Re: Fascinatin' Rhythm

Warren Sproule (Warren.Sproule@SOCIOL.UTAS.EDU.AU)
Mon, 12 Feb 1996 14:02:11 +0200

I was very interested in the contents of Mike Cahills 10/2 post, especially
coming as it did amidst the welter of navel-gazing, flame wars, character
assassinations and one-upman(person?)ship that still seems to be plaguing
anthro-l since I re-subscribed early this year. I've been something of a
fan of McNeill's since _The Rise of the West_ and (especially) _The Pursuit
of Power_, and Michael's concise (and witty!) summary below piqued my
curiousity. I'm familiar with the notion of bodily coordination through,
eg, Marcel Mauss, and bodily control through, eg, Foucault - but this is
the first time I've seen them brought into THIS sort of conjunction. My
alternative hunch is that 'Dance' and 'Drill' are NOT *complementary*, but
*contrary* processes. Any takers for a broader discussion on this

On Feb 10 Michael Cahill (MCBlueline@AOL.COM) wrote

>University of Chicago professor emeritus of history William McNeill has
>recently published what looks to be a moving book entitled _Keeping together
>in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History_ (Cambridge: Harvard University
>Press. 198 pp. $22).
>His thesis: Human society emerged, developed, and "keeps on" by coordinating
>people's bodily movements in group labor, dancing, and military drill -- that
>is, by "keeping together in time."
>For McNeill, it's all about "muscular bonding." He speculates that Homo
>Erectus's ability to synchronize common rhythms fostered emotional bonds that
>in turn helped focus individual and group attention and effort, in hunting
>and in sharing food. It looks like allied agitation with affines was
>adaptive. Yeah.... Well, you get the idea.
>The thesis a little strongly worded for you? Don't worry, McNeill
>acknowledges the gaps in the supporting data. But a great effort. From a
>two-step, he builds a tour de force.
>Anyone who's ever gone toe-to-toe, in groups, knows what he's talking about.