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Symbols That

Stand for







This is a book about meaning as the constitutive and organi~ing power in cultural \ife. Its argument is that the human phenomenon is a single, coherent idea, oq~ani'.ed mentally, physically, and culturally around the form of perception that we call "meaninp;."This idea allows a simple and llnified llnfolding pcrspcctivc in place of the explanatory mosaic generated by the accidental collision of a known general phenomenon with particular academic subject areas. Trope, or metaphor-jllst preciscly that aspect of expression that is least tangible or glossable-amounts to the germ of a pervasive processual tendency. A kind of involution of sclf-reference, the tendency is formal and systematic over and above particular symbo\ic contents. Meaning is not, of course, a free-floating intangible, but a phenomenon that stands in a certain relation to the conventions of culture. Just how it does so, in what ways, and through what forms of mediation, has long been a subject of speculation and controversy. Most attempts at resolution have been anxious to ancho r the phenomenon amid the manipulable and the accessible-the syntaxes, grammars, and categories of saying, the necessity and productivity of doing. Clearly if meaning as expression and perception is contingcnt upon cllltllml forms, there is a rc1ation hcrc that rcqllires our attention. For the rclation constitutes the capabilities and limitations of human culture itself. The specialists who address mcaninp; via ils own "scicncc" haVl' insislt,c1, more or Icss codings cdcctically, thatmcaning is an cffcct 01' signs-ahstract or functions that can be used to rationalize lhe whole matter as somc sort 01' cpiphcnomcnal orc1cr. This assllmcd, or working, delinition has thc cffcct of mak-





ing meaning subordinate meaning into exercises in signs and their orderings. to constrain the meaning

to ~igns, and it .m~kes st~dies of semlology or SemlOtlCS,a sClence of largue that such an approach is apt of naming things within the naming

of meanings, thm is, to reflect inadvertently the conventionalism and rationality of scholarly pracedure within the subject of study. largue, therefore, in The Invention ojCu/ture, that the interpretive elicitation of meanings, which 1 call"invemion," can be seen to have a life of its own, and can mold the use of cultural conventions to its purposes. lt is, in fact, locked into a dialectical relation with cultural convention, and we must look to this dialectic if we are fully to comprehend hllman expression .md cllllural motivation. For readers of The lm'enfiarl r{ ClIltllre, this may have seemed an unwarranted assumption-too close, perhaps, to assuming that meaning is a "black box" and a free-ftoating intangible. That the dialectic of invention and convention is a plausible graund for cullural me.ming and lllotivation, that it grounds, and is grounded in, the treatment of the individual and the collective, may be dear enough to perceptive readers of that volume. That these operations can be extrapolated to larger issues of culture is also a part of that message .. Unless demonstrated, however, such an extension may seem something of an unwarranted assumption. This is, perhaps, a familiar dilemma to many who have uccepted the c1icitutive nature of trape; us metaphor, metonym, 01' whatnot, it elicits meaning. But as long as the e!icitation is a function of local, 01' epigrammatic expressions alone, rather than an overall, organizing efTect, cullure becollles u fubric of

functioned in modem life, in literary image, camp, Zen, counterculture; merely as a means of stopping conventional procedures, jolting them into se!f-consciousness. Orgunization must surely be made of stemer stuff. One can, after ali, groove on the delicious ironies of metaphor lImil one's herb tea boi!s over, 01' be driven punchdrunk by the ambitious pummeling of Zen masters without the koan ever being jolled into a saton' that changes one's life. lrony, however preciolls it might be, is not explanarion, and it is not explication. The strategy of this book is to show, with examples taken from my research in New Guinea, and from the articulation of "core" symbols in Western history, how the essentially paradoxical effect of trape expands fram ;1 pluy on conventional "points of rererence" imo un orgunizer of cultural frames. Indeed, it expands beyond that leve! into what 1 shall call higher "powers" of trope, eventually dosing upon itself to constitute its own ground conditions-the individuality of perceptionand the plurality of collective "embodiment." .. The holography that retains the properties of trope throughout this expansion is best exemplified through the recursive processual form that I have called ohviation. Obviation is m,anifested as a series of substitutive metaphors that constitute.the plot of a myth (01' the form of a ritual), in a dialectical m?vement that doses when it returns to its beginning point. A myth, then, is an expansion of paradoxicul because the tropes are realized onlyin exhausted in that of their trope, und obviation, as process, is me;mings elicited in its successive the process of their exhaustion, and realization.

. d to~et her by conventlona . I" structure, " categotropes stltche

The order and referentiality of I.mguage und the iconicity of personal perception can never, in themselves, be absolute determinunts of meaning, for we know each of them only through the mediation of the other. Overprecision in defining them as "functions," 01' methodologizing them, lends an air of professionalism, but only that, to our understanding of meaning. Meaning is conslituted in the li"'t'II belween word und full, perceptual image, and I have used u "metaformat" of diagr'lms that are intermediate between abstraction and representational image to illustrate the obviative processo But their "triangu-

ries, .md other conventionalizing devices. If we are to come to terms with the implications of meaning for cullure as a phenomenon, then, it is necessary to show how trope itself can operate as an organizing principie. But the nutlll'c of tl'Ope mukes this a rormidablc pl'Oblem at in best. For trope-as metaphor, metonym, 01' whatever-is essence unglossable and paradoxical. To show how trope organizes culture is to show how paradox does, and paradox has



lation" is no more "strueture"

than it ir obviatiOll" , it is a nav-

igational aid, if you will, to eatch the parallax of meaning as it moves beyond our ken. The approach I have taken in this book is "diaIectical" (rather than "algorithmie") in the mathematical sense, meaning that it deals with constitutive 01' "existential" conditions of its subjeet, rather than with causal chains 01' the arbitration among alterna tive descriptive glosses. The "bracketing," 01' e1icitation, of an issue cnnlal;1.f the issue in many possible 01' alternative ways, but is a very different concern from the "truth value," 01' propositional status, of the issue. Thus evidence is largeIy a concern with iIIustrating, 01' exemplifying (rather than "proving") the model suggested. The evidentiaI materiaIs I have used come from a broad and disparate cross-section of the Jiterature: material that I collected among the Daribi people of Papua New Guinea, Nancy Munn's iconographic studies of the W~lbiri of Australia, discussions ofWestern time concepts and technology, an overview of some historical topics relevant to the "core" symbolizations of medieval religious, and modern secular philosophy, and finally, some evolutionary issues invol,ving the human brain and body. An earlier form ,of chapter 4 was read at Brown University in September, 1983, and the discussion following that occasion was in many respects germinal to the..finaI version. I am grateful especially to Lina Fruzzetti, Akos Ostor, and Harriet Whitehead for their insightfulness. Many orher friends have helped, in one way 01' anothel', to cIieit 01' foeus these ideas, among them especially Viclor Turner, Stanley Walens, Fitz-John PorteI' Poole, Marilyn Strathern, James F. Weiner, and John Napora, deserve my thanks. Finally, I am more gratefuI than I can say to those whose efforts have been conslitulve of this book: to Daviel M. Schneielel', a mentor whose encolII'agemenl, concern, and support approach the point of devotion; to Mary Alice Carter, the sun godeless ofthis work; anel to my "Antonte I3rentano," Nancy-Sue Ammerman.


What are symboIs, that we should be concerned with them) They are cel'tainly not somethlng that "the natives" have told the anthropologist about, though natives are often outspoken about ,:hat we call rheir "content." Hather, ir seems, rhey are somerhll1g thar we ofren say rhe natives themselves are ali abour. Are symbols, then, a kind of a elisease of civilization that ,w,e in our mini~rriltions, like so many Typhoiel Mal'Ys: ~1~lWI.ttll1~ly commulllcate to rhe natives? 01', converscIy, is eivIhzallon Itself a disease of symbols, as Max Muller suggesred thar myth is a disease of language? The more visible product of the fieldworker's interaction has to do with language, and the possibility that the social sciences with their involuted jargons are themselves a disease of language is an issue rhar h,IS s?m~r~mes been raise~ by third-world skeptics. ("MystiticalIon IS the trendy eplthet.) But language, rhey say, is something we know ali about; it is ultimately symbolic. So, we have learned, is money. And so we return to the original questiono Are symbols the academic currency, a coinage minted by the postcolonial knowleelge inelllstl'ies so that, e1l'awing lIpon an immense capital of accumulated Iiteratures, philosophies, and established "facts," we can buy up the semantic production of ~II-too-aptly named research "subjects"? Money, so long as it ISour money, is the only trade item the would-be entrepreneur need gift the natives with; the rest takes care of itsdf, for the hOllse ncver loses. Granting that this might be so, is it really a timc for new coinages, I'ecvalllaleel anel I'cisslIed denominalions lhat will bring our rhe "rrue" value of money by making irs orders, and perhaps even its diseases, more explicit? Do we need a clII'rency of inllation? Perhaps in economics, for this is an old rl'ick of



