Introduction to Generative Anthropology

GA is a new way of thinking about the origin of the human. The anthropology we assume about ourselves always serves as an implicit structure in our conversations about politics, religion, economics, and our social lives. If we misunderstand our own anthropology, we will be forever mystified by our inability to make progress on some of these difficult questions.

The insight that ultimately gave rise to Generative Anthropology came from the French Literary Theorist Rene Girard. Girard revealed mimesis and the "mimetic nature" of human beings and higher primates in general. Where GA expands upon Girard is in its revision of the origin of the human. This process of "homonization" or the transition from a last common hominid ancestor into the being that we call the human is the cornerstone the Originary Hypothesis around which the rest of the discipline of GA revolves.

The Originary Hypothesis of Generative Anthropology is the idea that increasingly mimetic hominids eventually reached a situation in which their primate dominance structures were unable to contain the new violent possibilities enabled by their increasingly mimetic capacities. An alpha hominid can dominate a beta hominid but an alpha hominid cannot dominate an entire pack of hominids. The Originary Scene is a hypothetical scene of origin of the human in which a group of mimetic hominids discover/invent language (via a non-verbal gesture) as a solution to a potential mimetic crisis. This gesture, recognized by each of the hominids as "more" than just a gesture, is the first shared meaning in the universe. Eric Gans, the founder of Generative Anthropology called this moment the “Little Bang” of the human.

GA’s hypothesis is powerful because it gives us a scene in which anything distinctly human: our ability to do science, to be ironic, to love, to think, etc can then be carefully explained by reference to this scene of origin. What follows from this new construction, this new vocabulary, and this new way of thinking is nothing short of a miracle.