Leach—Animal Categories and Verbal Abuse

Animal Categories and Verbal Abuse

by Edmund Leach

[Leach, Edmund. 2000. “Animal Categories and Verbal Abuse.” In The Essential Edmund Leach Volume 1: Anthropology and Society, 322–43. Yale University Press.]

Points

  1. As humans, we take the natural world (a continuum) and break it into pieces by naming things.
  2. We become trained to only see the named things, thus creating definitive separations between things.
  3. The areas between named things trouble these distinctions, so they become taboo.

Leach 1

Leach 2

  • One way we do this is through distance from oureselves (ego)
    • Self….Sister….Cousin….Neighbor….Stranger
    • Self….House….Farm……..Field………Far (remote)
    • Self….Pet……Livestock…Game……..Wild Animal
  • seen down the list metaphorically cousin=farm=livestock
    • people rated by sexual availability—animals by edibility
    • cousins can have sex, but cannot marry—only Livestock that have been rendered non-sexual can be eaten
    • Sisters=no sex: pets=no eating
    • Neighbors=sexually available: Game Animals=totally edible
    • Leach 5

Leach 3

  • Not just an English phenomenon (see below)

Leach 4

  • “The problem then is this. The English treat certain animals as taboo – sacred. This sacredness is manifested in various ways, partly behavioural, as when we are forbidden to eat flesh of the animal concerned, partly linguistic, as when a phonemic pattern penumbral to that of the animal category itself is found to be a focus of obscenity, profanity, etc. Can we get any insight into why certain creatures should be created this way?” (327).
  • “The thesis is that we make binary distinctions and then mediate the distinction by creating an ambiguous (and taboo-loaded) intermediate cat­egory” (334).
    • Leach 6

Ends with a shout-out/critique of Lévi-Strauss:

  • “Those who wish to take my argument seriously might well consider its rele­vance to C. Lévi-Strauss’s most remarkable book La Penée Sauvage (1962). Though fascinated by that work I have also felt that some dimension to the argu­ment is missing. We need to consider not merely that things in the world can be classified as sacred and not sacred, but also as more sacred and less sacred. So also in social classification it is not sufficient to have a discrimination me/it, we/they; we also need a graduated scale close/far, more-like-me/less-like-me. If this essay is found to have a permanent value it will be because it represents an expansion of Levi-Strauss’s thesis in the direction I have indicated” (342).
    • *drops the mic

Annotation Summary for: Leach – Animal Categories and Verbal Abuse

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Animal Categories and Verbal Abuse (1964) The central theme of my essay is the classical anthropological topic of ‘taboo!”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “When psychologists debate about the mechanism of ‘forgcuing’ they often introduce che concept of ‘interference’, che idea that there is a tendency to repress concepts chat have some kind of semantic overlap. 1 The thesis which l presenc depends upon a converse hypothesis, namel)’• u1ar we can only arrive ar semantically cliscincc verbal concepcs if we repress rhe boundary preceprs chac lie berween chem.”

Page 1, Stamp (Star (Frame, Red))

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “For the anthropologist, language is”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “a part of culmre, noc a ching in itself.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Language and taboo”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Instead of discussing rhings char arc said and done, I want to talk about things chac are not said and done. My theme is rhat of taboo, expression which is inhibited.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Linguistic taboos and behavioural taboos are not only sanctioned in the sameway, they are very much muddled up: sex behaviour and sex words, for example.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The pun seems funny or shocking because it challenges a taboo which ordinarily forbids us to recognise chat the sound pattern is ambiguous.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Queen is the consort of King or even a female sovereign in her own right; quean which formerly meant a prosti­ tute now usually denotes a homosexual male.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” Although chese two words pretend co be different, indeed oppo­sites, they really denote the same idea. A queen is a female of abnormal status in a positive virtuous sense; a qucan is a person of depraved characcer or uncertain sex, a female of abnormal stams in a negative sinful sense. ”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In this case, then, the taboo which allows us to separate the two ambiguous concepts, so that we can”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “talk of queens without thinking of queans, and vice versa, is simultaneously both linguistic and social.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Taboo is simulcaneouslyboth behavioural and linguistic, both social and psychological. As an anthropol­ogist, I am particularly concerned with the social aspeccs of taboo.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Animal categories and verbal obscenities”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I shall be discussingthe connection between animal categories and verbal obscenicies. Plainly it is much easier to calk about the animals than about the obscenities! The lauer will moscly be just off stage. ”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I can observe that when verbal taboos are broken the resuk is a specific social phenomenon which affeccs both the actor and his hearers in a specific describable way.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Broadly speaking, the language of obscenity falls imo chree cace­ gories: (1) dircy words – usuaJly referring co sex and excretion, (2) blasphemy and profanity, and (3) animal abuse – in which a human heing is equated with an animal of another species.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Psychologists have adequate and per­ suasive explanations of why the cencral focus or the crudest obscenity should ordinarily lie in sex and excretion. Any theory about the sacredness of supernamral beings is likely to imply a concept of sacrilege which in turn explains the emotions aroused by profanity and blasphemy. But animal abuse seems much less easily accounted for.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “for an anchropologisc, animal abuse is part of a wide field of srudy which includes animal sacrifice and totemism.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Relation of edibility and social valuation of animals”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “One hypothesis which underlies the rest of this paper is that animal abuse is in some way linked with what Radcliffe-Brown called the ritual value of the animal category concerned.”

