—‘dawn of everything’ review—

Radical Anthropology @radicalanthro

2 – Wicked Liberty
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3 – Unfreezing the Ice Age
4 – Free People, the Origin of Cultures, and the Advent of Private Property
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  • dawn of everything 2021 Graeber & Wengrow pdf

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—2 – Wicked Liberty—

Reading #TheDawnofEveryThing, the chapter on Wendat statesman Kandiaronk and his influence in provoking the European Enlightenment is a great story!
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  • La sagesse de Kandiaronk : la critique indigène, le mythe du progrès et la naissance de la Gauche french

It teaches us a couple of things. First, the hierarchical 18th.C Europeans started talking about equality and freedom because, in their initial imperialist expansion, they encountered real existing societies which were anarcho-communist and egalitarian. This was NOT a MYTH!
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Second, which Graeber/Wengrow don’t bring out enough, is the relationship of language to egalitarianism, exemplified by Kandiaronk. He was famed for superior sociocognitive linguistic skill! He argued jesuits and New French governor generals under the table in the 1690s
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If you live in a society where no one can tell anyone else what to do, to achieve agreement, you have to argue and persuade. Hence the extraordinary linguistic skills of Native Americans. Europeans had to follow orders — not conducive to developing reasoned consensus argument
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This applies as much or even more to the evolutionary emergence of language itself in our ancestral past. It would require a prolonged phase of relative egalitarianism to be established. This constraint nullifies the Graeber/Wengrow proposal that egalitarian origins is a myth
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Two evolutionary psychologists who modelled the interplay of egalitarianism, mutual mind-reading, culture and emergence of language were David Erdal and Andrew Whiten (of machiavellian intelligence fame). They called this complex ‘deep social mind’
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  • The human socio-cognitive niche and its evolutionary origins 2012 Andrew Whiten, David Erdal pdf

Erdal and Whiten had a brilliant fully Darwinian and dialectic explanation for human egalitarianism, which they termed ‘counter-dominance’. Starting with machiavellian intelligence (selection for abilities to negotiate social relations and alliances),
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  • On Human Egalitarianism: An Evolutionary Product of Machiavellian Status Escalation? 1994 David Erdal, Andrew Whiten, Christopher Boehm, Bruce Knauft pdf

Take MI to the extreme where everyone can summon allies to resist being dominated, eventually the best strategy becomes resistance to being dominated, rather than attempting to dominate others. This gives an outcome of rough egalitarianism. The attitude ‘don’t mess with me’…
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called ‘counter-dominance’ by Erdal/Whiten is a very good description of the way hunter-gatherer people actually behave in day-to-day interaction. And Erdal compiled the evidence for that on a cross-cultural database of h-gs
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We know that @davidgraeber and @davidwengrow continue to protest they are not interested in original egalitarianism or in telling the story of the origins of social inequality. They want to know ‘how we got stuck’ (and presumably what to do about it?)
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But we seriously doubt it will be possible to work out how we got stuck without understanding the evolution of human egalitarianism. That really was #TheDawnOfEverything — language, life, laughter…more tomorrow on ritual and reverse dominance

Maybe tomorrow now!
We feel another thread coming on about Africa — the first place humans did ‘bold social experiments’ like err…language, ritual, art and gender.

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—2a—

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OK Africa! Reading p.81 of #TheDawnOfEverything I’m seized by the impulse to hurl the book across the room — but it’s hefty and would endanger the health and safety of my 🐇Jack! 1/

Very unimpressed by several pages of mumbled excuses for leaving Africa out of this ‘new’ history of humanity. Saying “cranial remains and the occasional piece of knapped flint…is ..all we have” is just bollux!

