Are we Homo Sapiens Yet? Article Review

  • Category: Articles,
  • Words: 1020 Pages: 4
  • Published: 09 May 2021
  • Copied: 119

Throughout Mark Jarzombek’s article, “Are we Homo Sapiens Yet?”, Jarzombek argues the stance that the terminologies and classifications that continue to be used in the modern discourse surrounding anthropology and similar fields are outdated and lead to the continued cementation of limited ideas. The assertation that terms such as Homo sapien and “hunter-gatherers” found in early historical records are “toxic and need to be removed from our discourse” (23) is founded on Jarzombek’s assessment in which he concludes that these terms are reinforcing the idea that we as a modern society are completely separate from the history we record, and that we are just an “other” and not still these people, simply further down the timeline. If these words aren’t abandoned, then questions such as “What would history from ___’s perspective sound like?” will never be answered, as we continue to view the people groups in question as “primitive” or “pre-historic” and place ourselves squarely on the opposite side of the equation (25) and remain there. 

Jarzombek first begins his argument by supplying the reader with a variety of examples as to why the terms he opposes are outdated and based on unsteady foundations. The first of these examples is in regards to the term Homo sapiens and he continues to outlay the history and increasingly nonsensical roots to it as well as other words such as “hunter-gatherers.” Jarzombek points out how as each new individual discovered the difficulties or the unstableness of the previous term, he attempted to remedy it with a new method, a new way to draw the line firmly between the “other” and the current society. By giving the history of each term that’s explored, Jarzombek provides the reader with an insight into words that are often only looked at as unquestionable and scientific, and instead breaks them down and reveals the cracks that litter their seemingly impenetrable surface. Jarzombek himself points out that despite this, many of these terms are still ingrained in the subconsciousness of society and our thought processes, as well as how we view certain groups and explore history. 

One of the most obvious methods that Jarzombek uses to build his arguments is the built-in ethos that is present within the article, given the fact that Jarzombek is an architectural historian and is centering his argument around similar fields of knowledge. Upon the introduction of the term “vernacular” Jarzombek commentates on both the architectural emergence of the word as well as its unfortunate roots and implications; because he’s an individual well versed in these matters, and through the way that he utilizes vocabulary to emphasize his knowledge on the subjects, his argument is built up further. Jarzombek also provides an abundance of terminology, dates, and general research about the topics he discusses and organizes them all clearly and effectively. Though the subjects covered throughout the article are expansive and the vocabulary at times hard to follow, Jarzombek demonstrates his knowledge both with obviously well-researched material as well as the steady flow through it as the article progresses. Even though often the verbiage required slower and more attentive reading, it’s still a credit to how well Jarzombek formulated his arguments and the methods he used to build them up. 

Because Jarzombek provides so much context, research, and explanation, it makes his assertation convincing. Though the subject is one that many individuals might inherently find themselves agreeing with, to begin with, the explication behind each term and the gradual revealing of how unstable and flawed this makes them provides strong support and further aids in how convincing this author manages to become within this article. Moreover, leading the reader through various subjects and examples that back up his initial argument gives the appearance of allowing the individual to draw some of their conclusions as they come to realizations in regards to what’s being discussed. The thesis itself isn’t present blatantly until the end of the article, but by then the reader has formed their conclusion and has a general idea as to what was being argued about within the whole of the writing. Though overall, as previously stated, it’s the abundance of history provided for each term that makes Jarzombek’s article so convincing, as it all aids in bolstering his points. 

This is also important as one of the more obvious and first noticeable elements of Jarzombek’s writing was his use of vocabulary. Often it seemed extensive and confusing, and though the article was clear in its argument and the purpose of it, the vocabulary and general sentence syntax was often simply puzzling or caused the flow of reading to be paused or stumbling. The extensive vocabulary played a part in emphasizing the ethos methods used to build the argument, but also from personal observations hindered the reading as a whole. Despite this, the clarity of Jarzombek’s thoughts was still very apparent and made the ideas decipherable and easy to follow even if the wording explored subjects the reader didn’t understand. 

To conclude, I found myself agreeing with Jarzombek as the article went on, though I had already been won over in the earliest parts of it. I think one of the largest reasons and one of the things that stood out to me was the discussion on the word “primitive.” Jarzombek observes that although “Today, few scholars would dare use the word ‘primitive,’ but that does not mean that its imaginary has been purged from our scholarly perspectives.” (21). Even if these words are known to imply negative connotations and therefore are no longer used as frequently, the damage has already been done; there are simply words that replace it and match the unfortunate implications (as with “vernacular”) or people who discard the idea of replacing it at all, as it’s unfortunate but convenient (21). The fact that so many of these terms are founded on ideas that are outdated or incredibly shaky, but are still in use, is cause for concern in itself. They don’t belong in the vocabulary used in these discussions anymore since they aren’t accurately describing or communicating ideas. Jarzombek also argues that the more these terms are in use, the more we as a society will continue to force this distinct separation from us and the “other” and “pre-historic” people of the past, and the more we refuse to see ourselves as just a later form of them. I had never thought about this idea, but I think it’s an important one now that I’m aware of it, and was glad to read this article, as I learned a great number of things about terms I had seen everywhere and how they affect the way we perceive ideas.


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