Page 4, Underline (Red): Content: “Radcliffe-Brown”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “concerned. I furcher assume that this ritual value is linked in some as yec underermined way with taboos and rules concerning the kilJing and eating of chese and ocher animals.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I shall use Lhe concept of food taboo in a more general sense, so that it covers all classes of food prohibition, explicit and implicit, conscious and unconscious.”

Page 5, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “food taboo”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Cultural and linguiscic determination of food values”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The physical environment of any human society concains a vast range of materials which are both edible and nourishing, but, in most cases, only a small pan of this edible environment will actually be classified as potential food. Such classification is a matter of language and culture, not of nature.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “As a consequence of such cultural discriminations, the edible pan of the cnvi­ ronmenc usually faJls into three main categories: (1) Edible substances that arc recognised as food and consumed as part of the normal diet. (2) Edible substances that are recognised as possible food, buc chat are pro­ hibited or else allowed to be eaten only under special (ritual) conditions. These are substances which are consciously tabooed (3) Edible substances chat by culture and language are not recognised as food at all. These substances are uncomciously tabooed”

Page 5, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “consciously tabooed uncomciously tabooed”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The Jewish prohibition against pork is a ritual matter and explicit. It says, in effect, ‘pork is a food, but Jews must not eat it.’ The Englishman’s objection to eating dog is quite as strong”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “but rests on a different premise. It depends on a categorical assumption: 4dog is not food.'”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Plainly all such rules, prejudices, and conventions are of social origin; yet the social taboos have their linguisdc counterparts and, as I shall presently show, these accidents of etymological history fit together in a quite surprising way.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The problem then is this. The English treat certain animals as taboo – sacred. This sacredness is manifested in various ways, partly behavioural, as when we are forbidden to eat flesh of the animal concerned, partly linguistic, as when a phonemic paccern penumbra) to that of the animal category itself is found to be a focus of obscenity, profanity, etc. Can we get any insight into why certain creatures should be created this way?”

Page 6, Stamp (Star (Frame, Red))

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Taboo and the distinctiveness of nameable categories”

Page 7, Underline (Red): Content: “Mary Douglas’s”

Page 7, Underline (Red): Content: “Levi­ Strauss,s”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I postulate that the physical and social environment of a young child is per­ ceived as a continuum. It does not concain any intrinsically separate ‘things’. The child, in due course, is taught to impose upon this environment a kind of dis­ criminating grid which serves to distinguish the world as being composed of a large number of separate things, each labelled with a name.”

Page 7, Note (Orange): Sapir-Worff?

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “This world is a rep­ resentation of our language categories, not vice versa. Because my mother tongue is English, it seems self-evident ~hat bushes and trees are different kiu