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True, the Late Middle Pleistocene, period of our speciation, showed very diverse morphology and technology across Africa. All the more remarkable then is the extraordinary homogeneity of cultural signalling and media found across N, E. and S. Africa
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Why does this matter? Africa was the first place — by a long way — where humans conducted ‘bold social experiments — including language itself, art, ritual, kinship, gender, song, dance actually #TheDawnOfEverything

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The timeframe of 300,000 years for the 1st stage of our speciation (the flatter face) is 10x as long as the 30,000 upper limit of Graeber/Wengrow’s study. The 2nd stage of our speciation (globular skull) is 6 or 7x as old, and so probably is symbolic culture itself

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So what do G + W leave out which dominates the culture of populations of N., E. & S. Africa, thru the whole period of our speciation? Ochre (iron oxide) pigments, grindstones used for processing, down to ochre crayons, engraved ochres, paint kits and ochre-stained shell beads
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Luckily, Radical Anthropology has a resident world expert on the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) pigment record. For three decades, Ian Watts has highlighted the role of MSA pigments, and I’ll show you some of his work. Ian is now in the UCL Anthropology dept

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The ochre record, overwhelmingly RED ochre, provides one of the only examples of a cumulative cultural tradition as we became ‘modern’ humans. It starts up before we are even H sapiens, builds up in the 1st stage of speciation (c.300 ka), and explodes around the 2nd stage
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Ian has worked with the oldest human pigments from Wonderwerk, Northern Cape, blood red haematite and glittery specularite, dating back half a million years. In the back of gloomy Wonderwerk, these materials only make sense in a ‘ritual’ firelit display

  • Early Evidence for Brilliant Ritualized Display: Specularite Use in the Northern Cape (South Africa) between ∼500 and ∼300 Ka (2016) Ian Watts, Michael Chazan, Jayne Wilkins pdf

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Intensively valued at the Northern Cape sites, specularite (a type of haematite) may have been transported 170 km — almost unheard of at that date! Similarly, in Kenya c.300 ka, pigments appear with long distance transport of valued obsidian

  • Long-distance stone transport and pigment use in the earliest Middle Stone Age 2018 pdf

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Ian has tracked the change of frequencies of pigment used at the deep layered MSA site of Border Cave in South Africa, and found a sudden jump between c.200 ka and 160 ka — right around the 2nd stage of our speciation. Ochre use after that never declined from this plateau.

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Border Cave materials very likely came from Lion Cavern — Ngwenya mines (Eswatini) where MSA peoples went to get haematite. These are the oldest mines in the world. And haematite was part of an MSA ‘gold’ rush

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Meanwhile in the Moroccan MSA, dating for large blocks of ochre accompanying ochre-residued shell beads are also being pushed back to 140 ka at Bizmoune

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At Blombos (140-70 ka) on the S. African coast, Ian analysed colour selection patterns associating to use of materials, finding the more saturated and red the pigments, the more intensively they were ground. Blombos is famous for engraved ochres, paint kits and shell beads

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And looking at these exquisite Diepkloof red ochre crayons, it’s difficult not to think these were being used for purpose of design of surfaces, including forms of body paint

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The use of ochre and shell beads at the world’s oldest burial sites (Skhul and Qafzeh, on the gates of Africa) and by neanderthals in Spain, with pigment, shells and paint kits even older than those at Blombos are subject for another thread.
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  • The Seasonality Thermostat: Female Reproductive Synchrony and Male Behavior in Monkeys, Neanderthals, and Modern Humans 2013 C. Power, V. Sommer, Ian Watts pdf

But it is perfectly clear that red ochres played an enormous role in the cultural signalling around the world’s first ‘bold social experiments’. There is a little bit more there, @davidgraeber and @davidwengrow, than a few knapped flints!
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Humans carried ochre onto every continent. It’s fairly described as the cultural hallmark of our species. if you want to know more of the only Darwinian account of what that ochre was doing, why it was there, this is the leading hypothesis to date

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Tomorrow, if Jack rabbit and I have recovered a little, I’ll look at Graeber/Wengrow’s very interesting oscillation model for Upper Palaeolithic politics — in the light of Boehm’s reverse dominance ideas. And African hunter-gatherers!

• • •

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—3 – Unfreezing the Ice Age—

So #TheDawnOfEverything ch.3 after they trash Africa! Won’t get thru this tonite, since Jack 🐇 demanding head rubs. But let’s go …
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This is about Graeber/Wengrow’s model of oscillation between consciously adopted social ‘morphologies’ — differing forms of sociopolitical organisation — shifted by season, applied to the puzzling ostentatious burials of the Upper Pal. This is as far back as they go.

