GABlog Generative Anthropology in the Public Sphere

April 29, 2007

What is originary?

Filed under: GA — Q @ 8:02 pm

I would like to try to clarify what is originary and what is not.

In one sense, all of culture is originary, in the sense that all of culture can be traced back to the originary scene. But that’s like the night in which all cows are black; the definition gives up what makes the word meaningful and useful. The originary is actually present at the originary scene, and includes the sacred, the sign, the aesthetic, and so on. Narrative is originary (at least implicitly), but literature, it seems to me, is not, since it evolved later. There have been many cultures without literature. (Myth, of course, is not literature.) By the same token, sacrifice is originary, but tragedy, as a form of literature, is not. The originary includes the fundamental anthropological categories, the cultural universals. What is not universal to all cultures everywhere cannot be originary.

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