Editor’s note: This content is archival.
February 1995, Number 19
With support from the Department of Anthropology
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne
A Publication of the Indiana University
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
- Nahua Newsletter News
- News Items
- Book Reviews
- Pampa Grande and the Mochica Culture. By Izumi Shimada.
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994. Pp. xv+328. $60.00 (cloth). ISBN 0
292-77674-8. Reviewed by Lawrence A. Kuznar.
- High Aztec. By Ernest Hogan. New York: Tor, 1992. 248 pp.
$3.99 (paper). ISBN 0-812-50866-1. Reviewed by Alan R. Sandstrom.
- Illustrations in this Issue
- Directory Updates
Welcome to the latest issue of the Nahua Newsletter, your window onto the world of
scholarship on the culture, history, and language of Nahuatl-speaking peoples. In this
issue controversy strikes as Doren Slade and Hugo Nutini react to James Dow’s review of
Slade’s book, Making the World Safe for Existence: Celebration of the Saints among the
Sierra Nahuat of Chignautla, Mexico, which appeared in NN #18 last November. The editor
has been in contact with Dow who agreed to write a response to Slade and Nutini for
inclusion in the next issue. The disagreements are over matters that will be of
interest to readers. At stake is the role of science in cultural analyses, the nature
of ethnography and ethnographic description and explanation, the role of ideology in
social life, and other important points of debate.
Also in this issue are news items, announcements, book reviews, a list of used books
offered by Quabbin Books, and a directory update. The editor urges all readers to take
a few minutes and send along any news, requests for information or cooperation, project
updates, suggestions or opinions to the address below. The newsletter is an excellent
way to inform other professionals and students about your interests and activities.
Please accept this invitation to join the international invisible college of Nahua
specialists and Mesoamericanists. If your communication is longer than a few lines,
please send it on a 3.5-inch disk saved in WordPerfect or as an ASCII/DOS text
Despite the generous contributions of NN readers and the small grant we received
from the Indiana University Office of International Programs, our finances remain
uncertain. The recent postal increase hit us hard and seriously depleted our reserves.
If you find the NN to be of use and you have not contributed recently, please consider
doing so now. The NN is a lean and mean operation. There is no administrative overhead,
and all funds received are used to underwrite printing and mailing costs. The editor
continues to search for permanent sources of income but at this point we rely totally
on the generosity of readers. Please mail checks made out to the Nahua Newsletter
Good luck to everyone, and we will see you again in the fall.
(1) The Midwest Mesoamericanists will be holding their annual meeting on March
24-25, 1995, at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. The meeting will be held in
the new Liberal Arts and Education Building on Purdue’s main campus. Festivities
include a Friday night reception and a Saturday night event held at the Fowler Mansion,
home of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.
This is an excellent meeting that covers all areas of research relating to
Mesoamerica. It is attended by many of the top professionals in the field and yet is
small enough to have an intimate feel. Don’t miss this opportunity to get to meet some
of the movers in Mesoamerican studies.
For information on the program and lodging, please contact Richard Blanton,
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, 1365 Stone Hall, Purdue University, West
Lafayette, Indiana 47907-1365. Office phone (317) 494-4681, department phone (317)
(2) Another meeting announcement:
12th International Symposium on Latin American Indian Literatures
16-18 June 1995
Excursions to Teotihuacán, Cacaxtla, Tlaxcala, and museums in Mexico City
19-23 June 1995
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Topics: Papers presented will be from the perspective of anthropology, art,
astronomy, architecture, bibliography, codices, history, ethnohistory, indigenista
literature, linguistics, literary studies, medicine, religion, rock art, etc.
Lodging: The most convenient hotels to U.N.A.M., their addresses, and phone numbers
are: (1) Royal Pedregal, Periférico Sur 4363, Colonia Jardines en la Montaña, 726-903; (2) Radisson, Colonia Parque del Pedregal, 606-4211; (3) Benidorm, Avenida Cuauhtemoc y San Luis Potosí, 584-9899; (4) California, Eje Central y Cuauhtemoc; (5) Lisboa, Avenida Cuauhtemoc, 574-7088; and (6) Real del Sur,
Avenida División del Norte esq. con Calz. Tlapan, El Reloj, 678-1133. Present
rates range from about U.S. $43.00 to U.S. $113.00 for a single room; doubles start at U.S. $46.00. Prices may not include IVA (15%) and are subject to change.
For information, contact Monica Barnes, Program Chair, 377 Rector Place, Apt. 11J,
New York, NY 10280.
(3) And another:
American Society for Ethnohistory
1995 Annual Meeting
Call for Papers/Notice of Meeting Dates
Radisson Plaza Hotel at Kalamazoo Center
2-5 November 1995
Papers, Organized Sessions, Special Events, and Speakers that treat any world area are encouraged. Abstracts of 50-100 words on appropriate submission forms and
preregistration fees of $45 (nonmembers), $35 (members), $15 (students/retired) are due by June 2, 1995.
Write for submission forms and return to ASE 1995 Meeting Chair, Dr. Donald L.
Fixico, Department of History, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5020.
Phone: (616) 387-4629, FAX: (616) 387-3999.
Limited travel funds will be available on a competitive basis for students
presenting papers. More detailed abstracts will be required. Write to the Meeting Chair
for application forms and further details.