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The same kind of argument may also be represented by a simplified Venn diagram employing two circles only. Let chere be a circle p representing a par­ ticular verbal category. Let this be intersected by another circle -p representing the ‘environment’ of p, from which it is desired to distinguish p. If by a fiction we impose a taboo upon any consideration of the overlap area that is common to both circles, then we shall be able to persuade ourselves chat p and -p ~e wholly distinct, and the logic of binary discrimination will be satisfied (Fig. 4).”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Language then does more than provide us with a classification of things; it accually moulds our environment; it places each individual at che centre of a social space which is ordered in a logical and reassuring way.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The child’s first and continuing problem is co decermine the initial boundary. ‘What am I, as against the world?’ ‘Where is the edge of me?’ In this fundamental sense, faeces, urine, semen, and so forch, are borh me and noc me. So strong is the resulting taboo chat, even as an adult addressing an adult audience, I cannoc refer to these ‘substances by the monosyllabic words which I used as a child buc must mention chem only in Latin.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “This world is inhabiced by imperfect morcal men; the other world is inhabited by immortal non-men (gods). The gap is bridged by supernatural beings of a highly ambiguous kind – incarnate deities, virgin mothers, supernatural monsters which are half man/half beast. These marginal, ambiguous creatures are specifically credited with the power of mediating between gods and men. They are the object of che most intense taboos, more sacred than the gods rhemselves.”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Animal and food names in English”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Structure of food and kinship terminologies”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “From the poim of view of any male Self, che young women of hjs social world will fall into f~ur major classes: (1) Those who are very close – ‘true sisters’, always a strongly incescuous category. (2) Those who are kin but not very dose – ‘first cousins• in English society, ‘clan sisters’ in many types of systems having unilineal descent and a segmenrary”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “lineage organisation. As a rule, marriage with chis category is either prohibited or strongly disapproved, but premaricaJ sex relations may be tolerated or even expected. (3) Neighbours (friends) who are noc kin, potential affines. This is the cat­ egory from which Self will ordinarily expect to obtain a wife. This category con­ tains also potential enemies, friendship and enmity being alternacrng aspects of the same structural relationship. (4) Disrant strangers – who are known to exist but with whom no social rela­ cions of any kind are possible.”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Now the English put most of their animals into four very comparable categories: (I) Those who are very close – ‘pets’; always strongly inedible. (2) Those who are tame but not very dose – ‘farm animals’, mostly edible but only if immacure or casuated. We seldom eat a sexually intact, mature farm beast.7 (3) Field animals, ‘game’ – a category toward which we alternate friendship and hostility. Game animals live under human protection but they are not tame. They are edible in sexually intact form, but are killed only at set seasons of the year in accordance with set hunting rituals. (4) Rcmocc wild animals – not subject to human control, inedible.”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Thus presented, there appears to be a set of equivalents: inedible incest prohibilion castration coupled with edibilily marriage prohibition coupled with premarital sex relations edible in sexually intact form; marriage alliance. friend/enemy ambiguity allernating friendship/hostility remote wild animals are inedible no sex relations with remote strangers”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The archaic legal expression for game was beasts of venery. The term venery had the alternative meanings, hunting and sexual indul­ gence.”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “A fifth major category of English animals which cuts across the others, and is significantly taboo-loaded, is vermin.”

Page 13, Stamp (Star (Frame, Red))

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The thesis is th~t we make binary distinctions and then mediate the discinction by creating an ambiguous (and taboo-loaded) intermediate cat­ egory.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “p both pand -p -p man ‘man-animal’ not man (not animal) (‘pets’} (animal) TAME GAME WILD (friendly} (friendly/hostile) (hoslile)”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “If sex discrimination muse be made among pets, one can say ‘birch’ and ‘com cat.’ This implies that a dog is otherwise presumed male and a car female. Indeed cat and dog are paired terms, and seem to serve as a paradigm for quarrelling husband and wife.”

Page 15, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Animal abuse and earing habits”

Page 17, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “I believe that this kind of analysis is more than just an intellectual game; it can help us to understand a wide variety of our non-rational behaviour.”

Page 17, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “A non-European example”

Page 17, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “If this kind of analysis were applicable only to the categories of the English lan­ guage it would amount co no more than a parlour game. Scientifically speaking, che analysis is interesting only in so far as it opens up the possibility that other languages analysed according to similar procedures might yield comparable pat­ terns.”

Page 20, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “che paucrn is quice consistent. The more remote animals are the more edible, and che homonym meanings of the associated words become less taboo­ loaded as the social distance is increased.”

Page 21, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Perhaps all this is coo good to be rrue, but I think that it deserves furcher investigation.”

Page 21, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Those who wish to rake my argument seriously mighc well consider its rele­ vance co C. Levi-Scrauss’s most remar.kable book la Pemee st11111nge (1962). Though fascinaced by chat work I have also folt rhat some dimension to the argu­ menc is missing. We need to consider not merely that things in the world can be classified as sacred ~md not sacred, but also as more sacred and less sacred. So also in social classification it is not sufficient to have a discriminarion me/it, we/they; we also need a graduated scale close/far, more-like-me/less-like-me. If rhis. essay is found to have a permanent value it will be because it represents an expansion of Levi-Strauss’s thesis in rhe direction I have indicated.”

Page 21, Underline (Red): Content: “C. Levi-Scrauss’s “

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