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Title: History
Authors: Hirsch, E
Keywords: diffusionism;evolutionism;methods;time and temporality
Issue Date: 29-Nov-2021
Publisher: Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology
Citation: Hirsch, C. (2021) 'History', Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology, 21, pp. 1-23. doi: 10.29164/21history.
Abstract: Copyright © 2021 The Author. Anthropology and history are inseparable, sharing concerns with societies other than the one we currently inhabit—whether in time or in space. This entry considers how the relation between anthropology and history developed since the late nineteenth century when anthropology professionalised as a discipline. Initially, anthropology was wedded to a form of history that was conjectural, based on hypothetical ideas of societal development deriving from evolution or diffusion. Thus, societies were often held to progress over time, in ways comparable to biological evolution, or they were held to develop through adoption of sociocultural traits from one or several culture centres. Criticism of this conjectural history came from within both anthropology and history. For a period of several decades, then, anthropology had a relatively detached relation from history, but by the mid-twentieth century this all changed. Anthropology was now understood as analogous to historiography—to writing history—as both seek to understand another society or culture and translate it into terms of one’s present society. Later, the influences of colonialism and global capitalism on the societies studied by anthropologists were given greater prominence, as was the issue of understanding societies in historical time, i.e. as subject to change over time. However, the supremacy of historical knowledge and historical time was subsequently questioned, as anthropologists asked whether all people should be seen to exist in a single and secular historical time that encompasses other kinds of time. In contrast to the single frame of historical time, with its radical separation of past and present, greater recognition is being given to the multifaceted temporal relationships of past, present, and future as diverse peoples have distinct ways of valuing and communicating temporal categories and their interconnections. Anthropology thus raises the question of whether everything can or should be historicised.
Other Identifiers: 21
Appears in Collections:Dept of Social and Political Sciences Research Papers

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