Study of Religion and the Dawn of Everything
Graeber and Wengrow’s The Dawn of Everything takes on the West’s entwined and taken-for-granted histories of the state and of capital. Just as Freud insisted that the libido had to be sacrificed on the altar of civilization, so following Rousseau and Hobbes, freedom had to be sacrificed on the altars of order, population density and societal complexity. If early humans lived in egalitarian, mobile bands of hunter gatherers, that early freedom evaporated as soon as they became farmers and urbanites, obligated stage by historical stage first to chiefs, monarchs and priests, then to politicians and bureaucrats (and today to debt and the algorithm). It is precisely these origin myths, these linear just-so-stories for which inequality is natural and inevitable, that Graeber and Wengrow seek to unravel. What follows derives from a roundtable organised by Paul-François Tremlett for BASR 2022 that brought together Graham Harvey, David G. Robertson and Carole Cusack for a lively and critical engagement with The Dawn of Everything and its significance for religious studies.