Andalusia on Our Minds: Two Contrasting Places in Spain As Seen in a Vernacular Poetic Duel of the Late 19th Century

Essay Excerpt

The argument of the poetic duel we have examined is an argument of contrastive place. It is a disagreeable fact that this argument of "contrastive place" is often invidious and often constrains us to single out a part of the whole of another place to stand for the whole of that place because that part best contrasts to our own place. Thus also and insofaras human behavior is associated with place we get, by contrastive place, the localization of the human condition, in Appadurai's apt phrase.[12] That is, instead of seeing the human condition in universal perspective and finding it in various expressions in everyplace, we tend to assign, often pejoratively, certain aspects of the human condition to certain places, reserving rather more estimable aspects to other places, most often our own place.

Be that as it may, our review of this poetic duel has enabled us to contemplate a style of argument we might want to call complementary place. This is the style of argument toward which our poetic exchange moves. In the main part the argument of this duel is a celebration of local identity by means of contrastive place, but in the coda to the first exchange and in the second exchange ten years later we see a much greater tendency toward the argument of complementary place; a sense, that is, not of the localization of the human condition but of the necessary role of each place in the fulfillment of the human condition and, in the end, the impossibility of defining the human condition without taking into account the contribution of every place. This argument, which sees knowledge of the human condition as emergent, as a synthetic understanding out of the study of many places,[13] seems to me to be, very simply, anthropological style of argument par excellence. (Fernandez, 32-33)

About the Author

Dr. Fernandez is a Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the University of Chicago's Department of Anthropology. He has done ethnographic research in Africa and is presently working in northern Spain and Atlantic Fringe Europe on regionalism, on shifting lifeways (from agro-pastoralism to mining to reindustrialization) and on revitalization processes. He is interested in short-range social and cultural evolution and how, by various imaginative devices, local communities narrate their past, understand their present circumstances, and seek to foretell their future. A semantic theory of tropes has been central to the analysis of this “time-binding” of past, present and future.

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