(4) The Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. announces a
Foundation Grant Competition available for studies concerning ancient Mesoamerica.
Awards normally range between $1,000 and $5,000 ($10,000 is the maximum amount
awarded). Applications are welcome from scholars in such fields as anthropology,
archaeology, art history, history, humanities, linguistics, and social sciences.
Deadlines are September 30 and April 30.
To receive a brochure detailing policies and requisite qualifications, write to:
Sandra Noble Bardsley, FAMSI, 268 South Suncoast Boulevard, Crystal River, FL
34429-5498. Phone: (904) 795 5990 or (904) 795-7721, FAX (904) 795-1970. E-mail to “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
(5) Cristián Alvarez Martínez of the Universidad Iberoamericana wrote
to say that he read a paper at the I Foro Estudiantil de Intercambio Academico held at
the Universidad Iberoamericana in November, 1994. The title of his presentation was
“Algunas Implicaciones Sociales de la Estructura Barrial en San Esteban Tizatlan,
Tlaxcala.” If you are interested, please contact the author for a copy, at 403 E.
Bradshaw Lane, Palm Springs, CA 92262.
(6) Terry Stocker has written from South Korea:Hyundai Apartment 102-1203 Daeho-dong Haju City, South Korea
For some time, I contemplated moving to Asia in order to better understand “global
archaeology.” I had been eyeing Korea because it has a documented case for the
invention of a writing system (the Hangul alphabet was invented in 1446). And Korea is
known for its shamanism. An opportunity presented itself I couldn’t pass up. The most
rural area of Southern Korea, Chollanam-do, decided to “import” ten native speakers to
“converse” with English teachers and middle-school students. It is an anthropologists’s
dream. My wife and I have our friends (informants) discuss their lives. The animal
imagery (tigers and pigs, etc.) of the older (30 and up) people’s dreams has helped me
much better understand what I read in Sahagún. Modernization has taken animal
imagery from the younger people. The mountain of each village has a tiger spirit to
protect it. Color symbolism is alive with the old people.
This area is also an archaeological wonderland. One tid-bit: in the early 1300s, a
Chinese ship sank along the coast of Chollanam-do. It had a carrying capacity of 200
tons, and it was carrying 27 tons of coins. Over 200 complete ceramic vessels were
recovered. That boat provisioned for exploration could have gone to the New World and
back three times!
What I like best about my living situtation is walking through the old sections of
Naju and seeing architectural layouts like those I helped excavate in Tula. There are
house compounds with one large social room and sleeping areas around it for the
extended family. Of course, with the “epistemological biasing” of the Missouri Project,
the large rooms were simply called individual peasant houses. “We” were in search of
peasants (see Tula of the Toltecs). I have presented a different interpretation of
those elite architectural units in both my dissertation and “Who were the Toltecs and
What Did They Do?” presented at the 13th International Congress (Mexico City), which
will be published next year. The variation of construction within the compounds is also
astounding — there are complete stone walls right beside wattle-and-daub.
At the 3rd World Congress, I am slated to give a paper, “The Aztec 260 Day Count is
not a Calendar: It is an Augery Table.” The 260 day count did funtion in conjunction
with the solar calendar to mark certain periods of time, but its primary function was
as an augury table and this is documented in Sahagún’s The Soothsayers. This
paper is one of the scientific foundations for my book A Walk Through an Aztec Dream,
which I think will be out in 1996.
(7) Here follows a list of books available from Quabbin Books, P.O. Box 14, New
Salem, MA 01355. For more information on their books in anthropology and archaeology,
all offered in regularly issued catalogues, see the November 1994 issue of the NN.
CUTTER, CHARLES R. The Protector de Indios in Colonial New Mexico, 1659-1821. U. of
New Mexico Pr., 1986. 129 pp., 6 illus. Cond. exc. 14.00.
FOSTER, GEORGE M. Empire’s Children: The People of Tzintzuntzan. Smithsonian Inst.
of Soc. Anthro., Publ. 6, 1948. 297 pp., 16 plates. Paperbound. Cover detached,
waterstains on borders of plates. Cond. good. (o.p.) 12.00.
FRIEDLANDER, JUDITH. Being Indian in Hueyapan: A Study of Forced Identity in
Contemporary Mexico. St. Martin’s Pr., 1975. 205 pp., photos. Cond. exc. 14.00.
FROMM, ERICH & MICHAEL MACCOBY. Social Character in a Mexican Village.
Prentice-Hall, 1970. 303 pp. Cond. v.g. (o.p.) 16.00.
GREENBERG, JAMES. Santiago’s Sword: Chatino Peasant Religion and Economics. U. of
Calif. Pr., 1981. 227 pp. Cond. exc. (i.p. 30.00) 16.50.
HAWKINS, JOHN. Inverse Images: The Meaning of Culture, Ethnicity and Family in
Postcolonial Guatemala. U. of New Mexico Pr., 1984. 470 pp., 26 photos. (pb) Cond. exc.
LEWIS, OSCAR. Life in a Mexican Village: Tepoztlan Restudied. U. of llinois Pr.,
1951. 512 pp., 62 illus. Cond. good. (o.p.) 15.50.
