Niðurhal 02

Goldstein, Leon J. 1957. The Logic of Explanation in Malinowskian Anthropology. Philosophy of Science 24(2): 156-166.

Function and Form. Malinowski's functionalism may be summarized briefly as follows. This form of an institution is determined by its function, and its function is the satisfaction of basic or derived needs. Its method is teleological and its procedure is after the fact, thus in every instance violating the predictive ideal of scientific theory formation. A consequence of its application is that even the most irrational activity is transformed by the analysis into an act of the highest rationality, wherein highly desirable ends are seemingly brought to effect. And central to the development of the Malinowskian position is the logical fallacy of petitio principii, for while Malinowski is supposed to be demonstrating that form is determined by function this is tacitly assumed in the definition of the very notion of form. (Goldstein 1957: 156-157)

Is it possible that in defining the social function of phatic communion, Malinowski likewise transformed an irrational activity into a rational practice, which hence became virulent among linguists?

It is well known that in Malinowski's writings much emphasis is placed upon needs and their satisfaction, and I am certain that it is not necessary to present textual evidence for this here. Anyone who requires to be reminded of this may be satisfied by consulting the posthumous volume, A Scientific Theory of Culture and Other Essays. In any event, after a long discussion of this matter he writes as follows. "The analysis just outlined, in which we attempt to define the relations between a cultural performance and a human need, basic or derived, may be termed functional. For function cannot be defined in any other way than the satisfaction of a need by an activity in which human beings co-operate, use artifacts, and consume goods." The teleological character of Malinowskian explanation is made quite explicit by this insistence that functional analysis seeks out the way in which a cultural activity subserves a given end. (Goldstein 1957: 157)

In the case of phatic communion, the need is very simplistically sociality (or sociability), though I'm not yet sure if this talk of basic and derived needs accords to Maslow's.

This leads us to the important concept of the institution. This is held to be the smallest meaningful - at least for all legitimate anthropological purposes - unit of culture. Metaphorically, one might say that it is the lowest denominator of organized human behavior, and it is deemed illegitimate to break it up into smaller units of culture. An institution is made up of six parts - in view of its inviolability as a whole, perhaps one should say that it contains six facets or aspects - a charter, personnel, norms, material apparatus, activities and a function. (Goldstein 1957: 158)

These facets must be compared, at some point, to the six given by Weber, if I recall correctly (it might have been Veblen). And I'm not sure if I concur completely since analogous definitions of the situation (e.g. Ruesch's on the subject of communication studies) appear superflous to actual analysis.

Antecedent to any given event is a chaotic wealth of other events, and when a scholar selects some one or more and claims that it or they have been causally efficacious in the development of the event to be explained, implicit in his selection is some system of theory which makes some things relevant and others not. It is desirable that the theoretical basis of the explanation be made explicit, for this would reduce the risk of subjectivity in the selection of causes. (Goldstein 1957: 158)

Once again reminiscent of Jakobson's talk of the contours of Pushkin's social and philosophical milieu and Lotman's (similarly Pushkin-themed) discussion of Culture and Explosion.

In technological development, the motor vehicle has replaced one drawn by the horse. A horse car, and even more so, a hansom cab does not "fit" into the streets of New York or London. Such survivals, however, do occur. The horse car appears at certain times of the day or night and in certain places. Is it a survival? Yes and no. If we were to treat it as the best and most rapid or cheapest means of locomotion, it certainly would be both an anachronism and a survival. It obviously has changed its function. Does this function fail to harmonize with present day conditions? Obviously not. Such an antiquarian means of locomotion is used for retrospective sentiments, [...] it moves where the fare is slightly intoxicated or else romantically inclined. (Malinowski 1944: 28ff)
In each stage of what appears to most of us as the history of transportation, older types of vehicles take on new functions as their former functions are taken over by new types. There is not, then, a history of any kind of cultural material (or even of institutions), but rather a more or less constant number of functions, sometimes satisfied in one way, sometimes in another. One can never know the function of anything without observing it in use, and all that is left to social science is after-the-fact description of cultural objects in use or institutions in operation. Both historical reconstruction and the predictive ideal of science are to be forsaken. (Goldstein 1957: 161)

With phatic communion, likewise, we find innumerable different ways of satisfying social, convivial, or small talk needs. Wang et al.'s concept of phatic technologies explicitly capitalizes on technological habituation and distinguishes soft and hard phatic technologies on the basis of its transformed function, or actual mode of use.

He writes, "The analogy between the preparatory actions of the sexual drive and the consummatory actions of the infantile impulse are remarkable. The two are to be distinguished mainly by their function and by the essential difference between the consummatory actions in each case." The functions are different inasmuch as "one set of acts, tendencies and feelings serves to complete the infant's unripe organism, to nourish, to protect and warm it, and the other set of acts subserves the union of sexual organs and the production of a new individual." Thus, Malinowski sees as disparate what Freud thought was similar only because of his definition of "form," not for any reason consequent upon disagreement in basic psychological theory. We need not be taken in by Malinowski's decision to call one set of actions "preparatory" and the other "consummatory," for this is a difference that is relative to his distinction between the functions of the two. (Goldstein 1957: 161-162)

Some needful context for the term, "consummatory", which in some quarters (e.g. Leon Festinger) acts as a stand-in for phatic communion. Also, I quite like the distinction between preparatory and consummatory - for contours, or psychologically crucial margins of interaction, at least.

For example, it may be charged that the emphasis upon the satisfaction of biological needs, which is an individual matter, makes it logically impossible to consider theoretical questions of the sociocultural level. We find ourselves with what may be called a "cultural monadology," and may indeed wonder whether anything less that a "pre-established harmony" will enable us to account for the interesting fact that individuals living contiguously "choose" the same instruments of satisfaction. (Goldstein 1957: 162)

More synonymous phraseology for Clay's orderly concurrence of aptitudes. Some day I'll have to look into systematizing them, perhaps by means of the Unified Theory of Human Behavior, which would presumably allow for such an extensive list of levels of abstraction to accommodate the variety.

From what we have seen, if Malinowski took seriously his own formulation of anthropological functionalism such explanations that are found in his works may be expected, not to show how cultural institutions came to be as they are, in the sense of causal explanation, but rather how they were determined by the need they were required to satisfy, i.e., teleologically. Thus, in his various accounts of magic Malinowski seems satisfied that he has said all that may be said about the subject when he points out that systems of magic have certain psychological consequences. We are informed that the function of magic is to provide the aboriginal population with peace of mind when they are confronted with some especially difficult task, and this results in Malinowski's tendency to treat it primarily as an activity rather than as a consequence of a particular kind of belief about the nature of the world or some part of it. (Goldstein 1957: 162)

The problem of teleology plagued Jakobson's linguistic functionalism as well and in some parts he talked about contrasting it with teleonomy, though both elude my comprehension.

The physio-psychological consequences of magic are pretty much the sole reason I'm even marginally interested in the subject. Cf. love-magic, elsewhere.

"Peace of mind" is how I've come to formulate the tendency to reduce tensions in small talk. Should collect more of these folk-rationalizations.

The correct application of factual knowledge or practical technique may yield results which, once the content of the knowledge is known, may be expected by the observer, but this is clearly not the case with mythological knowledge. And so we are required, according to the principles of the method we are considering, to treat the two as fundamentally different; whatever else mythology may be, it is not a claim to knowledge. To explain it we must discover its Malinowskian function, which turns out to be the satisfaction of certain non-cognitive social needs, the details of which need not detain us. (Goldstein 1957: 165)

I suspected he's referring to "The Problem of Meaning in Primitive Languages" but the reference is one numeral off. Instead, these non-cognitive social needs are supposedly treated in Myth in Primitive Psychology (Malinowski 1926: 23; 120f)

Rex, John 1959. The Plural Society in Sociological Theory. The British Journal of Sociology 10(2): 114-124.

To a very large extent post-war sociological theory has confined itself to dealing with integrated social systems. Thus, for example, functionalism, at least in the form in which Radcliffe-Brown presents it, revives the analogy between society and the organism, while Parsons in his 'The Social System' confines his analysis to institutionalized roles, i.e. those roles in which the behaviour of ego and alter is governed by norms which they share, and each has a 'need-disposition' to act in accordance with the other's requirements. In political sociology, too, one finds the notion of balance and consensus concealed behind the question begging term 'legitimate authority' in terms of which, following Weber, the state is defined. (Rex 1959: 114)

This disposition towards integrated social system is also a factor in Ruesch's theory of the social matrix of communication. He, indeed, did not have a reason to consider "dis-integrated" societies.

