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Lateral symbolism and Atuot cosmology

  • John W. Burton

... explanation is no more than exact description which bears its own interpretation (Evans-Pritchard 1973b: 764).

Social anthropologists increasingly question whether or not the translation of culture is possible, at least in the most profound sense (see e.g. Beidelman 1980: 39). If we are as yet uncertain of the essential characteristics of human perception and cognition (cf. Needham 1980: 19) the task of comparison is problematic. Are we to note how ethnographic data reveal indigenous instances of a polythetic mode of classification, or construct rigid dichotomies to sort them out? A related question is whether or not an ethnographic report is valuable because it serves to verify specific theories or because it invites alternative interpretations.

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