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Difference between history and Myth


These stages could be reconstructed by what later became known as the comparative method. The basis for this method was the belief that: “sociocultural systems observable in the present bear differential degrees of resemblance to extinct cultures”7. The difference however is that they: “presented this in the form of a natural history of human societies, and the enduring passion of their Victorian successors was seeking for origins from which every institution has developed through the working of laws of progress”8.

The modern functionalist anthropologist denying the importance of the history of a society to a functional study of it is strange. Firstly because they claim that they make a natural history of human societies, all human societies. But because of the general bias against history they ignore information provided about historical societies that they could use in their comparative case-studies. Societies that they (should) regard of as in their work field.

But the most important reason why they should not neglect the importance of history is because the comprehensive and detailed professional field studies of modern anthropology are products of the functional orientation which insists on the interrelatedness of things.

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But without historical knowledge of institutions studied in the field, so without knowledge of where things came from in the past you can never understand the society studied.

Especially not because “anthropologists are now studying communities which, if still fairly simple in structure, are enclosed in, and form part of, great historical societies, such as Irish and Indian rural communities, Bedouin Arab tribes, or ethnic minorities in America and other parts of the world.

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They can no longer ignore history, making a virtue out of necessity, but must explicitly reject it or admit its relevance. As anthropologists turn their attention more to complex civilized communities the issue will become more acute, and the direction of theoretical development in the subject will largely depend on its outcome. “9

So to summarize, you can roughly divide anthropologists into two groups, one group that believes that history is irrelevant to the study of societies because of the general rules and patterns which can be found by studying a society in present time, and on the other hand you have the group which believe history and myth explaining history are important and even essential because they explain why things are as they are and they are able to tell us in which direction societies will develop in the future, they form part of a people’s traditional being and last but not least they are important because, except for the direct observation as an ethnographer, anthropologists have to rely a great deal on secondary information, secondary information that history and myth can provide.

History and myth of the Ilahitan people Before Tuzin tells the story of Nambweapa’w, the Ilahitan creation myth, he writes the following: “It was told to me on my very fist day of field work, many years ago, by a group of villagers who declared that if my object was to understand their ways, then this is a story I must know; for this is where they came from, this is what they are. It is a tale of mystery, enchantment, and historically prophecy. And although I previously warned myths cannot be taken as historically true, there are truths other than historical. This story is embedded in history but also transcends that history and is truthful of the Ilahita in its own fashion.

As an 8-year-old girl of my acquaintance once replied when I asked if she knew what a “myth” was, ‘A myth is a story that is false on the outside, and true on the inside. ‘ So it is with Nambweapa’w. “10 See how this fits into the things I wrote before about myths? Also with other information Tuzin got from villagers they often told about mythical concepts as mother and father sago. Stories which included important (historical) information. Difference between history and myth is pretty clear when you read both definitions of them. In reality they are often intertwined. Seemingly historical information being partially mythical and vice versa. Both concepts, history and myth, are of great importance when one does anthropological research.

One needs information to compare his own findings with, one needs to know where things came from to actually understand why they are there and what purpose they fulfill, one needs to understand local myths if one wants to understand how people are thinking and why they are acting as they are. In a ‘Social complexity in the making’, Tuzin makes a strict distinction between what he sees as historical and what he sees as myth (see quotation above), even though I am not always so sure this distinction is as clear cut as Tuzin sometimes presents it. . In that sentence the difference between history and myth is important for the book.

Bibliography Chakov, K. ‘Nineteen century social evolutionism’ http://www. as. ua. edu/ant/Faculty/murphy/evol. htm Pritchard, E. (1961). ‘Anthropology and History’. In: unknown. pp. 46-65 Pritchard, E. (? ).

‘Social Anthropology: past and present’. In: unknown. pp. 13-28 Tuzin, D. (2001). ‘Social Complexity In the Making ; A Case-Study Amongst the Arapesh of New Guinea’. Routeledge 1 Anthropology and History, Evans Pritchard, 53 2 Anthropology and History, Evans Pritchard, 53 3 Roland Barthes , 1972 4 Social anthropology: past and present, 21 5 Social anthropology: past and present, 21 6 Social anthropology: past and present, 14 7 Nineteen century social evolutionism, Kelly Chakov, http://www. as. ua. edu/ant/Faculty/murphy/evol. htm 8 Social Anthropology: past and present, 19 9 Social Anthropology: past and present, 21-22 10 Donald Tuzin, Social complexity in the making, 2001, 62.

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Difference between history and Myth. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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