Furnivall was the first to emphasize, and has emphasized more strongly than any other writer, that the sort of socitey to be observed in Indonesia or Burma was of a different sociological type from any European society. The essence of the difference was that in these 'plural societies' people of different ethnic origins do not meet each other except in the market place, where the members of each group must dispose of their goods or services to members of other groups. As a result no common 'social will' or 'social demand' develops. But 'social demand' is an essential fact in the liberal-capitalist West, where, although the laws of individual supply and demand would place no limits on the sorts of labour contracts which were permissible' 'social demand' condemns and outlaws 'sweated labour'.. (Rex 1959: 115)

This is more-or-less the situation in Estonia, where 1/4 of the population speaks Russian, and consequently the most labourious factory jobs are more than half Slavic.

A good example of the latter is the development of certificate-hunting attitudes in the sphere of education, coupled with a lack of interest in government suggestions that the group should receive education along the lines of its own culture. Perhaps the truth is that, once the Western market system has become established, nearly every aspect of an individual's social relations and activities become dependent upon the market situation, and that only domestic and residential community institutions remain relatively unaffected, so that a matter like education tends to be considered in terms of its market value, though something like baptism may be seen in terms of its integration value for the particular group. (Rex 1959: 115)

This was treated at some length in the last article in this series - Western capitalism influenced not only marked relations, but also jurisprudence.

Culture is not merely something carried on in a segregated home after the market closes. It is something in which people are continually engaged and which brings them into contact with other groups both in the market place and elsewhere. (Rex 1959: 117)

I like this notion of culture as primarily a means of contact. Would it be possible to foster this attitude throughout the communication matrix? Here it formulated as cultural contact between groups, but it could equally pertain to the highest level of abstraction in the Lotmanian sense (culture as a message humanity as a whole sends itself). Microcultural interactions (in dyadic and autocommunicative situations) is a bit trickier.

A sociologist interested in the total situation of contact would be a much concerned with race relations as with the modification of primitive culture, and, the later he wrote, the more weight he would have to give to the emergent patterns of behaviour of native populations and to the aspirations of colonial nationalism. (Rex 1959: 118)

This made me realize that phenomena such as "Estonglish" ("Chinenglish", "Cypenglish", "Greeklich", etc.) are quintessential examples of "emergent patterns" in linguistics.

The puzzle disappears if we recognize that Malinowski is merely offering advice to Europeans on how best their intentions might be realized. Thus Malinowski's 'Principle of Common Measure" was frequently quoted in support of the South African plan for Bantu education which avowedly aimed at the preservation of white supremacy. (Rex 1959: 119)

"Malinowski, the famous English anthropologist" back at it again. This series is steadily becoming a slow discovery of the many ways in which one man's study of other peoples indirectly influenced many people across the world, and by the looks of it more often for the worse.

Myrdal doubts the possibility of achieving complete objectivity in any sociological investigation and prefers to regard objectivity as a goal towards which sociologists must strive. We are so much a part of our culture that it is very difficult indeed to imagine anyone ridding himself of presuppositions of an evaluative kind. But nowhere is this more so than in dealing with racial questions, because race questions immediately raise emotional tensions which make it impossible for us to preserve a value-free attitude. In America, Myrdal suggested that the degree of racial tension was such and power so firmly in the hands of the Whites that even those who spoke on behalf of the negroes very oftten tacitly accepted valuations made by the dominant Whites. (Rex 1959: 119)

This seems more true today than ever. Literally today a Google employee got sacked for a manifesto about how the company should employ not based on diversity of external features but diversity of opinion, which I've noticed as a right-leaning talking point of late.

There are no facts without hypotheses, and hypotheses in sociology inevitably involve the assertion of a relationship between some institution, custom, or activity, and someone's purpose. Usually those who claim that they are sticking to the facts have facitly assumed that the fulfilment of the purposes of a particular party is something necessary and beyond question. (Rex 1959: 119-120)

I recall the intellectually poinful experience of being explained, as a teenager, what facts are, after naively claiming my opinions as such. In all likelihood I did just what is described here.

In a scientific treatment of practical aspects of social problems, alternative sets of hypothetical value premises should not be chosen arbitrarily. The principle of selection should be their relevance. Relevance is determined by the interests and ideals of actual persons and groups of persons. There is thus no need of introducing value premises which are not held by anybody. (Myrdal 1958; in Rex 1959: 120)

Perhaps there are? My own recent (utopian) political vision is that of a central artificial intelligence regulating politics without bias. In that case there may be some value in value premises held by literally no-one, as no human can be value-free, but an algorithmic system might.

To study the power situation, including not only the more obvious and more important factors such as the control of weapons and of market-opportunities, but also the more intangible factors such as control of ideas and communication, access to governmental authorities, etc. Which of these less tangible factors were important would have, of course, to be decided from case to case. (Rex 1959: 123)

Orwell's 1948, in this sense, is an illustration of the possibilities of controlling ideas and communications in a totalitalian society. The native term "Orwellian" has come to describe how these operations are performed in the extra-literary world.

Shirley, Robert W. and K. Kimball Romney 1962. Love Magic and Socialization Anxiety: A Cross-Cultural Study. American Anthropologist 64(5): 1028-1031.

For Malinowski, "Magic is based on specific experience of emotional states in which man observes not nature but himself, in which the truth is revealed not by reason but by the play of emotions upon the human organism. [...] The theories of knowledge are dictated by logic, those of magic by the association of ideas under the influence of desire" (1925: 87). Essentially he is suggesting that magic is helpful to the individual in reducing painful anxiety. The magical structure of a culture reflects the basic anxieties of that culture, much as dreams may reflect the internal anxieties of an individual (Cf. D'Andrade 1961). (Shirley & Romney 1962: 1028)

Essentially he is saying that magic is semiotic, "the association of ideas" being, like the exchange between Jakobson and Kantor (echoed by Sebeok in his autobiographical writings) revealed, a synonym for semiosis.

Lounsbury, F. G. 1965. Another View of the Trobriand Kinship Categories. American Anthropologist 67(5): 142-185.

Kinship terms are 'category terms.' From this the inference seems to be drawn that the various denotata of a kinship term are equally, and by equal right, denotata of that term; all are equilavent tokens of the same type. Therefore, according to this view, there is no valid distinction to be drawn between a 'primary' or 'basic' meaning of a kinship term, and a 'secondary' or 'extended' meaning of the term. Accordingly, the 'extensionist hypothesis' is rejected, both in its sociological and in its linguistic aspects. This constitutes a sharp rejection of Malinowski's often-expressed views on this subject, and is a clean break with the Malinowskian tradition of interpretation. (Lounsbury 1965: 143)

Semiotics is the cousin of semantics, and both seem to have inderited some odd philosophical terminology. (Odd in how frequently they have changed their meanings, note the lack of "connotation" in this section.)

Lest a reader object that certain of the expressions ruled out here are clearly possible ones under teknonymic uses of kinship terms, or that some of them may have other possible referents under the usages of classificatory kinship, let it be remembered that we have specified these restrictions as applying to the metalanguage of kinship analysis and to the kin-type notations employed therein. I think we can consider them as applicable also to native use of such metalanguage, i.e., when the members of any given society and the speakers of its language employ their kinship words in their most specific (nonclassificatory) senses to construct descriptive specifications of relationship. I do not doubt that all peoples do this on some occasion or other, though only rarely has it been adequately documented by anthropologists. (Lounsbury 1965: 154)

In the ballpart of phatic qualia, personology, and characterology, whatever the latter might be. Some "specifications of relationship" can be found in meta-communication, or more specifically in Bateson's mu-function. I made it half-way through this paper until it got all too tediously technical.

Heider, Karl G. 1969. Visiting Trade Institutions. American Anthropologist 71(3): 462-471.

Sahlin's model of reciprocity and kinship residential sectors (1965a) defines three sorts of reciprocity. Generalized, or ostinsibly altruistic "gift-giving" is characteristic of the inner group or the family; balanced reciprocity, or direct exchange, is characteristic of the more distant but still intratribe sector; and negative reciprocity, the "unsociable extreme" or the attempt to "maximize utility at the other's expense" from haggling to theft, is characteristic of the outer or intertribal sector. (Heider 1969: 462)

What is usury? I also like the archaic, active verb form of "to exploiter".

Howitt mentions marriages between groups in New South Wales for the purposes of having individuals who could carry on trade between groups (1904: 687). (Heider 1969: 467)

Very practical means. This would probably excite students of bio-power to no end.

Sahlins, Marshall D. 1963. Poor Man, Rich Man, Big-Man, Chief: Political Types in Melanesia and Polynesia. Comparative Studies in Society and History 5(3): 285-303.

