(not the 18th c. Kit-Cat Club)
[but a sodality nonetheless]
While inquiring into "specific traits of culture and personality (that) have emerged in us" I had a Looking-Glass moment in which I considered 'traits' that have not emerged in my being, and bethought myself of a cultural milieu I've lived outside of pretty much entirely: that of North American males, both American and Canadian—no sports, no patriotism, no muscle cars, no fraternal belonging, and very restricted comraderie ...and no Mens' Groups. I'm perpetually bemused by Harvard Club solicitations to attend meetings, pre-Game tailgates at which college songs would be sung, and other events of a granfalloonish nature. It occurred to me that I have never been clubbable ...and so I spent a merry afternoon investigating the concept of 'clubbable', a word coined by good old Samuel Johnson in 1783 to describe James Boswell. Here's some of what I found:
"sociable ... suited for membership because of one's sociability or popularity ... a politics (in the broad sense of the term) of social participation involving inclusions, exclusions, and the construction of boundaries ... a [British] national cultural practice that became strong enough to be exported to the British colonial empire..." Clubs (such as Boodle's Brooks's, White's, The Reform, The Carlton) had selective election procedures, strict internal regulations, privacy, exclusivity, prestige, and were supposed to foster conviviality, amiability, sympathy among their upper class and aristocratic (need we say male) members.
...the club served as an instrument of self and social construction ... from the public school to the university then to the club, the continuity of a gentleman's self construction was a central process ... ability to be accepted and esteemed in any select and closed circle ... to be recognized as an accomplished gentleman and to be recognized as such by one's peers... (excerpted from Valérie Capdeville 'Clubbability': A Revolution in London Sociability? Lumen 2016)
How far back do I have to go to discover the origins of my anti-social proclivities, which I realize I shared with both brothers, and probably derived from our sainted father, who was likewise simply not clubbable. There may be a geographical component, having to do with the first 10 years of my life in Cambridge...
I'm led to reflect that I've never really belonged anywhere, always been an Outsider, but professionally empowered and permitted to look at the lives and doings of the Insiders, with the pretense and the role of being a student of whatever I fancied at the time. Practically the definition of an anthropologist in The Field, a "participant observer" who gets to leave and sidestep responsibility for local unpleasantness. Reminded of my friend Ken Stallcup's marvelous song, quoted to you a while ago and worth repeating here:
Anthropologist pen in hand
Now you're standing here on my land
You to me are but a passing breeze
Kroeber, Lowie, Leach and Levi-Strauss
and even Malinowski have stayed in my house,
Now that you've got your data, where's my pay?
Dialects run along isogloss bundles
Leaving little wavy lines across the land
And everybody knows they must be documented carefully
Fron the Andaman Islands to the Rhenish Fan
Academics flow in a circular motion
Hurrying and scurrying across the Earth
With money from Ford and it's all very interesting
But other than that, tell me what is it worth?
Other than that, tell me what is it worth?