lhe Caesars, of old civiJizalions gone to pawn. If credibiJity is not saved, as least its demise is stalled off by making people count Ihings ali uver again. (And lhe huuse never fuses.) Uut it will not hclp the currency of symbols, for generaling new elenominations of semiotic funclioning merely compounels the inleresl on lhe debl, Illakinp; lhe denolllinalion of problellls a funclion of lhe problelll of elenominalion. In his sluely of modem narcissism, The Fali of Pu6lic Ma", Richard Sennett relates the "inflation" to social norms: We speak of symbols having 'referems,' for ex-

adjunct to analysis, thar the crucial underpinnings and workings of meaning and human culture are somehow involved in symbols, Or semantics, or semiolics, is a cClllral preoccuparion of OUr times. The expecr;lliolls and conringencies of this issue lie ar the root of philosophicaJ unelerrakings from Wittgenstein anel Husserl to S;lrlre anel Hicoeur, ;1I1e1 lhey are basic lU whar lias been called "symbolic anlhropology." BUI il is also significant rhar rhe vain anel precocious meeliev;d rhel:.>rician Berengar of Tours insisred, to the amazement and dismay of his peers, that the Holy Sacramem was bur a symbol, and that something rather Jike structuralism-the "method" of Pierre ele La Hame2-elominareel rhe il1lelleClual life of prc-Enlighrenmem Europe. Like money, anel like Goel, symbols were always lhcre. Ir is really what we make of lhcm lhal counts. If God, for Rame, perhaps, no less rhan for Berengar, was somehow mysteriously hehind things, ethereal and working in wondrous ways, then for modem Westerners money, and symbols too, are somehow mysreriously infrom of things, too elemental for easy or ordinary comprehension. Marxism, economics, andalso semiotics, belong to a mysticism of the exoteric. Our everyday world rakes poinrs of reference for gramed, anel rhe expccr;ltions anel values lhar rhosc poinls of rcfcrcncc ser up-precision, and the like-frame accounrabiliry, prediclabililY, consislency, rheories for rhe meanings rhar lie "behind"

ample, of having 'anteceelents.' The symbol easily loses a realilY of its own in this usage: 'When you say that, Or use thal worel, whal you really mean is .. .' and so on. One 01' lhe social origins of the idea of decoding signs can be traced to a cemury ago, in the imerpretiltion of appearances which carne to be made in the 19th cemury city: appearance is a cover for the real individual hidden within.' Symbolic penetration and hermeneutic, the "decoding" of convemional Iife, is for Sennett a sociological concomitam of an ;'ge lhal Il<Islosr lhe conlidence and credibilily of a syslem of convemional pubJic signs; social Iife, then, becomes symboJic when ir can no longer be creelibly social.lfthe imperial Homans can be said ro have gotten rhe belter of rheir disbeliefby blltchering real characters in fake myths before live alldiences, then a sociery lhar disbelicves ils own 1;1Ilguage mip;11laI leasl bc comem wirh veridical rheories of langllage ... or of symbols. Of course symbols, and rheories of symbols, are borh more anciem and more modern lhan rhe nineteemh-cenlury cily; what Sennett's example suggests is a reason why symbols are emphasized in comemporary life. Thar symbols sholllel be seen as cryptic, and problematic, that interpretation is a necessary

rhem. Unelersraneling "point" as an c1clllcnralunil, a phonemc, lexeme, spoken or written symbol, and "reference" in rhe double-edgeel sense of being borh a fixcd tokcn of common orienlation anel somellling t11<11 significs by rcferring ro something e1se, our concern for meaning beromes a science of meaning-usuallya Jinguisrics of meaning.1 Like produce in general,

2. Walter J. On~, Ramus: Metlrod and tire Deeay of Dia/oKllt (Cambrid~e, Mass.: H,lrvard Universiry I'ress, '958).



Hichard Sennell,

Tire Fali of Pub/ie Man (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,

J: Were semanrics and semiOlics rruly experirnenral sciences, Jike quanrum p.hys,cs, they ~ould soon find rhemselves adducin~ paradoxical properties ro slg~s and funcllons (rnoving "backward in rime" like rhe positron, conraining enrlr~ supernumerary "dimensions," like sorne small particles, modelin~ geomerflcal properties, like lhe graviton). These funcrions and propenies are par-



meaning is a.rsigl/ed a value, and epistemology becomes the (scicntific) problem of how that value operates. (ln this regard modern civilization, with its overconfident value assignments, brings its own social sciences upon itsclf.) What becomes provoca tive for an intellectual enterprise constituted along these lines is the degree to which meaning is not an economy of symbols, 01' of systems, as of course evolution may not be DNA Sweepstakes, 01' physics a game of unclerwriting the insurance of very small particles. Units, elements, combinatory systems, and periodic tables give a nice feeling for dealing with the phenomenal universe in the precise, accollntable, preclictilble ways in which we like to think we rlln our own shop. And if God, to paraphrase Einstein, does not play elice wirh lhe lInivcrsc, lhe scicnlisl who wanls to gct lhe better 01' the c111siveancl the provocative is obliged to enter a floa,ting crap game with c1efinitions. How to define unitsmo:.ney, symbols, subatomic particles-so that they will retain cnidibility as points of reference (and their accountability and predictability as well) in a theoretical enterprise? Failing that, how to define, 01' frame, any viable alternative? 'StructuraJism gets the better of this impasse by making definitons (verbal, systematic oppositions) thcmsclvcs thc llnitsj as tu te humanistic critiques and semiotics do so with characteri7.ations (and with the metaphors that, according to Paul Ricoeur, are ali that can do justice to other metaphors). Points of reference are not determinative, but only necessary, as money becomes so-cc>nlingently-necessary that it is printecl on paper, then in books, and then becomes a vending-machine function of integers. A game of redefinition that maneuvers so adeptly about points of reference must come home, as did Einstein's fieJd theory, to roost on the relativity of coordinate systeIlls, We comc clown, cvelllllally, 10 lhe sclf-referential symbol, lhe trope 01' Illetilplior, as a beginning poinl for a cliscllssion of me;lJling.
adoxieal hceau~e lhey referenee lhe implieation~ of an imagery lhat i~ di~allowcd by the dcfining eondition~ of ~ign or particlc. Quanrum phy~ic~ mi~~e~ lhe Jca/~ uf hUlllanl'xpl'ri,'nce. ancllllnsl colllpensare for il; Iinguislie apprnlehes to meaning Illis~ lhe seale of lhe world in which Illeaning operate~.

Metaphor, the symbol whose gloss is definitively rclative, is the perfect and appropriate point of reference for an age of cryptic symbols and inscrutable meaningsj its "discovery" by every critical, scientific, and aesthetic enterprise concerned with meaning is inevitable. It is our own mirror image, and we, perhaps, are its. The very ambitious attempt to grammaticize it, the hurnanistic adumbrate its character, and psychologists run rats through it. As with God and money, and symbols in general for that matter, it is what we make of it that COllntS.If it retlects the linguist's ambition to resolve everything into rule and order, the wonder and admiration of aesthetes anel literati, lhe psychologisl's scientistic interrogative, how can it be made to model the complexity of meaning known to the anthropologiSI? Cultural relativity, like Einstein's, is often no more than the relativity of coordinate (01' reference) systems, of langllage, ethos, acquired "feel," and habito To know it, experience it, one gets used to Iiving somewhere eJse, with "other" people. This is an introduction to the issue. But trope 01' metaphor, the selfreferential coordinate, is relativity compoundedj it introduces rclativity within coordinate systems, and within culture. Thus cxpressions within a culture are rclative to, innovative upon, and ambiguous with regard to, one another. A model founded upon these relations is, if it is systematic at ali, a mobile, fluid, and an undetermined system. Like the bJack hoje (which aJso has, in the jargon of astrophysicists, "no hair"-by which it Illight be grasped), the effects of metaphor have been listed, analyzed, tallied, even synthesized through metaphors, to an exhaustive degree. A great many of the "positions" taken on metaphor are quite accurate and insightfuj,4 though one sllspects that a "complete" characterization wOlllel be as llnattainablc, anel as lIselcss, as thc "complctc" glossing of a single Illetaphor, Possibly also lhe
or tran~eendental qualilics is of the power of rnclaphoric direet dc~eription" CFim~ and Chicago: UniversilY ofChi-

4 Thc idea that mctaphor has "emergent" by no mcans uneommon. Paul Hicoeur speaks uncranec 10 "redc~erihe a reality inacee~siblc to M/ffal;"~, tr.lIls. K. McL,ughlin 'lIld D. Pcllh,luer cago Pres~. 1984 J. xl).