Embedded within the grand differences in political scale, structure and performance is a more personal contrast, one in quality of leadership. An historically particular type of leader-figure, the "big-man" as he is often locally styled, appears in the underdeveloped settings of Melanesia. Another type, a chief properly so-called, is associated with the Polynesian advance. [...] Yet the institutional distinctions cannot help but be manifest also in differences in bearing and character, appearance and manner - in a word, personality. IT may be a good way to begin the more rigorous sociological comparison of leadership with a more impressionistic sketch of the contrast in the human dimension. (Sahlins 1963: 288)

Why must I confuse phatic qualia with personology? On the whole, the ordeal about quality of relationship, so to say, seems very analogous to the ordeal about qualities of personhood (e.g. Theophrastus), which often contains "phatic" elements (a person's way of relating to other persons).

The making of the faction, however, is the true making of the Melanesian big-man. It is essential to establish relations of loyalty and obligation on the part of a number of people such that their production can be mobilized for renownbuilding external distribution. The bigger the faction the greater the renown; once momentum in external distribution has been generated the opposite can also be true. Any ambitious man who can gather a following can lauch a societal career. The rising big-man necessarily depends initially on a small core of followers, principally his own household and his closest relatives. Upon these people he can prevail economically: he capitalizes in the first instance on kinship dues and by finessing the relation of reciprocity appropriate among close kinsmen. (Sahlins 1963: 291)

This reads like a general manual on how to become a politician.

Finally, a leader's career sustains its upward climb when he is able to link other men and their families to his faction, harnessing their production to his ambition. This is done by calculated generosities, by placing others in gratitude and obligation through helping them in some big way. A common technique is payment of bridewealth on behalf of young men seeking wives. (Sahlins 1963: 292)

This must be why I, personally, have not joined any faction, be it academic or artistic - I can't stand the obligation of dues, the sense of owing someone something.

The great Malinowski used a phrasein analyzing primitive political economy that felicitously described just what the big-man is doing: amassing a "fund of power". A big-man is one who can create and use social relations which give him leverage on others' production and the ability to siphon off an excess product - or sometimes he can cut down their consumption in the interest of the siphon. (Sahlins 1963: 292)

Is "Malinowski, the famous English anthropologist" all that different from these big-men? His fund of power comes, per organic solidarity, from government grants, but at the heart of the matter is still this "renown" that makes others employ adjectives like "great" and "famous".

Goody, Jack and Ian Watt 1963. The Consequences of Literacy. Comparative Studies in Society and History 5(3): 304-345.

Looked at in the perspective of time, man's biological evolution shades into prehistory when he becomes a language-using animal; add writing, and history proper begins. Looked at in a temporal perspective, man as animal is studied primarily by the zoologist, man as talking animal primarily by the anthropologist, and man as talking and writing animal primarily by the sociologist. (Goody & Watt 1963: 304)

But who studies man as talking, writing and screen-touching animal?

The basis for the last two distinctions, those based on the devolpment of writing, is equally clear: to the extent that a significant quantity of written records are available the pre-historian yields to the historian; and to the extent that alphabetical writing and popular literacy imply new modes of social organisation and transmission, the anthropologist tends to yield to the sociologist. (Goody & Watt 1963: 304)

Likewise with out digital society, though it feels as if we're only at the very beginning of this development.

For reasons which will become clear it seems best to begin with a generalized description of the ways in which the cultural heritage is transmitted in non-literate societies, and then to see how these ways are changed by the wide-spread adoption of an easy and effective means of written communication. (Goody & Watt 1963: 305)

From this perspective, keyboard literacy is yet even more easier and more effective: Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V.

Secondly, it transmits standardised ways of acting. These customary ways of behaving are only partly communicated by verbal means; ways of cooking food, of growing crops, of handling children may be transmitted by direct imitation. But the most significant elements of any human culture are undoubtedly channeled through words, and reside in the particular range of meanings and attitudes which members of any society attach to their verbal symbols. (Goody & Watt 1963: 305)

What is logocentrism? I rather feel that our current visual culture is much more effective in spreading standardised ways of acting - in fact I would hypothesize that moving images have done more to crystallize body movements in the 20th century than any other medium previously could have.

In the first place it makes for a directness of relationship between symbol and referent. There can be no reference to "dictionary definitions" [in oral cultures], nor can words accumulate the successive layer of historically validated meanings which they acquire in a literate culture. Instead the meaning of each word is ratified in a succession of concrete situations, accompanied by vocal inflections and physical gestures, all of which combine to particularize both its specific denotation and its accepted connotative usages. This process of direct semantic ratification, of course, operates cumulatively; and as a result the totality of symbol-referent relationships is more immediately experienced by the individual in an exclusively oral culture, and is thus more deeply socialised. (Goody & Watt 1963: 306)

Related to the "cue reduction" of their contemporaries. It has also to do with the time-space distanciation or re-embedding occurring in our modern society: we have other means of "ratifying" semantic relations (such as looking up various online sources), but the process is nevertheless always there.

As we have remarked, the whole content of the social tradition, apart from the material inheritances, is held in memory. The social aspects of remembering have been emphasised by sociologists and psychologists, in particular Maurice Halbwacks. What the individual remembers tends to be what is of critical importance in his experience of the main social relationships. In each generation, therefore, the individual memory will mediate the cultural heritage in such a way that its new constituents will adjust to the old by the process of interpretation that Bartlett calls "rationalizing" or the "effort after meaning"; and whatever parts of it have ceased to be of contemporary relevance are likely to be eliminated by the process of forgetting. (Goody & Watt 1963: 307)

Post-semiotics? All this is all too interesting to deal with at the moment, but there's lots here for both sociosemiotics and building on (E. R.) Clay.

The pastness of the past, then, depends upon a historical sensibility which can hardly begin to operate without permanent written records; and writing introduces similar changes in the transmission of other items of the cultural repertoire. But the extent of these changes varies with the nature and social distribution of the writing system; varies, that is, according to the system's intrinsic efficacy as a means of communication, and according to the social constraints placed upon it, that is, the degree to which use of the system is diffused throughout the society. (Goody & Watt 1963: 311)

Can't handle all this goodness. The paper treats, or at least hints at, the problems of information overload (having too much of a past to make good sense of it, for example).

All these ancient civilisations, the Sumerian, Egyptian, Hittite and Chinese, were literate in one sense and their great advances in administration and technology were undoubtedly connected with the invention of a writing sytsem; but when we think of the limitations of their systems of communication as compared with ours, the term "protoliterate", or even "oligoliterate", might be more prescriptive in suggesting the restriction of literacy to a relatively small portion of the total population. (Goody & Watt 1963: 313)

I'm reminded of Jurgen Ruesch's false prediction (made in the late 1960s) that in the future only the elite of Western society will be granted access to computer technologies. In effect, he predicted an "oligodigital" world, which luckily never obtained.

This conservative or antiquarian bias can perhaps be best appreciated by contrasting it with fully phonetic writing; for phonetic writing, by imitating human discourse, is in fact symbolising, not the objects of the social and natural order, but the very process of human interaction in speech: the verb is as easy to express as the noun; and the written vocabulary can be easily and unambiguously expanded. (Goody & Watt 1963: 315)

Phraseology - out of context, this would describe phatic communion well. Speech is only a component of human interaction, though.

One reason for their existence, for instance, may be what has been described above: the fact that writing establishes a different kind of relationship between the word and its referent, a relationship that is more general and more abstract, and less closely connected with the particularities of person, place and time, than obtains in oral communication. (Goody & Watt 1963: 321)

Moving towards abstract (online) systems, where the relationship between the word and its referent is yet more general and abstract. Memes, from this point of view, are pseudo-oral, demonstrable by how easily visual images translate into parts of speech.

As long as the legendary and doctrinal aspects of the cultural tradition are mediated orally, they are kept in relative harmony with each other and with the present needs of society in two ways; through the unconscious operation of memory, and through the adjustment of the reciter's terms and attitudes to those of the audience before him. (Goody & Watt 1963: 321)

The second part is included in I. A. Richard's elaboration on the "social function" (Malinowski's phatic).

In non-literate society, of course, there are usually some individuals whose interests lead them to collect, analyse and interpret the cultural tradition in a personal way; and the written records suggest that this process went considerably further among the literate elites of Egypt, Babylon and China, for example. (Goody & Watt 1963: 322)

"A person may be interested in scientific statements for their own sake (interested in collecting them as a person may be interested in collecting butterflies); a person may have knowledge and the increase of knowledge as his goal." (Morris 1949: 128)

What is at issue here is not only the intimate understanding which comes from long personal contact, but also the inherent advantages which living speech is given over the written word by virtue of its more immediate connection with the act of communication itself. The first advantage is that possible confusions or misunderstandings can always be cleared up by question and answer; whereas "written words," as Socrates tells Phaedrus, "seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you just the same thing for ever." (Goody & Watt 1963: 328)

Touching on the semiotic autonomy (Jakobson's term for reflexivity, or overlapping duplex structures) of the phatic function: oral communication reveals more information about the very self-same process of communication than does written communication.

