Subject:      Re: problem of parallels (was: Easter Island...
From:         yuku@mail.trends.ca (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/10/13
Message-ID:   <61tlu7$rl1$1@news.trends.ca>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,sci.anthropology


Greg,

Well, I'm glad you've decided to investigate what Levi-Strauss is saying
about these things. Thanks for posting these additional quotes.

GKeyes6988 ([22]gkeyes6988@aol.com) wrote:
: Yuri Kuchinsky wrote:
:
: [Yuri quoted:]
: > >Comparative studies of primitive art have probably been
: > >jeopardized by the zeal of investigators of cultural contacts and
: > >borrowings. But let us state in no uncertain terms that these
: > >studies have been jeopardized even more by intellectual pharisees
: > >who prefer to deny obvious relationships because science does not
: > >yet provide an adequate method for their interpretation
: >  >  -=-   Claude Levi-Strauss, ANTHROPOLOGIE STRUCTURALE, 1958

        ...

: Let's see what Levi-Strauss say immediately prior to Yuri's selected quote,
: shall we?  The chapter (13) is one  comparing the art of Asia and the
: Americas.

: "Do we rest, then, on the horns of a dilemma which condemns us either to
deny : history or remain blind to similarities so often confirmed?
Anthropologists : of the diffusionist school did not hesitate to force the
hand of historical : criticism. I do not intend to defend their
adventurous hypotheses, but it : must be admitted that the negative
attitude of their cautious opponents is no : more satisfactory than the
fabulous pretensions which the latter merely : reject (246-247)." (Yuri's
quote picks up there).

        ...

: Levi-Strauss does not invoke transoceanic contact to
: explain  the similarities he sees. What bugs him about the whole
: diffusionist/evolutionist debate is that clear (to him) similarities

Here we go. They, the similarities, are clear to him. And yet there are
plenty of pharisees who try to deny this.

: are
: either simply but ludicrously explained by diffusionists

Certainly not ludicrously. L-S probably was not aware of some research
that already documented the feasibility of contact even in his time. But
_plenty more_ has been presented since then. MAN ACROSS THE SEA (1971) was
the seminal volume in this respect.

: or entirely
: dismissed by their opponents,

Correct.

: keeping us farther from a real explanation.
: Lets look at some other statements about diffusionists in the same chapter:

: "I have mentioned elsewhere the almost insupporable obstacle generated
by the : hypothesis of preColumbian contacts between Alaska and New
Zealand.

This is supportable.

: The : problem is perhaps simpler when one compares Siberia and
China witrh North : America: distances are reasonable and one need
overcome the obstacle of only : one or two millenia. Even in this case,
however, what an immense marshalling : of facts becomes neccesary!  For
his ingenious and brilliant work, C. Hentze : can be called the "Scrap
collecter" of Americanism, pulling his evidence from : the most diverse
cultures and often mounting insignificant details for : exhibition.
Instead of justifying the intuitive feeling of connectedness, : his
analysis dissolves it; nothing among these MEMBRE DISJECTA POETA appears :
to justify the deep sense of affinity which familiarity with both arts had
so : strongly elicited (Levi-Strauss, p 246)."

I'm not familiar with Hentze. Nevertheless, I'm familiar with most of the
recent research in this area. Nothing unbelievable there.

: So here we have Levi-Strauss saying that the diffusionist work of Hentze
: oft mentioned on this newsgroup

??? When?

: actually obscures the real explanation for
: similarity.
: So, where does Levi-Strauss go from here?

: "Cultural contact doubtless constitutes the one hypothesis which most
easily : accounts for complex similarities that chance cannot explain.

Precisely.

: But if : historian maintain that contact is impossible,

No competent and informed historian will maintain this at this time. And
this is very important, Greg. This is where L-S is now obsolete.

: this does not prove that the : similarities are illusory, but only that
one must look elsewhere for the : explanation.

No need to look elsewhere. Not anymore.

: The fruitfulness of the diffusionist approach derives : precisely from
its systematic exploration of the possibilities of history.

EXACTLY!

: If :  history, when it is called upon unremittingly (and it must be
called upon : FIRST) cannot yield an answer,

But it can!

: then let us appeal to psychology, or the : structural analysis of forms;

There's no real need to do this now.

: let us ask ourselves if internal connections, : whether of psychological
or logical nature, will allow us to understand : parallel recurrences
whose frequency and cohesion cannot possibly be the : result of chance."

        ...

: Here is a brief explanation of what Levi-Strauss'  structuralism is about,
: from one of his critics, Marvin Harris.  It is succinct and  fair as a
: description -- Harris
: has not begun to criticize yet:

That's right, Harris is quite critical of L-S. Myself, I incline much more
to Cultural Materialism, although I recognize that L-S offered us much
that is valid.

: "Structuralism represents an attempt to explain the CONSCIENCE COLLECTIVE in
: terms of pan-human, neurologically-based unconscious mental dialectic.  As I
: have said, this dialectic sets limits to what can be thought -- determines
: what is "good to think" (GK -- This is a quote from Strauss' famous "The Raw
: and the Cooked")." (Harris,1980:167)

: TAKE HOME POINT:
:
: While crediting diffusionist theories with some utility (mostly in terms of
: clearing the way for his sort of analysis) he at no time in this article
: explains -- as Yuri flatly claims he does -- the similarity of art styles by
: way of diffusion, though he remains amenable to the suggestion should
: compelling evidence turn up (p 265).

The evidence is all here, Greg. Plenty of this has been posted. I just
wonder how you managed to miss it...

: His explanation is
: structural-psychological, the mediation between two states of the totem
: ancestor.

Sounds kinda Psychic to me...

Greg, the essence of scholarship is to take what is the best and the most
valid from past researchers, and not to follow them slavishly. We have to
move on to new research, this is the essence of progress. Let's take from
L-S what is valid. I, personally, don't need his Psychic-Psychological
Conscience Collective to provide explanations for these parallels. I opt
for something more rationalistic: contact.

Regards,

Yuri.

Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- [23]http://www.io.org/~yuku

So much additional evidence argues in favor of trans-Pacific
diffusion on a very intellectual level at this point, perhaps
around the time of Christ, perhaps around the time of the
founding of Teotihuacan -=O=- Michael D. Coe (1981)
   _________________________________________________________________


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