Statement of Purpose

In contrast to fashionable methodologies that dissolve the human in the fractal complexity of cultural differences, generative anthropology (GA) attempts to understand cultural phenomena in the simplest terms possible: all things human are traced back to their source in the hypothetical scene of origin in which human beings as sign-using creatures first emerged.

The originary hypothesis of GA is that human language begins as an aborted gesture of appropriation representing–and thereby renouncing as sacred–an object of potential mimetic rivalry. The strength of our mimetic intelligence makes us the only creatures for whom intraspecific violence is a greater threat to survival than the external forces of nature. Human language defers potential conflict by permitting each to possess the sign of the unpossessable object of desire—the deferral of violence through representation.

GA seeks to transcend the impasse between the humanities, imprisoned in the “always already” of our cultural systems, and the empirical social sciences, which cannot model the paradoxical generativity of these systems. The originary hypothesis provides the basis for rethinking every aspect of the human, from language to art, from religion to political organization.

Anthropoetics is dedicated to this rethinking both for its intrinsic importance and as a framework for literary and cultural analysis. The editors of Anthropoetics hope to stimulate the continuing interest in GA and to encourage productive dialogue between the humanities and the human sciences.

Persons interested in knowing more about GA are invited to consult the bibliography, read A Brief Introduction to Generative Anthropology, or subscribe to GAList, our on-line email list, which includes up-to-date information on Anthropoetics and an email copy of the weekly column, Chronicles of Love and Resentment.