Cities are made of Neighbourhoods

Energised crowding

To understand why early cities thrived, look not to the temples of kings but to their subjects’ bustling neighbourhoods

two critic bits aimed at Graeber & Wengrow, the Dawn of Everything remarks on the egalitarian organization of early cities but stops at politics and liberties, while Smith in this essay explains more comple dynamics that shape cities. Complexity, is there real opposition here, does complexity determine people to loose agency in urban organization? still G&W try to show that different places came to different solutions.

the second bit is methodology, or more like basic approach, there is an indirect stab at G&W trying to distill a grand theory from the trove of archeological data. Graeber’s attitude toward sociobiology and economistic approaches stings Smith who like to study ancient cities with the network theory approach used for modern cities in geography, using Luis Bettencourt’s work.

The article is a good read, the approach is the same grassroots, organic, starting from people and neighbourhoods rather than temples and kings. Citis need not have avenues and plazas, cities are made of neighbourhoods


DoE critic, non-binary and decolonization

Untenable History by Carolyn Nakamura a “radical” archeologist who has done 15 seasons at Cathalyouk and writes “Graeber and Wengrow certainly take some liberties, but they are unquestionably qualified to wade through and interpret such research. And they cover a staggering expanse of time and space. Given this gaping outlook, they do trim or omit many analyses and discussions that might snag or muddle their mission to demote the ideal of egalitarianism (past, present and future), wrest freedom from its Roman perversion, and reclaim the collective power of political choice and imagination.”

most of the critic is about the effort to rewrite history by forcing male-famale dualism into it and sort of seeing kandiarok and first people through the lens of colonization. Can’t say, haven’t read much

“we should not assume that Neolithic human figurines obeyed a rigid female/male binary, or that sex-based categories held the same meanings or importance as they do in many contemporary cultures”

Dawn effectively traps Kanadironk (along with other histories and cultures) within their history—history that is totalizing, imperial and colonial, and composed from shined up and lined up facts, if not exactly fiction”

biblio: Lisa Lowe. 2015. The Intimacy of Four Continents. Duke University Press, 136, n. 3.

BTW not really related but a reading of few days back “Compost the Colony,, Anarchist Decolonization”

10.000 years of patriarchy

“(With the advent of early agriculture, women continued to contribute to their households by working in the fields. For example, Catalhöyük (7000 BC) was not marked by strong gender divisions of labour. Women and men performed the same work, ate the same diet, and spent similar time outdoors. Bones and burials suggest little difference in gender roles (though male violence doubtless persisted).

But male dominance was strengthened dramatically by animal domestication, cereal-cultivation, draught animals, wealth stratification, and the rise of states.”

no, agricolture is not necessarily the gate to domination, but it lays the foundations for that and over time that tends to happen

“No society has ever got rich and stayed matrilocal.

Poverty is no feminist utopia, however. Fertility remains high in places with low returns to schooling and low opportunity costs of child-bearing. Impoverished families cannot heavily invest in all their children. Girls marry early, bear many children, become burdened by care-giving, and struggle to accumulate the capital, knowledge, and networks to challenge dominant men. Child brides are more likely to be abused. Economic desperation exacerbates stress and marital disputes”

this is stronger, you can’t stay matrilinear and get rich, economic development goes hand in hand with patriarchy and male domination in our times (capitalism, capitalocene, globalization, whatever) ?

Dawn of Everything reviews

Flesh and Blood by Harper is a review centering on familiy, violence and torture, parallel France and Wendat, and the play of domination and care in human relations, how we are stauvck in a world that confuses the two

Human History gets a Rewrite this is the review with the iconic upside down pyramid that got shared in the days taking to the launch. If I well remember, mostly about how Wendat inspired Illuminism and the revision of Rousseau myth

David Graeber Knew Ordinary People Could Remake the World yet to read, I already read some Ongaro’s article in Italian on Graeber and I liked it, he has been a student of his at LSE

The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow review – inequality is not the price of civilisation graeber vs. harari, fukuyama and the stages of human history

Early Civilizations Had It All Figured Out DoE versus Hebbesian Pinker and Rousseauian Harari. ““The Dawn of Everything” is a lively, and often very funny, anarchist project that aspires to enlarge our political imagination by revitalizing the possibilities of the distant past.” A funny bit “Graeber and Wengrow neglect to mention their strongest rivals: the science fictions of writers such as Kim Stanley Robinson”