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1st, it’s really really refreshing for social anthropologists to even deal with human origins (I know they want to call it Dawn but..). People outside anthropology won’t know how much social/cultural anthro has simply run scared of all the BIG questions and left them to…

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… evolutionary scientists who aren’t well equipped to handle social, political issues. That alone means this book with all its fanfare matters. It’s carving out a space.

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That said, the argument in chap.3 just jumps around from one example or bit of evidence to another, a bit like Jack 🐇! Random, it never gives you a theory to think with.

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Wengrow/Graeber did a better job in the 2015 piece ‘Farewell to the Childhood of Man’, so read that one if you can.

  • Farewell to the ‘childhood of man’ : ritual, seasonality, and the origins of inequality 2015 Wengrow & Graeber pdf

Radical Anthropology likes the oscillation idea — neat way to reconcile apparent evidence of hierarchy against a general background of h-g egalitarianism.

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But we want more of an explanation than just
‘humans have all always had a carnival parade of political options to pick and choose from like sweeties. So they did!’
But why? just for fun doesn’t cut it.

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On p.86, they introduce the guy who could give them the theory — Christopher Boehm, author of ‘ Hierarchy in the Forest’. They agree Boehm is a very intelligent evol anthropologist, but proceed to kick him for insisting on h-g egalitarianism. Then they mangle his main idea!

  • Hierarchy in the Forest : The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior 2001 Christopher Boehm pdf

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More in the morning about REVERSE DOMINANCE @davidgraeber and @davidwengrow …gotta put Jack 🐇 to bed!

OK, where were we? Boehm. Here and pull a fast one. They praise Boehm for recognising the ‘actuarial intelligence’ and conscious political reflection of hunter-gatherers. But kick him for STILL reaching the sameoldboring conclusion of egalitarianism
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G + W never mention (!) Boehm’s model is called ‘Reverse dominance’. He’s explaining the emergence of collective political consciousness, morality and ‘We’ intention by a whole group ganging up against any obnoxious, bullying individual, underpinning egalitarianism.

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Boehm draws principally on work by Richard B Lee with the Ju/’hoansi to identify ‘reverse dominance’ tactics ranging from playful mockery all the way to execution squads. The right wing of evolutionary anthropology (e.g. Richard Wrangham) just LURVE the execution squads..
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while the ‘left wing’ (people like us in RAg, Richard Lee, Colin Turnbull et al) focus more on the refined techniques of laughter, mimickry and levelling. Because this demonstrates agency of WOMEN. Unaccountably, Boehm’s version of reverse dominance leaves out women!
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Reverse dominance is a powerful theory, but it needs to be gendered. It builds on the idea of ‘counter-dominance/deep social mind’ (Erdal and Whiten, from prev thread) which explained outcomes of egalitarianism in individualistic interactions…

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Reverse dominance tho with its aspect of collective consciousness arising in collective action takes us into the realm of ritual, gender and symbolism. RAg h-g researchers have SEEN reverse dominance in action — rude, joyous women’s militant dance forms. Let’s have a look!
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Our fave video of the BaYaka Ngoku women’s society, sweeping into camp, reversing male gaze, singing out ‘Old men’s balls are broken! Cunts are best!’ while playing merry hell with gender. Grannies show initiates how to wield sugar-cane dildoes…

  • Egalitarianism with the Mbendjele of the Congo (Tawai III) Jerome Lewis video
  • twitter

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Turnbull records the reverse gender dominance of the Elima menstrual girls among the Mbuti, who chase hunter lovers thru the forest with whipping sticks. I’ve seen exactly similar (pic) with Hadza girl Maitoko initiates, in battle with their would-be boyfriends, armed with…

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narichanda sticks (female ritual ‘property’) and myths of a great matriarch who hunted zebra, tying zebra penises to themself! The theme here is that gender has a reversible relation with sex! Most famously in the Kalahari menarcheal ritual, the Eland Bull dance:

