Introduction: For an anthropology of history

Stephan Palmié, Charles Stewart


Although Sahlins proposed it over thirty years ago, and notwithstanding various noteworthy contributions in the interim, a concerted anthropology of history has not yet come into being. This introduction, and the case studies which follow it, lay out the interrogatives of such an endeavor by reference to ethnographic and historical studies of Cuba, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, the United States, and early modern Euro-America. The anthropology of history inquires foremost into the very idea of history—the assumptions, principles, and practices that inform the acquisition of knowledge about the past, and its social presentation. Finding the terms to understand alternative forms of history making requires an ethnographic and historical sense of how the Western concept of history (historicism) came to be and how this historicism is, in fact, lodged within a plurality of alternative practices in Western communities. We see the anthropology of history as a large collective interdisciplinary enterprise that will involve archaeologists, historians, and many others in understanding the possibilities of history as a practice and as an analytic.


chronotope, eventuation, historicism, past relationships, revelation and history, temporal pollution

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau6.1.014