MARTIN, CHERYL. Rural Society in Colonial Morelos. U. of New Mexico Pr., 1985. 255
pp. Cond. exc. (i.p. 27.50) 15.00.
RUBEL, ARTHUR J. et al. Susto, a Folk Illness. U. of California Pr., 1984. 186 pp.,
12 photos. Cond. exc. (i.p. 37.50) 15.50.
SHERIDAN, THOMAS E. Where the Dove Calls: The Political Ecology of a Peasant
Corporate Community in Northwestern Mexico. U. of Arizona Pr., 1988. 237 pp., 17
photos. Cond. exc. (i.p. 30.00) 16.00.
SPICER, EDWARD H. Potam: A Yaqui Village in Sonora. Amer. Anth. Assoc. Memoir 77,
1954. 220 pp., 4 plates, 11 figs. Paperbound. Cond. v.g. 11.50.
STEWARD, JULIAN H., ed. Contemporary Change in Traditional Societies. Vol. III:
Mexican and Peruvian Communities. U. of Illinois Pr., 1967. 302 pp. Cond. v.g.
TAYLOR, WILLIAM B. Landlord and Peasant in Colonial Oaxaca. Stanford U. Pr., 1872. 287
pp., 3 plates, 7 maps. Cond. exc. (i.p. 32.50) 16.00.
VELEZ-IBANEZ, CARLOS. Rituals of Marginality: Politics, Process, and Culture Change
in Central Urban Mexico, 1969-1974. U. of California Pr., 1983. 296 pp. Cond. exc.
(i.p. 45.00) 15.00.
For new readers of the NN, the editor would like to restate our policy to review a
limited number of important books on the history, cultures, and languages of Peru.
Pampa Grande and the Mochica Culture. By Izumi Shimada. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994. Pp. xv+328. $60.00 (cloth). ISBN 0 292-77674-8.
Moche culture has fascinated and titillated anthropologists and others for a century
with its massive monumental architecture, occasionally sumptuous burials and sexually
explicit pottery. Izumi Shimada’s Pampa Grande and the Mochica Culture is a landmark
volume on Moche culture that represents the culmination of 20 years of research by the
author. The book is a must-read for any Andeanist, and it provides valuable data and
theoretical arguments for anyone interested in high civilization research, as in
There are two components to the book — an authoritative evaluation of Moche
culture, and a description of Shimada’s excavations at the late Moche site of Pampa
Grande. The book is notable for several reasons. Shimada’s excavations at Pampa Grande
are a major archaeological achievement in and of themselves. Moche is one of the more
renowned and popular aspects of Peruvian prehistory, and Shimada provides an invaluable
analysis of this enigmatic culture. Shimada’s methods and careful evaluation of
archaeological data represent the best of Peruvian high civilization research. Finally,
Shimada brings contemporary theories of state formation and collapse to bear on the
problem of the Moche, and so his work serves as a model for anthropologists concerned
with these phenomena.
Moche culture occurred along the north coast of Peru between roughly A.D. 1 to A.D.
700. Moche sites contain monumental architecture, a distinctive art style primarily
exhibited on pots, possibly stratified social organization, organized craft production,
and predatory expansion. This phenomenon experiences a nascence, a florescence, and a
collapse, and may provide valuable comparative data to the Mesoamerican researcher.
The book begins with a detailed history of research on the Moche. The first chapter
provides the reader with knowledge of what data exist, under what conditions they were
gathered, and what research yet needs to be done in order to answer our questions about
the Moche. This is followed by a description of the geographical and environmental
setting of Moche on the North Coast of Peru, indispensable information for Shimada’s
later constructions of the Moche past and interpretations of Moche society. The next
three chapters provide an analysis of the origin and development of Moche culture.
Shimada is careful to present all alternative theories of Moche development, and fairly
provides evaluations of competing theories. In nearly all cases, Shimada finds that
despite a century of research, we still lack the data necessary to evaluate fully
competing theories of Moche society. All the same, he provides his own cautious
evaluations, and properly notes what future research needs to be done to resolve the
various controversies surrounding Moche culture.
The status of Moche as a state is one example of Shimada’s cautious evaluation of
competing theories. Some researchers have argued that Moche at its florescence was a
state. Others have argued that Moche consisted of competing chiefdoms whose elite
shared religious icons. Shimada evaluates these competing hypotheses by looking both at
the extant data and the methods of interpreting the data. He notes that samples are
terribly biased in favor of grave goods looted or excavated from burials in monuments,
the archaeological dating of Moche sites is imprecise, and assumptions about the
uniformity of Moche art styles are overstated. This makes any evaluation of hypotheses
difficult. He also notes that much of the analysis of the Moche phenomenon is based on
the untested assumption that iconography equals polity.
Moche sites are largely identified by shared icons and art styles found for the most
part on pottery. Shimada very correctly points out that the connection between art and
politics, while sensible, is an untested assumption. He should be praised for his
honest and insightful cautions about the widespread use of this assumption, an
assumption that underlies much of high civilization research anywhere in the world.
Although self-critical, Shimada does not allow these problems to cripple his research,
and he proceeds with a careful analysis and so provides us with the best possible
interpretations of Moche culture to date.
