The urban-rural Dichotomy
Are the disciplinary humanities
widely an Eurocentric historistic construct?
By Nold Egenter
The following paper can be considered as some sort of quintessence of the whole approach in regard to cultural theory (see plate at end of paper, Fig. 14).
In preceding steps we tried to show a new method of reconstructing the evolution of culture by focussing on the human and prehuman habitat and the way it is spatially organised by demarcations. The method is quite different from conventional anthropology. It is close to the natural sciences, since it focusses mainly on behaviour and description of empirical conditions of the environment.
It uses some basic concepts found while researching in the field. To give some examples: 'nuclear border', implies a border demarcation in the centre of a settlement. 'Settlement core complex', replaced what was generally considered 'primitive religion'. Settlement core complex is in fact a 'traditional territorial constitution'. Further we used the term 'toposemantic organisation of settlement space', which designates the organisation of the natural and artifical environment according to 'strucuturo-symbolic models'. Important was the concept of a 'soft prehistory' based on '[prelithic] fibroconstructive industries'.We also tried to reconstruct a 'rural domain of hominisation' in which the most important evolutionary trait of culture, sedentary life was produced. Once agrarian societies reached this level of 'sedentary life' with their houses organised in villages, this could evolve to 'centralised urban and imperial conditions'. Characteristic for the latter is the 'monumentalisation' of the fibroconstructive culture of sedentary agricultural societies. A further very important process consists in the 'verbalisation of physical cults and rites' and the 'fixation of these verbalisations with script'. All these concepts play a central role in the evolution of 'high cultures' or 'civilisations'.
However, working in this 'extra-disciplinary' way essentially focussed on anthropological concepts of space and its semantic and symbolic organisation, we became aware of problems related to conventional cultural research. They are:
--Eurocentrism of disciplines in the sense of expression of European cultural history
--Naive confidence in the 'correctness' of the historical method
--Incapacity to relate history to temporally much deeper processes
--Culture is studied in three methodologically different domains with different relations to time. They are:
--ethnology and folklore studies,
--The different methods and their different objects of study create problems
--in many cases these problems are solved with the projection of value-judgements
--The most distorting value system is found between history and tradition, between urban and rural society.
In the following we want to decribe theses problems more in details.--Ethnology and cultural anthropology are disciplinary microfields of Eurocentric humanities. They basically operate in domains of non-European cultures where there is no history, but they are not aware that they project this product of European history on traditional cultures worldwide. Since most phenomena of traditional cultures are formally very different, understanding is precarious. Usually this is solved by using the 'urban/rural' or the 'high/low culture' value scheme. Primitive religion, primitive art, primitive economy etc.. It is
evident that this type of procedure creates great cross-cultural tensions.
--Similarly folklore studies. Since agrarian rural cultures are dominantly formed by traditions and have no written history, many of their phenomena are apriori devalued because they can not be explained by criteria based on historical methods. E.g. rural art as 'degenerated ruler's art'. Rural traditions related to religion are considred abstruse, reason to impose the historical concept of religion.
--Similar problems arise with the description of non-European high cultures like Indian, Chinese, Japanese etc. The Euro-disciplinary approach apriori projects the Western disciplines on phenomena which are quite different. Still today, for instance, the 'world-ethics' of the Swiss theologist Küng exclude ca. 110 millions of Japanese Shintoists from the concept of 'world-ethics', because Shinto - in spite of its high environmental ethics - has no metaphysics Western style!
--But the worst distortion is produced in the ancient history of the Euro-Western system itself. In spite of modern time concepts (cosmology 13.5 billion years; geology 2 billion years; biology 1.5 billion years; physical anthropology 15-22 my; cultural anthropology 2 my; culture 2,5 million years; history ca. 4'800 years) most scholars still have a time concept in their head that corresponds to the written history of the Middle Ages considered universally valid in those times. In this framework texts describing the foundation of a territorial unit, a city or a state, are interpreted on the cosmological level of the creation of the universe (Winkler 1906, see below).
--This distortion is not an isolated phenomenon. It is a fully systematic defect of the Euro-Western humanities. Philosophy thinks that 'thinking' began with the Greeks. Theology maintains that the only valid religion began with the Jewish and Christian lines. Both are in fact ancient theocratic constitutions! Art is fixed on the European Renaissance. Throughout all political and economic systems art retained the Renaissance artist-art-scheme, the post-medieval myth of the profaned creator genius. Similarly architecture. The art historians, dilettants in pragmatic architectural matters, dictate a postmodern 'architectural theory' based on the written ideas of Vitruv, Palladio, and so on as 'theories' to be taught in architectural schools.
