Re: reply to Whitehead

Harriet Whitehead (whitehea@WSUAIX.CSC.WSU.EDU)
Tue, 10 Jan 1995 08:56:03 -31802

sounds kind of like you're still not getting it, mike. you're still
stating the rank vs. hierarchy thing as if two things are becoming
confused in social life or in some theoretical space called "on the
ground." nope. what i'm trying to say is that in a space called "the
logic of social relations," the two things are inseparably bound
together. there is no secondary "in practice" or "on the ground" level
that needs to be invoked to get these things together. i may be wrong
about this, but i want it to be clear what it is i'm saying.

harriet whitehead
dept of anth

On Mon, 9 Jan 1995, Mike Lieber wrote:

> I understood what you said the first time, and I agree with you. When you
> see this stuff *on the ground*, you don't see people making neat distinctions
> between rank order and hierarchical order. But I need not remind you that
> you also don't find people *on the ground* doing your cultural analysis for
> you. Or the analysis of group structure and organization, etc.. People
> don't make those distinctions *on the ground* because they don't need to.
> They already share all those ideas and meanings and premises. They can be as
> muddled and as contradictory as they want to be. The anthropologist, however,
> is supposed to make those distinctions on the way to being clear about the
> description of what those folks are doing and how they are doing it. We can
> describe the muddle, but we are not supposed to redistribute or perpetuate it.
> The distinction between rank and hierarchy is the observer's distinction made
> for the obsever's (and reader's) benefit. That we hardly ever see the people
> we're observing make these distinctions is both a fact and a warning. We need
> to be very careful about making sure we observe HOW they gloss what we,
> analytically, understand as distinct levels of order. Here's two examples.
> The flap that kicked off this thread was the use of "man" or "mankind" as
> a term including both genders. It can also work the other way around. The
> simplest example is synecdoche, where part represents whole, as in "She lives
> four doors from the corner." What riddles do is to use synecdoche to
> camoflage properties of a category, any member of which is a proper answer
> to the riddle, e.g., a house with no door. House is a case where a whole
> represents some, but not all of its properties--hard exterior, enclosing space,
> and harboring living beings. Door is a part representing a whole, the category
> of openings. I'll leave you to guess the answer.
> Example 2, a Pohnpeian feast, wherethe only identities that are relevant to
> the interaction are the titles that participants hold. One of the participants
> is a man from Palau who is married to a Pohnpeian woman. Now comes the part of
> the feast where people are asked to get up and entertain others with song,
> dance, story, or whatever. The paramount chief asks the Palauan man to do a
> dance. What he wants is a Palauan dance, but he can't come out and say that,
> because participants' ethnic identities are irrelevant to the context of the
> feast. So what he says is "Paul, please do one of your dances for us." But
> he uses the SINGULAR form of the pronoun, thereby reducing ethnic identity to
> an (accidental) attribute of Paul's personal history. Although Paul's Palauan
> identity is never mentioned, everyone understands that Paul should do a Palauan
> dance, because most people there know Paul. Part represents the whole with a
> clever manipulation of no more than a pronoun. I saw this repeated many times
> over with Kapingamarangi men and women who drank kava with Pohnpeians and were
> asked to sing one of "your (sing)" songs, meaning a traditional Kapinga
> chant. I knew one old Kapinga man, for example, who only sang traditional
> chants when he was drinking with Pohnpeians.
> One of the advantages of keeping clear the distinction between rank and
> hierarchy for anthropologists is that it allows you to apprehend and appreciate
> subtlety (including irony) in the field situations we observe.
> Mike Lieber