Readying and Restructuring Relations and Imaginations
The book The Dawn of Everything is an introduction to some of the diversity and surprising complexity of ancestral social lives written in an accessible, yet academic fashion. The book also develops a theory of human development as emerging from encounters between peoples. This sits in contrast to the idea of development as driven by isolated eureka moments at each stage of social evolution. As Bateson (2021) (mentioned in the book’s acknowledgements) noted, Stage theory… is BS’. In this review, I introduce what I think is one of the theoretical premises of the book in order to then focus on the book’s decentring of origin myths as driving human development. In doing so, I touch upon how the book’s relational approach differs from the more dominant approach in science. I then consider a number of categories used in the book, such as farming, to touch upon how categories are mobilised in scientific research and the implications of that mobilisation. I follow this by using a recent Netflix documentary series on ancient peoples and explore how ideas such as (pre)history are politically mobilised. I conclude by examining what the authors might mean when they invoke imagination.
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