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Picture above notable image from Valiente Noailles’ work with G/wi and //Gana women, shows them dancing around the menstrual hut, playfully poking any men who dare come near with ‘horns’, as they and the girl morph and transform their sex and species…
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What happens when these ‘menstrual’ women’s societies take over, seizing space and time, is a push-pull balancing real egalitarianism. Men’s societies come back against them. I recommend this incredible talk by Jerome Lewis on the BaYaka spirit Ejengi

  • Disarming the sacred 2020 Jerome Lewis video

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BaYaka religion is direct, participatory and without priests. This talk will describe a religion based on song and dance in which participants commune directly with…

Ejengi, men’s spirit, once belonged to women. Ejengi is basically a giant, dancing, raffia penis, and was formerly the women’s ‘penis’. Men took it to make sure women came to them for sex! This is reverse-reverse dominance or meta reverse dominance, power switching between..
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the secret gender societies.
Our colleague Morna Finnegan analyses this as a ‘pendulum of power’ swinging to and fro. She says so long as Bodies are in motion, hierarchy cannot flow back. Egalitarian hunter-gatherer are experts in NOT GETTING STUCK

  • The politics of Eros : ritual dialogue and egalitarianism in three Central African hunter-gatherer societies 2013 Morna Finnegan pdf

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Now let’s track back to Graeber/Wengrow here to wrap this thread up! The shared theme is oscillation of forms of power, swinging between egalitarianism and hierarchy. It’s also about playful artistic, carnival creations. Pp.114-5, G + W mention the ‘monthly’ ritual swing …
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among Central African h-gs. They mention it because we told them! But they didn’t delve further. Women’s power of fertility and men’s hunting success link to menstruation and the moon. These cosmologies are lunar/menstrual. Seasonal effects exist but the moon is paramount.
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Now switch the scene to the mammoth steppe of the Ice Age. Lunar effects exist, but seasonality becomes paramount. As periodicity of the oscillations of power lengthens the problem arises that in the longer time of hierarchy, it has more chance to entrench itself. The period
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the period of uprising and overthrow of dominance may be pushed into retreat, trapped in a corner of time, where it begins to look more like those rituals of rebellion as ‘safety valve’. We fully agree with G + W, any ritual uprising at all can recover the spark. But the risk
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the risk of getting stuck increases greatly in a seasonal oscillation compared to the nimbly moving lunar one.
The archaic lunar/menstrual cosmology of reverse dominance will transpose onto seasonal cycles. Dark moon/menses sits with darkest day, winter solstice…
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or to the rains as menstrual period of the sky (e.g Nambiquara, all over Amazon, Andes) and Plains Indians (the Sun dance celebrates the Rains breaking to usher in hunting). Inuit Sedna who hosts the sexual sharing of deep dark winter governs the sea with menstrual taboos.
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So our message to @davidgraeber and @davidwengrow is you’ve got to start in Africa to understand reverse dominance ritual power. Watch those Bayaka Ngoku women NOT getting stuck with their bodies in motion. Egalitarianism with sugar-cane dildoes doesn’t sound boring to me!

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—4 – Free People, the Origin of Cultures, and the Advent of Private Property—

. #Theteatimeofeverything vs actual #thedawnofeverything

🧵No.4 on Ch.4, immediate return, James Woodburn, yay-they-agree-on-deep-rooted human aversion to dominance (thanks guys!)🥰 And getting stuck, plus ritual ‘property’. Lots here
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Not much to argue with in the 1st part. @davidgraeber and @davidwengrow only refer to Upper Pal again, but we’d strongly agree that the #HumanRevolution in Africa, taking us beyond Africa involved transcontinental chains of connection. We’ve only got more parochial ever since
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@mentions
As they say (pp.124-5), ever-growing parochialism makes getting stuck under domination more likely. Global horizons of free movement prevent that. We’ll leave aside quibbles on egalitarianism (NOT ‘being the same’) and go to James Woodburn, expert of egalitarian societies
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James identified the mechanisms underpinning egalitarianism, finding that the most egalitarian societies were ‘immediate return’ (with no surplus or storage) as against ‘delayed return’ where people became trapped into dependencies for resources.

