The concept of civilization has not prospered in socio-cultural anthropology. Its origins lie in Enlightenment France, where it was used in both singular and plural forms, the universalist singular eventually prevailing in the decades leading up to the Revolution. Our discipline came to prefer pluralizing counter-currents of this universalism such as that associated with Johann Gottfried Herder. The key term in German was Kultur, though it was not widely used in the plural until the twentieth century, while Zivilisation referred to technological progress. For Edward Burnett Tylor in England, culture and civilization were synonymous. But even before the demise of the European colonial empires, most socio-cultural anthropologists were uncomfortable with the normative connotations of the latter. They preferred to carry out ethnographic studies within paradigms that represented the world as composed of more or less bounded societies with their more or less incommensurable cultures. With the abandonment of evolutionist paradigms, analyses of the emergence of civilization from primitive cultures were rendered redundant and repugnant.
Pim den Boer
This article is a transnational comparative study of the history of the concept of civilization. It starts with a brief review of the meaning of concepts that historically preceded it, such as civilitas and civilité. Next, it focuses on the appearance of the concept in eighteenth-century England and France and the ways it was used by different political theorists and polemists, mostly in the sense of politeness. During the nineteenth century in the colonies outside Europe, in Africa, in Asia, and in America, the concept of civilization played a key role in the discourse of colonization. First it was used from above, by the colonists, but later on it was appropriated by the colonized. At the end of the nineteenth century, civilization acquired one more layer of meaning as it was incorporated into nationalistic discourse. Eventually, the concept also became so internalized that the majority of people in a country could identify their own nation as the supreme form of civilization.
This article puts Dumont’s ‘hierarchy’ into the context of Marcel Mauss’s conception of civilization as a correction to Dumont’s ahistorical and structuralist approach. First, it introduces and elaborates Mauss’s ‘civilization’ into a descriptive and analytic concept. It then proposes a loosened conception of different hierarchies of encompassment and ideology. What follows as extended examples is a selection of long processes of transformation of the hierarchical structure of civilization in China. The article concludes by broaching the big historical questions that anthropology should be asking about hierarchies, that is, how they are formed and transformed.
In French history textbooks published after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871, the presentation of the war and its outcome frequently include the myth of France's revanche and depictions of the Prussian enemy as barbarians. Other textbooks presented a narrative of progress in which the French Third Republic is shown as the endpoint of a process of advancing civilization. While the idea of a French revanche can be regarded as a founding myth of the Third Republic, the narrative of progress can be seen as an echo of this myth, cleansed of the concept of the enemy as barbarian, which constitutes a national master narrative.
Maria Manuel Lisboa
Álvaro do Carvalhal's novella, Os canibais, offers a plot in which gothic high Romanticism and horror combine to address preoccupations that were pertinent to theoretical, literary and sociopolitical thought at the end of the nineteenth century and remain so today. The breaking of two taboos, kin-slaying and cannibalism invite reflection on parameters of justice and the law within the societies and periods to which the former give definition, and on how the destabilization of the former impact on the latter.
Javier Fernández Sebastián
The aim of this article is to give an account of the main uses of the concept of Civilization in Spain, in political and intellectual debates, from its origins in the mid-eighteenth century to the present. In the Spanish case, the evolution of this notion is initially marked by the special circumstances of a country relatively backward in comparison with some of the principal "enlightened" European countries, but at the same time an Imperial monarchy, possessing very extensive territories inhabited by people considered as yet "uncivilized". Furthermore, the long struggles in the medieval Iberian peninsula between Christians and Muslims also had a strong influence on certain characteristics of the political uses of the concept of civilization in modern Spain. Recently, the impact of the supposed "Clash of Civilizations" has added a new twist to the range of meanings of the word, employed more and more frequently in a cultural-religious sense. So, between the Enlightenment and post-modernity, the notion of civilization would have moved away from the sphere of Progress to a very different conceptual space: that of Identity.
Refuting claims made by several historians that the Croix de Feu/Parti social français were non-exclusionary, this article demonstrates the prevalence of anti-Semitism and xenophobia throughout the league's metropolitan and Algerian sections. CDF/PSF leadership and rank-and-file alike prioritized the notion of the enemy, and their plans for les exclus augured similar developments under the Vichy regime. Although less rabidly xenophobic than his colleagues, whose opinions variously promoted denaturalization and outright elimination, group leader Colonel Françaois de la Rocque was nonetheless prone to racist and exclusionary doctrine, arguing that foreign Jews and immigrants were the enemies of la patrie, and should necessarily be expunged from the new nation. The article describes the wide range of xenophobia present in group actions and discourse, while positioning the CDF/PSF within the broader context of French and Algerian society.
Australian travel writing of the interwar period expanded with the growth of tourism in the Pacific Islands and the development of publishing and literacy at home. This article focuses on how the Australian middlebrow imagination was shaped by the diverse travel accounts of Australian tourists, adventurers, executives, scientists, officials, and missionaries writing at this time. Many of their texts borrowed and blended multiple discourses, simultaneously promoting the islands as educational and exotic, and appealing to an Australian middlebrow readership. In this article I argue that not only was travel writing middlebrow in its content and style, but the islands themselves were a particularly middlebrow setting. This is evident in representations of the islander “savage” in the region of Melanesia, a prevalent theme in Australian travelogues. I argue that this middlebrow literature was characterized by ambivalent and often contradictory ideas about the civilized “self” and the savage “other.”
David N. Coury
Since its founding in 2014, Pegida has positioned itself as a populist movement striving to limit immigration and to preserve Germany’s cultural heritage. It has also aligned itself with other right-wing European political groups whose exclusionary views are rooted in theories of a civilizational clash between the West and the Islamic world. Pegida’s pushback against immigration also includes appeals to resist globalization and the growth of multiculturalism by embracing what Verena Stolcke has termed “cultural fundamentalism.” This ideology assumes cultural hierarchies and segregates religious and ethnic groups spatially and geographical as a means to maintain cultural uniformity. In doing so, Pegida posits that it is not racist or xenophobic, rather that it seeks solidarity in maintaining Western cultural values. The danger in Pegida’s ideology is that it rejects not only constitutional principles and notions of cultural pluralism, but that it furthers a cultural divide that need not exist and, in fact, embraces an exclusionary nationalism that is not unlike the values that they purport to reject.
Modernity believed that processes of secularization and rationalization are universally applicable. What is taking place in the 21st century, however, suggests that the reverse, a process of de-secularization, is becoming the hallmark of the present age. In the case of Islamic civilization, in which law is shari'a, the challenge to secularization takes the form of a process of shari'atization. This is not the traditional or inherited shari'a, restricted to civil matters and to a penal code, but an invented shari'a, one which also claims to be a constitutional law. Moreover, the constructed shari'atized constitutional law, in conflict with secular constitutionalism and appearing to offer no middle way, has been universalized to engender an international conflict between secularization and de-secularization. Since, for most Muslims, Islam without shari'a is unthinkable, this article examines the potential for religious reform of the shari'a in the direction of cultural change, freedom and democratic constitutionalism.