One of Shimada’s important theoretical contributions is his analysis of Moche
expansion along the coast of Peru as a form of horizontality. Horizontality is an
extension of the theoretical notion of verticality, important to many analyses of
Andean society. Verticality is a phenomenon whereby Andean polities extend their
control over the production of environmental zones that correspond to varied altitudes
in the Andes. Shimada argues that the Moche sought the same type of control over
production along the Peruvian coast. This is an intriguing idea that could explain the
expansion of the Moche phenomenon along the coast, and it is an idea that is
The last half of the book details the excavations of the major late Moche site of
Pampa Grande. This site is notable for both being a large Moche site that exhibits
urban and state-like features (large monumental architecture, internal differentiation,
craft production, administrative architecture), and for exhibiting the collapse of the
Moche phenomenon. Shimada considers all forms of data, architecture, settlement
patterns, artifact analysis, faunal analysis, floral analysis, and iconography in his
interpretation of the significance of Pampa Grande in Moche culture. He reviews
different interpretations of Pampa Grande, and provides his own interpretation that
Pampa Grande was certainly an urban center and possibly a city-state that emerged in
response primarily to climatic stress. He also explains the sudden collapse of Moche as
the result of a revolt against the burdensome bureaucracy that emerged to organize
production during times of stress, but was no longer needed once the agricultural
crisis was solved (p. 261).
Pampa Grande provides very well preserved remains that exhibit craft production in
cotton textiles, chicha beer, and pottery. Pampa Grande also provides clear evidence of
a sudden, violent collapse in the burning of elite structures while non-elite
structures appear unmolested. Obviously, these data could be important for comparative
purposes for Mesoamerican researchers considering similar collapses.
Shimada’s interpretations of the archaeological data from Pampa Grande share the
same appropriate cautions of his interpretations of earlier Moche archaeology. His
research is also notable for the careful use of ethnohistorical documentation on Andean
social forms and his use of ethnoarchaeological research on modern pottery making,
chicha production, and cotton processing in northern Peru. The ethnographic record of
the Andes provides a wealth of information on Andean technologies that can aid
archaeological interpretations, and Shimada incorporates this information in his
research to enrich his archaeological interpretations.
In conclusion, Izumi Shimada’s Pampa Grande and Mochica Culture will certainly
become a standard source in Peruvian archaeology. He masterfully reviews and
synthesizes previous research, provides a wealth of new data on Pampa Grande, and
offers contemporary interpretations of the rise and fall of Moche culture. The book is
clearly written, well organized, and has abundant line drawings and maps that
illustrate the archaeological patterns and rich artistic tradition of the Moche. This
is essential reading for any Andean archaeologist, and it provides obvious parallels to
the rise and fall of archaeological cultures in Mesoamerica and elsewhere. Also, his
careful regard for the strengths and weaknesses of the archaeological record, and his
judicious use of ethnohistorical and ethnoarchaeological data should serve as a model
for archaeological interpretation.
This science fiction novel takes place in the year 2045, one hundred years following
the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and sometime after a major world
conflagration called Armageddon. The world is a very different place in 2045. The
United States has become a third-world power, Africa is economically developed, and the
current world center of commerce and culture is Mexico. The name of the capital city
has been changed to Tenochtitlan, D.F. and it has been largely rebuilt in a neo-Aztec
architectural style. In the Zocalo looms an enormous reconstruction of the main pyramid
at Tenochtitlan that serves as a focal point for the revival of Aztec culture and
The protagonist of the story is a poet and songwriter named Xólotl Zapata who
is famous for writing a hit song called “Mundo Nenatzin” and a popular comic book
called “Teoguerrillas.” Xólotl lives in a world in which cultural organizations
vie with one another for domination. The Neliyacme are one such violent gang whose
members dress in the garb of ancient Aztecs and who want to purge Mexican society of
all foreign influences. They proudly display scars on their chests to show that they
have made the trip to Guadalajara where their hearts were removed and replaced with
artificial ones. The Neliyacme compete with other less extreme Aztec nativist groups
and do battle with various organizations that combine Aztec elements with Japanese or
Korean cultural features, for example. There are also rival groups that advocate a
return to Spanish Catholicism. The language of the day is Españahuatl, the
greatest hit song is “Huitzilopochtli, Eat My Heart,” and it is the rage in Mexico to
have blond-haired, gringa maids. Everybody remarks about the maids’ cute accents as
they struggle to pronounce the Españahuatl words.
Xólotl Zapata is marked for death by the Neliyacme who believe that
“Teoguerrillas” is a disguised criticism of their attempt to reestablish Aztec
urcivilzation. Xólotl is also involved in a mysterious group called the STVN
(Surrealist Terrorist Voodoo Network) that was founded to critique the status quo but
whose members now take the rabble-rousing work of the organization too seriously. This
organization becomes involved with the bizarre research of a South African scientist
named Ingrid Moeketsi who has developed a virus that causes people to become religious
true believers. The plot twists and turns, bouncing between the horrors of a police
state with high-tech weaponry and eavesdropping equipment and the feverish
hallucinations that the protagonist endures as he is captured first by one enemy then
another. Throughout the text Españahuatl words are used indiscriminately,
lending an air of unreality to the entire story. The book is an example of what might
be called Latin American sci-fi magico-realism.
