OBE38986 Universalism and Particularism in Archaeological Theory

Universalism and particularism are constructs which inflect theoretical models across many different subjects in the humanistic disciplines and societal scientific disciplines. Universalistic theories, whether used in archeology, anthropology, sociology, history or doctrine, are concerned with infering general Torahs from the observation of informations. Particularist theories, by contrast, concentrate upon the specificity of an single phenomena, seeking to understand the peculiarity of the phenomena in its ain footings. In archeology, universalist theories are largely associated with cultural evolutionalism and processualism, where particularist attacks tend to be associated with Boas ‘ historical particularism, and with certain strands of structural linguistics.

Following Darwin ‘s publication of Origins of the Species ( 1859 ) , the construct of development has been cardinal to much – though non all – archeological and anthropological theory. Evolution holds that human development can be characterised as a procedure of alteration from a crude, animalistic province, to an advanced province in which human civilization predominates. A civilization in this context is characterised by a high degree of version to the environment, and symbolic signifiers of communicating such as linguistic communication. Archeologists such as Lewis H. Morgan, composing in the 19th century, applied the construct of development to the survey of different civilizations, claiming that, in the universalist vena, all civilizations could be interpretable in footings of their development ( or development ) through three distinguishable phases: I ) savageness two ) brutality and three ) civilization. ( Morgan, 1964 ) . For such early evolutionary anthropologists, the grade of civilization nowadays in a civilization was the yardstick by which to mensurate its promotion. A effect of this accent upon development and civilization was that the survey of the character of single civilizations, and the peculiar fortunes interceding persons ‘ ability to accommodate to their environment, was neglected. The Comparative Method predominated, where many different civilizations would be compared, and Torahs would be sought for refering how they would develop towards the ultimate evolutionary end of civilization. In Morgan ‘s theoretical account, different civilizations changed due to ‘independent innovation ‘ , non because of any transverse cultural influence. The grade to which a civilization was civilised was tantamount in this theoretical account, to the grade to which members of a peculiar civilization had adapted successfully to environmental conditions through the innovation of utile tools ( including abstract tools such as linguistic communication ) . As a corollary to these beliefs, cultural evolutionist anthropologists implied a hierarchy of civilizations, at the helm of which was Western Civilisation, at the underside of which were civilizations of the autochthonal African population.

It was partially this built-in racism which led to the Austro-German anthropologists Graebner ( 1964 ) and Schmidt ( 1906 ) to shun development as a primary construct in the analysis of civilizations, and to alternatively concentrate upon diffusion of cultural traits across the Earth. The thought behind diffusion was that civilizations advanced by virtuousness of thoughts from one civilization distributing to another, and that it was the spreading of a figure of core cultural traits which explained a peculiar civilization ‘s civilization. This construct of diffusion was universalist in its premise that all civilizations could be explained in footings of a few nucleus civilizations. Indeed, the British diffusionists Elliot Smith ( 1924 ) and Perry ( 1923 ) were particularly universalist in their diffusionist theories that the civilization of Egypt was responsible for all consecutive cultural development, mentioning irrigation, kingship and pilotage as holding been spread by voyagers, in hunt of cherished gems, down the Nile. Although diffusionism was really influential, by the 1920s there had been sufficient archeological digging to confute the theory that diffusion was the primary mechanism by which civilizations changed. Childe, for illustration, argued that revolutions were besides a major precipitator of alteration across civilizations. He posited the thought that the alteration to nomadic hunting had been caused by a Neolithic Revolution, taking to monolithic societal reorganization. In bend, so Childe argued, this led to a 2nd Urban Revolution which created the first metropoliss. In add-on to disputing traditional diffusionism, ( Childe, 1946, 1951 ) .

