reply to Gessler

Sat, 7 May 1994 19:43:09 CDT

Nick, your note is very interesting, but very cryptic. I don't want to put
words in your mouth, but you seem to be making an argument that looks like
some of the recent formulations of "hegemony," e.g., by the Comaroffs. This
may be very far from what you have in mind, but the parallel is still
remarkable. The idea of emergence has been around for quite a while, and
when applied to something like kinship (or other forms of social organization),
you can go back to Edmund Leach's idea of an organizational form as an outcome
of a series of personal decisions that become precedent for other people's
decisions. The form, as perceived by the outside observer, might be assumed to
be primordial or somehow inherent in the "culture", etc., while it is actually
an outcome of (emergent from) a set of conditions to which people have made
adaptive decisions.

I may have read you wrong, and if so, it would be helpful if you'd flesh out
your point and use some specific ethnographic illustrations to make clear what
you are trying to tell us. I hope that you'll take the time to do this, as I
am fascinated by the re-emergence of kinship as a topic that anthropologists
want to talk about. I have a few ideas of my own, but I'd like to lay back a
while and see what the rest of us think are issues worth pursuing.

Mike Lieber