Thus we live in some sort of a 'neo-medieval' time which is characterised by extremely heterogeneous 'cultures' strictly based on narrow historical concepts cut off from their pre-historic or pre-dynastic conditions. They all operate with an increasingly idealised and consequently nebulous terminology which allows to cut off historical levels from traditional preconditions.
This is what we call 'history bubble'. The expression stands for this incredibly naive belief in the absolute truth of history. A worldview that creates tremendous frictions and conflicts on all possible levels. It rejects any connection of its written or monumental history with prehistorical or predynastic tradition and replaces it by judgements taken from a 'first-world / third world value system' which has not much to do with objective science.
Semantic architecture and categorically polar cognition
as transitional domain between tradition and history
How can we repair this fatal disrupture? The anthropology of demarcated space seems to offer new methods. Homo territorialis organising his environment with complex demarcations or, what we call "semantic architecture" seems to show new ways. Toposemantic demarcations are a cultural element found in many cultures around the globe and they usually show high ontological values.
Towards the end of this lecture we will use 7 cases in various cultures showing how semantic architecture which represents objects of highest values in the traditional local culture or society, is apriori subjected to primitivisation, devalualisation, subordination to histoorical or urban concepts.
The importance of the objects of semantic architecture is emphasised in a second step. It is shown that in all these societies corresponding systems of a harmonious worldview can be found, suggesting that this aesthetic worldview might have been derived from semantic architecture, or from the primary, still rooted type of signs which we showed in the first series.
In other words, we discover an important thing. It is evident, that our all-dissecting analytical type of thought, which developed in Ancient Greece, had a precursor which was still intact at the time of Heraclitus, but which was categorically split apart in the course of Attic philosophy in Greece, between Plato and Aristotle.
Plato became basic for European theology and early philosophy and Aristotle later became fundamental for the development of empirical sciences. Thus we can assume that analytical science developed from an earlier system of cognition which we called 'categorical polarity' in an anthropological framework (coincidence of opposites in European culture, YinYang cognition in Asia). Polarity dissolves into a categorically analytical system which produces an entirely different worldview. This process later formed the schizoid condition of the European mind, expressed by Descartes' distinction of the capacity to think (res cogitans) and the capacity to experience factual conditions (res extensa).
Thus, the field of presocratic thought can be taken as a transitional field between the primary level of cognition, what we called 'categorical polarity' and 'analytical cognition'. In a paper focussed on this subject we mentioned also, that many discussions in the presocratic field imply an empirical model, e.g.
--The 'world-egg' as deity and cosmos split into upper and lower part (Orphic theo-/cosmogony)
--The earth as a cylinder, as a column (Anaximandros) etc.
We can then work with the hypothesis that in these ontological concepts long gone traditions of either rural domains or of earlier high cultures like Ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia are still present.
In these antique cultures the source materials are enormous. We have mentioned this before, showing sources of life-trees, signs of deities like Ishtar, the Djed pillar of Egypt and so on. Most of these sources are very explicit in regard to their texture. Most of these forms tell us that they originally existed in a primary fibroconstructive stage. That is, they were made of fibrous materials by binding, knotting, bundeling etc. But this brings us to a very important topic related to the name of a famous German archaeologist who worked in the framework of German architectural research of the 30ies of the last century focussed on the Ancient Near East and Egypt. Indirectly his subject contains a strong criticism of the archaeological method on which our conventional idea of prehistory is based. Interpreted in a wider sense Andrae's concept provides the basis for the new concept of a 'Soft Prehistory' (Egenter 1982)
In various studies (e.g. 1930) Andrae strongly emphasised the concept that many Egyptian and Mesopotamian temples had prototypes of non durable fibrous materials and his most important book (Andrae 1933) is devoted to the hypothesis that the Ionian column in Ancient Greece still reflects this history of transition from non-durable reed architecture to being hewn into stone, using the original bundle form as a model. He provides the sources for the whole evolutionary field which - according to Andrae - has its origins in the sign of the deity Ishtar for which he has found a clay plate demonstrating clearly how the reed material was fixed into the characteristic form by being bound by fibres used for fixation and bundling.