6 "correct" characterization



of metaphor is as much a chimera as

the correct V;lossinv;of one. It would seem, however, that what one ean do, <lIlalytically, with metaphor is more imporlant than w Ilat metal' hor "does. " A slllllmary, or I'l'viL'w 01' lhe "slale or lhe an" n'l!,ardill~ metaphor might possibly help here, ror alllhat my discussioll is nOl aimed at literary criticism, or anhe state of anyone's art, and is not "about" metaphor. BUI I shalllimit my brief d~t.!;ression to a few essentials, and expand on these subsequently. A metaphor, anel, by extension, a trape generally, equates one conventional point of reference with another, or substitutes one for another, and obliges the interpreter to draw his or her conelusions as to the consequences. It elicits analogies, as perceptions through language, so to speak, and these analogies or perceptions beco me the intent, and the content, of the expression. Figurative usage, then, because it makes a kin~ of prism of conventional reference, cannot provide a literal field of reference. It is not formed by "indicating" things, or by referencing them, but by setting pointers or reference points into a rel~ti~n with one anOlher by making them into a relation that IS " m-

ranges of Shakespeare, Goethe, and Federico Garca Lorea, they may ineleeel run lhe v;amlll of moelel'l1 exislcntial ambivalenee fram cvcrything to nothing, bUI they arc significant for the anthropolov;ical moclclinv; of cllltllre, anel that is whal eOllcel'l1Sme hcrc-lIot ill how thcy cmhdlish, blll how they constitute, culture. What have we learneel of lhis constitlltion thlls far? lt is

e1ear that a cultllre compouneled of re/ative meanings cannot be a system of oppositions, as the structuralists woulel have it, for rclativity implies a movc to new coordinatcs that denies, or negates, the original ones. Innovative meanings are emergent-they preempt one another, and elraw force and credibility from one another. Culture is but analogy based on (and subversive to) other analogies, not in a tension of rigid 01'1'0sitions or categories, but a mobile range of transformations worked up a conventional core. But that core is itself a kind of residue, "conventional" only because some particular set, or combination, of its anal~ic associations has been identificd as the most literal, or cmmon-a definitional "absolute." A set of cultural reference points so identifieel-the rules anel lexicon of a language, for instanee-amoUIII to a ullivel'sal, basic mctaphol' lhal pl'Ovides us with the facility of being literal. Because they are parls'/or facets (in fact, metonyms) of the framing melaphor, wofds, mathematical expressions, and olher statements have a conventional referencc; they arc taken in lhe context, so 10 speak, of the larger, framinv; melaphor. Anel 01' course it is true thal a Ianguage, or mathematics, has internal imageries within its grammar, syntax, and usage that constitute a (rame wilhin a frame, whal we might wish to call "imageries 'of convention." In French, one would say "the moon, she is a lovely woman," but in German it would have to be "the moon, he is a lovely woman," and in the Daribi language of New Guinea ir would be sllglla ge lI'are lI'e meniraba~"the moon pearlshell a fine woman, as it were." In these differences the fr;.ming metaphors beco me apparent as such, and lend subtle ironies of their own to the "translatability" of figuralive expression. In rnalhemarics, one woulel

novative upon the original oreler of rererenee. It "conveys a renegotiated relation, but, not being "literal" in any sense, canh ." b d' " not "point" to it. Thus we may say t at It em o les or "images" its object, figuring sympathetically by becoming itself that which it expresses. When we speak of things that do not have conventional referents, ~hen our manner of speaking must itsclf bceome the refercnt .. The cffeel of the conslruelion is embodied in its impingement upon conventional reference; this impingement is simultaneously what it is, and \~hat it .is about. An autistic symbol, a symbol that stands for Itself, IS not so much an impossibility as an inanity-who cares? Such a construct is interesting, and relevant to anyone's concern, only insofar as it touches upon-converts, inverts, reverts, subverts, perverts-and as it relates to, conv~ntional po~nts. of r~ference. lt concerns us as re/arively sclf-comamed, sclf-slglllficauve. Metaphors may indeed be the jewels of prose and poetry, the deat~e1ear lakes of reflection and alienation that star the mountalll




have to say that ,; the square root of - I, is a metaphor, since it registers an impasse in the calculibility of the terms used, .md, bccause it is thcrcforc "imaginary," it comes to stand for an imaginary realm 01' flcld. The convclllions-rules, syntax, lexicon-of language stand in a reciprocal relation to that which can be, and is, said in the language. As we speak by working transformations upon those conventions, fig"rinr: our meanings through them, so the set of conventions can be seen as the metaphor of ali that could be said in this way. A language, and, insofar as it can be said to have conventions (which is how we, perforce, describe it), a culture, is the ultimate subjunctive, an "as if" made into an "is" by the seriousness of those who use it. Once we admit this, that the ostensibly "positive" 01' "absolute" values are not in thcmselves absolute, but relative figures that are manipulated by framing the lesser, more obvious ons within the larger, more convelllional ones, then it becomes apparent that expression is not only re1ative hetween languages, but also lVith,i, them. Formallanguage then becomes the incremt!"Jllof a ~amc in which lesser fi~lIres are formed within and agaJnst the larger, framing ones, and eventually become encapsulated by them, only to facilitate the formation of yet other, le5ser expressions. The formal side of expression is, of course, not only a facto r in verbal and conceptual articlllation, but a polarity in the realm of perceplioll as well, Wilh illlplkalions lhal I shall consider presently. (Helative abstraction 01' concreteness is simply another dimension in which the reciprocal rclationship among frames occursj it makes "concrete" and "abstract" metaphors of one another.) The "absolute" nature of such frames belongs to a conventionalist, 01' literalist perspective, one that would have to, at this juncture, figuratively cut the human corpus callos"m. Unmediated concrete and abstract thought, a truly "split" brain, the hierarchical logical "types" of Hussell and Whitehead, 01' the codes, axes, and matrices of the structuralist, give us our cultural and contextual frames ready-made. Convenient, in that they do not require explanation, they are also

arbitrary-making order absolute for the sake of order itself. The alternative approach, and the task of this discussion, is to show how this framing occurs as a consequence of meaningful construction-how the frames are invented outof one another, so to speak. Specifically, as I have sclected the trope, 01' metaphor, as the unit of self-reference, the task is to demonstrate how a metaphor expands the frame of its selfreferentiality by processual extension into a broader range of cultural relevance-a larger frame, and a larger metaphor. A trope is no longer necessarily an instantaneous flash, but potential process, and its process-the constituting of cultural frames-is simultaneously also revelation, 01' knowledge 1'1'0cesso A relative perspective lVithin the province of cultural construction, taking the referentialism of the symbol, the "is" of convention, as a kind of subjunctive, is to enter a tentative suspensionVaihinger's world of "as if.'" Instead of a "system" of categories, axes, institutions-conventional points of reference ma de into steel girders-we have points of reference ralheI' like noles in a musical score. Always "there" in pOlcnlial, as colllponcllls of lhc scalcs known, if ollly intuitivcly, to composeI', performer, and Iistener, the notes take on a meaning according to the themes, variations, harmonies, and sonorities of the music itself. And if it is meaning we would study, then the meaning is in the music, and only contingcntly in its possibililics. Especially since this ali sounds like structuralism without structure, brico/age as the cssence of culture, we have to ask what use this ali is. Wny lIot take symbols as units at face value, guaranteed by the federal reserve '>ystem that D. Sperber calls "encyclopedic knowledge,'l6 and use this capital to make shrewd investments in the world of ethnological production?
S. Hll1sVaihingcr, T/rePI1I1'Mophy,fAslj.:A Sy.<UI/I ,fthe TI"",,,clical.Prac/lcal, anJ Rc/,{:iolls Fictions of ManJ:inJ, lrans. G. K. Ogdcn (London: Houdcdgc & Kcgll1 Paul, 196M). 6. Dan Spcl'hcr, /ll'l/'i"li"lf ,~YI/I/~'{",. 1r;lIls. A.1.. MOl'lon (Calllhri(I~I': Cambridgc UniversilY P,es, J97S).





