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Subject: Re: More on Celtic A & B
From: Gil Das <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.
Date:Sun, 2 Mar 2008 13:27:12 +0000

text/plain (222 lines)

On Sat, 1 Mar 2008 17:15:19 -0700, John Hooker <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>So a purely perceived identity is both constructed and then socially
expressed by
>the society that perceives it. It thus becomes a construct of a different
set of
>people who have their own identity and a tendancy to see everything through the
>filter of that identity. 

So if we say that the Romans never identified the British
>as Celts then it was the expression of the Roman identity that brought
about this
>situation and they were seeing that through the filter of their own
identity. Even
>then, we cannot be sure whether all Romans at all times differentiated
Britons and
>Celts -- which is a problem because they sometimes referred to Gauls as
Celts and

>other times just to Gauls. They referred to Gauls far more often than to
Britons, so
>I suppose that one could count the number of Roman references to Gauls as
Gauls and
>Gauls as Celts to come up with a ratio between the two references. Then we
count the
>times when the Romans referred to Britons and see if the lack of references to
>Britons as Celts was statistically vaild. Unfortunately, the absence of
>problem would still remain if we did that and we could not really determine
if the
>Romans had some criterion, unknown to us, that led them to not call the Britons
>Celts. Perhaps the Romans only usually called the Gauls Celts when
discussing their
>ethnography and called them Gauls when discussing them as a political or

this is something that i've specifically looked into (as opposed to the
continental stuff) - so i feel on firmer ground here about making
suggestions re. i.d.. So i'll prepare something and post ASAP 

>> Socialization is not a creation of any identity, whether we define
>>>identity as that which can be observed in others, or that which can be
>> stated by
>>>ourselves. ..Socialization is only an agency by which cultural traits can
>> be spread. [snip]
>> agreed. socialisation is a process (through which identity might be
>> constructed - I don't expect you to agree with that bit!).
>But I would agree with that in present time applications. Only the causes
of the
>socialization leading to self-identity would be completely occluded from
those who
>expressed that identity -- unless, perhaps, they had experinced some very
good and
>highly intense Jungian psychotherapy which brought some of this unconscious
>to consciousness. 

in the past, as in now, it's generally a combination of the habitual (i.e.
there's no discursive consideration of the process) and discursive
expression of identity - often employed in the creation of power
differentials, and / or in the creation of direct oppositions or similarities. 

Now, as the collective unconscious is, after all, "collective"
>pertinent details could be partially gleaned by any human being who would
use these
>techniques. It would just be more difficult as it could only be accessed via a
>personal consciousness as there is no direct route between the collective
>consciousness and the collective unconsciousness that does not go through the
>personal consciousness. The collective consciousness, itself, is a form of
>aberration and is often dangerously so for society. Jung called "isms"

i'm embarking on social memory studies, so i can perhaps get back to you on

>>>As socialization is an animal trait, it cannot be expressed as a cause for
>>>differentiation of social practices within a species.
>>>Such differences can be caused by reactions to features of the environment,
>> learning new traits by obversation etc.
>> I agree with the last bit, but, as you clearly come from an evolotionary
>> perspective, we must agree to differ re. the construction of identity,
>> standing on two sides of a theoretical void!
>Yes, I do come from an evolutionary perspective, if only because the basics of
>Celtic numismatics were laid down by Sir John Evans who was considerably
>by Darwin and stated such. It never separated from that foundation, at least by
>anyone who has even the remotest clue about the subject ;-)
>On the other hand I have always one foot in this theoretical void of which you
>speak. In my 58 years of accumulating wisdom which falls far short (I hope)
of any
>impending senility, I have seen opposing camps as often bearing part of the
>and each part seems to be the very part that the other lacks. So much so,
that the
>views appear (to the parties involved), not to bear any resemblance to each
other. I
>instinctively look for the common details, or for the missing factors which
>become common details. This is why I took the classical authors many
references to
>Pythagorism among the Celts very seriously and did not dismiss them out of
>glibly, like so many have done who belonged to some "camp".