To some extent Plato's arguments against writing are specific reflections of the incapacity of words alone to convey the Ideas, and of the initiate's usual reluctance to share his esoteric lore except on his own terms; while in the perspective of the later history of epistemology, Plato's position must be seen as an indication of his prescient awareness of the danger of using abstract words about whose referents no common agreement or identity of understanding has been established. (Goody & Watt 1963: 328)

This is the primary problem with the older layer of philosophy and anthropology ("comparative psychology") from which the main topics of social communion (i.e. sympathy, sentiments, etc.) stem. It is particularly pertinent to the terminological issue of "natural language", which seems to have swayed all the way from nonverbal communication to non-technical verbal language.

Plato develops this idea in the Theaetetus when Socrates compares the process of reasoning to the combination of irreducible elements or letters of the alphabet into syllables which, unlike their constituent letters, have meaning: "the elements or letters are only objects of perception, and cannot be defined or known; but the syllables or combinations of them are known and ... apprehended". (Goody & Watt 1963: 331)

This is what Jakobson seems to have elaborated in his mature work on mere otherness and sense-discrimination.

This unlimited proliferation also characterises the written tradition in general: the mere size of the literate repertoire means that the proportion of the whole which any one individual knows must be infinitesimal in comparison with what obtains in oral culture. Literate society, merely by having no system of elimination, no "structural amnesia", prevents the individual from participating fully in the total cultural tradition to anything like the extent possible in non-literate society. (Goody & Watt 1963: 334)

There is indeed one "positive" aspect in totalitarian societies like that in some dystopian works of fiction (e.g. Orwell's 1984 and Olev Remsu's Kurbmäng Paabelis) - due to structural amnesia, the individual can participate fully in the total cultural tradition, preferrably not even aware that it is a small ideological selection from a larger, destroyed corpus.

One way of looking at this lack of any literate equivalent to the homeostatic organization of the cultural tradition in non-literate society is to see literate society as inevitably committed to an ever-increasing series of cultural lags. The content of the cultural tradition grows continually, and in so far as it affects any particular individual he becomes a palimpsest composed of layers of beliefs and attitudes belonging to different states in historical time. So too, eventually, does society at large, since there is a tendency for each social group to be particularly influenced by systems of ideas belonging to different periods in the nation's development; both to the individual, and to the groups constituting society, the past may mean very different things. (Goody & Watt 1963: 334)

I have thought along similar lines about the recent technological advances, especially when meeting someone my-age with a flip-phone, fancy for Rammstein, and still using rate.ee, though obviously the general outline is already captured by one of my favourite three-word-signifiers: permanent dynamic synchrony.

It was surely, for example, this lack of social amnesia in alphabetic cultures which led Nietzsche to describe "we moderns" as "wandering encyclopaedias", unable to live and act in the present and obsessed by a "'historical sense', that injures and finally destroys the living thing, be it a man or a people or a system of culture." Even if we dismiss Nietzsche's views as extreme, it is still evident that the literate individual has in practice so large a field of personal selection from the total cultural repertoire that the odds are strongly against his experiencing the cultural tradition as any sort of patterned whole. (Goody & Watt 1963: 335)

True, perhaps, but what is a "patterned whole" anyway?

For, even within a literate culture, the oral tradition - the transmission of values and attitudes in face-to-face contact - nevertheless remains the primary mode of cultural orientation, and, to varying degrees, it is out of step with the various literate traditions. (Goody & Watt 1963: 335)

Half a century later, when most relevant communication is conducted via various screens, this comes across as naive. Though I suppose online communications are still not as effective in terms of transmitting values and attitudes as face-to-face interactions are.

The social tension between the oral and literate orientations in Western society is, of course, complemented by an intellectual one. In recent times the Enlightenment's attack on myth as irrational superstition has often been replaced by a regressive yearning for some modern equivalent of the unifying function of myth: "have not," W. B. Yeats asked, "all races had their first unity from a mythology that marries them to rock and hill?" (Goody & Watt 1963: 338)

There are some who predict that the increasingly digitalized society will not become more rational but on the contrary more fervently religious and mythological.

From the point of view of the general contrast between oral and alphabetically literate culture, then, there is a certain identity between the spirit of the Platonic dialogues and of the novel: both kinds of writing express what is a characteristic intellectual effort of literate culture, and present the process whereby the individual makes his own more or less conscious, more or less personal selection, rejection and accommodation, among the conflicting ideas and attitudes in his culture. This general kinship between Plato and the characteristic art form of literate culture, the novel, suggests a further contrast between oral and literate societies: in contrast to the homeostatic transmission of the cultural tradition among non-literate peoples, literate society leaves more to its members; less homogeneous in its cultural tradition, it gives more free play to the individual, and particularly to the intellectual, the literate specialist himself; it does so by sacrificing a single, ready-made orientation to life. And, insofar as an individual participates in the literate, as distinct from the oral, culture, such coherence as a person achieves is very largely the result of his personal selection, adjustment and elimination of items from a highly differentiated cultural repertoire; he is, of course, influenced by all the various social pressures, but they are so numerous that the pattern finally comes out as an individual one. (Goody & Watt 1963: 340)

The total situation of contact - a statement like "higher personal selection results in a highly differentiated cultural repertoire" is not far off from the "only error individualizes" of older folk.

The contrast could be extended, for example, by bringing it up to date and considering later developments in communication, from the invention of printing and of the power press, to that of radio, cinema and television. All these latter, it may be surmised, derive much of their effectiveness as agencies of social orientation from the fact that their media do not have the abstract and solitary quality of reading and writing, but on the contrary share something of the nature and impact of the direct personal interaction which obtains in oral cultures. (Goody & Watt 1963: 340)

Predicting phatic technologies?

Peel, J. D. Y. 1968. Syncretism and Religious Change. Comparative Studies in Society and History 10(2): 121-141.

The individual was allowed to choose his cult-group; or at a crisis in his life he might be advised to join that of a particular orisa by the diviner, a priest of Ifa. (Peel 1968: 124)

More likely source for the Ori in the Stargate Atlantis TV-series than the Estonian word, meaning "slave", though both would, semantically, fit.

A further source of tolerance lies in the character of the religion for the individual - it tends to be concerned predominantly with easing the conditions of living in this world, and is seen by its adherents as having instrumental as well as expressive value. The more religion is regarded as a technique, whose effectiveness the individual may estimate for himself, the readier will the individual be to try out other techniques which seem promising. He will not be inclined to rely exclusively on one technique just for the sake of simplicity, nor will he be intolerant towards other individuals who prefer other techniques. (Peel 1968: 124-125)

Gordon Allport's The Religion of the Individual ends with a summary about the unfulfilled hopes and mangled desires, which religion satisfies by, well, easing the conditions of living in this world.

A syncretist is a man who sees some good, as many Yorubas have done, in his traditional religious practices and beliefs, identifies as such, and attempts to synthesize them with new beliefs in a harmonious religious system. If their own nature had permitted it, Christianity and Islam would have been syncretized into Yoruba paganism just as Alexander Severus tried to romanize Christianity in the third century. To do this with a prophetic religious means explaining away its uncompromising claim of uniqueness, and this most Yoruba Christians and Muslims have not been prepared to do in a formal and explicit way. Rather they have followed a pattern of behaviour which is inconsistent on the cultural plane, however reasonable and understandable - they have been pluralists, going to church or mosque and also, when they wanted, to a babalawo. This is reasonable behaviour, for they want clear and well-defined this-worldly goals, and they pursue whatever means they have any reason to suppose effective; the sources of spiritual power are manifold and none need be rejected. (Peel 1968: 129)

Syncretism - synthesis. I personally found the claim of uniqueness extremely disturbing in the Koran, with its Adam and Eve, Moses and Jesus, etc. And what is the function of "Spiritual power"? Will a cloak of human finger-nails turn you invisible?

Jaspan, M. A. 1965. In Quest of New Law: The Perplexity of Legal Syncretism in Indonesia. Comparative Studies in Society and History 7(3): 252-266.

The concept of adat law is rather broad since the term adat has several connotations including custom, usage, rule, proper behaviour and propriety. [...] An act regarded as wrongful incurred sanctions which reflected the community's apperception in terms of its adat, of the relative degree of injury sustained both by private persons and by the community as a whole. (Jaspan 1965: 252-253)

The community's apperception amounts to proprioception on the group level of abstraction. It's just odd to see apperception used this way - should consult Clay.

The opponents of unification are not opposed to the idea of positive formulation and codification as such, but they differ about what constitutes the most appropriate source of law. They argue that in pre-industrial, folk societies, customary law - in Malinowski's (1926) sense - is more appropriate than Western law since it enjoys an "organic authority" deriving from mythological charters, traditions and customs. There is little doubt (cf. Joselin de Jong 1948: 4-8) than van Vollenhoven and his school were influenced by Malinowski and to a lesser extent by Radcliffe-Brown. (Jaspan 1965: 254)

"Malinowski, the famous English anthropologist" even influenced Dutch-Indonesian legists.