Struclure has the creelibility of product, symbol the potency of money, whereas metaphor has ali the credibility and potency of ... elayelream. The answer lies not, of course, in ;my poetry 01' precision thar metaphor might bring to ethnolagy-turning kinship and ritual into Iiler;llure, and us into literary critics. Ir inheres, rarher, in the possibility that trope as symbol and symbol as rrope mighr be mutually reinforcing; thar the significance anel the workings of lrope mip;hl be rendered more coherelll by modcling cultural construction upon it, spreaeling it our across the culmral specrrum. The process of modeling in science, and in social science, makes use of known, familiar relations or orderings as a basis for the analogic comprehension of some herctofore unorganized material. A metaphor is made, and expanded into a perception within the properties of the material ro be grasped, 50 lhar the idea of a double hclix or of floating lectonic plates, for instance, is "seen" to inform the structure of DNA, or the motility of the earth's crust. The "seeing" itself is "new" knowledge, and because a metaphor is self-significative, the knowledge acquires a galvanizing force from its apparem (and de facto) uniting of knower and known-hence the certaimy rhat carries sciemific paradigms. And the consequences of such a confidem "seeing" include a restructuring of the modcl, the heretofore familiar, by the research material: DNA becomes a model for the double-helical, geography for the floating and flowing of solids. To use rhe mode1ing procedure itself as a modcl for culture is to adduce "paradigm Cerlainly" l()r cultural mOlivalion in general, for the invention of culture. 13ut it is also to take a seconel-order derivarive-rhe modeling of mode1ing is mode1ing. And 50 our choice of the model to be used becomes importam. If we choose sciemific methodology and modeling as rhe ficld of "known and familiar re1arions and orderings," then cu1ture emerges, as for the ethnomelhodologists, as lhe folk science of doing life. If we choose the rcceived knowledge concerning signs and semiotics, semamics and pragmatics, as a mode1, then culture becomes an e1ectrical display of scholarly

elefinitions, a partide physics of icolls encapslll;lling referents, frame markers marking frames-functions (or namings) that stand for themselves. And if we choose the piqllant metaphors by which insip;htflllliterary (or liler;lry!social!semiolic) crilics have characlerized and dramalized melaphor, lhen culture is, p,erhaps, a dancin~ tex,t, dazzling, conce;tling, reve,lling, posslbly psychoanalyzlllg IlS readers or participants. An alternative is to wager the open, nescient, "black-hole" qualities Cor nonqualities) of metaphor, as rnndel, againsr ilS own expansion into mYlh 01' rilual, moelcling ethnography on metaphor, and meraphor upon ethnography, in rhe hope that lhe known unf,uniliar ,mel lhe unknown familiar may help 10 s~ructure one another. If we assume rhat kinship, or myrh, or ritual, ro take lhree ofthe anthropologist's favorile generalilies is, in its working our, the sequential construclion of a metaphor: a cultural trope in large, expanded frames, then we will, in effecr, view lhe mechanism of rhe metaphor anel its glossing. If.we pay attention to the lagic, or sequencing of things, we ~lIght also gather some evidence as to the staging of a glss, Its ethnography, so to speak, what meaning makes peoph~'do. A metaphor is at once proposition anel resolulion' it stands for itself. Expanded outward to encompass (and d~fine) lhe larger cultural frames, the self-definilion and the pull toward resolurion lenel their force to cultural mOlivation anel acrJon. Meaning acquires in this way a form as well as a content acquires a form through its contento As the form and consti~ tution of a Jexicon always bears the subtle imprint of the metaphors that can be, and have been, formed against it (13minor was never the same after Bach's Mass, C-sharp minor after l3eethoven 's Quartel), so the formal part of ;1 culture accommodates, and is charged by, the large-frame myths, rituaIs, and kin constructions that take form OUI of il, and form it. Anel what we see as the general pattern of a culture, its galactic strucrure (as David Schneider would have it') of core symboJogy, must bear the imprint of the generi form anel self-c1osure of large7, ~avid M. Schlll:ider, "NOles IOward a Theory of ClIilure," in K, Ilass() and H, Selby, eds., Mt!aning in Af/lhroruloK)' (Albuquerqlle: Universiry of New Mexlco Press, 1976).





frame metaphors or tropes. In this rep;ard the "deep structure" (Ir a cuhure is only parlially mode and colltellt, B minor and C-sharp minor; it is also what I have calIed obviation, with its necessary paradoxes and negations. Myths, ritual, and kin rclations, seen as expanded tropes, as cultural frames with a logic or overlay of their own, carry us, '" patterns "Sor peng I'" like Ruth l3ene( 1 ICtSs enan cyc 1 es, " considerably beyond the anthropology of social affairs. They calI up the specter of cultural determinism, or, if that sense of culture is too strong, meaning determinism, and thcy draw attention away from political ends, political motivcs, and the role of the actor within the drama. At best, metaphor and the flow of analogy that it clicits, writ large or smalI, can only influence the relative contingency of human actions. It deflects the substantive, the concrete "thingnesses" of things, as welI as the sxmbols that name them as such, as il dissolves the sense of "~ctor" into a kind of general "sensorium" of meanings. : For this reason, then, metaphor, as I have introduced it here, porlends only a very "Ierl-handed" (or "Ierl-sided") detennin. ism a relational dimension of I)crspective and perception that deals with bounding conditions and existential issues. The question of its sciemihc statlls could, indded, be raised, as it predicts nothing and is impervious to our cultural games of testing, controlling, and validation, but thcn various ethical CJuestion of ilS scientilic status could, indeed, be raised, as it usable, highly determinist social science. (Mathematics, "Queen of the Sciences," is entirely a work of the imagination, and thus one of the humanities.) Meaning is a perception in symbolic value spacej trope is the elicitor and vehicle of perception. l3ut perception itself is arguably the most potent of the human qualities: not only are our great symphonies and works of visual art essentially perceptions, but also our tech-

matic, predictive, anel strategy-orienteel approaches can only try to explain away. Whell we speak of Illeanillg, we are talking about "seeing" within the world of human symbols, not about the grammars, syntaxes, or sign functions through which order can be precipitated out of expression. To use the algorithms whose instrumentality is modeled on linguistic capability is one thingj to develop a facility for "reading" lhe flow of imagedeveloped analogy, the dialectic of meanings, is quite another. What, then, is the relation of perception to cultural reference point? 11is a matter of abslraction, sign, and referem, as Saussure seems to have thought? Let me tum, now, to the malter of concept and pcrccpt.

nology is nothing if no! a corpus of detailed, consistent, pragmatic perceptions, and perception lies at the core of our eleadliest weapons anel our most compelling speculative triumphs. The use of trope, and obviation, as a modcl allows one to speak with sOllle confidellce ahou! generalities lha! more prag-



Too Definite for Words

with each other. The aClUal,verbal "name" is Ire,lted as a function of this rclationshipi thus, if a person is n,llllt'd for something with a pluralilY of convt'lIlional design:ltions (a sulphurerested eoekatoo, for instanee), ali {)f lhese dcsignalions art' eonsidered equally to he names of lhe person (e.g., nara, tera11'111).

There are two ways in which names, as symbols, can he considered. We can consider them as "codings," or points of reference, mereJy representing the things named, or we can consider them in terms of the relalion between the symbol and the thing symbolized. In the first instance naming becomes matter of contrasts and grouping among the names themselves: a microcosm of symbols is deployed to code or represent the world of reference. The world of phenomena is self-evident and apart. In the second instance naming becomes a matter of analogy: symbol and symbolized belong to a single relation, a construction within a larger world, or macrocosm. The distinction here is not a trivial one, because ali words, and ali symbols, insofar as they are points of reference, can be considered "namings." Ir is c1ear that hoth modes of viewing symbols, as coding and as analogy, have a certain potential, :ll1d that the eonstruction of:\I1 explanatory microcosm. eallcd "structure" realizes only part of the potential. The other part involves'a mode of construction that includes symbol and symbolized within the same expression, and implies, among other things, that the symbolized is no less a part of culture than the symbol. To give an example, among the Daribi people ofPapua New Guinea, the verb form poai (a participle of the verb poie, "to be named," "to be congruent with") is used to indicate the relation of a person or thing to the element for which it has been nanied.' The two, denominator and denominated, are said to he sahi (i.e., "tail"), or "namesakes," of one another, elements, that is, that have a (socially) recognized "as if" relationship

