!
oWent to very intricate lengths to “prove” the Bible’s truth: calculate how
far people can move in a day, a week, a month, a year…
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oDegeneration: “Well, they started off white, and then they degenerated..”
•Polygenists had a better time justifying their beliefs: “God created several groups
of people, created them differently, and put them in different places”
oSome of their arguments still get used to justify white supremacism
o“Only one people were God’s chosen people, and then there were those
•Wealth of openly-racist Renaissance literature, condemning others as inferior.
oWhole lot of literature, discussion, etc. etc. comes out about those people:
language comes down almost to today: savage, barbarian…still used
scientifically in the 19th century.
oAs these writers/thinkers try to articulate their ideas
Barbarians and savages are characterized by what they do not
have/do (not by what they have or do differently)
•Very common when you get any group of people
identifying us vs. them (Us, we do great things, them,
•Europeans start to catalogue everything others lack
oLaw, writing, kings (“formal, hierarchical
government”), rule (order/custom),
arts/occupation (“they don’t work!”), traffic
(shipping, trade, navigation…),
agriculture/husbandry, money/riches, weapons,
clothing (“Mostly naked!”), morals, marriage
(“respect for family ties/structures”)
oMost characterizations were done by people who
had never laid eyes on “barbarians”. These were
based on travellers’ accounts, and say “Aha!”
One of the more well-known writers who articulated these
civilized/barbarian differences was Thomas Hobbes (1588-
1679): Without states and civilizations, the life of a savage was
“solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (1654)
•In creating for themselves this image of the Other as
lacking, they philosophically and morally set themselves
up to justify just about any kind of cruelty they wanted to
mete out onto these other peoples. “They don’t have
anything of value…so therefore anything we do to them is
better than what they had before!”
At the same time, there was literature viewing them as the
representation of the Golden Age (myth): no crime, problems…
(based on Garden of Eden for Christians: used to describe “their
own golden past”) – note that most people do this: Collective
Memory of an Imagined Past
From 70s to 80s, the Golden Ages in American pop culture was
the 1950s as a “time of innocence” (oops! Forgot about
suppression of lefties!)
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