It is evident that this changes our attitude in regard to the classical order. The primary fibroconstructive order defines the image with its shiny panicles and its bushy leaves sticking out of the geometrical shaft. Empirical PRO-portion! Prominence, protruding, projecting as aesthetic principle! If we assume a primary pre-analytic system of cognition based on the 'categorical polarity' of these columns with their geometrically well defined lower shaft and their bushy upper part remaining natural and mobile, we could easily understand that they originally stood for some sort of very ancient symbol of the YinYang type, at the same time alluding to the origins of this type of thought to which they were the primordial models. Man's primary model of harmonious cognition! An absolutely valuable context for symbolisation, even in a modern scientific, that is anthropological sense.
Andrae's approach also clearly demasks the art historians fictive aestheticism. 'Cannelura' (German: 'Kannelierung') for instance! "Application of flutes to the shaft of a column....It makes the column look slim, elastic and light." It is now evident that the term cannellura is a derivation from lat. 'canna', reed! Etymology preserved the factual empirical past! Similarly also with other 'fantasy-terms' like eggstaff (Eierstab) for the rope decorated with leaves, or the 'torus' (twisted bulge) implying the thick rope at the bottom of the column. The word capital, from lat. caput, small head, is evidently mistaken in view of the protruding plant bushes of most types of the whole column tradition. The worst and most tragic study in this context is Joseph Rykwert's 'The Dancing Column' (Rykwert 1996)! On roughly 400 pages + 30% Notes + 2250 bibliographic entries it gives an incredible mix of human 'order in the body' and 'order in building'. It is essentially devoted to the evidently late 'anthropomorphisms' appearing primarily in religion, then in architecture in Greece as well as - much earlier - in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. I have never seen a book that was so obsolete at its publication date. Rykwert completely misunderstands Andrae's approach, interpretes the capital of the Egyptian plant-columns in temples like a motor-mechanic as a concealment of the technical, that is rectangular formation of the abacus! No understanding for the deep rooted symbolisms of his topic! No sense for the anthropological implications of the fibroconstructive - hand the first tool - bundling technique! What a pity, Rykwert's impressive study shows him as a prisoner of what we call 'Historybubble'!
Did the Greeks still have an understanding for this 'deep structure' of their columns? Probably not. But, certainly the Egyptians of the time when their imperial temples were built in Luxor and Karnak must have understood the meaning of their bundle pillars, since, doubtless similar fibrous types were still built in their villages. The Djed pillar, which represented the continuity of the Egyptian empire, clearly recognizable in its fibrous and bundeled structure, is doubtless a proof of this. It played an important role in jubilee festivals held after 30 years of government of a Pharaoh. It is a symbol that appears everywhere in the Pharaonic environment, probably just because its fibrous character stood for high ancienty, and thus paradoxically for great durability.
What the archeaologist celebrates as the beginnning of high culture, of civilisation, now reveals suddenly as merely a copy of primary prototypes being part of agrarian culture. What distinguished them was merely an ingeneering capacity: the technical capacity to transform the fibrous forms into durable status. No ingenious design, no imaginative creation, no spiritual invention.
Of course this transformation into durable stage was of a tremendous effect. The size was impressive, the spatial conditions were enormous and the temporal conditions changed a cyclic system of consciousness into a linear system of time.
Thus we become aware that the historical method somehow is cheating us. It was not capable to demonstrate the roots of the forms, therefore it explained them by introducing a fictive new element: human invention, human capacity to invent, human creativity, human spirit, etc..
It seems that the archaeologist put up some sort of fancy image to make us believe how great early civilisations already were. But, in fact, it is a fiction, it is not at all real.
Higher cultures copied the culture of predynastic villages and - in their centres - transformed it into a durable stage. This allowed the urban centres to control larger territorial units, an incredible process.
Thus, the archaeologists method entirely distorts the picture. On one hand it is admirable what he finds with his method digging for the durable remains. But, on the other hand these materials are considered as witnesses for the beginning of high culture, of civilisation. Since the archaeological method does not find anything relevant of the preceding stratum of predynastic agrarian village cultures, these strata are devalued: simply farmers, primitive, not worth for study. We will see that this concept is one of the most misleading projections of the humanities, a projection which is of negative influence on the relation between urban society and rural population and its cultural traditions on many levels!
With W. Andrae's assumption of fibroconstructive prototypes we gain a fairly precise insight into evolutionary processes of sedentarity from predynastic rural population to early city states. What is most important in this perspective is the assumption of a fibroconstructive layer which contained essential structural conditions, like horizontal and vertial polarity schemes. These temporary installations were then monumentalised with durable materials in the context of the early formation of city states.
