When Women Held the Dragon's Tongue

When Women Held the Dragon's Tongue: and Other Essays in Historical Anthropology

Hermann Rebel
Series: Dislocations
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 330
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    When Women Held the Dragon's Tongue
    Book Description:

    "Peasants tell tales," one prominent cultural historian tells us (Robert Darnton). Scholars must then determine and analyze what it is they are saying and whether or not to incorporate such tellings into their histories and ethnographies. Challenging the dominant culturalist approach associated with Clifford Geertz and Marshall Sahlins among others, this book presents a critical rethinking of the philosophical anthropologies found in specific histories and ethnographies and thereby bridges the current gap between approaches to studies of peasant society and popular culture. In challenging the methodology and theoretical frameworks currently used by social scientists interested in aspects of popular culture, the author suggests a common discursive ground can be found in an historical anthropology that recognizes how myths, fairytales and histories speak to a universal need for imagining oneself in different timescapes and for linking one's local world with a "known" larger world.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-798-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Introduction. What People Without History? A Case for Historical Anthropology as a Narrative-Critical Science
    (pp. 1-74)

    To claim a place among the so-called hard-nosed sciences,¹ the sciences that can offer purportedly effective techniques to predict and control things, many historians and anthropologists felt pressure, during the second half of the twentieth century, to affirm their own search for what they saw as, in Eric Wolf’s account of this moment, “the common blueprint of the human animal.”² They adopted neologisms about action systems and encodings of human experience by which “behaviors” or “performances” or simply “actions” in structures were to be observed, collected, collated, arranged on grids and in taxonomies of dualistic tensions, and all dressed up...

  7. Part 1 Myths

    • Chapter 1 Figurations in Historical Anthropology: Two Kinds of Narrative about the Long-Duration Provenances of the Holocaust
      (pp. 77-92)

      The danger of transforming consequences into their own causes dogs any attempted history, but particularly one whose objects of study are as overwhelming as the orgies of murder that took place in East-Central Europe during the 1940s, altogether constituting those experiences and memories of insane horrors that we have come to call the Holocaust.¹ This has become a more acute logical problem as the historical field where we are currently “free” to look for the Holocaust’s provenances has steadily narrowed, even as it appears, however coincidentally, that the very global corporate and financial entities on which we all depend daily...

    • Chapter 2 Culture and Power in Eric Wolf’s Project
      (pp. 93-98)

      Eric Wolf helps us think about how a consideration of myth may be central to a materialist analysis without being reduced to mere “superstructure” nor to repetitious “mythopraxis.” The title of Wolf’s text isEnvisioning Power: Ideologies of Domination and Crisis,¹ and it points to the often unacknowledged centrality of matters of ideation in all of Eric Wolf’s work. It is a fitting sequel to hisEurope and the People Without History² in that it constructs around the ideological themes with which that landmark synthesis ended an outline for a formidable and exciting research project in historical anthropology. In his...

  8. Part 2 Fairy Tales

    • Chapter 3 Why Not ‘Old Marie’. . . OR Someone Very Much Like Her? A Reassessment of the Question about the Grimms’ Contributors from a Social-Historical Perspective
      (pp. 101-130)

      Sometimes events of considerable importance take place in very quiet and all but invisible places. One such event occurred in 1980 as part of a reissuing of the 1857 edition of the Grimms’Kinder- und Hausmärchen, the last edition they had personally edited.² In the scholarly appendix of this new edition, added by Heinz Rölleke, a prominent Germanist, there is a listing of the Grimms’ many contributors, their so-calledGewährsleute(itself an interesting etymology), and of the stories they contributed. Among the contributors we find a new name, Marie Hassenpflug, someone who had not, up to this point, been credited...

    • Chapter 4 When Women Held the Dragon’s Tongue
      (pp. 131-180)

      The epigraph points at the outset to the narrative universe in which the title’s dragon tongue reference moves. It would be relatively easy to see in this fragment of a tale from the Grimms some universalist wisdom about liars, but that would leave significant dimensions of this “dragon’s tongue” figure out of the picture. In this respect, David Bynum, recalling the momentary transience of any telling, objects that “every line of such poetry means what it meant in a hundred other places at other times in other men’s tellings; but shear it away from that potent system of resonance with...

  9. Part 3 Histories

    • Chapter 5 Peasants Against the State in the Body of Anna Maria Wagner: An Austrian Infanticide in 1832
      (pp. 183-195)

      As an object for investigation, infanticide offers a good example of how the apparently marginal may be a gateway to the deeper puzzles of a culture. Historians’ simultaneous attraction and repulsion in the face of evidence that points toward the murder of “innocents” has led them toward either vehement and elaborate denials of the phenomenon or embedding it in framing narratives that explain the murders epiphenomenally as tragic by-products or mere symptoms of other, not directly related—and therefore not immediately accountable—processes in a given historical culture. To some extent this chapter follows that lead, but it seeks also...

    • Chapter 6 What Do the Peasants Want Now? Realists and Fundamentalists in Swiss and South German Rural Politics, 1650–1750
      (pp. 196-244)

      The first epigraph suggests a line to take on that revival of a historical ontology, examined here, by which peasants and other subaltern “actors” become “historical” only when they engage in allegedly “threshold- crossing” events. The second gives us a historically precise opening figure for the critical questioning to which this essay subjects such limitations on social history. Tom Brady thus ends his pivotal study of the mid-sixteenth-century abandonment by Central Europe’s urban elites of the double-edged ideal of “turning Swiss,” of becoming one’s own lord. He implicitly poses a tantalizing question about how the early modern peasantries, destined now...

  10. Part 4 Anthropologies

    • Chapter 7 Reactionary Modernism and the Postmodern Challenge to Narrative Ethics
      (pp. 247-280)

      This book’s final arguments’ point of entry is in the period between the 1270s and the 1470s, when Scotus, Occam, Oresme, Gansfort, and a host of others, drawing on an expanding and increasingly dissonant classical heritage, identified their approaches as avia moderna, a “current way,” in recognition of a for them exhausted “ancient way,” avia antiqua. They were moderns, discovering ways to think beyond the limits of what had long been ruled acceptable about the qualities and dimensions of possible relationships between words and referents, in particular with regard to philosophically as opposed to theologically viable descriptions of...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 281-294)
  12. Index
    (pp. 295-310)