A major interruption off from the primacy of development came with the historical particularism of Boas and his followings. Central to Boas ‘ attack was the belief that cultures needed to be analysed in their ain footings, and in their precise historical context. His theoretical account therefore replaced the universalism of development with the particularism of history. Since single civilizations could non be explained by general Torahs gleaned from an analysis of comparative informations, Boas and his adherents advocated inductive methods of researching and entering all facets of an single civilization, so as to derive a minute apprehension of the interaction between the different elements of, for illustration, linguistic communication, faith, trade etc. For Boas, similarities in cultural traits could be explained by psychological factors, environmental conditions and historical connexions, and decidedly non by mention to the yardstick of the cultural evolutionist construct of civilization. ( Boas, 1911 ) . Boasian adherents such as Alfred Kroeber, Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict produced rich and elaborate ethnographic surveies of peculiar subcultures utilizing inductive methods such as field notes and experimental informations. It is of import to observe that Boas did non prevent the possibility that one time sufficient informations had been gathered, it might be possible to generalize approximately civilizations to some extent. In the vena of inductivism, Boas believed that theories or decisions would originate spontaneously from an analysis of the informations. Indeed, with Boasians such as Mead ( 1928 ) printing Coming of Age in Samoa, and other Boasians such as Kroeber ( 1925 ) printing a sequence of richly detailed ethnographic surveies, there came a point where particularists felt sufficiently equipped with field informations to do generalizations.

A cardinal effect of the Boasian neglect for the Comparative method of analyzing similarities between civilizations ( with a position to explicating general Torahs ) was the development of cultural relativism. Unlike in evolutionary theory, where civilization is seen as the end-stage in a cosmopolitan procedure of development, and in diffusion, where a few nucleus civilizations are seen to hold influenced all subsequent civilization, cultural relativism holds that civilizations exist independently of other civilizations. In this construct – developed farther by Kroeber – civilization itself is seen as a superorganic entity, bing above and beyond world itself. Civilization in this context is non an nonsubjective quality intrinsic in different steps to different civilizations, but manifests as a corporate merchandise of humanity. The accent is upon the specialness of different historical contexts, instead than upon how civilized persons within that context appear to move. ( Kroeber, 1948 ) . The particularism of Boas and Kroeber reveals an inexplicit orientation towards the relationship between persons and their societies, in the sense that they believed that although persons had their ain heads, their single purposes and motives were non the beginning of their behaviors. Of critical importance was the manner single behavior manifested in group behaviors, as this was the key to hold oning the structural characteristics of a civilization, and the interrelatedness between these characteristics.

It was a concern for understanding the maps and constructions of peculiar civilizations which led to the development of functionalist theories in archeology following the first universe war. In American academe, one of Boas ‘ adherents, Ruth Benedict ( 1934 ) , emphasised the map of shared psychological positions amongst members of a peculiar civilization. Each typical civilization, in this construct, had given its members a alone, functional, cognitive position upon their environments which affected how they perceived and processed environmental information. The intent of archeological and anthropological survey how such conditioning functioned to continue the constructions of society. In the British context, Malinowski embarked upon a elaborate ethnographic survey of the Trobriand island-dwellers with a position to understanding how the entirety of their civilization related to the single parts. ( Malinowski, 1915 ) . Pulling on Durkheim, Malinowski believed that single societies functioned organically, in the manner machines map, with each single cultural trait being correspondent to a ‘cog ‘ in the ‘cultural machine ‘ . Pulling on functionalism, theoreticians such as Radcliffe-Browne and subsequently Claude Levi-Strauss developed structuralist accounts of civilizations. ( Radcliffe-Browne, 1935, Levi-Strauss, 1968 ) . They believed that civilizations could be analysed in the same manner that a linguistic communication can be analysed, and that the primary end was the building of theoretical theoretical accounts of peculiar civilizations which could account for all facets of those civilizations. Although the theories of some functionalist structuralists such as Radcliffe Browne and Malinowski were basically wedded to the particularist belief in the peculiarity of each civilization, structuralists such as Levi-Strauss betrayed marks of a more universalist doctrine. Levi-Strauss ( 1968 ) for illustration, believed that human existences across civilizations shared common – cosmopolitan – forms of idea, and it was these basic idea constructions which account for similarities across different civilizations. This belief in cosmopolitan thought constructions contrasts with the historical particularism of Boasian functionalists such as Ruth Benedict, who emphasised the specificity of psychological conditioning in peculiar civilizations.