Sueh a relationship is individual, and individuating, in relation to convention, because il cancels or suspends the order of conventional reference in which men, for instance, and cockatoos are assumed to be distinct and nonoverlapping entities. The "as if" of the name, so to speak, sets itself in opposition to the "as if" of refercntial designalionj lhe na me defines for itself a possibility, excluded by convention, in which a man might be considered, for whatever reason, to be similar to, and thus "he," a cockaloo. That possibility coincides rather uniqueIy with the name, and so we may conclude that the name "stands for" the possibility that it elicits (and hence signifies its 0wn relationship, or itself),z and also that ir self-references itself through that possibiliry. To call a man "Sulphur-crested Cockatoo" is to give the man an individuality insofar as a metaphor of his being a cockatoo is allowed. But the "as if" of this possibility must nt'cessarily impingc upon lhe "as if" of the collective referential, or "coding" syslems, prim~rily because they bOlh use the same sei of eonvenlions. Thus lhe symbols are used again and again, entering into varying combinations, and it is the self-referencing possibili:ies of the constructs that change and differentiate themselves, cre:lting the collective as an innovation upon the individual, and vice versa. If we lreal n:unes as merely narnes, points of reference, then symbolism becomes a matter of reference: a microcosm of names is counterposed to a macrocosm of referents. But if we t rea t" na me " as re atlons IIp, t le mlcrocosm o f names is no longer a microeosmj it hecomes imrilersed in a rnacroeosm of


I' I'

analogic construction. Not only do we have an analogy that encompasses name and named, but that analogy suggests, and
~. This posilion recalls lhe "possible worlds" argumenl lhal Kripke uses agaln~llhe Fre~e-Russell nOlion 01'lhe descriptive nalUre 01'naming. SeI.' Saul A. Knpke, Namml: and N,w.rity. (C;lmhricl~t, Mass.: Harv;ml UniversilY Press, 1980), 4H-60,

I. Hoy \V;lgllt'r,ll"hll: Th,I""tIl",i'lll I{Mc'(l/lli'N i" Da,ihi IMij;i'III. (Chic;lgo: UniVt'l'silY 01' Chicago PI'CSS, 1972), pp. HS-94.





tends to enter us imo, analogic relations among macrocosmic eonslrUCls. The participle poai indicales a,~ resemblance thal can be fOllnd between some person 01' thing (01' state, act, 01' whatever) aliei allolhl'r, Jlt'llpll' who sharl' Olll' poilll 01'J'l'sl'llIhlalll'l' (aliei a lIallle ilselr is a poillt 01' I'cscllIblalll:c, howcvcl' il llIay havc been acquired) share ali of their resemblances, for poai names them "the same." On this basis, ali people have an infinite range of "names," ali are in some sense "named" ali things, and ali of these names and people are one. (The one name, incideriDal'ihi lally, is !,lIm: "Ilalllc<!," which ali olhcl'wisc 1I0IlplllSSC<! parent can bestow in recognition ofthe child's just having been named-"poai'; the alternative is to na me it, using the nega tive infix, for its recem lInnamed state-po{iawat; "unnamed." Both names are common.) The problem is more one of stopping, 01' conventionalizing, the How of analogies-the "pull" from one ~nalogy to ali others-than of finding analogies. The na me (01' :names) that is socia/ly recognized serves to mediate among personal resemblances so as to control the analogic flow for social purposes. If a name is a social point of reference, an individuating relationship, then it is so because it artificially stops the flow at the point of that rclalionship. Thus the microcosm of social names I1Icdialcs the macrocosm of analogy by cutting it into manageable pieces. And lhe macrocosm of analogy, of course, mediales lhc microcosmic poims of reference by allowing us to "see" resemblances among them, bridging them into .rabi relationships among people, 01' people and animais (fig. I). Daribi say lhal .rabi shollld help onc allolhcl'. If names are symbols, and symbols names, it should be no trouble to make lhis special case of lIaming a general case of symbolism. Ali we need to do is expand the sense of "na me" into an inslance of microcosmic restriction,and the sense of

tiating them, it emerges that "negotiating" human cultural conceplion and aClion is the same as ere'lling, 01' invenling, it.) Perception has c11.1raeteristically becn treated as a kinel of nal lira I rllllel iOIl ill si IIllil'S 01' IlH'allillg. a phl'1l0llll'llal J'l'ahll SCl'villg as a rrollliel' area 01' meallillg, rrom which symuolism takes its expressive media, and upon whieh it imposes (as in MACROCOSM



socially recognized resemblance

special resemblance


name as point of reference

named Individual

named individual


FIGUIlE I: Medialian in Daribi naming praclice.

" ''') apperceptlon

analogy, il1lo the range of ali perceptllal phenomena lhat form, 01' thal may form, lhe basis for human experience and communication. We can then confront, on a more cosmic basis, lhe issue of symbolislll, and we ean also deal with lhe meciiation that serves to negotiate human cultural conception and action wilhin it. (And if we rellect on lhe fact that mediation actually creates the analogies and codings, by the simple fact of nego-

an oreI er ancI" an orlentatton. "riS' le , allSSlIrlan

, o fI"'" 1I0tlon t le Slgll as a sensua I me d' lator between coneepl

and percept (as well as other similar ideas, such as that of the phoneme, sumptional

the musical tone) is itsclf a "sign" af lhis asframework, which centers the crucial areas of

meaning upon symbolic points of reference, their grammars, syntaxes, and so for,th. Recent studies in neurophysiology sug-




gesr, however, rhar perceprion is more rhan a frol1lier of symbolism with the natural world-thm it is, in fact, centrally involved. Bela J ules~, of Bell Telephone Laboratories, speaks of "cyc10pean perception"-that which results in the "forlllation of a percept at sOllle centl'allocation in the visual systelll by lIsin(.'; stimuli that could not possibly produce thar percepr at an earlier locarion.lll The mosr familiar example of such "global" informarion, as julesz would have ir, is rhar of srereoscopic vision, which is based on "peripheral" informarion from rhe two oprical rerinas, bur which would require a special, internal"retina" for rhe formarion of the image. He cites experimental evidence to indicare thar meaning in visual art, music, poerry, and linguistic expression generally is "cyclopean" in this sense,4 and notes that the cyclopean mind is a giant since the great majority of ali the neural input of our nervous system enters into it. Ir is also a simpleton, incapable of the symbolic manipulations so essential in languages, logic, and mathematicsj and it lacks the ability of abstraction.s Meaning, it seems, is itself a perception, and its experiencing :lnd expression are oblique to the orderinp; of gr:lmlll:lrs ,ll1d points of reference, which are, at best, its elicitors. More than this, meaning is a perceprion within what we could call lhe "value space" ser up by symbolic points of reference, a "stereoscopic" view, if you will, of different symbolic points of reference brought to focus at a single cyclopean "retina." Ir is thus the perception of analogy, and its expansion into larger forms, 01' frames, of culture takes rhe form of a "f1ow" of analogy. The identification of the sign as a mediator between percept and symbolic concepr establishes ahstraction-the birth of order
). BdJulesl., FlJllfI,I.uimu "rCycl"l'~a" Pl'ff<'fl/lim, (Chk ~o: Univcl'sity 01' Chicago Prcss, 197'), ).
4 Ibid., S). S. Ihid., 14

as accomplished faer-as the single eonslilurive emergence of meanin(.';. Forever afIeI' speeulalion aroused as to the origin of langllage, lhe invention tion that formed the Word in the Beginning. But the

acr in the has been of abstracrealization

that Ille:ln is perceplion, occurring wilhin lhe "nalural" grollnd from which abslraclion slIpposedly freecl lhe word, indicates that "abstraction" is, rather, part of a generative and ongoing processo The invention of a microcosm by abstraction from a pereeptual macrocosm is half of a highly charged dia!ecrieal interaction, establishing a sensory eontinuum witllln which rhe ordering and refiguring of meaning is accomplished. The other half of this eharged interaetion is an equally significant expansion, or concretization, of microcosm into macrocosm that occurs in the formation of analogy. The invention of microcosm, of symbol and language, and of macrocosm, meaning and meaningful world, are intrinsically and dialectically related aspects of the same processo The coding of microcosms, sensorily and qualitatively restricted media for the representation of symbolic reference, seems to be universal in human eultures. Spoken languag~ is the most obvious, and perhaps the most important, instarice, though nonverbal"body langllages" and inscribed, visual codings also furnish examples. Such codes are invariably generated throllgh ,I limitation and restriclion of sensory r,lIlge, :l dininished background against which minute variations, sueh as minor sound inflections 01' the shapes of lelters 01' numbers, can be used to represent significant points of variation. Resrriction of this sort determines, a kind of redundancy, ofren remarked upon by rheorisrs of language, in which what are recognizably the same sounds or image:: keep reeurring in the course of expression. The reeurrence actually makes use of the coding medi um, the sensual component of symbolization, to convey a sense (in large part iIIusory) of referential invariancej a given sound 01' orthographic symbol marks the "point" for a point of reference. As the point holds its place, so does the reference. In considering the realization of the microcosm, I should like to draw upon the particularly felicitous example provided by Professor Nancy D. MlInn, in her studies of iconographic