In the Ancient Near East and Egypt this can be clearly shown. Temples are in fact monumentalised cult procedures representing the access path to the sacred territorial demarcation, the symbol or figure of the deity, and the tributes of analogous markers from the villages integrated by the new monumental temple on the regional or imperial level.
And the form of the elements, pillars, columns, pylons and internal sanctuaries are all clearly derived from fibroconstructive prototypes. They are'reed and papyrus architecture' transformed into durable materials, stone in the architectural dimensions.
This same principle is also valid for many other things. There is a wealth of sources, of life-trees, of stelae, of signs of deities, like the sign of the deity Ishtar, which was the protector deity of the most ancient city of Uruk in Mesopotamia. Or the Djed pillar, which was the symbol of durability of the Egyptian empire. There are also reed huts, columns and stelae, all kinds of forms with cultic implications.
A wealth of sources which suggests that the objects represented on durable materials had a great importance in a rural society where such objects existed in the non-durable stage, produced in the framework of fibroconstructive traditions of material culture.
But this means a complete change of our concept of the origins of civilisation, of the origins of high culture! But let us first shortly discuss schematically the way we study culture in general.
The plate below shows an abstract scheme of the conventional methods we use to depict our cultural past.
Generally the concept is based on the term 'culture' which can be understood as a geographically and temporally delimited entity of sources indicating various disciplinary aspects of material and spiritual culture. How general the term really is, becomes evident with its opposite: nature. Anyone who has some understanding for scientific methods will agree that a vague container-term of this type with its internal Eurocentric historistical subsystems has no chance to produce any scientifically reliable results for the cultures of this globe. The Fig. 1 scheme should make some of these problems evident.
C1-3 show three different cultures
C1 shows the example of a culture which reaches from the present into a cultural depth that allows the full range of the temporally defined disciplines like folklore, history and early history (written sources and monuments), prehistory (green surface with metals, ceramics, stones) and physical anthropology (Blue rounded rectangle).
C2 shows a simillar case of a culture with prehistorical depth but becomes conquered in its early phase of city-state formation. In its green prehistory field the main economical classes used by prehistory are listed.
C3 shows a culture which remained traditional without history and urban formation. It is studied by ethnology or cultural anthropology. If archaeology is active in this domain it may similarly show a prehistory and a domain of physical anthropology.
The red circles show early towns and cities, the arrows indicate their tendencies to expand their territories, which is usually described in the framework of historical records of battles and wars. Thus, the red arrows show what the historian is mainly interested in: political history. He thinks that this is what basically forms the cultural surface.
The interpretation of the surfaces in our scheme follow the historical method. Green shows basically a 'prehistorical' space characterised by economically interpreted types of societies like hunters and collectors, cattle breeders and agricultivators. With early historical sources this surface turns into the historical domain (striped white). The urban centres and the imperially controlled surface become part of the historical unit. We speak of the Old, Middle and New Kingdom in Ancient Egypt. The rural surfaces loose their characteristics. The imperial centres define the activities and processes which we perceive as 'history'.
We have hinted to the value system produced by the historical method. The wealth of sources creates an image of sudden invention, of social differentiation, of creative design and new techniques. We speak of early 'high cultures', of civilisation and the like which contrasts with the 'predynastic agrarian villages' which have left practically no signs of a relevant material culture, nor of any spiritual values. In other words, the historical method produces a strong value shift which can be called the 'high/ low' culture-scheme or the ·civilised urban-historical· versus ·primitive traditional· culture scheme.
This is also shown in some problematic points which we have indicated with P1-6.
P1: This indicates the extremely limited condition of paleoanthropology. Its outlooks are basically restricted on bones in a system of comparative anatomy and physiology of primatology and anthropology. The impacts for the changes remain in the dark. There are conflicting hypotheses, for instance for the cause of bipedal locomotion and vertical body posture in the case of Australopithecus, or for the cause of increasing brain size beginning with Homo habilis. There is a lot of often pure guesswork and speculation involved.