Following the Second World War, there grew a pronounced dissatisfaction with cultural archeology as it had become configured by the early historical particularism of Boas et Al, and this rejection of Boasian particularist theory came ab initio in the theoretical work of Leslie White and Julian Steward. ( White, 1945 & A ; Steward, 1955 ) . In Steward ‘s theories, we see a return to the use of the construct of development as a manner of analyzing civilizations, and an echoing of the earlier theory of evolution of Morgan, which stressed that in all societies, similar phases of development can be observed. Similar to Morgan ‘s emphasis on independent invention, Steward believed that similarities between civilizations develop independently, in a procedure which he termed ‘multi-linear development ‘ . ( Steward, 1955 ) . Another illustration of a theory which eschewed Boasian particularism can be seen in the work of Leslie White, who believed that cultural development was a natural procedure contingent upon the ability of members of a peculiar civilization to utilize energy efficaciously. ( White, 1945 ) . In both White and Steward ‘s analysis, civilization is defined by environmental version, and it is the intent of archeology to analyze the interaction between persons, groups and the environment. These attacks provided the inspiration for the school of idea which came to be known as evolutionary ecology, with theoreticians such as Kelly, composing in 2001, look intoing huntsman gatherer and forage patterns in the Carson Sink. ( Hegmon, 2003:215 ) . The cardinal point about evolutionary ecology and its ancestors in the work of Steward and White is that it marked a displacement back to the belief that the environment determines civilization, and as worlds learn to accommodate to this environment more successfully, so civilizations necessarily evolve. The environmental model within which this development occurs is predictable and it is the intent of archeology to infer general Torahs refering how interaction with the environment produces cultural alteration.

It was the attractive forces of a more scientific attack, together with a general dissatisfaction with Boasian particularism – with its eschewal of the hunt for causes and general Torahs – which led to ‘The New Archaeology ‘ of the sixtiess. With processual archeology, came the belief that archeology should hold similar ends to anthropology, that is, the apprehension of how evolutionary procedures and behaviour constitute civilizations as they are. In this extremely materialist and positive theoretical account, the manner in which environments mediate human procedures and behavior is seen to be conformable to scientific testing ; several hypotheses might be formulated and tested against the facts of a peculiar civilization. The job facing the New Archaeologists was that of set uping an appropriate methodological analysis for proving hypotheses against the facts. As Willey & A ; Phillips ( 1958 ) stated: ‘So small work has been done in American archeology on the explanatory degree that it is hard to happen a name for it ‘ ( Willey & A ; Phillips, 1958:5 ) Processualists such as Lewis Binford responded by recommending basically ethno-historical attacks which find analogues in Malinowski ‘s early plants ( notwithstanding Malinowski ‘s particularism, and the fact that his work concerned modern-day civilizations ) . For illustration, in proving the theory that a group of rock artefacts from France called the Mousterian gathering, was adapted to the environmental conditions of the ice-age, Binford conducted ethno-historical research with the Nunamiut of Alaska, a group of persons who experienced really similar ice-age type conditions. ( Binford, 1973, Watson, 1991 ) .

Another processualist wedded to universalism, and the belief in utilizing nonsubjective, scientific attacks to understanding civilizations, was Kent Flannery, who believed that Systems theory could be used for such a intent. ( Flannery, 1973 ) . Systems theory identifies on a regular basis and predictably interacting elements in a system, and deduces Torahs and general rules from these observations. This attack, as in the earlier plants of structuralists and functionalists discussed before, sees civilizations as correspondent to machines, with different elements interacting in predictable ways to keep their operation and to continue the construction. Implied in Flannery ‘s history is the thought that there are certain regular characteristics of interaction which occur across all civilizations. ( Flannery, 1973 ) . Systems theory is utile for understanding how different elements of a civilization interact, though it is possibly a less productive theoretical account for understanding why these different elements interact as they do.

It was the processualist belief that wholly nonsubjective archeology was possible through the application of scientific, deductive methods – such as those of Flannery ‘s system theory – that led to fervent unfavorable judgments by British archeologists such as Hodder ( 1991 ) , Miller and Tilley ( Miller & A ; Tilley, 1984 ) , in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. These theoreticians – who became known as post-processualists – argued against the thought that cosmopolitan Torahs could be objectively identified, reasoning that all archeological reading was finally subjective, and reflective of the values of single research workers. As Johnson notes: ‘postprocessualists suggest that we can ne’er face theory and informations ; alternatively, we see informations through a cloud of theory ‘ . ( Johnson, 1999:102 ) . For post-processualists such as Hodder, Tilley & A ; Miller the ‘objective ‘ readings of processualists could claim no cosmopolitan truths, and alternatively reflected the frequently privileged white, upper in-between category backgrounds of those archeologists carry oning the research. ( Hodder, 1984a, Miller & A ; Tilly, 1984 ) . Hodder criticises the ‘arrogance ‘ of Western archeologists who believe they can perchance understand poorer cultural or cultural groups, proposing, in the vena of particularism and cultural relativism, that objective understanding by such archeologists is unachievable due to the cultural gulf between research worker and those being researched. For Hodder, the purpose of Western archeologists, if they are to avoid unwittingly suppressing poorer cultural groups, ought to be to authorise the members of such groups to carry on their ain research into their yesteryear. ( Hodder, 1984b ) . Harmonizing to Trigger, the post-processual theories of bookmans such as Hodder and Peter Ucko undermined non merely archeology ‘s claim to be able to infer cosmopolitan Torahs, but besides, more by and large, ‘archaeology ‘s claims to be an important beginning of cognition about the yesteryear. ‘ ( Trigger, 2006: 467-468 ) .