representation among the Walbiri people of central Australia.6 Like the graphic representations of OlheI' central desert peoples, notably, for inslance, the Arllnla, Walbiri iconographs stanel in a profollncl rl'lalion 10 lhe coslIlological anel rilual realizalions of lhe Iraelilional lif'c. While they most certainly describe a microcosm, the ambigllities inherent in their representalive lIloele elisqualify them fram consideration as "written language" in the conventional sense of discllrsive phonography 01' ideography. It eoulel well be arglleel, on lhe OlheI' hand, that for ali their divergence from the mimesis of speech characteristic of a phonographic script such as our own, such iconographs do approximate lhe ideography of traclitional Chinese ancl japanese writing. There are, of course, far fewer "characters" than we find in the Oriental orthographies, but here again the possibility arises that the ambiguities of the Australian codes are not nece~sarily more formidable, but merely differently situated. For they are stylized and abstracted pictures, not of sounds 01' ideas, but oflhe impressions that are (01' woulcl be) made in the earth by beings that move across it, 01' of static forms situatecl upon the earth. Many of lhe most commonly lIseel forms :Ire in fact c1~se imitations of lhe tr:leks of hUlIlan beings 01' animaIs. A juxtaposition of the gr:lphs is always reaclable as a sort of abslracl diagrarn 01' map, pravideel thal lhe context is c1early understoocl (a more literally inclinecl tradition woulcl doubtless elevise "sense si~ns," like those fllrnisheel in :lnciclll E~yptian hieroglyphics, for this purpose). The ieonographs are inseribeel in areas of loose sanei in accomp:lniment to orelinary conversation as well as to illustrate a women's narrative that Munn calls the "sancl story.ll7 ln these be a more 01' less icleographic the narration 01' conversation. clepictions macle ancl usecl by their cominllity on that of the cases their continuity seems to one, following the episocles of The cosmologically significant men, however, generally base track, 01' route, of a person 01'

being moving across the country. A track can beJlloll'c(1 (/JIIraH) in its creation 01' interpretation, and movement "alon~" the spatial progression that is graphically elepictceI or implicit in ti IC "I' . Il'S Inc " O fi"son~s sung a )oul SUCCCSSIVC POIllIS llI' l'PISo( in lhe journey has lhe effeel of moelcling lhe eonlinllity of spoken discourse upon a spatial traverse. The eountry of these people is, of course, known anel experienced through the known trails and landmarks that such continllities represento !ndeed, since the traelitional Walbiri lIlusl perforce, as hllnlers and gatherers, nol only gain Iheir living by following tracks (in hUflting), but also spend their lives constantly makillIJ tracks themselvcs, that life in :111 of its acts became a process of ilLfcniJtioll. Ancl this inscription, inlarge part an endless repetition of domestic and productive acts, a "following" of custom ancl technique, W:lSalso a retracing of trails and tracks that had been known from time immemorial. The Iife of a person is the sum ofhis tracks, the total inscription of his movements, something that can be traced out along the grouncl. Ancl the Iife course of a people, the totality of their ways, conventions, :lncl conventionally encountered sitllations, is thc

sum o f Its " trae k" s, t Ile trai'1' soveI' experience is measured out.

.I tiS country a Iong w IIlCI

It is in this scnsc th:lt the analagic cap:lbilities of the "track" iconograph rencler it the perfect "shifter," 01' hinge element, between the microcosm of restrietecl, v:lllle-eoeling sensory range, anel the rcez!i,atioll of that lIlicrocosm in the larger world of eontr:lstingly fuller sensory range. l~.)r a tr:lck represents itself as microcosm, as being ancl movement compressed onto a two-dimensional plane, and it thereby implies the fuller embodiment of this being and movement, as that which made the track. To "follow" the track is to infuse :I microcosm with the existence and motion of its maker, and, by a certain an:llogy, any sensory enrichment of its iconography constitlltes a similar reversal of the process of abstraction. To perform these operations upon the collective, summ:ltive sense of "tr:lck," as the
8. Ibid., 131.

6. Nancy D. Munn. lf/alf,iri Icon0F:rarhy: Grarhic RCrrc.,cnlalion anJ Cultural Sym/,,,/m in " (1'1I1",1 AII.!lr'lli"n S"l"Iity. (1IIIal:;l: Corndl Univl'rsilY Press. 1973) 7 Ibid., ~9



totallifeway and experience of a people, is to realize and vivify the making of that track as a creative act. The Walbiri, according to Munn,? call tracks in the sense of marks left by ancestral beings in the country gllnlwan: a term that may also be used in the abstract sense of ancestral powers embodied in the country. Like the clzun'nga of the Arunta, artifacts of the creative times that contain the spirits of the creative beings, 10 gUnlwan' can be used to ritually replica te or reconstitute those times. Ir is significant for our interest that the ritual reconstruction invariably involves a "following" of the track in some forn: Jr other, and usually a sensory enrichment the visitation of secret sites that of the gUnlwan' as design-in contain sueh designs, or the preparation of a ground painting called a "dreaming,"" or through the broadening of the sound spectrum as song. Thus a constructive or creative act performed upon the gllnlll'an: the sensory enrichment provided by the Walbiri themselves, takes on the sacramental sense of a communion with, or a realization of djugurha, the creative or "story" times ("dreamtime"). Rather than regarding such ritual syntheses or constructions as a "reversal" of the actions of creative beings, moving back from the artifact to the actions that made it, Walbiri thought regards the sensory realization of djugurha as following upon the precedent of the original creative acts, themselves a form of premeditated construction: Men gave the standard explanation that in ancestral times ancestors dreamed their songs and designs while sleeping in campo As one informant put it: lhe dreamt his track.' On getting up, the aneestor 'put' (yira-lIl) lIis designs (that is, he painted them or otherwise gave tllem material form) and sang his songs. As he traveled along,
9 Ibid., '19.
10. llaldwin Spencer and F.J. GilJen, Tire Native Tn"hes ofCentra/ Austra/ia (New York: Dover Publicalions, '9(8), U). Gl'o/l' Ban!on, A/.onj;ifla/ Art '{tire Wmcm Dcsert (': iled, '979), 146.

he sang his journey ... he sang efhis journey, the events along the way.IZ Thus the synthesis of djugurha is not simply the mystification of human constitutive acts (as, for instance, in a "scientific" reconstruction), but the assumption of a creativity intrinsic to the action of the creative times. If we reflect upon lhe fact t1wt the only knowledge or experience that Walbiri have, or can have, of the creative phase of the world, djugurha, comes about in one way or another through the human realization of microcosmic symbols expanded into myths, songs, designs, and "country," it becomes apparent that Walbiri rcligious 'ife is constituted in this way. Munn comments: Songs are in a sense symbols or oral language, anel ancestral e1esign 1re symbols of visual or graphic 'language.' The ancestors are in effect 'talking about' the things that happen to them in both visual-graphic and verbal ways, and such 'talking' objectivates the world around them, giving it social, communicable realityY . Although it is cJearly elucidated by their marvelously dirt:ct, recursive usages and epistemology, the dialectic between tnicrocosmic cod~ngs and sensori/y rich aesthetic productions is by no means j,:mited to the Walbiri, or to central desert aborigines. Ir is, rather, the condition of human symbolismj a polarity or contrast opposing an artificially restricted symbolic coding to an (equally) artificially expanded iconic imagery. For the act of sensual anel qualitative restriction necessary to the constitlltion of referentiaJ value hoth implies '1I1e1 renders possible a reflexive sensual anel qualitative expansionj neither is more primary or more "natural" than the other, for both are effects of the same scission, anel each realizes it character in Contrast to the olher. Neither sensual restriction nor the sense of referentiaJ value
'). lbid., '49.