Those who enjoy science fiction will probably find pleasure in this book,
particularly if they have an interest in the Nahuatl language and Aztec culture. I
found the book entertaining and clever in the complexities of its plot. While it is not
a profound book, it deals with a topic of interest for all Mesoamericanists — the
process of syncretism. How and why do cultures blend to form something new? Throughout
the tale the mysterious word TICMOTRASPASARHUILILIS appears spraypainted on walls
throughout Tenochtitlan, D.F. The graffito is an example of the blending of two
languages, and like the resolution of the involuted plot, its meaning is not revealed
to the reader until the very end.
Many thanks to John Carlson for donating a copy of High Aztec to the NN for
Following are two responses to James Dow’s review of Doren Slade’s recent book.
Professor Dow will respond to these critical rebuttals in the next NN. The editor
encourages debate on issues of general interest to readers but reserves the right to
eliminate comments of a personal nature that do not serve to forward scholarly
James Dow’s review in November’s Nahua Newsletter of my recent book, Making the
World Safe for Existence: Celebration of the Saints among the Sierra Nahuat of
Chignautla, Mexico (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992) mystified me.
Judging from the tone and content of Dow’s review, I should be banished from the realm
of anthropology forever. Dow’s statements about my book read more like the craft of
spin doctors than one anthropologist reviewing the work of another. My 24 years of
ongoing fieldwork in this community clearly stated in the preface of my book is
replaced by Dow with: “After twenty years of experience as a psychoanalyst, the author
went over her tapes of her early field interviews…” (p. 10). From the beginning, Dow
seems worried that his armor of objectivity will be revealed to be the illusion it is.
Standing within the fort of scientific morality he brandishes terms like “theorizing
correctly,” “objectivity,” “scientific knowledge,” “empirical,” “replicable” (see p.
12), as if to ward off the menace of “non-science” he sees in my work. Thus, from
outside the gates barred against all who dare to interpret as a means of explanation,
lest they destroy the scientific bases of knowledge, I respond to Dow’s review, fully
aware that Dow would relegate my book to the level of story telling (see Dow’s note in
Dec. 1994 Anthropology Newsletter v. 35, #12). If Dow fears the subjectivist hordes
knocking at the gate, and wishes to mount a counterattack to preserve all that he holds
as “truth,” then he should say so. That is, if Dow sees the postmodern bogeyman under
the bed, then he should engage it, and I would join him, but he cannot kill
postmodernism by making me his straw man.
In his review, Dow does not invite discussion of ideas in a tailored and scholarly
fashion that should follow from the significant differences in our conceptual
perspectives regarding the nature of cargo systems. Nor does Dow address my systematic
explanations as to the nature of the system I observed in Chignautla. What does Dow
think of my statement clearly stated on p. 1 of my book: “…I have taken a stance that
assumes a close functional relationship between the structuring of individual
experience and the patterning of social conduct. This approach rests on the premise
that the ideological system of a people that structures social institutions and the
core assumptions that structure the experience of the individual are inseparable
epistemologically….” Instead, Dow chastises me with barely concealed hostility in his
screed regarding my professional status as both an anthropologist and a psychoanalyst.
This tactic is transparent. To quote D.H. Fischer (Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a
Logic of Historical Thought. New York: Harper, 1970): “The fallacy of argument ad
hominem occurs in many different forms, all of which serve to shift attention from the
argument to the arguer. Among its more common varieties are, first, the abusive ad
hominem, which directly denounces an opponent… A second variety of argument ad
hominem is circumstantial. It consists in a suggestion that an opponent’s argument is
merely a reflection of his interest… Third, there are associative ad hominem
arguments, which attempt to undercut an opponent by reference to the company he [sic]
keeps…” (pp. 290-91).
Dow misrepresents my book from the very first paragraph. He presents my methodology
as that of pure induction/qua inference. Like most anthropologists of the 20th century,
I move back and forth between induction and deduction. My Introduction includes a
complex schema outlining the relationship between ideology and consciously held
beliefs. I quote Chignautecos throughout the book so that their beliefs about their
existence are made obvious to the reader. Inexplicably, Dow concludes: “She observes
the ‘attitudes’ of cargo holders. From these she induces the cultural meaning of the
rituals” (p. 10). Dow insistently ascribes my understanding to “…intellectual
imagination and not any objective fact” (p. 11). He continues this line of reasoning by
stating that I felt compelled to “…wax eloquently about the deeper meaning of the
ritual symbolism that she has teased out of the ‘unconscious’ aspects of the
participants ‘experience,’ which she feels she can comprehend with her methodology.” On
p. 12, Dow states that “The author concludes that successful ritual sponsors avoid
vanity, arrogance, deviousness and greed (p. 56).” This is difficult to reconcile with
my actual text on p. 56: “Chignautecos believe that successful ritual sponsors avoid
vanity, arrogance, deviousness and greed, for at no time is anyone exempt from these
injunctions. Obeying the men of the church becomes obeying the will of the saints, even
though all individuals do not equally comply with such dictates.” Unlike Dow, I
differentiate my conclusions from those made by Chignautecos. I am also perplexed by
Dow’s point on p. 12: “It seems odd that one trained in psychoanalysis would ignore the
possible denial of such emotions actually existing at the unconscious level.”