Another facet processualism which post-processual bookmans review, was the dichotomization of the construct of philistinism and idealism. As Johnson high spots, ‘many post-processualists claim that we should reject the whole resistance between stuff and ideal in the first topographic point. ‘ ( Johnson, 1999: 102 ) . Where processualists have implied that past societies interpreted their milieus in a material manner, post-processualists such as Bernad Knapp have demonstrated that in earlier societies, political orientations – including faith – played a critical function in leting the members of such societies to construe the universe around them, and in act uponing their behavior. ( Knapp 1988 ) . . Knapp ( 1988 ) for illustration, demonstrated how, in order to keep political and economic control, the opinion elite would pull strings facets of predominating political orientation. ( Knapp, 1988 ) .

Matthew Johnson, reasoning against the material-idealist duality, and back uping theory which recognises the differing world-views of the research worker from the research object, elaborates his thoughts in discoursing landscape among past societies. In peculiar, he draws attending to the manner in which the materialist processualist archeologist, owing to his/her upbringing in a capitalist society, necessarily sees landscape in footings of a material resource to be ‘rationally exploited ‘ . The actions of hunter-gatherers and early agriculture groups, in this theoretical account are seen to stem from practical reason. Johnson, nevertheless, high spots that reason is contextually specific, and the reason of our modern capitalist civilization can by no agencies claim universalism. Johnson argues that it is non possible to generalize from our ain construct of landscape about the manner cultures from the past viewed landscapes, as our ain constructs about the practical rational usage of land are necessarily influenced by capitalist impressions of trade good and development – impressions non needfully applicable to past civilizations. For Johnson, it is of import to see the precise context of the manner in which persons from the yesteryear would hold viewed and used landscape, as it is merely through such inventive Reconstruction – along hermeneutic lines – that can we understand how such persons made sense of landscapes. ( Johnson, 1999 ) .

Post-processual archeology, peculiarly of the kind exemplified in the plants of Johnson et Al, has provided the conceptual tools necessary for bridging all sorts of dualisms in traditional archeology, including the dualism of particularistic and universalistic accounts of civilizations. The restrictions of an attack which focussed entirely upon understanding specific and peculiar civilizations, without any effort to pull broader consolidative theories, were sensed by Boas and his adherents as far back as the 1930s. As mentioned earlier, Boas believed that one time adequate informations had been gathered, theories would originate spontaneously, and the impulse to generalize was felt strongly by followings such as Mead and Benedict. Post-processualism over 50 old ages subsequently, articulated an epistemology which diversely eschewed the dualisms of particularism versus universalism, philistinism versus idealism, and, pulling upon the structuration theory of Anthony Giddens, the dualism of construction and bureau itself. ( Hegmon, 2003 ) . As a theoretical account for archeological research, it seems inherently logical to accept that generalization may be possible within a model of basically inductive research. The decisions drawn from a elaborate comparative analysis of rich ethno-historical surveies of the kind performed by Binford ( 1973 ) will by their nature be probationary, and capable to alteration as more surveies are performed, and more informations becomes available. As Western archeologists, and the merchandise of a peculiar civilization, we should non flinch from the post-processualist injunction to analyze our prejudices as we engage in the hermeneutic procedure of construing the behavior of past civilizations. The most productive theoretical account for archeological research must be one that retains the chase of cosmopolitan accounts as a regulatory ideal, whilst admiting that as archeologists at a peculiar point in clip, our ain apprehension is itself by no agencies at its most advanced phase, and that we have much to larn, in the chase of cosmopolitan Torahs, from inductive ethno-historical surveies of different civilizations.


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