P2: This point indicates the problems of archaeology. Archaeologists and prehistorians usually emphasise the documentary aspect of their method. They put their whole weight on the fact of their finds. But this is a fairly problematic antiquarism. If on the other hand one becomes aware of the fragmentary character of the finds in several respects (e.g. in regard to the once existing factual culture), archaeology becomes highly questionable. From this critical position new systematic methods are emphasised, as e.g. the 'anthropological definition of material culture' (ethno-pre-historical method) favouring new hypothetic concepts like the postulate for a 'soft prehistory', that is, a [prelithic] fibroconstructive material culture. Note also the fact that by fragmentarisation of its finds and the absence of the vital interpretation of the objects found, archaeology has no chance to reconstruct any higher ontological values except in later periods, e.g. of early civilisation where monumentalised concepts like temples, palaces and the like are found.
P3: This too indicates a very problematic transitional field between predynastic village cultures and early urban/ imperial domains with script and monumental installations. In the framework of the historical method it creates a tremendous difference of values. Some broken pieces of ceramics on one side, huge temples, palaces in great splendour on the other. It implies a tremendous progress of innovation and creativity. A value system is born that continues all the way along the history of the city and the state until today. For the historical method the appearance of script is the gate into the world of history. But here too, the value system blinds many interpretations. One of the most problematic aspects consists in the retroprojection of evolved concepts into early texts. Thus ancient settlement foundations are translated as the creation of the universe in the cosmological sense. Another problem is the retroprojection of evolved ontological concepts and the incapacity to become aware of the abstractions produced by verbalisations and their fixations by script, for instance in the relation of theology and theocracy or spiritual belief and physical cult, or, most evident, in the interpretation of the conception of deities. In other words, this tremendous value difference between predynastic village cultures and early city states and civilisations is to a great extent a construct of our methods, of the historical method more precisely, which is narrowly fixed on the historical source, lacking a wider horizon on cultural conditions in general.
P4: The domain of history is characterised by a linear time concept. A sequence of dated sources defines the past. Thus for instance in regard to Ancient Egypt we have fairly clear ideas about its political history, but when it comes to understand its core institutions, functional concepts like Max Webers irrigation thesis are retroprojected. History appears as a process of human genius, innovative capacities and political power, in short a history of human complacency is the result. On the other hand a history based more on objective causality would very likely rather produce a history of events that happened to man, events to which he had to adapt. Bollnow's anthropology of space, for instance, assumes that concepts of spatial organisation primarily developed with the evolution of settlement and evolved through the development of subhuman and human habitat into larger dimensions. If we assume material models for the formation of the categorically polar type of cognition for the early human habitat we can assume that the horizontal extension in the early civilisations (urbano-imperial phase) produced also vertical extensions of polar axiality and dissolved the materially bound aesthetic polarity into an analytical perception in which materiality and abstracted spirituality were dissected (Akhenaton-syndrome, Plato-syndrome), thus human spirituality being a product of territorial extension.
P5: The world-view of the Middle Ages was entirely dominated by written history. To some extent this dominance of the historical method continues into our times in the humanities. Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology are marginalised in the framework of the Eurocentric value system: High/primitive economy, high/primitive politics, high/primitive art, high/primitive religion etc..First world / Third world! In addition this Eurocentric system projects the disciplinary system and its methodological implications on any type of traditional culture, a disastrous projection also used for many higher cultures in many parts of the world. Here too the 'High/ primitive' value system prevents the search for continutity in point P3. Nobody, for instance, would say that the 'Eternally burning Thorn Bush' in the Bible, where Mose received his theocratic order to found a new state for the Hebrews, resembles a fetish of the type found by Christian missionaries in traditional societies all over the world.
P6: As mentioned above, in addition to the immanent value system, the container term 'culture' is very vague. First in its overall content (in the sense of nature/ culture dichotomy) and second in regard to its dissection into disciplines like art, religion, social structure etc.. which imply - in any cultural situation - an apriori fragmentation according to eurocentric concepts. Finally the whole cultural research is prejudiced in so far as it uses analytical and differentiating methods. It accumulates a tremendous amount of isolated facts related to cultural geography, cultural period, disciplinary outlooks, a perfectly programmed Babylonian tower which becomes evident, if one turns questioning the other way round: what is the same in a selected number of cultures? We will show later that this comparative and homologuing questioning is well possible and provides new results.
Maybe this scheme might help us to become aware that our methods of cultural research are to a great extent formed by European history and thus produce an extremely Eurocentric outlook which is far from really being scientifically neutral. It is in fact a very arrogant model, which is exported into many other cultures of the world, high and traditional, where it creates tremendous frictions with entirely different standards developed in these other cultures. In fact the West uses this 'scientific' model to dominate other cultures, traditional as well as non European high cultures.
