Towards a theory of tradition and agency

Otto, Ton (2015) Towards a theory of tradition and agency. In: Picht, Laura, Schmidt, Katharina, Schmitz, Geraldine, and Wiggering, Lukas, (eds.) The Limits of Change: was ist der Wert der beständigen dinge? Neofelis Verlag, Berlin, Germany, pp. 31-54.

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Tradition is without doubt a key concept in history, archaeology and the social sciences. In this chapter I will take my point of departure in the invention of tradition debate in anthropology and history that was inspired by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s path breaking volume The Invention of Tradition1,and also by a series of regionally focused publications.2The key insight of the invention of tradition debate is that traditions not necessarily are continuous with the past, although they are presented as such by the people maintaining the tradition. Paradoxically, traditions play a major role in times of radical change, for example during the emergence of nation states in Europe, which engendered the creation of many new traditions. The renowned anthropologist Marshall Sahlins has polemically reviewed the invention of tradition literature and criticised it for reducing culture to a merely instrumental and ideological phenomenon.3In this chapter I aim to defend the theoretical contribution of this body of literature and develop the theoretical frame-work in a way that gives a greater place to the dialectics between explicit cultural change and implicit cultural continuities. As a case study I will discuss Manus in Papua New Guinea with its spectacular history of cultural change, in particular the Paliau Movement and its aftermath, described among others by Margaret Mead (4) and Theodore Schwartz (5), and studied more recently by myself.

Item ID: 42282
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-3-95808-022-5
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Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2017 03:30
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 100%
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