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Palaeo or Neo? Bataille, Lévi-Strauss and the Rewriting of Prehistory

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This article's polemical thrust begins with Georges Bataille's 1956 critique of Tristes Tropiques, where Lévi-Strauss omits the Palaeolithic while extolling the Neolithic advent of agriculture and sedentism. Whereas Lévi-Strauss describes his own thinking as Neolithic, he characterizes it in ways that resemble the behaviour of hunter-gatherers and nomads. I trace this contradiction to current scholarship willing to challenge the long-standing narrative bias that either ignores the Palaeolithic and/or derides it in favour of the Neolithic, now subject to refutations of its alleged advantages. Further theoretical backbone is provided by Ibn Khaldun and Bataille on the centrality of luxury. Thus, Palaeolithic cave art's social dimension as the expression of a privileged few is contrasted with the view of scholars who see it as the product of an egalitarian society indifferent to material gain. Bataille remains a key reference due to his exceptional commitment to prehistory, a relatively underexploited facet of his work.
Edinburgh University Press
Title: Palaeo or Neo? Bataille, Lévi-Strauss and the Rewriting of Prehistory
Description:
This article's polemical thrust begins with Georges Bataille's 1956 critique of Tristes Tropiques, where Lévi-Strauss omits the Palaeolithic while extolling the Neolithic advent of agriculture and sedentism.
Whereas Lévi-Strauss describes his own thinking as Neolithic, he characterizes it in ways that resemble the behaviour of hunter-gatherers and nomads.
I trace this contradiction to current scholarship willing to challenge the long-standing narrative bias that either ignores the Palaeolithic and/or derides it in favour of the Neolithic, now subject to refutations of its alleged advantages.
Further theoretical backbone is provided by Ibn Khaldun and Bataille on the centrality of luxury.
Thus, Palaeolithic cave art's social dimension as the expression of a privileged few is contrasted with the view of scholars who see it as the product of an egalitarian society indifferent to material gain.
Bataille remains a key reference due to his exceptional commitment to prehistory, a relatively underexploited facet of his work.

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