Coe, Michael D. 1961. Social Typology and the Tropical Forest Civilizations. Comparative Studies in Society and History 4(1): 65-85.

There are essentially two types of solidarity, and two kinds of society which correspond to these. Societies based on what he calls mechanical solidarity are relatively undifferentiated; if they are divided into segments (i.e., clans, etc.), these tend to be alike. The solidarity is one of likeness, and all the individuals within it are bound up under a single moral system which Durkheim terms the "collective conscience"; it is clar that he means by this the religion of the people. This unitary moral organization is expressed through laws which tend to be penal and repressive; that is, the religion is the all-pervading source of sanction. Opposed to this are societies which are organized on the basis of organic solidarity. Here, what were formerly undifferentiated segments have now become organs: the division of labor has resulted in the differentiation of the constituent parts of the society, so that each is functionally dependent on the other. Religious sanctions have diminished, and law is generally restitutive rather than repressive. (Coe 1961: 65)

Does communization pertain to mechanical solidarity?

Yet, neither Cambodia nor the Maya Lowlands in the Classic Period had cities. A surplus is surely the precondition of civilization, for lacking it, a society cannot support the non-food producing specialists (like priests and artisans) who are the creators of civilization. As already mentioned, what matters is what becomes of this surplus. In the urban, organic civilizations it is consumed by the cities; in the non-urban, unilateral civilizations it is taken up as tribute for the support of cult centers. These are two possible modes of civilized life. (Coe 1961: 83)

I just found a neat Estonian word for these sorts of people - taidurid.

Phraseological findings

Actually the views of the three theories on this point are complementary rather than conflicting. (Rex 1959)
The technique that I shall employ is in some respects new, and I dare say it might have surprised Malinowski. It rests, however, on assumptions that are thoroughly his. [...] These seem to be not only in accord with the source data, but also an improvement over Malinowski's more rambling presentation. [...] To look at in this way is to completely obscure the real issue, which is that of the precise nature of the jural rules of a society, and of the roles that family relationships have in the formulation of these. [...] and women belonging to the father's, to the father's father's, and to the mother's father's clans, as well as the reciprocals of these; and more generally, any marriageable kinswoman. (Lounsbury 1965)
These terms are used as cliches and conceal more than they describe. (Heider 1969)
The present paper is preliminary to a wider and more detailed comparison of Melanesian and Polynesian polities and economics. [...] Yet there is pleasure too, and some intellectual reward, in discovering the broad patterns. [...] Or need it also be said that the hypotheses are provisional, subject to further research, etc.? [...] But the political geometry in Polynesia is pyramidal. [...] In the greater perspective of that society at large, big-men are indispensable means of creating supralocal organization: in tribes normally fragmented into small independent groups, big-men at least temporarily widen the sphere of ceremony, recreation and art, economic collaboration, of war too. [...] Secondly, the personal political bond contributes to the containment of evolutionaly advance. (Sahlins 1963)
The social element in remembering results in the genealogies being transmuted in the course of being transmitted; and a similar process takes place with regard to other cultural elements as well, to myths, for example, and to sacred lore in general. [...] "Put writing in your heart that you may protect yourself from hard labour of any kind", writes an Egyptian of the New Kingdom: "The scribe is released from manual tasks; it is he who commands". [...] and insofar as such terms as "the Greek Mind" or "genius" are not simply descriptive, they are logically dependent upon extremely questionable theories of man's nature and culture. [...] In non-literate society, it was suggested, the cultural tradition functions as a series of interlocking face-to-face conversations in which the very conditions of transmission operate to favor consistency between past and present, and to make criticism - the articulation of inconsistency - less likely to occur; [...] Writing is shallow in its effects because reading books may give a specious sense of knowledge, which in reality can only be attained by oral question and answer; and such knowledge in any case only goes deep when it "is written in the soul of the learner." [...] In the former, Plato is essentially an heir of the long Greek enterprise of trying to sort out truth, episteme, from current opinion, doxa. [...] On general grounds, because, as Oswald Spengler put it, "writing ... implies a complete change in the relations of man's waking-consciousness, in that it liberates it from the tyranny of the present ... the activity of writing and reading is infinitely more abstract than that of speaking or hearing." [...] It is hardly possible, in this brief survey, to determine what importance must be attributed to the alphabet as the cause or as the necessary condition of the seminal intellectual innovations that occurred in the Greek world during the centuries that followed the diffusion of writing; [...] These two effects of widespread alphabet writing, it may be surmised, have continued and multiplied themselves ever since, and at an increasing pace since the development of printing. [...] Both of these have always seemed insuperable obstacles to those seeking to reconstruct society on a more unified and disciplined model: we find the objection in the book-burners of all periods; and it appears in many more respectable thinkers. [...] there seem to be factors in the very nature of literate methods which make them ill-suited to bridge the gap between the street-corner society and the blackboard jungle. (Goody & Watt 1963)
This immediately suggests that other factors may be involved in the rise of civilization than cheek-by-jowl contiguity with its accompanying intellectual stimulation. [...] In the Classic Period, we know of well over a hundred important architectural clusters (noncommitally termed "sites" by the archaeologists) scattered through the Maya Lowlands; [...] (Coe 1961)

Lexical findings

[...] it will be seen in the sequel that this is widely ramified throughout his works [...] We might wish to assert that the value or form of B varied with that of A, but if the definition of B included A in its definiens, we would have no causal law at all. [...] how this basic form-function conception is clearly presupposed by two well known Malinowskian views, his famous stricture against historical anthropology and his rejection of the Freudian view. (Goldstein 1957)
This paper examines one common solution, which will be called the visiting trade institution, in which relationships between societies often take the form of the most intimate, familistic relations within a society. (Heider 1969)
In and around Fiji, Melanesia nad Polynesia intergrade culturally, but west and east of their intersection the two provinces pose broad contrasts in several sectors: in religion, art, kinship groupings, economics, political organization. [...] Melanesia presents a great array of social-political forms: here political organization is based upon patrilineal descent groups, there on cognatic groups, or men's club-houses recruiting neighborhood memberships, on a secret ceremonial society, or perhaps on some combination of these structural principles. [...] The attainment of big-man status is rather the outcome of a series of acts which elevate a person above the common herd and attract about him a coterie of loyal, lesser men. [...] It is not that the center-man rules his faction by physical force, but his followers do feel obliged to obey him, and he can usually get what he wants by haranguing them - public verbal suasion is indeed so often employed by center-men that they have been styled "harangue-utans". [...] In the anthropological record there are not merely instances of big-man chicanery and of material deprivation of the faction in the interests of renown, but some also of over-loading of social relations with followers: the generation of antagonisms, defections, and in extreme cases the violent liquidation of the center-man. [...] In several of the islands, men did struggle to office against the will and stratagems of rival aspirants. [...] Magical powers such as a Melanesian big-man might acquire to sustain his position, a Polynesian high chief inherited by divine descent as the mana which sanctified his rule and protected his person against the hands of the commonalty. [...] There were men in these chiefly retinues - in Tahiti and perhaps Hawaii, specialized warrior corps - whose force could be directed internally as a buttress against fragmenting or rebellious elements of the chiefdom. [...] On one side, chieftainship is never detached from kinship moorings and kinship economic ethics. [...] But how to explain the emergence of a developmental stymie, of an inability to sustain political advance beyond a certain level? [...] Melville's partly romanticized - also for its ethnographic details, partly cribbed - account in Typee makes this clear enough. (Sahlins 1963)
Their various social and intellectual achievements were, of course, enormous; but as regards the participation of the society as a whole in the written culture, a wide gap existed between the esoteric literate culture and the exoteric oral one, a gap which the literate were interested in maintaining. [...] The second intrinsic advantage is that the speaker can vary his "type of speech" so that it is "appropriate to each nature ... adressing a variegated soul in a variegated style ... and a simple soul in a simple style." [...] the general argument at this particular point in the Phaedrus is concerned with the advantages of extempore as compared with written speeches. [...] It would be wrong, therefore, to represent Plato as a whole-hearted protagonist of the oral tradition. Neither he nor Socrates were intransigent enemies of literate culture; [...] These oral traditions were of a scale, Swift tells us, that enabled "the historical part" to be "easily preverved without burthening their memories." [...] and these differences are often given public recognition by ascribing to individuals a personal tutelary or guardian spirit. [...] He [Whorf] sees the "mechanistic way of thinking" of Europeans as closely related to the syntax of the languages they speak, "rigidified and intensified by Aristotle and the latter's medieval and modern followers". (Goody & Watt 1963)
But the real motive of the founders was the conviction that the churches were still exotic institutions, and would remain so until, led by Africans, they purged themselves of their adventitious and inessential European cultural trappings. Theologically their formal innovations were few; but in organization, in evangelistic and pastoral methods, in the use of Yoruba music and, to a lesser extent, in liturgical forms, in their readiness to accept without cavil such customs as polygamy, they changed the aspect of Christianity considerably. [...] They were often itinerant, trampling about the country, preaching the Gospel. [...] The writer here draws on some European arcana - freemasonry, theosophy, and suchlike - which have found ready recipients in the West African bourgeoisie. (Peel 1968)
The Dutch legists had been divided in their ideas about what the proper content of "Indies" law should be. [...] This came about because of the extraordinary development and influence of western law and the increasing interdependence of states in the world comity. [...] Inheritance law (ashabul fara'id) in particular, makes sons and daughters co-inheritors of their parents' estate of a childless heir is partible between his parents and not between his agnatic kinsmen (asabat). (Jaspan 1965)
Only a ruler and his court could move with such impunity, and that is exactly what seems to have happened, since the Khmer capital was solely the cult center of the Khmer Empire, wherein resided the king, his court and retinue, and all the other persons necessary to maintain the royal cult and administer the country. [...] The larger and more impressive of these cities, such as Tikal, Copan, or Uxmal, have a considerable amount of standing stone architecture, which includes tall temple-pyramids, multi-chambered structures called "palaces", long buildings with rows of rooms resembling cloisters, courts for the ceremonial ball game, and sweat baths. [...] Furthermore, while domestic refuse is found at Uaxactun, the excavators, in spite of long search, could find but one midden of any size at the site, a sure indication of a very low population. [...] Available evidence, then, indicates a scattered rural population throughout the Maya Lowlands in Classic times, with larger agglomerations in more favorable areas such as alluvial bottomlands. [...] The Khmer civilization arose in the area of the lower Mekong River, one of the greatest Asian fluvial systems, in the present state of Cambodia (the ancient Kambuja). [...] Malaria is fortunately rare in the Cambodian lowlands but is virulent in the highlands to the west, north, and east. [...] Like that of Cambodia, the forest cover of the Maya Lowlands is of the monsoon type, with many deciduous species which drop their leaves in the winter dry season. [...] Modern Yucatan produces a maize surprus which in part is taken up by the requirements of the modern system of sisal production and the urban development stimulated by it. (Coe 1961)