Apparently, Dow needs neither training in psychoanalysis nor a trip to Chignautla to be
convinced that vanity, arrogance, deviousness and greed lurk in the Chignauteco
unconscious. Nevertheless, nowhere in my book do I suggest that I have access to the
unconscious of the ethnographic “Other.” This is Dow’s persistent error in his reading
of my book, an error so profound that it invalidates his entire criticism. Had he taken
the trouble to pay attention to what I actually wrote, he might have been more able to
comprehend my methodology.
Furthermore, Dow dispenses with ideas that dispute previously held ethnographic
“truths.” He calls me to task for challenging the sacred cow of “prestige”: “The author
goes so far as to say that the desire for prestige is not a motivating factor in
sponsoring cargos” (p. 12). Dow correctly reports that authority, respect, sacrifice
and the value of sponsorships are interrelated aspects of this cargo system but
apparently he believes these characteristics to be the same thing (p. 12): “…cargo
service generates respect (respeto), but [Slade] insists that this is quite different
than prestige (p. 82).” My book is dedicated to understanding these complex issues and
it would have been interesting if Dow cared to discuss divergent interpretations of
such matters. Instead, he defends the idea of prestige at the cost of logic, confusing
human intention with the effect of human activity. Interpreting motivation through the
lens of consequences constitutes intellectual sleight of hand. Dow makes a concerted
effort to demonstrate that I have complete disregard for “real data” essential in the
conduct of science. Dow states that I am “…less interested in the real consequences,
such as economic ones, of the rituals” (p. 9). Since when are ritualistic, social and
ideational consequences “less real” than economic ones? Dow also writes: “For example,
the reader can also see that the Chignautla cargo system is a means for legitimizing
wealth differences in the community in spite of the author’s contention that it is a
means of `sacralizing interdependence.'” (p. 11). Both may be true, but only in Dow’s
dichotomized universe of either/or is it true that the legitimation of differences of
wealth makes the concomitant sacralization of interdependence unlikely or
In an effort to create an impression upon the reader that my argument has no logical
stability, Dow juxtaposes incomplete ethnographic descriptions that bear no relation to
each other. This is clear in the last paragraph of the review on p. 10. Unrelated
floating facts are woven together so that the coherence of my presentation of relevant
ethnographic material, carefully positioned in relation to my theory, appears
nonexistent. Dow then feels free to call into question the veracity of the ethnographic
data. For example, p. 1 of my preface states the ethnographic present as 1972. Why then
does Dow write on the bottom of p. 10: “Changes are were [sic] taking place in the town
during the ethnographic present, which we can assume was during the primary period of
field work in 1970.” More significantly, Dow writes: “…one wonders how the author
knows that the following occurred during the Mexican Revolution” (p. 10). These data
were gathered from informants who lived through the Revolution and created the basis
for short-range, local, historical reconstruction as part of my chapter on the
contextual framework for Chignautla’s cult of the saints. Nowhere in my book do I
present myself as an ethnohistorian. And further, Dow represents my discussion of
economics and kinship as “minor descriptions” (p. 10) when, in fact, economics are
substantially treated in a 30-page chapter, and kinship and compadrazgo are discussed
and described in great detail in a 29-page chapter devoted especially to these
Throughout the review, Dow pointedly ignores significant elements of my structural
analysis by presenting only the data that would lead the reader toward agreement with
his conclusions (see paragraphs 3, 5, 6, p. 10). On the one hand, he uses carefully
selected words to create the impression that I have been deceptive and, on the other,
appears to blame me for not having written the book that he would have me write,
preparing the reader to believe the distortions he creates. Compare this statement
taken from my conclusion: “These ideological elements are the major sacralizing
vehicles that sustain unconsciously held assumptions about the natural order of things
and what may be expected to follow from venerative acts” (p. 203) with Dow’s rendition
“…unconsciously held assumptions follow from venerative acts…” (p. 11). Dow cites
contradictions as a defect in my work. I hope they are not as interesting as those in
his review. He argues on p. 11 that the position of the mayordomos in the system is
inexplicably contradictory. This is inaccurate. I clearly state: “Several cargos have
overlapping duties, which gives them a combined role in the system’s operation” (p.
59). Dow also writes, “When the author infers meaning from the behavior, she makes it
clear that this is an analytical effort…” (p. 11). In the next paragraph he writes:
“Unfortunately, the ethnographic facts emerge in a stream of consciousness rather than
in a highly organized fashion.” And finally, Dow’s choice of phrases such as
“philosophical ramblings” (p. 12) and “somewhat groundless system of abstract
terminology” (p. 11) to name a few, use condescension as a vehicle of invalidation.
I will end with these thoughts. Dow’s intention to discredit my book could possibly
succeed if my book were not read. He strives to be the gatekeeper of scientific rigor,
but is instead reminiscent of the SS officer, choosing who should pass to the left and
who should pass to the right. In the final analysis, my book is of value to me because
it emerged from my experience. And this is true for everyone. But, if my efforts also
contribute to anyone else’s struggle to comprehend the complexity of human nature then
I have made a contribution. We should not be so easily lead into believing in
intellectual altruism; that is, science purely for the sake of science. Neither should
we fall prey to equating the study of subjectivity with indifference to science, nor
should we equate objectivity with scientific perfection. In doing so, we do a
disservice to the vitality of anthropology.