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G + W find this terribly disheartening (p.129) because, they say, it implies only the ‘very simplest foragers’ (incl. African h-gs, + some S. Asian groups) could ever be free and equal, and the rest of us are doomed. But hold on. James says it’s conscious choice to be IR
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Immediate return h-gs are eating everything up, sharing it, choosing NOT to work extra to stockpile to prevent anyone gaining control of resources, and greater power. Suppose ‘immediate return’ is NOT causative here. What if being egalitarian allows a society to do this?
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G + W usually celebrate people’s intentional choices, except for some reason they keep hating on choices made by African h-gs to remain resolutely egalitarian! James always describes egalitarianism as ‘politically assertive’; it can’t be taken for granted.
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Egalitarian people can AFFORD to be IR because they know stuff is going to be shared, they can eat everything today because the storage is in the social relations. It’s not because they are miserably impoverished, they live in abundance.
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RAG has always been doubtful about the causality of ‘immediate return’ from an evolutionary perspective because, here, take a look at a real IR society, these chimps tearing apart a colobus monkey, eating it alive. No delayed return here! Certainly NOT egalitarian either

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Humans don’t only produce, they have exchange economies, producing for others. These G/wi hunters carrying a huge gemsbok a long way across the scorching Kalahari suddenly do not look so IR compared to those chimps.

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And this Hadza hunter is carefully cutting up a bush pig, having taken it off the man who shot it, according to special ‘epeme’ rules of distribution. Portions are stowed by non-hunters for later consumption. IR in itself does not explain these rules.

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James realised there were problems for ‘immediate return’ economy determining egalitarianism, because certain Australian Indigenous groups showed just as much IR but were gerontocracies (rule by elders, imposed in male initiations) so NOT egalitarian.
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G + W give an example of such a society, the Aranda (or Arrernte), on p.162 with an excerpt from Strehlow’s ethnography on the imposition of circumcision and then subincision on youths to ensure obedience to elders. It takes a lot to do this because, as G + W admit, p.132…

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humans ‘do appear to have begun [their history] with a self-conscious aversion to being told what to do’. In an apparently IR economy, Arrernte elders could control young hunters by controlling access to wives through intricate kinship and marriage proscriptions.
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James got round this anomaly by arguing that the elders were operating an effective ‘delayed return’ economy because they performed rituals of increase (Intichiuma) for totemic species in ceremonial exchange with other clans. But this was a bit of a trick, and leaves open…
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…leaves open the idea that in fact ritual power and performance (which G + W call ritual ‘property’) may have a more decisive role in egalitarianism or its absence. James explored ritual as the pathway for transition from immediate to delayed return economy.
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Actually these are probably !Xo hunters!
The Hadza, most famously associated to James Woodburn, provided a case in point, where men initiated as hunters gained apparent ritual privilege of secretly eating meat from epeme (large, fatty) animals. Women could not come near under pain of punishment or illness.
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But James acknowledged that Hadza men did not gain control over women this way. Hadza women maintained significant autonomy, and they had ritual pathways of resistance. Their maitoko initiation dramatically reenacts stories of when women held the epeme secrets. Fightback!

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G + W ask ‘How did we get stuck in systems of dominance?’ Not ‘when did chiefs or kings or epeme men first appear?’ but when was it no longer possible to ‘simply laugh them out of court?’ A Stuckometer measuring ‘stuckness’ is a brilliant idea for assessing egalitarianism.
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The best way to measure stuckness could be asking ‘Can you always laugh at anyone you like?’ especially women at men! There’ll be fine grade differences in relative egalitarianism. BaYaka forest h-g women pretty much ‘yeah!’. Hadza women a bit more tricky at times

