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Culture as Creative Refusal

David Graeber

Keywords: culture; heroic societies; Madagascar; Marcel Mauss; schizmogenesis

Abstract

Many aspects of culture that we are used to interpreting in essentialist or even tacitly evolutionist terms might better be seen as acts of self-conscious rejection, or as formed through a schizmogenetic process of mutual definition against the values of neighbouring societies. What have been called 'heroic societies', for instance, seem to have formed in conscious rejection of the values of urban civilizations of the Bronze Age. A consideration of the origins and early history of the Malagasy suggests a conscious rejection of the world of the Islamic ecumene of the Indian Ocean, effecting a social order that could justifiably be described as self-consciously anti-heroic.

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