Phatic Blessings

Ansell, Aaron 2017. Democracy Is a Blessing: Phatic Ritual and the Public Sphere in Northeast Brazil. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 27(1): 22-39.

The blessing Henrique bestowed in his concluding remark seems to function as an expression of magnanimous forgiveness. Along with his classification of Marcelo as "my nephew," and his reference to open doors and household visits (or lack thereof), Henrique's blessing shifts the framework of the radio dialogue away from that intended by the liberal-minded host. (Ansell 2017: 23)

define:magnanimous - "generous or forgiving, especially towards a rival or less powerful person"

Forgiveness, in this instance, is related to respect. I looked up my not the current year in phatics file and found the earliest mention of the latter from 1969: "The majority of polite behavior is however adducible to status politeness, i.e. to patterns of vertical stratification within a community. It has been established for a community, who and in which situation is shown respect, given predecence etc. and every individual has to objey such norms." (dno 1969: 412) - Here the vertical stratification is familial and, in particular, intergenerational.

Forgiveness has been dealt with explicitly in a piece of work I have yet to read: "American literary theorist Tobias Menely (2007), in an evocative essay entitled ’Forgive me if I am fortright’, demonstrates how the phatic element of language and normative codes of politeness have the primary function of maintaining social harmony and cultivating the status quo." (Miller 2015: 11) - This is an extension of the "maintenance" aspect into broader social considerations.

Another related instance that comes to mind is Roman Jakobson's analysis of an ancient Japanese poem, where "honorific terms [signal] the social distance between the superior and his inferior" (Jakobson 1981a: 160). I'm also pretty sure that Marija Liudvika Drazdauskienė's doctoral dissertation, The Phatic Use of English: Meaning and Style (1992), which she kindly sent me for review, is explicitly about this subject matter.

From this perspective, Henrique seems like yet another feudal patrão whose orientation to politics remains mired in the colonial era, when "the family invaded the state" and rendered impossible the formation of a public sphere properly demarcated from the private sphere of family and friendship (Buarque de Holanda 2012[1936]: 53; and see DaMatta 1991). In his illiberal world, a good statesman amounts to a good father writ large, one who manages a scaled-up oikos so that it thrives unchangingly and metes out favors to those who act as loyal extensions of his own family (Borges 1922: 225-236; Alencar Chaves 2003: 158). (Ansell 2017: 23)

This problematic, the formation of a public sphere, is reminiscent of an older anthropological paper I read recently, where the author discusses the concept of plural society in sociological theory (Rex 1959) and notes that "people of different ethnic origins do not meet each other except in the market place" and "As a result no common 'social will' or 'social demand' develops" (pp. 115). Here it is not ethnicity that acts as a barrier but rather the traditionalism of "family values". The analogy between society and family is probably as valid as that between society and organism (i.e. the social organicism of Hobbes). The metaphor appears ancient, because in Estonian, for example, "statesman" is literally either "riigimees" (man of the country) or "linnaisa" (father of the city). I am not competent to address these sexist vestiges.

Here I explore the relationship between the sertanejo bença and the emergent democratic public by offering an interpretation of this ritual grounded in several nested folk models that construe its meaning in relation to context. I am particularly attuned to folk models that focus on the bença's role in opening, closing or adjusting conversational channels between kin, these channels' service as conduits of divine grace, and their mediation of human affect and disposition toward power. I aim to show how certain folk models of the bença accentuate interactional features that align participants' ritual behavior with more generic models of proper democratic conduct in the public sphere. (Ansell 2017: 24)

Lots to unpack here, especially the synonym-selections for Jakobsonian phaticisms: opening-establishing, closing-discontinuing, adjusting-prolonging. The latter is doubly difficult because while John Laver introduces "management" (of interpersonal relationships) (1975: 217), and the likes of Victoria Wang embrace it wholly, it might have been the original term Jakobson "veiled" in his own treatment, as Jurgen Ruesch's social techniques includes "approaching, managing, and handling other persons" (Ruesch 1972[1948a]: 158-159). "Adjusting" is not far off the mark: social techniques are literally "the adjustment patterns used in social interaction" (Ruesch 1948: 137). The novelty here stems from adjusting not patterns of communication but channels of communication, making it a higher-order operation but still in the purview of meta-communication.

The conduits to divine grace immediately calls to mind the work of Annette Holba, who employs Martin Buber's philosophy of dialogue, which is also the backbone to Mikhail Bakhtin and Karl Bühler, both in turn influential to Jakobson. Recall, for example, that the three primary functions (emotive, conative, and referential) are in correlation to the first, second, and third verbal persons. In compounding the latter three "meta-functions" (poetic, metalingual, and phatic), I've considered the possibility of re-contextualizing the phatic function, for example, as the "infra-contextual" function (the in presentia communicative interaction rather than the in absentia referential object), which has some interesting implications for "divine conduits". In another poetic analysis Jakobson has made use of this verbal person ordeal with regard to the conjunction "thou God" (Jakobson 1981[1966h]: 277). I shall not go into my transcommunication theory at the moment, this here is convoluted as it is.

The mediation of human affect embodied in politeness rituals such as the bença is extremely interesting because it brings together the quasi-Jakobsonian politeness theory strand (most notably Brown and Levinson, and their countless followers) with the quasi-Malinowskian affective communication strand (e.g. Julia Elyachar, Michael Schandorf, Patricia Blanco, and many more). The latter portions of the paper demonstrate the importance of nonverbal elements (here, "interactional features") in the performance of the ritual. This is part of why I like this study a lot more than the many studies of phatic politeness rituals in online communication, for example (e.g. Dipti Kulkarni, Vincenza Tudini, Kane Faucher, etc.).

The disposition toward power hints towards the chiasm between familial and political relations in the documented performances of the ritual. On the whole, I would very much like to see Foucaultian interpretations of phatic communication - he does mention Jakobson's phatic function briefly in The Order of Things, for example, but I have yet to figure out how to do this without becoming Butler-ishly abstruse and obtuse. I may eventually smuggle it into my BA thesis on "facecrimes" in Orwell's 1984, but currently these seem like worlds apart even if surface possibilities appear immediate (as when Winston refrains from looking at Julia at the cafeteria, and many other instances of their careful means of contact).