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Anywhere near Arrernte men’s secrets, nope.
On p.158, G + W talk about men’s secrets, in the form of sacred trumpets, flutes bullroarers etc, said to be voices of the spirits, with which men terrorise women. But with African h-g groups, the pattern is women sing/dance back!
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In Turnbull’s famed ethnography of Mbuti ritual The Forest People he realised that far from women having to hide and cower from men’s Molimo, at a certain point an old lady led an army of initiate Elima girls to take over singing of molimo songs, and stomp out the men’s fire
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So if you talk about men’s molimo without women’s elima, or for BaYaka men’s ejengi without women’s ngoku, or for the Hadza men’s epeme without maitoko, you’re missing the lesson about how not to get stuck! Sorry G + W, it IS African h-gs who teach this to us. The lesson is..
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…egalitarianism resides in women’s fightback. Women’s ritual power and performance (which G + W strangely call ‘property’) is what creates and maintains egalitarianism. It’s not IR economy, it’s whether women have the solidarity and collectivity to dance the men out
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G + W write (p.162) “behaviour observed in ritual contexts takes exactly the opposite form to the free and equal relations that prevail in ordinary life” Only within such contexts do sacred forms of property exist, and “strict and top-down hierarchies” get enforced.
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Why does an anarchist never imagine ‘bottom-up’ hierarchies? reverse-dominant ritual ‘property’? Possibly G + W just can’t recognise this because the h-g women who are NOT stuck are having such a whale of a time, laughing and having fun! But they still make the rules!

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If we are talking about women’s bodies as their own ‘property’ being sacred in ritual performance — yes, we would agree property’s origins are as old as the ‘sacred’. But women in this mode of ritual power form a collective body, not privatised.
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Tomorrow, if time, I may do a bonus thread on Hadza ritual property — power objects as @SkaanesThea calls them –which, surprise, surprise, belong to women! But to muddle these up with ‘private property’ is simply peculiar.

Great quote by G + W: ‘The freedom to abandon one’s community, knowing one will be welcome in faraway lands; the freedom to shift back and forth, depending on the time of the year; the freedom to disobey authorities without consequence — all appear to have been simply assumed…

..by our distant ancestors’ (pp.132-33)

The only thing we’d change there would be
‘depending on the time of the moon’!

• • •

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—4a?—

Bonus 🧵(4a?) for #TheDawnOfEverything aka #Theteatimeofeverything on @davidgraeber and @davidwengrow’s notion of ritual ‘property’. See what they mean first, then a case study with the Hadza!

So G + W have section end ch.4, pp. 156-163, on ritual ‘property’ and the sacred, where property refers not only to things, but to knowledge, secrets, songs, dances… absolutely fine, these were often the most valued ‘property’ that people had to pay (in some way) to access
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And in their interesting accounts of North American h-g monumental sites, they suggest these were likely gathering places for dissemination of such ritual knowledge (likely within very bounded gender initiation groups).
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So this is right up RAG’s alley because as researchers a number of us have worked in gender ritual, secrets and deceptions, with Hadza and BaYaka. Chris Knight has a brilliant analysis on the gender politics of the Rainbow Snake in Blood Relations
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So G + W (op.158-9) make a startling move aligning private property as formally similar to the sacred, invoking Durkheim’s idea of the sacred as ‘set apart’. So ‘tabu’, not to be touched, is just like owning your car, which only you have legal right to open with your key!
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Whoa! Now I’m staring into an abyss of contradictions on Durkheim. How did they jump from there to there?! In Dkhm’s early essay on the origins of the Incest taboo, the paradigm of set apartness is a menstrual woman, set apart (not a possible sex partner) for her clansmen

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Dkhm’s incest essay was super-perceptive. The almost surely ancient template of gender ritual (BOTH girls AND boys) is menstrual seclusion, setting apart in a state of tabu power. But can we understand that as rendering initiates ‘private’? Surely the opposite? Or perhaps…
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..the spectrum of collective public celebration (typical African h-g) as against marginalized and private is a good barometer of gender relations and women’s access to ritual power (‘property’).
I said yesterday if the first property was women owning their bodies and that’s..
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..sacred, yes, I definitely agree. But how can we possibly think of this ‘first’ ritual as private? It really makes no sense in Durkheim’s terms of experience of ritual, collective effervescence, collective consciousness, which nourishes the sacred.
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Maybe the best way to examine this is look at some real ritual property from the Hadza and see how ritual, sacred power, public and private (if that’s a category for the Hadza?) intersect. Only first, validating Dkhm’s old observation, we Radical Anthropologists predict
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..predict boldly ALL the sacred property G + W are referring to here are rendered sacred because they are ‘menstrual’ — even especially the ones annexed by men. And the ‘secrets’ are describing how that came to be (how men got them etc).

