By William Roseberry
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Extra resources for Anthropologies and Histories: Essays in Culture, History, and Political Economy
T h e question of w ho is telling the tales a n d in w h a t context therefore becomes im p o r t a n t. T a k in g a form of culture as a text, the authors take the first step toward an analysis of text as w ritin g , as material social process. Second, they assume that the peasant w o m e n w ho are telling the tales form a “ peasant intelligentsia” that is trying to 28 CULTU RE in te r ve n e in the social process. T h a t is, the tales are c o m m e n t a r ies on w h a t is h a p p e n in g to t h e m a n d their families that call for particular forms of action to alter the situation.
B o th are rather loose terms used to categorize heterogeneous m o vem ents , but most of us have some general u n d e r s ta n d in g of the sort of work that m ig h t be g iv e n one or the other label. O n the whole, there is some room for dialogue b e tw e e n political economists a n d symbolic anthro pologists, a n d the level of discourse seems to h a v e im p r o v e d from the t im e w h e n charges like “ r e d u c tiv e ” a n d “ mentalist” were thro w n aro und w it h ease. S o m e political economists a n d symbolic anthropologists share certain a pp a r e n t interests— in history, in the study of particular social groups, in the interpreta tion of social action a n d m o v e m e n t s .
A n a r g u m e n t against evolutionism can be seen as an a r g u m e n t against science, expla nation, a n d m a te r ia lis m because they are all part of a single fo un d in g contradiction. The title of this essay would seem to fit well w it h in such a contradiction, g iv in g us another p a ir for the list, w it h M a r x is m on the left a n d culture on the rig ht. T h a t I w a n t to suggest ways in w h ic h the a p p a r e n t a n t in o m y can be m e d ia t e d , that I w an t to sketch out the possibility of a M a r x is t u n d e r s tan d in g of culture and a cultural r e a d in g of M a r x would s eem , for some, to pursue the impo ssible; for others, a gross fo rm of theoretical pre te n sion.
Anthropologies and Histories: Essays in Culture, History, and Political Economy by William Roseberry