there have long been oppositions between the 'primordialist' (i.e.
evolutionary) and ''instrumentalist' (i.e. social constructionist)
approaches to identity - and these arguments could go on ad infinitum.
However, it's been recognised that this is not particularly helpful, so now
(hopefully) each side accepts they'll never agree on the basics; each 'camp'
seems to produce work that can be built upon by both 'sides' - there is a
lot of cross-over (if there wasn't, we'd both be wrong, let's face it). so,
e.g. i can accept that there's a psychological aspect to identity, just  as
evolutionist will accept that social identity may be emphasised as a
survival strategy - this way, we do (hopefully) get to see the 'missing bits'.

 and you've shown yourself to be a theorist, John, by application of your
evolutionary / psychological knowledge (and coming to very similar
conclusions to those within academic circles, applying particular
theoretical approaches). you've, approached the subject by studying it
within a particular theoretical paradigm. it's enabled you to produce
coherent classification systems, which may not have been so forthcoming if
your approach would have been more haphazard.

>I have an instinctive fear of over-arching theories as I am always afraid
that I
>might become trapped inside some set of neural pathways and might never
>myself from them. I suppose it is a form of intellectual claustrophobia,
but Aaron
>Lynch, in his studies of memetics, did identify these neural pathways as
being very
>dangerous to innovation.

i understand this - when i started my research on ethnicity i came from a
uni with no theoretical studies at all, as wasn't intending to do a
theoretical thesis. but my supervisor suggested i undertook ethnicity
studies because of the empirical experience i'd had previously. so it was he
who suggested what approach i took (if i'd gone to ucl, i may have ended up
an evolutionist, who knows?). i do think, well what if i was put on the
wrong track by my supervisor (sorry if you're out there - but you have to do
this sort of questioning)? so, i've read evolutionary stiff, and a lot of it
makes sense; but then i look at the otherside of the argument, in which i
place a lo t of conviction, and in which i now more experience, so i
research from that perspective. but i continue to read stuff from 'the other
side' (i use shennan quite a bit e.g., but don't agree with everything he
says), and listen to what they have to say - i find that this makes me
reassess the usefulness of my approach, and irons out problems.  researches
/have/ to take this sort of approach, being open to other arguments - this
way we make progress - and many, if not most, do

what it boils down to is that (and both 'sides' agree with this) people
often behave in similar ways to particular situations (e.g. conflict, early
socialisation, territorial expansion, etc.), although the actual way they do
so is situationally and historically contingent. so when we look in the past
at people's behaviour to these situations, we see it follows the same
patterns as people today - so we look for the patterns. we're not assuming
that everyone's the same - it's through study of a wide variety of societies
ethnographically that we can see how variously culture may be used in
emphasisng identity - but there's no reason to suppose that people in the
past did not respond in similar ways as all the varied people do today to
particular situations - this is one of the bases for the 'animal traits'
arguments (whatever the cause, i.e. animal response or social construction,
the responses are the same). but we need to look at the specific ways this
was done in specific temporal and situational contexts. 

>There is no way to express identity without language -- even sign language,
>and art are forms of language.

no, of course not. what i'm saying is that we can't assume that everyone
speaking a celtic language held an over-arching celtic identity. like we
can't assume everyone speaking an english language sees themselves as english

>>>When you say that religion is sometimes more important, perhaps you are
>> referring to the ways in which cultures have been identified.
>> take for example the northern irish conflict, or the balkans, or the current
>> the middle east conflicts...
>I look at the religious content of such conflicts (which are often only a
veneer or
>an excuse over other social factors)as being instances where two groups of
>are fighting over their choice of metaphors which they cannot identify as
>and believe to be an independent reality.
oh absolutely, religion may often conceal other oppositions. but this is
where evolutionary and interpretative approches may diverge - from the
latter stance, i'd have to mention the significance of agency, so religious
agendas may often conceal political ones, eg. (and agency is not always
fully-conscious, but that's another topic)

>[snipped] I feel that local developments might
>persist through cultural changes... 

i agree with this, and have just been working on the significance of local
and regional identities in cornwall during the roman period (and
particularly after, when things start to change).

>...and would not be very defining in the identity of
>those who have adopted them.

not sure what you mean here - do you mean, local developments being not very
significant re. identities?

all the best,


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