Culture Through Time: Anthropological Approaches

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Author: Judith Modell
Date: Spring 1993
From: Journal of Social History(Vol. 26, Issue 3)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Document Type: Book review
Length: 854 words

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Culture Through Time: Anthropological Approaches. By Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney (ed.) (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990. 330 pp.).

This book is not for students but for specialists--the growing number of anthropologists and historians who are exploring each other's discipline. The essays are difficult; organized by common themes, they confront distinct problems. With the exception of Peter Burke's conclusion, all are by anthropologists and reflect a thorough immersion in one "culture through time." The cultures range from pre-contact Hawaii to complex, and contacted, Japan.

The overriding question is how an anthropologist can write history. For virtually every contributor, this involves exploring the meaning of narrative, of event and of sequence, as well as asking about the relationship between "their" and "our" understandings of change. Virtually all the essays look at representations of history in symbol, scenario, and performance. And as Ohnuki-Tierney tells us in a thoughtful introduction, the role of the individual as subject and actor, powerful and powerless, takes primary place in such anthropological history (p. 17). In essence, the eight substantive essays are about cultural formulations of history and about historiography as practiced by natives and by ethnographers. Furthermore, not only practiced but used: the volume alerts us to the fact that history serves a purpose--whether that of the Aryan conquerors Edmuch Leach describes,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A13797267