James Dow’s review of Doren Slade’s book Making the World Safe for Existence in the
November issue of the Nahua Newsletter is inadequate and biased and demands a firm
response. Dow’s review caused me to reflect on what constitutes an adequate,
intellectually informative, and fair assessment of a scholar’s work. One basic problem
with Dow’s review is that he does not regard Slade as a peer because she is now a
practicing psychoanalyst. In disregard of Slade’s many years of field experience, Dow
refuses to grant that Slade is a trained anthropologist, imputes to Slade things she
does not say, grossly misinterprets statements actually made in the book and attacks
Slade as if she were a postmodernist, thereby implicitly crediting himself with
combatting the virus that has recently infested anthropology. That Slade is not a
postmodernist is clear from reading the book. However, even if she were, Dow is not the
man to point out the fallacies and ultimate futility of postmodernism. His implied
conception of science is outmoded, basically that of a 19th-century rank positivist.
Since I have been informed that Slade will answer Dow’s imputations herself, I shall
dispense, therefore, with the details of Dow’s charges and address two points — Dow’s
implied view of science, and what a scholarly review requires.
Despite his good intentions in proclaiming the benefits of the scientific method and
upholding scientific anthropology against encroaching nonscientific, humanistic
elements, Dow remains wedded to a bygone conception of science — like Boas, a prisoner
of empirical facts. Boas’ constraining empiricism is understandable given the fact
that, as a scholar trained in the physical sciences, he imposed such strict
verification requirements upon social facts that it became impossible for him to do
much more than merely describe them (Nutini 1970:1166). But that this epistemological
stance should still be guiding scientific anthropology nearing the end of the century,
as exhibited by Dow, is inexcusable. Nagel (1961:447-546) pointed out more than three
decades ago that the basic paradigm of science has changed since the onset of the 20th
century. Granting the theoretical and methodological unity of science, but also very
much aware that an enormous distance separates physics and anthropology regarding
fundamental attributes (replication, operationalization, verification, and
explanation), one supposes that most anthropologists (certainly those who regard
anthropology as a science) would have transcended the old paradigm. Hempel (1962) and
Nagel (1961) have rightly criticized the social sciences (anthropology included) for
not adopting a strategy that is more consonant with the canons that have guided the
conduct of physical science in the 20th century. In their view, this neglect has been
largely responsible for the lack of explanatory dimensions exhibited by the social
Briefly, what are the main postulates of contemporary science that bear on the
practice of anthropology? (1) Science is concerned exclusively with process (method)
and not with substance. (2) Science assumes that there is “primitive” and “derivative”
knowledge and, in order to accommodate the inductive and deductive elements always
involved in a conceptual system, it is the duty of the scientist to establish an order
of priorities between an axiomatic set and its implications. (3) Science involves the
“bifurcation of nature” into the “postulated-but-not-sensed” and the “immediately
sensed,” or between formal constructs and empirical reality; it should be the main
concern of the scientist to develop the transformation rules that mediate between the
analytical properties of formal constructs and the empirical reality of facts.
Whatever else it may be, anthropology is primarily a science. But with the
constraining differences between the physical and social sciences, how are these
postulates to be implemented in anthropology? First, once facts have been gathered and
observed as objectively as possible and without any theoretical bias and described in
relation to themselves and their context, the inductive part of the anthropological
process takes a back seat to the deductive mechanism that will explain the ensemble
under consideration. In other words, remaining at the level of social facts will
provide only partial generalizations not amenable to replication. The lesson of this
injunction is that ethnographic facts are the necessary but not the sufficient
conditions for generating explanations.
Second, the notion of different levels of knowledge (metalanguages) is of
fundamental importance in the conduct of science; without it, it is operationally
impossible to bridge the gap between facts and theory. The difference between primitive
social facts (the language level) and derivative generalizations (the metalanguage)
forces the anthropologist to pinpoint the junctures between inductive and deductive
elements that generate explanations. Facts never speak for themselves; they speak only
through the constructs they engender (Nutini 1971).
Third, the bifurcation of nature, as specified above, has never been part of the
tradition of the social sciences, and Nagel (1961:504-509) rightly points out that this
is the main reason why social science explanations have been unable to go beyond
statistical generalizations. He charges anthropologists and sociologists with an
unwarranted adherence to 19th-century positivistic principles in the correlation of
social facts and, more significantly, with failure to apply the appropriate logical and
epistemological strategies in order to arrive at explanations that transcend the
statistical mode of generalization. Perhaps in anthropology we cannot achieve the
formulation of deductive-nomological explanations, but thinking in terms of the
bifurcation of nature rather than adhering to the notion that theories emerge at the
empirical level, is certainly more fruitful in the search for explanations and the
formulation of those elusive “social laws” of Radcliffe-Brown. Rank empiricism will at
best result in detailed description, but it will never advance anthropology to a mature
stage of conceptualization (Nutini 1968).