URBAN RURAL DICHOTOMY
The concept of urban-rural dichotomy (or reverse) came up while doing research in India. The 'urbano-rural distortion-factor' was already felt while doing field research in Japan, but it became definitely clear in India: the fact that the description of rural culture is done with the structural conditions of the urban consciousness of culture. Conscience of linear time - cyclic time is invalid, primitive. Conscience of universal space - local space is erroneus, hilly-billy type. Rural architecture is traditional, mimesis of the ancestors way of doing things, no imaginations, no grand designs, maybe good for tourism, but architecture? You mean high architecture? Excluded. Art? No creativity, more or less the same through long times. Eventually copying the elites: sunken masters-art! But, maybe the concept of 'originality' is different? Not just the subjective art-artist scheme of the Renaissance, but the origins, traditionally conserved? Similarly world view, philosophy. Philosophy? Farmers are practical. No philosophy! That might be an urban projection. Cognition theorists just do not perceive this type of cognition because they are not capable to imagine a system beyond their own analytics. Further, the problem of religion. Religion is an urban development, based on history. What the rural areas had in terms of religion was fertility cults, superstition and the like, they say. Primitive religion. This too a methodological problem. Religion defined as belief. What if we say: the cult is the primary message which contains the truth, belief is a verbal abstraction of prehistorical cults and their empirical contents. Later this became fixed by script and was thus kept through time. The words only. The empirical cult - the true truth - got lost. With this assumption things look quite different! What the urban science considered as 'primitive religion' was in fact a traditional type of territorial constitution which produced the proto-conditions for higher civilisation, sedentarity (s. 'settlement-core-complex').
This is just in short, what we want to explain in the following more in details.
This plate shows the structure of our suggestion of an urban/ rural dichotomy. Rural is understood here in the wider sense. It is based on the sequence of preurban cultures all being essentially rural. Consequently the green colour implies also the disciplines engaged: anthropology, combining ethnology, ethnohistory, ethno-prehistory, paleo-anthropology, paleo-ontology. And on the other hand the white rectangles imply written history, that is history in the narrow sense.
Now if there is such a system as we described it before, then, the historical dimension projects its evolved concept of history, of culture, of disciplines into the ethnological situation.
An example. If an ethnologist goes to an island in Indonesia to study its culture, he will immediately use the Eurocentric classification. He willl report this and that about their religion, this and that about their economy, their social stucture, their legal system. In short, he will apriori split the foreign culture up into disciplines. But the disciplines are sectorial subunits of culture in the Western or Eurocentric system of the humanities. They have developed historically in Europe. They must not necessarily coincide with phenomena in other cultures. Usually they are projected very uncritically on other cultures, thus often completely distorting the factual conditions. <1>
But, let us look at this relation more systematically and more in details. We have prepared a plate which shows the dichotomy of the urban and the rural in the context of cultural research. Rural is not just interpreted in the synchronic sense as an opposite of the urban, but is diachronically considered as a dominantly natural existential space in which processes took place which led to hominisation, to the formation of human culture.
This is not a romantic perspective, in no ways, but a methodological step. We try to think about two types of culturally important spaces and try to find out what was and is important in these spaces.
Let us emphasise from the beginning, that in this concept, urban space, in spite of its considerable written and monumental history, is a relatively late cultural pheonomenon. If we assume constructivity (Yerkes 1929) which produces the existential artefact 'tree-nest' with a time depth of ca. 22 million years, and the architecture of the 'ground nest' with a time depth of 16 million years, then the history of 4 to 5 thousand years is a very short history.
On the other hand urbanisation and state formation are the most important cultural processes, much more important than the distinctions of history and prehistory or the economical differenciations in prehistory. We will have a closer look at the differences of rural and urban existential spaces.
Rural and Urban per-conceptions: Contrasting parameters
Let us have a look at our comparative list. It can be read in three ways (see upper part of list). Usually the emphasis is positively on the urban parameters, the rural ones are apriori questioned and seen as of minor validity. But we can also just look at them in a constrasting way, emphasising the difference. We will become aware to what extent the rural and the urban, in fact, are two very different types of culture. A third way of seeing the picture is that we take the rural conditions as the primary situation and the urban as the secondary one, thus, in an evolutionary sense, asking ourselves how this evolutionary process had developed.
