She begins with basic ideas about the dead, ancestors, affines, and concepts of cosmological origins. This leads her to a discussion of cosmologically defined hierarchies, the qualities that characterize aristocracy, and the political and ideological roles of aristocrats as wife-givers and wife-takers that is, as in-laws. She concludes by considering various models that explain how societies may develop or define aristocracies.
Access to Origins : Affines, Ancestors and Aristocrats. First Edition in dustjacket
From the literary perspective of scholarship I am inclined to agree that there is only one method of discovery better than reading a book on a subject, and that is by researching and writing one. Putting this thought into practice, Access to Origins is the fourth volume in which I have sought to explore implications of the general hypothesis, first presented a number of years ago in Ancient Panama , that in human cosmologies geographical distance corresponds with supernatural distance.
This idea was initially suggested to me as I pondered the fact that indigenous peoples of pre-Columbian Panama, and especially the elites of the centralized polities or chiefdoms characteristic of the isthmus, tangibly embodied the qualities of the celestial realm in skillfully crafted golden ornaments frequently obtained from neighboring Colombia, a locale situated not celestially "up there" but geographically "out there"--yet apparently evocative, nonetheless, of the qualities associated with the cosmological realm "above.
Intrigued by the theoretical possibilities suggested by investigation of geographically distant or outside locales in terms of cosmography rather than of ecology, as was then the fashion, I sought to further ground the initial hypothesis in a broader, cross-cultural setting. Thus, in Ulysses' Sail , using ethnographic data from a wide range of societies, I argued that awareness of geographically distant places, peoples, and things constitutes a valued type of esoteric knowledge often avidly sought and greatly prized as a politically useful resource by politically ambitious persons in both centralized and noncentralized polities.
In the succeeding volume, Craft and the Kingly Ideal , also broadly cross-cultural in scope, I focused on the qualities accorded tangible goods obtained from cosmographically significant distant locales and on the qualitative nature of their production and acquisition. In the volume presented here I explore the idea that certain categories of people, especially affines in-laws , are associated with the cosmographically charged outside world and, therefore, convey distinctive supernaturally informed qualities associated with the wider cosmos.
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In this volume I also return more directly to chiefdoms to explore implications of the fact that high-status elites or aristocrats very often are structurally related to the general population through marriage, and thus embody the qualities of affines relative to the populace at large.
In pursuing this research I have been informed and encouraged by the work of numerous ethnologists, many of whom are cited as references. To each of these I extend my deep appreciation and most sincere thanks.
Unfortunately, it has not been possible to document in the text every source I consulted. The ethnographic and ethnohistoric investigations on which this study is based were conducted over many decades by diverse anthropologists whose published accounts vary greatly with respect to the type of information recorded, the amount of detail provided, and the manner in which material is presented. The Institute for the Humanities will host a varied group of visiting fellows in the coming academic year.
During their residencies, visiting fellows join the 11 U-M faculty and graduate student fellows announced last March in their weekly seminar, meet informally with faculty and student colleagues, and either give a public lecture or present their work at forums with Institute associates. This year's programs focus on 'Form and Pattern,' and our distinguished visitors will illuminate and enliven our explorations of that theme in important ways over the coming months.
Mary W. I also thank Dr. Francisco Valdez and an anonymous reviewer for their comments, and Dr.
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