Higby Limo
2. Munn, /Pa/biri /cr",oJ:"'I'/,y.





that it facilitales is equivalent, of course, 10 meaning, lhough the perception that we undersland as "meaning" would be inconccivable and inexpressible without symbolic reference. Meaning requires a forged absolule, as a kind of epislemological "Iie," in order to frame such truths as it is able to convey. By lhe sanll' loken pern'plion is hy no Jneans equivalent to the aeslhelic produclions lhrough which lhe expansion 01' sensory range is reali7.ed, yet is is bound to them, and schooled by them, as its focus. To speak of perception without this focus is like speaking of meaning without the orienting axes of symbolic reference. It follows from lhis that there is a development of perceptual 01' analogic focus coincidenl Wilh every symbolic regime. Instead of Saussure's "absolute" unit of sensual abstraction, the sign, as a mediator between "natural" percept and the abstract coding of reference, I have suggested that a modulation of (rclative) sensory amplitude-restriction as against expans1'on-embodies and enacts lhe mediation between referential coding andperceptual image. Heferential symbolism occupies one pole-that of coding through sensory restriction-of the mediation, and perceptual image or analogy-self-significative symbolism-occupies the orher. Neither is more "natural" or "cultural," more or less "artificial," than the other, and although the dialectic as a whole can be seen as a mediative process, the c1emenls lhal il mediales are nol lhose of nalure and cultllre. The mediative signilicance of the dialectic is best understood by considering each of its poles as a point of mediation between the other and an c1ement externa I to the dialectic (lig. 2). The mediation is in fact dual and recursive, negotiating the "external" polarity mediated by the dialectic within the dialectic itself. (The dialectic, in other words, is itself a representational microcosm in relation to an "external" macrocosm.) Symbolic codings or poillls of reference lhlls mediate between the (external) social collectivity and perceptual imagc, simultancously providing a sensory medium for the coding of referentiaI "invariancc" and convl'nlional rcference points for thc oricntation and recognition of imagcs. Perccptual images, or analogies, mediate between the individuative, factual world and symbolic rcference, incidentalizing the referential as sclf-signilication,

and referencing the incidental as perception through a symbolic value space. The di,dectic, then, mediates between two ideal and effeclivcly unrealii'.able POiIllS, lhe social colleclivilY ,lIld concrele, individuative fact or evento No symbol ever attains complete or absolllle convl'ntionalily, any Illore Ihan a lrope or imal~l~is ever absolulcly unique. The cultural dialeetie 01" figure 2 demarcates a range within which symbolic expressions, images, and reference points innovate upon one another as rclativc/y collectivizing or differentiating. The dialectic is enablcd by an encompassing principie of figurc-ground reversal, sueh that
macrocosmic image social collectlvity

ndividuative fact

mlcrocosm (referential coding)



Macrocosm ano microcosm as mcdialivc foei. I

each pole of the dialectic is the Iimiting condition of the other. An image, such as the crucified Christ in Grunewald's Iscnhcim Altarpiccc, can be identified as a "symbol," and attain a certain measure of conventionality, whereas a symbolic point of reference can bc sccn as "back metaphor"-the "as if" of conventional usage viewed against the "is" of a metaphor formed against that usage. A symbol that stands for itseIf, in other words, can also sland for somcthing c1scj a rcfcrcntial symbol can be seen to stand for itself. Thus the cultural dialectic, the range within which the general and thc particular bccome acccssiblc to, and cxprcssiblc

, !





by, human beings, can, Iike naming, be analyzed in two differem ways. It can be seen in microcosmic terms, as a semiotic of names contrasting with names, poims of reference that stand for symbols, others that stand for their referems (or even their refir('f1ce), anel slill olhers Ihal guaranlee, like Saussure's "sign," lhe fael of .Ibstracrion ilself. The resulr is a scicnce of signs. Approached from the slandpoint of image rather rhan point, the olheI' alternarive, however, rhe dialeclic beeomcs a macrocosmic realm of embodied meanings, symbols that stand for themselves. Sueh an analysis beeomes, subject to the Iimitations inherent in image, a study of meaning. It is a "science" to the degree that one is willing to put by predictability and the point-precision of reference for the self-evidence of meanings that are, to paraphrase an observation of Felix Mendelssohn's, "too definite for words." If macrocosmic forms may be distinguished from the microcosm through their self-signification and broadened sensory range, they may be comrasted with (unmediated) "physical" perception by the fact rim they have significance. The significance is of course highly particularized and bound up with the percepts themselves, rather than determined by a coding of abstract values, But is is no less significant for ali of that, and it is certainly not the kind of simple, "natural," or primitive significance from which ausrra!opirhecines 01' canny high priests once derived language by a novel act of abstraction. And precisely because macrocosmic image is neither primitive nor derivative, we can conclude that forms such as graphic arl, poetry, music, and ritual are not either-they must be as old, as hasl', anel as imporlam as langllar;e, for t hey are pari of the sallle condition. The confiation of aesthetic and "everyday" images implied in rhis nOlion of significam perceplion may well seem peculiar 01' even erroneous in view of our tendency to consider perception a natural, and art an artificial, acr. The discrimination and recognirion involved in our orelinary apprehension-seeing, hearing, touching, and the general faculty that integrates these "senses"-of the world around us are cultural and symbolic aClivities. They ;Ire, at a vcry generallcvcl, cvery bit as cultural, and as natural, as Mozart's composition of The Mam'age oJ Fi-


01' as my listening to it. The realization that this is so does not render art mundane and ordinary any more than it transforms laundry Iists into poetry, though it may be helpful in understanding how art can be powerful and laundry lists less so. Aesrhelic images l\;lvC the salllc symbolic v;l1cnce as Ihose of ordinary, significant perceprion: Ihey belong to lhe elimension of self-signification. In the words of Victor Zuckerkandl:


'I I

What tones mean musically is completely one with them, can only be represented through them. EXCeyl in the case of crearive language ... and of poetic language, where other, more 'musical' rclations come into play, language always has a finished world of things before it, to which it assigns wordsj whereas !Dnes must themselves create what they mean.14 The difference between ordinary perception and artistic creativity is not that between a naturalistic "sensing" of the world and an artificial, meaningful "interpretation" of that sensii1g, but rather it is a difference between one kind of meaningfuFact and another one, of greater concentration, organization, 'and force, within the same semiotic focus. The power of a great music, of a compelling tradition in poetry 01' painting, is:the powcr of conccnlraring and preclIlpling, organizing, orchcstrating, and distilling, the significance that serves us in our ordinary apprehension of reality. Art is the burning glass of the sun of meaning. If this \Vere not so, if rhe Iranscendental realizations of art were not at the same time transcendental realizalions of reality, il wOllld scan:dy he necl'ssary to disqualify aesthetic conslruction as mere artifice 01' illusion. The point is better made by reference to the historical phenomenon of iconoc1asrn as it appcarcd in Byzantiurn, in Islarnic culture, and among the followers ofSavonarola and the English Puritans. Each of these movements was "fundamentalist" in lhe sensc Ihat it was cornmiteel to lhe slatus of Holy Scripture as the actual/ogos, 01' Word, of God 01' AlIah. It followed from
'4. ViclOr Zllck~rbndl, SOIl"" ",," Sy",l,o/- 1v11l.1'I' lll,,/,h( 1~\',(rn,,1 If/orltl. trans. W. R. Trask, Bollingen S~ries XLIV (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969),67.



this commitmcnt, made emphatic often to the point of protest, that the expallsioll of symbolic si~llificallcc imo macrocosmic realizatioll became automatically, as it were, a precmpting of divine crcation. Macrocosmic symbolization, in a graphically rcprcscllIalillllal form, anel ofll'n inlllhcr forms, slIch as elrama, as well, was illterdicled because the cullural dialcclic itsclf had been sacralii'.ed. Where word is holy reality, its expansion is divine crcation. Another historical example, that of the French impressionists, shows that the lIlacrocosmic llalUrC of arl can be a secular discovery as wcll. There is a "raising of consciousness" regarding the rclalionship of painting to visual "rcality" that is discernible ill lhe dcvclopmclll of Weslern paillting. lI COIJImenced with the invcntion of a "world space," continued lhrough the awakening sclf-consciousness of artists who discovered brushstroke and the art of concealing art, to the crisis ~;of "how to paint" among the artists of France and the Low Countries in lhe lalter IJalf of the nineteemh century. The issue was no longer, as it had been for previous centuries, the evo':'cation of a sacred or secular world space, because the macro. cosmic function of painting had been determined. The artist , 'was in command of perception, because perception itself was something like paintingj it was no longer necessary to "represent" lhe truer reality of the senses, but only to determine how to paint, how to use the senses to create reality. From here to the c1airn of the cubists, that their delineation of figures in cubical form portrayed the true reality, WaSbut a step. Whether it deals in cubical "realities," modulated tones, or the verbally elicited conceits of Shakespeare, art shares the qualitative (what neurophysiologists call the "spatial") symbology of perceptual experience. As a symbology the macrocosm is impervious to systemization, for the sim pIe reason that it is already the kind of figuration that systematizing portends; to organize a percept into a system would involve a transformation or metamorphoses, anel since transforrnation or metamorphosis is silJlply the means by which qualitative forms undergo change, one would merely exchange one percept for anolher. The problelJl is essl'lllially lhe salJll' as Ihal of glossing

