By Wilde O.
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Additional resources for Fairy Tales
If we define the people of a given society as different from us, then we have defined them as other, distant from us, not subject to the same historical forces or living in the same moral universe. This is unacceptable. But if we say that we are indeed coeval, living in the same era, subject to the same historical forces, struggling with the same issues, then we lose the picture of cultural variation which is the heart of anthropology. The study of intellectuals and their discourse takes some steps towards mediating this contradiction.
When we study the practical interests and the consciousness of intellectuals, we move beyond the assumption that structure is form and agency is formlessness. If we understand the streams of discourse as related to the social positions and interests of the agents, then agency itself has a structure. Agency has a cultural structure- knowledge used by the particular groups of intellectuals - and it has a material structure related to the interests and alliances of the intellectuals themselves within the wider world of power and production.
Sara Berry, who writes with great subtlety about rural differentiation among Yoruba farmers of southwestern Nigeria, concludes that when the career paths of farmers lead them to draw sustenance from non-farm sources, or to accumulate capital, one can no longer call them peasants (Berry 1985:4-5, 12). This raises the question of what is a "peasant," a term widely debated in the literature. For purposes of the present analysis, peasants are farmers who produce a large part of what they consume, have access to the use of land, coordinate their own labor with that of close relatives, integrate their organization of farming labor with the organization of care-giving, domestic work, and biological reproduction, and are involved in a wider economic system in which non-peasants also playa role.