By (author) Marilyn Strathern
Publication date:22 March 2005
Length of book:188 pages
Updated with a new Preface, this seminal work challenges the routine ways in which anthropologists have thought about the complexity and quantity of their materials. Marilyn Strathern focuses on a problem normally regarded as commonplace; that of scale and proportion. She combines a wide-ranging interest in current theoretical issues with close attention to the cultural details of social life, attempting to establish proportionality between them. Strathern gives equal weight to two areas of contemporary debate: The difficulties inherent in anthropologically representing complex societies, and the future of cross-cultural comparison in a field where 'too much' seems known. The ethnographic focus of this book emphasizes the context through which Melanesianists have managed the complexity of their own accounts, while at the same time unfolding a commentary on perception and the mixing of indigenous forms. Revealing unexpected replications in modes of thought and in the presentation of ambiguous images, Strathern has fashioned a unique contribution to the anthropological corpus. This book was originally published under the sponsorship of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania.
Strathern's central insight is that much unexplored ground lies between difference and identity, between the many and the one: that is to say, that there are alternatives to the apparently insoluble dichotomies of society and the individual, holism and atomism, comparison and ethnography. This book is provocative and pathbreaking, both as a search for an escape from these antinomies, and as a critique of the intellectual practices which give rise to them.