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The work on Hadza ‘power’ objects comes from Thea Skaanes @SkaanesThea in her Ph.D and this key article. But with my student Elena Mouriki, I’ve seen them in action. They ‘belong’ to women but get mobilised in key collective rituals. And their gender..

  • Notes on Hadza cosmology : Epeme, objects and rituals 2015 pdf

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..their gender is superfluid, with affinity to the opposite…

This thread will continue shortly after Jack 🐇gets his veggies…
Thea is a curator of the Moesgaard Museum, Aarhus, and she reasoned brilliantly that, because the Hadza are traditionally mobile, they carry very little with them. So whatever they do carry and keep must be of real significance, and that would be her point of enquiry.

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Three objects are NOT mundane or practical but ‘ceremonial, personal..cherished’. They may be inherited and are not circulated. Described by James Woodburn in the context of the epeme dance as ‘children’ who would be danced for, these objects are treated as people.
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First is a narichanda stick, c. 1.2 m long, straightened (like an arrow) and incised with decorations. The stick is made for a newborn girl, by her father, when she is named. A group of male relatives, who would be able to dance for her in epeme join in decorating the stick

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The stick bears her name, the name of a woman from an earlier generation, yet it is a ‘male’ object. Rubbed with fat from the special gourd (see below) to bring out the decorative marking, it is kept in the twig walls of her hut, to be smoked with a patina from the fire.

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The prime use of narichanda is as the girl’s weapon during maitoko female initiation when the girls run, chase and beat up young hunters. We can see here flexible whips and the straight narichanda. There are ferocious stories of ancient maitokos who speared the men!

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But narichanda also has a role in the boy’s initiation to epeme, called maito. Epeme men choose the narichanda they think suitable to accompany the boy in this liminal phase — it is male, with a female relative’s name. When a woman dies, the stick passes down with her name
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Second object is a calabash gourd containing fat. These come in female, round and male, long, thin versions called a’untenakwiko and a’untenakwete, again decorated. Thea’s photo shows both types here. The fat they hold is only used in ritual, extracted with the narichanda

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They are used to smear powerful fat onto initiate girls and the boy. Gendering is really interesting because the female gourd a’untenakwiko, holding fat of epeme animals, is only used for the epeme initiate — and is most powerful — while girls get fat from the male gourd.
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Identified with a woman herself, the a’untenakwiko will be broken on her grave.

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Third are mud dolls, called olanakwete (m) or olanakwiko (f), made from a special termite earth, baked with blood and ash, then decorated. The dolls are made for young women who have not yet had a child, given the name of an appropriate relative…

pic from Elena Mouriki

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and then treated just as if the olanakwete/kwiko was the child itself. The woman wraps it, carries it, places it to sleep, breastfeeds it. If a doll should break, it would be buried.
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Thea reads these objects as past, present and future of the woman they belong to. Narichanda is the name from a forbear (passed on down). The gourd full of life and fat is the woman herself, while the doll is her future child. These objects are not meant to ‘walk about’…
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They should stay back in the hut. So are they ‘private’? They certainly are personal, but they travel between the sexes, participate in initiations, are invoked and danced for at epeme regularly in her name, as ‘children’. Thea looks at them as ‘branching nodes of relations’
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they form a nexus of relations in the epeme night dance, when men dance as epeme and women sing, the major ritual configuring Hadza society (each dark moon). Specific ties and relationships are embodied in the dances for her ‘children’.

So, summing up. Is it a really western imposition to talk about these objects as ‘private’? They are treated differently from other Hadza things (there exists a very secret ‘menstrual’ item in relation to men’s Epeme we can’t discuss).

The ‘power’ objects are ‘secluded’ — though not really taboo for others to touch, Hadza pretty relaxed on that. But they create and anchor relationships through time and space.

And that is because they are the names of the women themselves who create and anchor those relationships. Worth remembering that Hadzabe, collective noun for Hadza people, is feminine plural.

Seen from that POV, men’s Epeme society looks much less like a ritual attempt to dominate and control women than means for men to hold their place and tie themselves in to the net of women’s names.

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