By Andrew Shryock
With Timothy Earle, Gillian Feeley-Harnik, Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Clive Gamble, April McMahon, John C. Mitani, Hendrik Poinar, Mary C. Stiner, and Thomas R. Trautmann
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Extra info for Deep history : the architecture of past and present
Its subject matter will be modern or postmodern, colonial or postcolonial. Rarely is this focus perceived as narrow. It is seen as vital, and engagement with events and societies located before European expansion, before textual evidence, is often considered politically irrelevant unless such events and societies can be interpreted—and some poststructural theorists would argue that they can only be interpreted—through intellectual lenses crafted during the great shift to colonial and postcolonial modernity.
A century ago, the simplistic notions of progress and the misapplications of Darwinian evolutionary theory that dominated history and anthropology conspired to make all premodern civilizations inconsequential except, perhaps, as living evidence of Europe’s primitive past and a way of understanding its rise to global superiority. All that has changed. Historians and anthropologists today routinely invoke a new set of patterns, such as diaspora, subalternity, hegemony, resistance, commodification, and agency, to characterize the intricate feedback patterns that accompanied the emergence of the modern world system.
The soft social sciences and the humanities have never really come to terms intellectually with human evolution. Early attempts to bring Darwinian models into social thought produced Victorian disasters. But the accumulation of knowledge about the human past has become so impressive that a rapprochement is needed. The natural-selection paradigm has enabled us to generate highly nuanced understandings not only of how the hominin lineage has evolved but also of how human social forms and cultural capacities have developed over long stretches of time.