Archive for May 4th, 2008

Anthropologising Diamond

May 4, 2008

Rex at Savage Minds comments on the piece by Jared Diamond in New Yorker on vengeance (that I linked to earlier); of course, Rex is not fully happy with Diamond’s treatment:

Treating contemporary violence in the PNG [Papua New Guinea] highlands as an example of ‘life without the state’ rather than ‘life with a particular kind of state’ would be like asking what Saddam Hussein’s rule can tell us about Assyrian domination of the fertile crescent. There’s nothing wrong with comparing the two cases, it is just that doing so in this way simply misses most of what could make the comparison interesting. Can PNG tell us about vengeance? Of course. But we will only get the message if we listen carefully, and are willing to realize that familiar models of ‘tribal’ versus ‘modern’ societies may not, however comforting and familiar they are to some, actually be telling us the whole story.

Some of Rex’s commentors think that the entire piece is of no use, while, at least one of them thinks that it is a journalistic piece that needs to be anthropologised. Take a look!