Cannibals and Kings: Origins of Cultures by Marvin Harris

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By Marvin Harris

During this significant and profound examine the celebrated American anthropologist Marvin Harris indicates how the unending types of cultural habit -- usually so perplexing initially look -- may be defined as variations to specific ecological stipulations. His goal is to account for the evolution of cultural kinds as Darwin accounted for the evolution of organic types: to teach how cultures undertake their attribute kinds according to altering ecological modes.

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I want to signal three historical aspects of European colonization that will be explored in greater detail as part of getting a hold on the questions of the what and the when and the why of postcoloniality. First, the break which announced the violent birth of Europe’s colonies also inserted them into the linear temporality of modernity. This insertion at first took the form of evangelization and ‘civilization’, before modernization proper is instituted, after the development of modernity itself had become aligned with the progress of ‘humanity’ and the elaboration of a universal project, led by Europe.

In particular, there are the effects and responses to globalization. They all have long histories of sophisticated cultures which have been subject to significant change over the years. For instance, all three have themselves been colonizers. The differences concern the length of occupation by European powers, the reach of colonialism, the religious distribution of the populations, the geographical location, the profile of the natural resources of the regions, and ethnic particularisms. Equally important are the different histories of colonization relating to the differences between French and British colonial policies, the circumstances regarding the struggle for independence, developments after independence, for instance, the specific economic, cultural and political relationship that they maintain with the old ‘centres’, and the locally specific effects of globalization.

It takes the view that the everyday lives of people cannot be divorced from economic conditions, since the latter are part of the activity of constituting lifeworlds and of grounding a sense of place and belonging, even if that place for many is insecure and hazardous (see Chapter 3). The constitution of an archive5 for analysis is an element of the construction of this postcolonial critical gaze. Such an archive cuts across the division between culture and the economy, so that postcolonial analysis can take on board the transcultural processes and forces at work in determining existing postcolonial glocal ‘scapes’.

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