Sertanejos most commonly perform the bença ritual as a daily greeting, and sometimes as a farewell. As such, the bença has a strongly "phatic function," serving primarily "to establish, to prolong, or to discontinue communication, to check whether the channel works" (Jakobson 1960: 355). In traditional linguistic thought, phatic speech is devoid of informational import (Malinowski 1923), e.g., the conventional greeting "How are you?" serving as more of a perfunctory nod than an actual probing of another's state of being (see Coupland, Coupland & Robinson 1992; Duranti 1997; Zuckerman 2016 for critiques of the traditional notion of phatic speech). (Ansell 2017: 24)

This is the portion of Jakobson's definition that I have learned by heart in Russian (even though the original was in English and the Russian version is a translation) because I wanted to know how it would sound in his native language (Существуют сообщения, основное назначение которых – установить, продолжить или прервать коммуникацию...). My own "mid-tier" interpretation of his "contours" amount exactly to what Laver calls "the psychologically crucial margins of interaction". Note that greetings and farewells accord to Malinowski's examples, "Hello" and "Good-Bye", which may go to explain why the management operation remains so ambiguous - Malinowski did not intend it in the sense of managament (at least not in the sense it is used today).

The description of Malinowski's position is a bit misleading since "information" (nor "communication) does not appear in his essay (he predated information and communication theories, naturally). The statement "devoid of informational import" is also problematic in its own right beyond mere semantics. Dell Hymes caught this early on in his ethnography of speaking (1962): when mothers talk about their children or anthropologists about their fieldwork, they're still sharing information, just that the "primary" function of their talk is social (phatic). Lenience is required due to "import" in this phrasing, which pretty much captures the issue.

The perfunctoriness of phatic inquiries about health and state of being is at the heart of my titular summarization, "phaticity is sympathy without symmetry". In this regard Dell Hymes is once again very much on point in attempting to re-christen the phatic function as the reciprocal expressive function: both the addresser and addresse are expressing concern, i.e. sympathy and affiliation, but doing so in a very surface way. To quote an eloquent formulation: "It is of course simply a social gesture, performed perfunctorily by some as a concession to convention, and in a lively and friendly manner by others" (Thonssen & Gilkinson 1953: 32). This paper investigates, in parts, the chiasm between sincere and perfunctory blessings.

I'm familiar with Zuckerman's paper but have postponed taking it up on this blog because it reflects my own thinking to such an extent that it is anguishing to read. To be fair, Weston La Barre was the first one to really critique Malinowski's by-then-already-orthodox definition of phatic communion. Sadly, La Barre is not included in these kinds of brief overviews, but he should be. (Though this does appear insurmountable until the complex relation betwen emotive and phatic functions has been dealt with.)

The bença is "phatic" in another sense as well. When viewed through local folk models, the bença not only opens the conversational channel among kin, it catalyzes God's grace to move through the senior to the junior participant via the ritual conduit they form with one another (as they often embody with hand gesture). Sertanejo folk models for these spiritual conduits presuppose the existence (and threat) of external persons and fields of practice outside the kin relation, as is often the case with phatic communication (Kockelman 2010). (Ansell 2017: 25)

If only there were a listing of the many senses in which phaticity is commonly (as well as less frequently) understood. This one here seems akin to my inchoate transcommunication theory, but I can't really map the situation described here in terms of para- and meta-channels yet. If I tried, I'd say that this spiritual conduit amounts to an imaginary para-channel, but, on the other hand, the St. Augustin-ian notion that "God has the capacity to scrutinize men's interiority" (cf. Gramigna 2011: 38) without human intermediaries would constitute a divine meta-channel (cf. Colin Cherry for definition). If I'm making the reference to Kockelman out correctly, the blessing converts the blesser into a sort of communicative "parasite" (sensu Serres, actually).

As such, benças furnish transgenerational kin interactions with a "substrate of sensory-emotive experience" whose affective, kinesthetic, spiritual and sonic qualities furnish the public sphere with vernacular specificity (Hirshkin 2006: 122). I thus join a chorus of recent scholars who are attuned to the phatic dimensions of large-scale social transformations such as those from economic development (Elyachar 2010), kinship and aging (Nozawa 2015), multiculturalism (Slotta 2015), commercial exchange (Brown 2016; Muir 2016), and religious transformation (Schulthies 2016). (Ansell 2017: 25)

This sensory-emotive substrate of experience comes close to La Barre's phatic communication, which is more literally vocal, emotional, and nonverbal communication. Vernacular specificity, on the other hand, is what I would describe rather in terms of Oleg Mutt's (1982) "cultural accent, but admittedly the representative situations are markedly different. "Chorus" is a neat descriptor - my own survey shows that "phatic" is used progressively more frequently each decade since its conception and the last decade or so is demonstrably a "boom" in both usage and variety of usages. The fact that leading anthropologists who employ the term are networking makes "chorus" extremely effective. I'm only slightly disappointed that this list consists primarily of anthropologists and leaves out the many elaborations in sociology and social media studies (e.g. Vincent Miller as the most frequently quoted recent authority).

I always took (tomei) the blessing from my grandparents, uncles/aunts, and godparents, people who the family relation sacralized. It was like a family priesthood (sacerdote); it was "blessing, uncle," and by kissing hands, I deposited the respect owed to them and the recognition that, in addition to honoring father and mother, I also honored the chain of life (cadeia de vida) seated in the grandparents. (145)
Like Almeida, my consultants in Piauí view the request for a blessing (bença or benção) from a senior kinsperson as an act of respect and recognition, both for family elders and for the extended, multi-household family. Divine ligatures inhere between family members and separate them from others, though the borders of the traditional family have always been elastic, including adoptive and fictive kin and other hangers-on (aggregados) (Borges 1992: 17, 53). (Ansell 2017: 26)

This bit called to mind another old anthropological paper I recently read: "Another View of the Trobriand Kinship Categories" (Lounsbury 1965) goes deep into the technicalities of kinship categories to vindicate Malinowski over Leach and others, and shows how Malinowski was correct in identifying both the denotata ("primary" meaning) and "extended" or secondary meaning (effectively, connotata) of kinship terms. Here, something like the extensionalist hypothesis arises - by honoring a token (familial relative), one is also honoring the type ("the chain of life"). Respect and recognition I have elsewhere tagged with "acknowledgment", after Felix Ameka, who investigated an analogous interaction ritual: "The dzáà! formula is a kind of general purpose welcoming salutation. It shows the pleasure of the speaker to have noticed the arrival or presence of the addressee. It is an enthusiastic acknowledgement from the speaker that the addressee is in the place s/he is." (Ameka 1992: 251)

The bença's ritual structure holds clues to suggest how it reinforces both hierarchy and solidarity in its participants' relationship. Kurt Bruder (1997) notes in his study of blessings in an Orthodox Christian monastery in California that the speech act structure of a blessing positions the two human participants as existential equals under God's divine rule. Invoking Austin's categories, he notes that the senior person opens the channel to God (through a directive) while "siding with" the requesting junior party (a commissive). The result is "the collapse of the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the operation of blessing" (Bruder 1997: 477). In the sertão, the senior kinsperson also opens a channel to the divine, but while they may "side with" their juniors (perhaps as advocates) they do not position themselves horizontally to them. If God is the source of the blessing, the senior kinsperson acts as its vertical conduit and the junior its destination. (Ansell 2017: 27)

It reinforces hierarchy, because the elder is in a higher position (vertical stratification) and solidarity, because it is essentially a gesture of unity. Interesting contrast in itself. In the Orthodox Christian situation it is left implicit that the patriarch is "closer" to God. A curious tid-bit of general observation comes to mind (I cannot identify where I met it) - that in a situation where authority is needful, men look towards the most authoritative member of the sex regardless of age (young men can overpower old men), while women on the other hand automatically look to the eldest among them. Not sure if true or not, but interesting. This opening a channel to the divine amounts to what I call a para-channel because it invokes a participant in the communication system who is not actually present. (Here, my atheism shows.)

Sertanejos' diverse folk models for reckoning the bença's social functions are logically related to each other. A bença may serve as either a farewell or an apologetic correction to a conversational breech [sic], depending on the model of context its participants (including onlookers) ascribe to it. But that model of text-in-context is neither fully determined by, nor separate from, more foundational uses of the bença as a means of demonstrating respect, or exchanging respect for group inclusion. (Ansell 2017: 27)

I find it very interesting that "social functions" are plural. I was similarly titillated by the plurality in Laver's title, "Communicative functions of phatic communion". It is by no means a difficult inference that phatic communion performs several social functions simultaneously (to employ synonyms for phaticity: communization, consummation, etc.) but I have to acknowledge that it would take a lot of leg-work to specify these - their overlapping seems far too great.

