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CELTIC-L  March 2008

CELTIC-L March 2008

Subject:

Re: More on Celtic A & B

From:

Gil Das <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Sat, 1 Mar 2008 20:09:19 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (147 lines)

On Sat, 1 Mar 2008 11:14:11 -0700, John Hooker <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>"Socially conceived" is not exactly true. It would be better to say "socially
>expressed". 

identity is socially constructed, and socially expressed through the use of
culture

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!). 

>Socialization, itself, is
>caused by factors particular to the survival of species. [snip]
>In no case can it be said to cause the differences. [sorry to place this
out of context, but just so i can agree!]

yep. socialisation doesn't /cause/ social differentiation, but is a
mechanism through which it might be created.

>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!

Have you read the work of shennan? (i guess you have) - his views are more
in line with yours than mine. i think he's still at uni college london,
centre for the evolution of cultural diversity - they're doing some
interesting work at the moment. check out their webpages, if you've not
already (http://www.cecd.ucl.ac.uk/home/): sometimes they have links to papers. 
of course i (and the social constructionist consensus) wholy disagree! ; )

for those interested in the other side, check out:

Ethnicity and Practice, G. Carter Bentley, Comparative Studies in Society
and History, Vol. 29, No. 1. (Jan., 1987), pp. 24-55.

Richard Jenkins, Rethinking Ethnicity 2008 (very good)

Sian Jones Archaeology of Ethnicity 1998 (ditto)

>> See above. Language /may/ be an attribute of cultural or ethnic identity
>> (and is a dominant trait of celticity), but it is not necessarily so
>> (sometimes religion, e.g. is more important). Neither does a language
>> necessarily embody 'a particular way of thinking' (but /may/ be inextricably
>> linked with a particular culture through socialisation).

just to clarify, here i'm talking about modern celticity, rather than celtic
identity in the past.

The first step in this case, as I see it, is to attempt to build a
>classification system that not only starts from the general, but starts
from the
>earliest identifiable trait of the culture. This is why I picked language
to be that
>trait: it is common to the origins of societies we have identified as
Celtic in the
>present. [big snip]

but we can't assume that language was /necessaily/ used in the expression of
identity in the past, even if it may be today: see e.g.
Sims-Williams, Patrick 1998 'Genetic, Linguistics and Prehistory: thinking
big and thinking straight' in Antiquity 72 1998, 505-527 - worth a read
(again i'm sure you've read this John - if so, what did you think?)

>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...

>Sometimes, this identification can be made only through material remains
that do not include enough iconograpy to reconstruct metaphors to any degree
of certainty. 

absolutely - sometimes the paucity of evidence means we just can't make firm
conclusions (which is disappointing and frustrating). but I think Polly
Weissner's work (amongst others) provides some useful concepts (e.g.
emblemic and assertive aspects of style) with which to work. also check out
(i'm sure you will have already, John): 

Polly Wiessner, Style and Social Information in Kalahari San Projectile Points
American Antiquity, Vol. 48, No. 2. (Apr., 1983), pp. 253-276

Weissner, Polly 1990 'Is there a unity to style?' in Conkey, Margaret and
Christine Hastorf (eds.) 1990, 105-112 Uses of style in archaeology
----Style or Isochrestic Variation? A Reply to Sackett American Antiquity,
Vol. 50, No. 1. (Jan., 1985), pp. 160-166

Conkey, Margaret 1990 'Experimenting with style in archaeology: some
historical and theoretical issues' in Conkey, Margaret and Christine Hastorf
(eds.) 1990, 5-17

Symbolic Studies, Victor Turner
Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 4. (1975), pp. 145-161.

Burial practices are among the
>least useful examples of evidence with which to reconstruct previous and
extinct
>religions. Yet, they are used by archaeologists in a purely subjective manner
>because they can be identified through archaeological practices. It is the
practice
>that makes them useful, not the inherent nature of the burial to indicate
religious
>belief. To state the latter places the treatment of the dead too close to
the centre
>of the basis of religion to be very useful and tying religion to death is
more of a
>modern perception as is cited by many aethesists who attribute the belief in a
>religion to the fear of death in general.

burial is one the _most_ significant areanas in which identities are
expressed, but yes, when it comes to religion, agreed. archaeologists
nowadays rarely try to define /religion/ through burial practices, with the
exception of the introduction of EW burials supposedly representing xian
conversion. (i'm having trouble with going against the consensus on this at
the moment - but that's another story). And, nowadays, most archaeologists
use social theory and learn from anthropology to try and limit subjectivity
- we discursively try not to impose our views upon the past. and yes, it's
through diachronic study of pactices that we might detect the construction
of identities. my own research focuses upon burial, ritual and religion, but
at no point would I claim to 'know' the _religious_ /beliefs/ of the dead
that I investigate (although i think we can detect the expression of
/certain/ beliefs - i've just come across some interesting cosmological
continuities, e.g.). a good example of interpretative archaeology with
regard to pre-Roman burials and ritual practice is the work of JD Hill, in
his examination of wessex pit deposits (sorry, can't find the reference, but
will look for it if anyone is interested).

very interesting stuff on religious symbolism, BTW...

all the best,

K

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