The list is commented under the assumption of the 'settlement core complex' in the case of the rural structural characteristics. We have shown that this system is widespread in very different cultures on the level of agrarian village culture. It can be shown in today's folklore traditions, e.g. in Europe (Kapfhammer 1977) or, as we said elsewhere, in Japan or in the predynastic and dynastic village culture of Ancient Egypt (Hermann Kees, 1956).
What is most important here: to show how the comparison of the rural and urban structural characteristics is a very valid approach. It makes us aware to what extent the urban perspective apriori devalued the rural stratum for political control, a stratum from which, in fact, it gained its existential means. The relation makes one think of biology where such relations are called intraspecific parasitism.
From this point of view we can define rural and urban spaces in new ways.
---Space of rural culture is always limited, narrow, local, environmental, closely related to small social groups, which are selfsufficient and produce a sustainable relation with the environment.
---Space of urban culture means trend to expansion, to dominance, superseding rural social domains. Verbal traditions are superseded by referring to monumental and written sources.
The temporal consciousness too is entirely different.
--In the rural domain consciousness is cyclic. The cycle is complete in the sense that it works with the polar principle of norm and chaos. The cyclic festivals focussed on the renewal of the nucelar demarcation at the same time imply ek-stasis, dissolution of the world-order, antithesis of the norm. Progress is absent. This is why these societies are highly sustainable. In their own domain there is no vector, no projection of a 'better future'.
--In the urban domain consciousness is linear with an increasing trend to high virtuality. Knowledge is increasingly based on abstractions transmitted by script. History does not only rely on the linear past, but invests into a future which is unknown. The increasingly high complexity of processes leads to loss of control. The linear urban reasoning based on a written past, develops speculative depths (myth). The theocratic system tends to justify itself with a fictive depth. In contrast to the increasingly virtual urban world the village world knows eactly about its highest values. The chief of the village is the founder of the place of the villager's existence, so there is a reality component in the rural dimension, whereas with script and with monuments the world becomes larger and larger, at the same time more and more virtual, more infinite and more incomprehensible as a whole.
Art and architecture
--In the rural domain material culture is perishable, the demarcations are perishable. The demarcations conserved the origins of aesthetics and since the whole worldview (or ontology) of the community was based on this type of aesthetics, it had to be preserved. More precisely, the demarcation's categorically polar code was the model of all harmonious conceptions related to the artificial and to the natural environment. It was the 'per-/conceptual creator' of the local environment and therefore gained highest values.
--In the urban domain there are great changes. The whole concept of demarcation is monumentalised into permanent sanctuaries and temples. The cyclic cults lost their original function of dissolving and recreating a model of a local world order, the toposemantic sign became permanent as a column (Djed pillar) or as an anthropomorphous or teriomorphous deity hewn into stone. In fragmentary ways the concept of 'sacrifice' continued the element of renewal, either factually with plants, guarlands and flowers as 'decorations', or categorically projected on other dynamic aspects like vitality (e.g. of animals). In many cases the 'ek-static' character of the renewal event was projected on the monumental toposemantic figure itself. The deity was taken onto processions carried by some members of the cult on a mobile vehicle (bark, cart, sedan). Often the ancient traditional cult was continued in front of the permanent sanctuary with a fibroconstructive type, as this is described in a monography for Japan (Egenter 1982). The sequence of destroying the old demarcation(s) and building new ones is interpreted inversely: the cult shows its traces only during a short period of a couple of days. Most important: the whole sacred topography is monumentalised, material culture becomes permanent, and often luxurious. The new monumentalised environment has a great potential for strategic arrangements and creates strong social hierarchies and, most important after all, a linear consciousness of time, an element which is very strong particularly in Ancient Egypt.
--In the rural domain perceptual synthesis combines contrasting categories into the same unit. They thus show the ancient or primary concept of cognition: categorical polarity. Unfortunately in ethnology or folklore it was never understood: the traditional world was banalised, devalued, primitivised. From the domain of the analytical it could not be understood, because it is absolutely incompatible with Eurocentric logics. <2>
Thus, contrary to the urban value system, the rural domain has an ontology which is basically harmonious. It is essentially an aesthetic worldview, categorically polar, symbolic. This aspect may give to art in general a new and important anthropological meaning.
--In the urban dimension the polar ontology dissolves into analytically isolated categories.