The Radical Promise of Human History Boston Review

Elite ideologies and ground realities

Greta Thunberg to politicians “Iask you to listen to science and act”

Great cartoon summing up Greta’s thinking in darkish mood

Policy Tensor, great read how elite ideologies ignoring ground realities have led to countless disasters from WWI all the way to the great monetarist austerity, and carbon pricing, as we comes to climate change again

Graeber & Wengrow on Rousseau’s question

Rousseau wisdom “‘All ran headlong for their chains in the belief that they were securing their liberty; for although they had enough reason to see the advantages of political institutions, they did not have enough experience to foresee the dangers’”

on revolutions, forget the story how it was told to us far “It’s probably no coincidence that today, the most vital and creative revolutionary movements at the dawn of this new millennium – the Zapatistas of Chiapas, and Kurds of Rojava being only the most obvious examples – are those that simultaneously root themselves in a deep traditional past. Instead of imagining some primordial utopia, they can draw on a more mixed and complicated narrative. Indeed, there seems to be a growing recognition, in revolutionary circles, that freedom, tradition, and the imagination have always, and will always be entangled, in ways we do not completely understand. It’s about time the rest of us catch up, and start to consider what a non-Biblical version of human history might be like.”

“A hundred years ago, most anthropologists understood that those who live mainly from wild resources were not, normally, restricted to tiny ‘bands.’ That idea is really a product of the 1960s, when Kalahari Bushmen and Mbuti Pygmies became the preferred image of primordial humanity for TV audiences and researchers alike”

“40,000 years is a very, very long period of time. It seems inherently likely, and the evidence confirms, that those same pioneering humans who colonised much of the planet also experimented with an enormous variety of social arrangements. As Claude Lévi-Strauss often pointed out, early Homo sapiens were not just physically the same as modern humans, they were our intellectual peers as well. In fact, most were probably more conscious of society’s potential than people generally are today, switching back and forth between different forms of organization every year”

There be (sumerian) dragons

Tricia verver, archeoplogist, tells the story of the Hazaras, Shia Muslims who have myths about dragons (and a very peculiar lake in their valley) Precarious Life: the fate of the Hazara people in Afghanistan.

A couple of weeks ago much riting on Afghanistan, a few explainer of the ethnic composition. In one I found this

some Pashtun Afghans officers who told me a story of a militant fighter they had captured right after the 2001 invasion who came from an isolated valley along the Pak-Afghan border.  This man, along with his tribe, believed the sun is a jewel vomited by a dragon each morning and then swallowed by that same dragon again on the other side of the world each night after the dragon has rushed under the (presumably flat) earth all day to catch it

Among Afghans: jewel of the dragon by Razib Kahn, reccomended

Dragons are sumerian, I understand. religions with pre-Islam myths still survive in the middle east, Dragons be one of those myths. You know the Mando and Mandalorians? Be aware that in the delta of the tigri and euphrtae there is a people called Mandeans with a peculiar iniziatic religion. There’s a book to tell their story, plus some other surviving Babilonian religions in the area.

A book: Heirs to the Forgotten Kingdoms by Gerard Russel – Goodreads

Another book, this time on Dragons and generally the depiction of monstrous creatures in history, or better, The fortune of dragons from the bronze age on 🙂

The Origins of Monsters: Image and Cognition in the First Age of Mechanical Reproduction by David Wengrow

When Standard decided to poison the world, a tragicomic beginning

Why did we use leaded petrol for so long?

“Facing sceptical reporters at a press conference in October 1924, Thomas Midgley dramatically produced a container of tetraethyl lead – the additive in question – and washed his hands in it.

“I’m not taking any chance whatever,” Midgley declared. “Nor would I… doing that every day.”

Midgley was – perhaps – being a little disingenuous. He had recently spent several months in Florida, recuperating from lead poisoning.”

Rejoice, the world just stopped using lead in petrol

though lead poisoning is still a problem

poisoning epidemics happen for example connected to mining

Göbekli Tepe

rewriting history, aprticularly the idea that agriculture was the driver of urbanization, while at Göbekli Tepe we find monolithic temples without agriculture, but already wild cereals and beer

“That fishing, hunting, or gathering could sustain complex societies means that social technology, rather than the discovery of farming, is the key bottleneck of civilization” the thesis here

Göbekli Tepe article on italian newspaper, long and well written