Myth, History, and Political Identity

Essay Excerpt

Although much of this work contains important insights into the way in which histories are socially constituted, it is striking that the academic representation of the truth becomes the criterion for evaluating other people's constructions of reality. Truth-valueis a mode of academic being harboring its specific strategies, and these strategies are, thus, historically and geographically situated in the world system.

In the following discussion, I examine the construction of histories as products of particular social positions. These social positions constitute the conditions of existence and formants of identity spaces or habitus, which in their turn select and organize specific discourses and organization of selfhood, including histories of the self. It is not my intention to pass judgment on the truth of such histories but, rather, to understand the interplay of factors involved in their production. Anthropologists have recently been forced to realize the political import of their own "objectivism." I have argued elsewhere that this is an aspect of the fragmentation of the world system where peoples who were formerly "spoken for" are intensely engaged in defining themselves in their struggles for autonomy.' By bracketing out "truth-value," we can, I think, begin to see more clearly the relation between making history and constructing identity. (Friedman, 193-194)

About the Author

Jonathan Friedman is a prominent American anthropologist. He earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1972. He is professor of Anthropology at University of California, San Diego and directeur d'études at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales as well as one of the main editors of the journal Anthropological Theory, currently published by SAGE Publications. Friedman has done most of his research in Hawaii and the Republic of Congo.

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