Space, Time, and the Concept of Person in Karavar

Shelly Errington
1971 Indonesia  
MBetween a people's conception of what it is to be a person and their conception of the structure of history there is an unbreakable internal link," says Geertz in his brilliant essay called Persony Time9 ' and Conduct in Bali.* 1 In the West, the notion of what it is to be a person and the notion of linear time are certainly linked. Westerners tend to conceptualize an individual's life as a journey of self through time, as the development of a self during that self's life-span. The structure
more » ... an. The structure of history, regardless of its content or direction, consists of a linear chronological sequence; while the structure of an individual's life, regardless of its content or direction, consists of the development of the self, in a chronological sequence. It can hardly be an accident that the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw the fullest development of both evolutionary theory (which seeks to make explicit the structure of history) and the notion of the psyche (which seeks to make explicit the structure of the developing self). They are parallel conceptual principles by which we organize the events of history, on the one hand, and the events of an individual's life, on the other, each of which consists of the same sorts of data. Nor can it be an accident that, in the West, the notions of subjectivity and objectivity, of linear time, of causality, and of homogeneous space all emerged at approximately the same time. Together, they form a logically coherent conceptual organization by which Westerners deal with the physical world and man's place in it. The notions of subjectivity and objectivity imply each other; we could not conceive of what "objective" laws, facts, or events consist if we did not implicitly contrast them with subjective views or attitudes. The notion of linear time not only parallels the notion of the development of self (the subjective), but without linear time the scientific notion of causality is meaningless. The idea of causality is, of course, basic to the notion of objective laws in science as we know it. Finally, homogeneous space, being homogeneous, is discountable; it cannot interfere with the operation of objective laws which, to be counted as "objective," must be in effect everywhere. Anthropological literature abounds with evidence that few, if any, of these notions are shared by other peoples. For instance, many peoples do not distinguish between subjective and objective, or * I would like to thank Benedict Anderson, Dennis Blair, and Carlene Bryant, whose questions and comments helped clarify my understanding of the Karavaran concepts.
doi:10.2307/3350658 fatcat:6lij6d643zhenbv7lq6trumefm