Diffusionism


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Diffusionism

 

a trend in bourgeois ethnology and archaeology encompassing a number of related schools. Diffusionism explains the development of cultures not in terms of their independent evolution but primarily or even exclusively in terms of cultural borrowings and migrations of peoples.

Diffusionism arose at the turn of the 20th century as a reaction to positivist evolutionism, contrasting the evolutionist view of complete uniformity in cultural development with the concept of absolute diversity in cultural development, disrupted only where borrowings or migrations govern cultural similarity. Subsequent diffusionism substitutes development in time by displacement in space (the German scholars L. Frobenius and F. Graebner) and denies the unity of the historical process (the Austrian scholars W. Schmidt and W. Koppers). Attempts were made to use diffusionism to develop racist theories, ascribing an exclusive cultural role to certain peoples or races (the Austrian scholar O. Menghin and the German scholar G. Kossinna). Marxist ethnology, archaeology, and sociology considers cultural influences and migrations as an important but not the determining factor in cultural and historical development.

REFERENCE

Artanovskii, S. N. Istoricheskoe edinstvo chelovechestva i vzaimnoe vliianie kul’tur. Leningrad, 1967.

A. I. PERSHITS

References in periodicals archive ?
Strange paintings' and 'mystery races': Kimberley rock art, diffusionism and colonialist constructions of Australia's Aboriginal past.
Thereafter treatment switches to diffusionism, ley-hunting and druidism.
Apart from the immediate aim of remedying a longstanding shortcoming in the ethnographic account, the article also touches upon other relevant literature and the debate engendered at the time in relation to material culture and `cultural affinities' and, no doubt, diffusionism.
During the late 1940s, while English-speaking anthropology was divided between functionalism and diffusionism (a debate later re-enacted by archaeologists), Claude Levi-Strauss founded structural anthropology with the publication of Les structures elementaires de la parente (1949).
2) Mitchell was strongly influenced by diffusionism, both in his archaeological work and in his novels.
Thus it may be fair to see the tension between diffusionism and insularity as a product of contemporary socio-political realities.