Perspectives of Enlightenment and Victorian Anthropological Theory Essay

Perspectives of Enlightenment and Victorian Anthropological Theory Essay

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The study of anthropology has undergone several transformations in the theoretical standpoints in its pursuit to understand human differences. During the discipline’s early history, these theories revolved around the indigenous people that Europeans encountered during their explorations. One of these shifts is illustrated in the variation in the declaration of the Enlightenment philospher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who stated, “Man is born free, and everywhere in chains” and Victorian anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor’s assertion that “Life in the Uncivilized World is fettered at every turn by chains of custom”. Through the utilizations of the resources of Morberg, Perry, Trouillot, Moore, and McGee and Warms, I will illustrate that these two quotes reflect the inherited and current cultural environment within Europe. At the time of their construction and exemplify the transformation of the view of primitives as unrepressed by societal institutions to being constrained by irrational customs in anthropological theory.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s statement was conceptualized from the consolidation of foreign accounts of people from distant locations from antiquity to the seventeenth century, the idea of utopia, and the Enlightenment concepts of perfection and progress. Europeans’ initial knowledge concerning non-Europeans originated with ancient Greek and Roman historians, such as Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon with their accounts of the peoples of Asia, Egypt, the Aegean Islands, Sparta, and others (Morberg 2013:47). Succeeding these descriptions, Pliny the Elder in the first century AD generated the fictitious “Plinian races”. One of which was Sciopod, who was described as a creature that possessed one large foot that provided sh...


... middle of paper ...


... British supremacy and world domination.



Works Cited

McGee, R. Jon and Warms, Richard L.
2012 Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History. 5th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill
Companies, Inc.

Moeberg, Mark
2013 The Prehistory of Anthropology. In Engaging Anthropological Theory: A Social and
Political History. Oxon: Routledge

Moore, Jerry D.
2009 Visions of Culture: An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists. 3rd
edition. United Kingdom: AltaMira Press.

Perry, Richard J.
2003 Five Key Concepts in Anthropological Thinking. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph
2003 Anthropology and the Savage Slot: The Poetics and Politics of Otherness. In Global
Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World. 1st edition. Pp. 7-28. New York:
Palgrave Macmillan.

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