Dow’s characterization of Slade’s book is evidence of how unaware rank empiricists
are about the nature and intent of science. With a defender of scientific anthropology
like Dow, who needs the attacks of fuzzy, solipsistic postmodernists to send the
science of man on its way to oblivion? Dow’s review, so full of descriptive and
analytical non sequiturs, reminds me of essays written by naive undergraduates who have
discovered the great promise of science. When it comes to scientific inference (from
empirical facts to analytical statements), Dow does not realize that castigating Slade
for inferring the propitiatory and sacred-contractual functions of the
mayordomía system from the observed behavior of Chignautecos is the same as
when, say, Cancian infers the redistributive and prestige functions of the cargo system
from the behavior of Zinacantecos. Worse, Dow is unaware that this is a standard
procedure of modern science.
I agree with Dow that the starting point of good science is a solid empirical base.
He fails to realize, however, that theories and explanations do not emerge at the level
of the object language but in the metalanguage (Nutini 1970). This may be why he
characterizes Slade’s work as philosophical symbolism. Slade’s analysis of the cargo
system and her conception of Chignauteco religion, however symbolically misguided Dow
has chosen to characterize them, are more useful constructs toward understanding, and
to some extent explaining, Mesoamerican Indian-Mestizo religious behavior and action
than the flat and narrow empiricism that Dow implies. Constrained by what he regards as
the only possible scientific inference out of perceived facts, Dow does not allow for
the possibility that there is no contradiction between the propitiatory and
sacred-contractual and the redistributive and prestige functions of the cargo system.
This is a mistake that leaves unexplained a significant chunk of religious behavior,
and thereby detracts from appreciating one of the most diagnostic elements in the
transformation from Indian to Mestizo culture and society. My many years of work in the
Tlaxcala-Pueblan Valley, the Sierra de Puebla, and the Córdoba-Orizaba area
convinces me that as individuals and communities move toward integration into the
national culture, one of the most diagnostic Indexes of change is the decrease in
propitiatory elements and the increase in prestige elements associated with the cargo
system. This is concomitantly reflected in the compadrazgo and kinship systems. Such
examples illustrate the analytical poverty of rank empiricism.
Dow’s mischief also warrants some brief remarks on what constitutes a scholarly
review. The following guidelines have served me well in reviewing more than 40
publications in national and international journals:
(1) Above all, book reviews should not be the medium through which intellectual
disagreement is expressed and (usually not) resolved. Most anthropology journals and
newsletters have forums, like the Nahua Newsletter, that allow ample opportunity for
discussion and heated debate. To further one’s own interests and viewpoints in book
reviews, at the expense of accurately reporting the authors’ intentions, is unfair not
only to authors but to potential readers who are dissuaded from a personal examination
that might have benefitted them.
(2) A book review should never be used to further one’s own intellectual agenda,
particularly when one is totally opposed to the theoretical or methodological position
of the author. I, for example, would not accept to review a postmodern book because I
know that I could hardly be fair to the author. Striving for balance and impartiality
is the essence of book reviewing.
(3) It is easy and a pleasure to write a review about a book one likes, but when one
must be critical one must be especially careful to do so honestly, neither motivated by
self-serving reasons, nor by what one thinks the book should have included or how it
should have been written. The best way that I have found to solve this dilemma is to
explicitly state my position, so that the reader may judge the content and nature of
the book more impartially. In most journals this guideline is not easy to implement,
given the limitations of space. Nonetheless, a reviewer should find a way to convey his
biases or proclivities so that they may not detract from giving a fair account of the
These guidelines are often difficult to implement, given the intense competition
that characterizes academic life, but we can curb our more aggressive inclinations. A
little consideration, courtesy, and kindness -even generosity — in writing book
reviews is fairer to all concerned and better for the profession.
Finally, I confess that what ultimately prompted me to comment on his review of
Slade’s book is Dow’s niggardliness. Without an ounce of decency and in the name of a
high-minded defense of science, Dow assails the work of a fellow scholar. As the
recipient of one of the nastiest and least fair reviews (Gudeman 1981) that I have read
in my 35-year career as an anthropologist, I felt compelled to respond to Dow’s callous
treatment of Slade, just as Barry L. Isaac (1882) did for me.
Gudeman, Stephen. 1981. Review of Ritual Kinship: The Structure and Historical
Development of the Compadrazgo System in Rural Tlaxcala by Hugo G. Nutini and Betty
Bell. Man N.S. 16:715. Hempel, Carl G. 1962. Fundamentals in Concept Formation in
Empirical Science. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. Barry L. Isaac. 1982. “The
Mesoamerican Context of Ritual Kinship.” Man N.S. 17:555-57.
Nagel, Ernest. 1961. The Structure of Science. New York, Harcourt Brace. Nutini,
Hugo G. 1968. “On the Concepts of Epistemological Order and Coordinative Definitions.”
In Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 124(1):1-21. __________. 1970.
“Lévi-Strauss’ Conception of Science.” In Echanges et Communications:
Mélanges Offerts a Claude Lévi-Strauss a l’Occasion de son 60eme
Anniversaire. Jean Pouillon and Pierre Maranda, eds. The Hague: Mouton. __________.
1971. “Science and Ideology.” In Bijdragen Tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde
The illustrations appearing throughout this issue were taken from Memory, Myth, and
Time in Mexico: From the Aztecs to Independence. By Enrique Florescano. Translated by
Albert G. Bork with the assistance of Kathryn R. Bork. Austin: Univ. of Texas Press,
1994. Pp. ix+282. ISBN 0 292-72485-3.