This "model of context" sounds interesting but comes across as too convoluted for me. The gist seems to be something like the Goffmanian "framework" (or was it "interpretive frame"?). Oh no, add Malinowski's context of situation and Whorf's definition of the situation. The general intent seems to be pragmatic variation: how a ritual formula is used, e.g. its actual semiotic impact, can vary depending on a multitude of factors (i.e. "interactional features", above, for example). I've yet to undertake a more thorough investigation of Malinowski's pragmatism, which - in some form or another - vitiates most phatics.

Ugh, I have to mention another old anthropological paper not yet on this blog, concerning the plurality of functions: "The Logic of Explanation in Malinowskian Anthropology" (Goldstein 1957) contains a relevant critique of the concept of function as Malinowski uses it. I'm a bit afraid that taking it all too seriously would land me in dismissing Jakobson's functionalism as well (which was critiqued by Ernst Cassirer, of all people, in 1945). Not sure if I'm up to the task yet - should read up on Russian formalists and figure out how they arrived at "function" (over and above "technique", which also figures in Mauss and later Ruesch, for example), first.

Lastly, group inclusion. This is one of the oft-mentioned but perhaps least-in-depth-treated aspects of phaticity. In Malinowski's essay, the fact that the stranger speaks the same language as you relieves tensions; in Jakobson, similarly, common code is presupposed. La Barre goes a bit deeper, noting the role of professional jargon, informal slang, etc. but also cultural factors (though Malinowski also presupposes common cultural patterns, I guess) such as the psychoanalytical "emotional baggage". A better formulation this I recently found in a suggestion that linguistic conventions act "as a mirror of the aspirations and anxieties of people living in a given social structure" (McCormack 1961: 481). This is at the core of Ruesch's communization, and in my opinion superly relatable to Laver's propitiative function of phatic communion.

The two kin are nodes along a pathway through which divine grace travels: The bença "comes down (descer) through old people," as one older man explained to me. This implied (nth order) model of the senior kinsperson as the channel through which divine grace flows enables sertanejos to formulate another (n+1) model in parallel to the one discussed above (the bença request as demonstrated respect): Specifically, the divine grace channeled downward by the senior kinsperson can follow the junior kinsperson in their extra-familial endeavors and in this way flow outside of the conduits of transgenerational kinship. (Ansell 2017: 27-28)

To my atheist mind this sounds self-serving. Age is not completely commensurate with erudition. It does, on the other hand, point to a more general range of topics, such as ageism and our current Western admiration of youthfulness. It is also just one answer to the question who or what channels God, as answers can vary from specific groups of people to inanimate objects, or something more abstract like nature, being or the universe. My theological interest is piqued in the suggestion that seniority amounts godliness. It would certainly make a lot of heavy-handed sense in light of Gordon Allport's notorious summary: "Over and over again in a multitude of ways, the religion of the individual brings to focus the mingled motives and desires of an unfulfilled life." The aged certainly have more of their life unfulfilled.

On one occasion in 2015 when I was transporting one woman to a local spirit medium, I asked her why she needed such services. She replied that she was not sure. She went on, "I always seek the bença. But I can sense that the paths are closing to me." She said she needed God's help "in everything, in my business dealings, in my friendships, in everything." The grace that she takes from her senior kin follows the woman outside the bença ritual; indeed, that seems to be its purpose. Giving and taking benças is a form of agentive behavior, the specific benefits of which hinge on the particular construal of the contrast between sacred internal channels and the field of relations outside these channels. From the standpoint of the senior kinsperson who give benças, the practice may be construed as an investment in these external spheres. (Ansell 2017: 28)

If she's not sure why she needs it, it seems very likely that she is conditioned by her social milieu. Get 'em while they're young, and so on. On an empathetic human level, I can completely understand how something absurd can occupy a person's life in every mundane aspect. I'm among those types of fellows who gets all too obsessed with their ongoing (research, but also other types of) projects.

Like the encryption of a message in the face of an enemy over-hearer, the specific construal of extra-familial sociality contours the familial relationship established by the bença (see Kockelman 2010). (Ansell 2017: 28)

I like this active-verb usage of contours. Though wholly unrelated to Jakobson's contoural features, it made me seriously examine, for a brief moment, if contouring could not make for a sufficiently unpleasant (in terms of Peirce's ethics of terminology) term for the social techniques operating on the psychologically crucial margins of interaction. Even the sense in which it is used here would do good service: the social and philosophical milieu of the individual contours his or her interactions. Why not.

When Tomás descended from the truck, he smiled and extetnded his right hand, palm upward, toward João, asking, "Blessung, uncle?" (Bença, tio). When Joáo grumbled and looked away, Tomás's affect grew desperate. The rest of us in the truck stiffened at the sudden change in mood. "Bença, uncle. Bença, bença!," he repeated, until finally João reached out his own right hand toward Tomás, plam turned downward, and said, "God bless you, punk" (Deus te abencoi, muleque). The boy relaxed and took off running. João, pride recovered, glared didactically at the rest of us. (Ansell 2017: 29)

This description immediately made me think of the meme, "DENIED".

In Goffmanian terms, his delay constitutes a "challenge," an allegation of Tomás's wrongful breach of the interaction order. Tomás's subsequent, desperately intoned bença requests become his "offerings" of apology, and João's eventual granting of the bença signals his "acceptance." (Ansell 2017: 30)

Damn, Goffman is a gangster. He seems to have an idiom for everything.

Yet several minutes later, in a culminating moment of our conversation in which she seemed to drop into a more jokingly clandestine tone, she added, "Nobody is able to bear the other side's ra-ra-ra (a stereotypic imitation of the harping sound of a "sick" voter's voice). (Ansell 2017: 30-31)

This ra-ra-ra sounds like the phonic equivalent of "Rabble, rabble rabble" in South Park, though the content comes closer to Orwell's duckspeak.

Factional bate-boca among kin is a frequent topic of municipal rumor during the campaigns, but it's rare for overt antagonisms to occur between parents and children. "We never speak against our parents," one young woman told me. "We avoid talking of politics. We just let them say what they want." Bate-boca often occurred among siblings, but the tone was usually seemed [sic] jovial. Other rival siblings claimed to avoid one another during the political season. It is the uncle/aunt-nephew/niece relation that seemed most prone to overt conflict in scenarios of factional difference. An uncle who deviates from the family's faction has betrayed one's father, and yet one still owes him respect as an elder. Conflicts among such transgenerational kin cannot be easily averted, because to avoid one's senior kin is to weaken the family's unity. (Ansell 2017: 31)

Curiously exact description of a recent experience of mine. I gave my two cents on Facebook on the topic of wage gap, and my aunt attacked me with an emotional appeal that I am disrespecting my own mother by doing so. Needless to say it was a wake-up call and I have hence refrained from taking part of flaming Facebook discussions.

The mother then leaned toward her adolescent son who had been sitting on her porch, and asked him if he had requested his uncle's blessing that day. The boy got up and crossed the dirt road to approach the uncle. He raised his hand and requested the bença. His uncle bestowed it and his wife went inside and fetched the boy a cookie. The onlookers seemed relieved, and their chatter resumed. Walking toward his uncle, the boy's body sketched a kind of phatic diagram, opening a communicative pathway that led his mother to her estranged brother. His bença request retrospectively established the character of that communicative pathway as one defined by warm relations over and against the potential factional rivalry lurking in the background. (Ansell 2017: 31-32)

I'm very much running out of steam at this point, but I have to say this is very reminiscent of Alaina Lemon's 2013 paper which began with a very interesting take on phatic qualia and how the "character" of communicative contact manifests in sensory qualities, but quickly became very convoluted when she got to "vectors" (here, diagrams or pathways).

Outside of Brazil, colleagues helped me think through the Brazilian kin blessings, including James Slotta and Shunsuke Nozawa, with whom co-organized a panel on "phatic anxieties" at the 2016 AES conference, and my fellow panelists, Becky Shulthies, Charlez Zuckerman, and Sarah Muir. Michael Silverstein provided very useful discussant commentary. (Ansell 2017: 36)

I'm aroused.

Similarly, in Sierra Leone, "A person who is blessed is disposed to work hard. [...] A person who works hard and does his duty brings blessings to his or her family" (Jackson 2011: 178). (Ansell 2017: 37)

In Estonian, there is a saying "Tee tööd ja siis tuleb armastus" (effectively, A person who works hard will find love). As one of the most atheist countries in the world, Estonians seem to have replaced agape with profane love.

As Paul Kockelman observes, the liberal notion that proper democratic adversity is constituted against the threat of enemies echoes Roman Jakobson's understanding of phaticity: In the latter case, people design and manage communicative channels with an eye to resisting the threat of outside agents (Kockelman 2017, editorial communcation). (Ansell 2017: 37)

A "Reading Kockelman" type posts in surely in order. A folder containing a bunch of his papers has been patiently waiting for over a year now.