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Cosmologies in the Making

Cosmologies in the Making
A Generative Approach to Cultural Variation in Inner New Guinea


Part of Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology

  • Date Published: February 1990
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521387354

£ 23.99

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About the Authors
  • All culture, particularly that of non-literate traditions, is constantly being recreated, and in the process also undergoes changes. In this book, Fredrik Barth examines the changes that have taken place in the secret cosmological lore transmitted in male initiation ceremonies among the Mountain Ok of Inner New Guinea, and offers a new way of explaining how cultural change occurs. Professor Barth focuses in particular on accounting for the local variations in cosmological traditions that exist among the Ok people, who otherwise share similar material and ecological conditions, and similar languages. Rejecting existing anthropological theory as inadequate for explaining this, Professor Barth constructs a new model of the mechanisms of change, based on his close empirical observation of the processes of cultural transmission. This model emphasises the role of individual creativity in cultural reproduction and change, and maintains that cosmologies can be adequately understood only if they are regarded as knowledge in the process of communication, embedded in social organization, rather than as fixed bodies of belief. From the model he derives various theoretically grounded hypotheses regarding the probable courses of change that would be generated by such mechanisms. He then goes on to show that these hypotheses fit the actual patterns of variation that are found among the Ok.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 1990
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521387354
    • length: 112 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 7 mm
    • weight: 0.18kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Foreword Jack Goody
    1. The problem
    2. An attempt at systematic comparison: descent and ideas of conception
    3. The possible interrelations of sub-traditions: reading sequence from distribution
    4. The context for events of change
    5. The results of process - variations in connotation
    6. Secret thoughts and understandings
    7. The stepwise articulation of a vision
    8. Experience and concept formation
    9. The insights pursued by Ok thinkers
    10. General and comparative perspectives
    11. Some reflections on theory and method

  • Author

    Fredrik Barth, Universitetet i Oslo


    Jack Goody

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