2012 | 2(3) | 113-139
Article title

Symbole w historii a historia symboli. O antropologicznej interpretacji faktów historycznych

Title variants
Symbols in history or the history of a symbol. The anthropological interpretation of historical facts
Languages of publication
This article is devoted to the anthropological and historical understanding of the symbol. the author considers that both anthropology and history find themselves in a similar situation as regards research. for the anthropologist ‘strangeness’ and ‘difference’ in their cultural senses, are dependent on their non-European exoticism. for the historian and they are dependent on their chronological distance and bygone cultural type. the interpretation of symbols is carried out by two methods. the first one of which is based on the universal character of thinking symbolically. the second treats the symbol as a cultural and historical artefact. on the basis of the theory of symbols in philosophy (Hegel, E. Husserl, L. Blaustein) and in anthropology (C. Geertz, V. turner, D. Sperber) the author affirms that symbols in non-European or historic cultures had a pragmatic meaning. they were not signs of pure thought, but aspects of everyday activity. they reveal themselves to be examples of tribal culture, transmitted to folklore and archaic Greek texts. A discussion on symbolism as historical fact is expounded in this article, which is based on the findings of R. Darnton. His book “The Great Cat Massacre and other Episodes in French Cultural History” is an example of structural analysis. its interpretation is a reconstruction of cultural classification carried out by craftsmen-printers in Paris in the 18th century. Darnton demonstrates as cultural texts: the paroemiology, street theatre, carnival, local ritual, and label the fact of the mass killing of cats characterizes. Not all the symbolic elements that lay behind their behaviour were understood by the actors who participated in these events. the author of the article gives examples of the evolution of semiotic symbols. signs changed their function: from their application for magical purposes, to symbolizing important ideas. the historian, and equally the anthropologist, must recognize and distinguish between these specificities. to the participants in these events in bygone times their cultural significance lay above all in their signs. to historians and anthropologist they are symbols, as the essence of their proposed exegesis and interpretation proves.
Physical description
  • Uniwersytet Gdański, Instytut Archeologii i Etnologii, ul. Bielańska 5, 80-851 Gdańsk, Poland
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
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