Berman, Bruce. “A Palimpsest of Contradictions: Ethnicity, Class and Politics in Africa.” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 37 (2004): 13-31. (18)
Bruce Berman’s piece from The International Journal of African Historical Studies exercises a notion that is often times either ignored or held lightly in the course of modern masses, but something that every social scientist much be critically aware of – no matter their field of study. The circumstance of a culture is highly dependent on their history; the two are intertwined and necessary o the advancement, or decline, of a society. Berman’s use of Marx in his opening paragraph explains it all – “Men make history, but not actually as they will, but under conditions given and determined in the past”.92 In the case of Arica’s rich, culturally diverse, historically turbulent background, Berman explains that to dissect the nature of modern day Africa one must exercise an “analysis of both structural forces and subjective experience”.93 This is a critical methodology to understand, as it would stand to reason that in exploring the basis of any modern day culture one must first understand the past of the group being studied. But perhaps Berman’s most interesting point comes at the hands of his critique on theory. He explains that studies of world cultures have “been undermined by attempts to develop and apply theories that claim universal relevance as ‘objective’ science”.94 This critique is necessary and one which is not nearly mentioned enough – the often times theorists and their ideas attempt to place so many norms in one box that often it explodes or is never entirely full. The attempt to put entire cultures into these “theory boxes” is just as uncomfortable as putting individuals in these boxes; we continue to do so even though we know that it will never feel quite right. Overall Berman’s piece is of quality standards, granted there are a hand full of theorists that might disagree. His argument is well informed and, ultimately, well explained, straying away from the expansive and often clumsy nature of most theorists’ writings. Berman’s explanation of Lonssdale’s work in his last paragraph perhaps leaves the most weight and quite uniquely sums up the entirety of his piece, that by taking historical value as human value we “allow both the dead and the living some room to dance”.95
Girard, Rene. “The Evangelical Subversion of Myth.” In Politics and Apocalypse, edited by Robert Hamerton-Kelly (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2007) 29-48. (20)
Rene Girard discusses, in his piece “The Evangelical Subversion of Myth”, the disorientation of myth in the biblical tellings of much darker, not necessarily less popular, versions of The Bible. Using John and Genesis as his main point of interest, Girard explains - rather in depth and rather convolutedly to be completely honest - the misrepresentation of biblical morals in a larger social sphere. Perhaps more interesting to Girard’s argument is that much weight is placed in the “continuity from generation to generation is insured, each time, in an effort to break with the past that always takes the form of an actual or symbolical murder of the past”.96 Ultimately the generational decline of such strict relationships to The Bible creates a symbolic death of the morals introduced within, therefore creating a direct allegory to the deaths within Genesis, John, etc. Sometimes though, as Girard continues, there is a creation of continuation regarding these morals and, such as with the medieval Christians, “the belief that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old and can account for everything in it is accepted as a principle of faith and it becomes the basis for the so-called allegorical…interpretation of the Bible”.97
The excerpt from John 1:5 at the end of Girard’s piece most simply sums up his overall message regarding religion and myth as fact – “And the light shines in darkness,/and the darkness does not comprehend it…/He came unto his own, and his own received him not”.98 Taken out of its biblical connotation one can see that Girard implements this quote as a direct comment on the effect of religion on modern day society, and that through the blind acceptance of these works one should be aware of the paradoxes to present day that might await them. Girard, overall, is more than blatant in his efforts to highlight these inconsistencies – even if his piece seems to be set up in a compare and contrast scenario.