Formula: from 'black AND white' to 'black OR white'. However, China highly developed the harmonious type of thought, the categorical polarity of Yin and Yang forces or in Daoism the complementarity of movement and stability until relatively recently. Analytical science is antithetic to categorical polarity as a system of cognition. We may mention that the modern concept of the artist is somehow a survival of this primary system of cognition into our times. Evidently, with the general education being based on analytical cognition we can not understand this aesthetic language anymore. We need the art historian as a translator. However he rationalises art illegitimately because he too is arguing in the framework of analytical sciences.
--What we consider as primitive religion in the rural domain, is not really religion. It is basically a traditional constitution on the settlement level. As we said before, the village founder set up such a marker as a legal appropriation of the territory of a settlement. Of course the hope for a positive future is involved, but the cult has nothing to do with fertility and the like, these interpetations are a product of the western method based on interviews of the inhabitants about their beliefs. In fact it is a local constitution which had a cyclically renewed fibrous demarcation as its basic document which is 'archived' ritually. Since this type of traditional constitution was highly effective, it got a high value through time. It was effective in keeping others out, particularly if it had become a general practice in a region. It thus managed to guarantee sedentary life over long periods. Thus, the cyclic rites have a clear functional background. The legal document is ephemeral and perishable, it has to be renewed in cyclic periods to keep the form alive through time. And this process is also supported by the natural conditions, e. g. reed is there in great quantity every year. So it is 'harvested' and used for rebuilding the demarcation in the original form. In the local system the marker represents the social, spatial and cultic norms of the village. And the renewal of the marker implies the dissolution of the order, consequently the event implies chaos, a verbally ek-static atmosphere. In the physical sense it means that the thing is disappearing and a new one is set up there and of course this produces all those exstatic dimensions. They were completely misunderstood by Western interpreters. In our new interpretative context, all this makes sense. Another reality is shown, which was misunderstood before and which was consequently banalised. But we can now understand the whole event as an objective condition of life.
--In the urban dimension such conditions change completely. The past is now conceived with a linear sequence of dated sources, monumental or written. Often there is no clear conscience of the origins. Origins become legendary, extended into speculative time depths. Such mythical interpretations support theocratic political systems until today. Humans are forced to organise their lives between a fictive past of idealised legends and a future blurred by fictive idealistic projections.
--We tried to show that on the traditional rural level, politics is not an isolated fragmented aspect of a settlement, but in fact, is a territorio-functionally motivated cyclic process which includes social, cultic, aesthetic and also spatial elements. All these elements are interwoven to a highly complex unit which can not be understood in any unilinear approach of conventional Western 'disciplines', but which becomes very clear in its functional condition as a socio-territorial constitution using a very archaic 'document' archived in the framework of a cyclic cult in which a fibroconstructive demarcation set up at the foundation of the settlement by the local village founder plays the nuclear role: its continuity is guaranteed by annually replacing it in the same way to become the same form. This complex task is usually performed by a group of inhabitants forming the descendants of the founderline. Note that this complex derived from the 'village founder' line seems to be globally widespread in agrarian village cultures.
--In the urban description of the rural the view on this eminently important political structure was blocked. For various reasons. Since high local ontological values (sacred, holy, spiritual elements) were involved, the humanities described such activities as religion. But since material and primitive constructions were involved, it was described as primitive religion. In addition historically as well as prehistorically there were few sources only and in ethnology where such events were recorded, temporal depth was lacking. It was attributed to imaginary dimensions of 'primitive' societies. Further, urban description of the rural in the widest sense was not aware that such regional institutions or village cultures had a great autonomy, due to their economy which was focussed directly on what could be obtained in the woods, in the fields. Cloths were made of tree barks or animal fibres. Houses, furniture, objects, instruments and tools were made with local materials. In contrast to this, domains controlled by urban units became increasingly dependent first of local and regional markets, later more and more on national and international market systems. In other words, the absolute autonomy is an aspect which provided isolated local life with a high value compensating for the simplicity of daily life.
Thus, we have shown that we can look at these two characteristic human domains like the rural and the urban spaces separately by avoiding projections from the historically established fields. We avoid their disciplines looking on these so called primitive societies. We look on the spaces as the structural conditions of sedentary life. Evidently we gain a completely different concept in regard to urban centralised, monumentalised and historistic society on one side and rural traditional society on the other side.
Maybe the same can be said in view of the terms history and tradition. Tradition is devalued as a source of the past in the urban concept. Only dated history counts. In Asia tradition is (or was formerly) quasi equal to history. In Western society in general, history is highly valued, considered reliable, but tradition is neglected to a considerable extent. It is not difficult to imagine that a lot of important aspects of our modern life are related to such problems.