Metaphor, myth and symbol in the grain of time

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This chapter begins by analyzing metaphoric and spatialized conceptualizations of time in theories of human social evolution, from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century onwards. The situatedness in European imperial conquest of the concept of social progress, as well as the denial of coevalness to non-Western peoples, is emphasized. The projection of this conceptual “phylocultural complex” onto early human evolution is described, as well as the reaction against it from the early twentieth century onwards. The roots of deterministic narratives of “agriculture as destiny” in nineteenth century anthropology are explored, and the contemporary counter-narrative of the “return of coevalness” is described in relation to co-evolutionary theories of hominin evolution, the social systems of historic human societies, and the impact of colonization on indigenous non-Western societies. The chapter concludes by summarizing the evidence for a “globalization of time” in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, set in train by the European conquest of the Americas, and ushering in the Anthropocene epoch.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Human Symbolic Evolution
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2024

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