a metaphor: the terms of the metaphor are themselves the gloss. Qne can, of course, eliscuss sensibly lhe impicaliolls that melaphor has for the verbal, and this is largeJy what our literature on metaphor involves. Qne can, similarly, discuss sensibly the implicaliolls of millTOl'osmic l'OllSlnlClioll ill gl'lll'rill fi,,' l'1I1tural rclations, and this is what the present study is ali about. Dealing with pri'mitive elements that are themselves configurations, our problem is very much the opposite of the semioticist or structuralist, who seeks to determine the manifold systematics by which c1emelltal lI/ts are combilled so i1Sto construct complexity. Appropriate transformation ("how to paint"), rmher than accurate reconstruction (or deconstruction) is IJIYgOitl, Like Goelhe, who sought in his lheories of color and plant metilmorphosis to estilbJish a natural sciencc based on the objectivity of sclf~evident forms and meanings, wc need to find the generic-in this case, that of cultural trilnsformation-amid a welter of forms. Such a generic need not be a delerminant, or a picture, or a structure, of"clllture," bllt ralher what we could call an image of our own "interpretation," and hence of meilning. A single metaphor, regardless of its scope, invariably presents the enigma of what Freud called "condensation"I~-a ricl'ness of potentially elicited analogies, ali at once, that makes the "rcading" of the expression, or the flxing of its intent, a matter of the interpreter's own selection. If we allow julesz's arlogy of"cyc!opeiln" perception, then the "stereoscopic image" projected in a metaphor wants iI conventional focal point. This is i1n intrinsic property of embodied meaning, which is always its own focal point, a point that only in some casesthe Jimiting cases where macrocosmic image approximates to the microcosm-become conventional. And if wc should choose to argue, as I have here, that the indicative of conventional reference, as "ultimate subjunctive," is itself a certain strain of metaphor or trope, then the problem of condensed meanings involves the conventional also.
11. Sip;munel rrcuel, The !nll'rlwIQlinn



TIIl' Ill'l-::t1'l1l

Pn~ss, 11) 13).





The problem of "reading" elicited analogic fiow can be coumered to some exteOl by contextualization, using the pattern or tendency of other associated tropes as guides in the interpo!;uivc interpretation of a particII!;lr example. (CoJlvention is perhaps, in this respect, social contextualization.) If we approach a set of cultural analogies, a ritual, for instance, as a comextual set in this way, then the undersranding and explication of its individual metaphors may be iIIuminated by the strain or tendency of the whole; a general sense of the whole will inform the interpretation of its pans, and vice versa. But if we can construct the ritual as a whole as a trope, then the coOlextual interrdationships among its componems-its constitueOl tropes-will be relations of pans of a trope to the whole, and we will have parsed the trope. The force of the generic fies nO! il1some "family resemblance" among the constituent images of a ritual, but in the holography of part and whole-the c10sure of the constituents to form a trope or metaphor in a larger frame of cultural significance. The whole is, in fact, the condensation, via the order of the generic, of the constituents, and condensation becomes, in this way, the order of cultural construction. Returning now to my poiOl of departure, the contrast betwecl1 name as refercnce and na me as analogic rela. ion, it is c1ear that the dialectic of macrocosm and microcosm, as an analytic strategy, amounts to an encompassing of the entire symbolic continuum within the realm of analogic rdations. Having discarded the Saussurian notion of "sign" as the frontier of abstraction (and, therefore, of symbolism), symbolic points of reference must themselves be treated as analogic COI1structs-metaphors-although they are in fact the limiting condition of metaphor. This means that the dialectic opposes the collective images of convention (including lexical codings) to the relativdy macrocosmic images of whole perception in an interplay of restriction and expansion. I have shown that name (or, of course, symbol) as "point of reference" has lhe effect of stopping or cOlllrolling the f10w of analogy for social purposes. (A previously IInnamed Daribi child may be named eilher !,Olll; "named," or !'0i.illll'lII; "1111-

named," analogically opposite aspecls of the same sequencej but for purposes of naming mld idenlific;llion the play of analogy must stop somewhere, and so one is chosen.) Symbol as imal:f, ;IS the c1icilalion of mllltiple, cOl1del1sedaJl;lIogy, hridges between names as points of reference, bringing lhem into a rclational fidd. The transition involved in expanding a metaphor imo larger frames of cultural reference is a transformational expansion through a relational field, but it is also controlled by the exigencies of what I have called the "generic," the holography of trope expansion that is the formal concomitant of condensation. If images and points of reference, macrocosm and microcosm, are indeed mediators, then they must achieve their signification-and their very constitulion-in the act of mediation. A point of reference is signifil<,nt, aml significalive, insofar as it mediates among points of reference. Thus the movemeOl, or process of expanding poiOl metaphors imo frame metaphors, which I have called o6viation, 16 embodies a movement back and fonh across the dialectic until the mediation is resolved .. Obo

viation may he seen as the dialectical resolution of media\lon, the exhaustion of a mediator, and of the rclations set up through. it, as the mediation condenses imo one of its poles. The obvialion of image, aI the Illacrocosmic pole, resolves ilSclf il.he formation of a conventional (or moral) metaphor relating the facrual and the collective (fig. 3"); the obviation of convention, at the microcosmic pole, resolves itself in the forrnation of an individuative metaphor relating the factual and the collective (fig. 3b). In each case, mediative interaclion within the dialectic (collapsed, in Fig. 3, imo a linear movement, but best depicted as ternary opposition) leads to the encompassing of one pole by the other. The expression that is formed by such a resoJuton takes over the whole fllnction of the diaJectic in mediating between social c6i1ective and factlla I embodiment. I3UI this does nOI mean thm it inclll:les those aspecls of actllality wilhin its formal
160 Hoy W'II-:/Il'r, l.etl",I,\i',w/" IAm"" /I(yth Cornc:1! Univc:rsilY ('rt'ss, IlJ7H), ch;lplc:r I. eU

.~y",I,,,licOI. illll('" (1Ih'K'I:




articulation: it cannot, for they are not symbolic-we know them only through lhe mediation of cultural reference and cultural image. The following chapter presents an ethnographic example of such a mediated dialeetie, an obviation sequenee. The recursiveness of the dialectic itself, and the externa I poles of social colleClivity and embodicd faet lhat it mediates, are eonstituted by exponential orders, or powers, of trope. I shall

in "is"), the "is" of the conventional references becomes itself a metaphorical "as if." This reversibility amounts to superordinate principIe, the second-order trope of figure-ground reversal, by which a perception can be inverted with its perceptual "ground." Hence the dialectic is enabled by its reversibility, by the faet that-albeit differentially and in different waysreferential mieroeosm and embodied maeroeosm ean serve alternately as figure and ground to one another. Just as trope in our ordinary understanding amollnts to a pereeption within a field of eonventional referenee, 50 figureground reversal is the trope of perception. It applies the principie
of tropc to tropc ilSdf, changing its oril'nlalion, and IhllS hOlh

;" .oz ~~'"

"'~'/' .e;.... ...~. 'l. '.

O"" ::::::::~)


enabling and bounding the seopeof

~----------------------FACTUAL CONVENTIONAL





( :'1.


. ~+~ ... :... ~~/,. .,,'....







::~ ..


Obviation as rncdialivc resolution.

eonclllde this diseussion of the dialeetie by introdueing the first and most immediately relevant of these, seeond-order trope. The revcrsibility inherent in obviation-that the expansion from point to frame ean move from mierocosm to maeroeosm or from maeroeosm to mieroeosm-amounts to its enabling eondition, the eharaeter of dialeetic itself. This ean be understood in terms of the notion of"back metaphor," noted above: that when the "as if" implied by a metaphor is established (as




Metaphor Spread Out: The Holography of Meaning

The traditional approach to kinship studies, established by Louis Henry Morgan, lhas been to assume that cultures fit themselves into a regime of "natural kinship," given by the "facts" of genealogy, by a ser of social roles that develop it into a system of institutions, rights, and marriage practices. Whether the "giveness" of natural kinship is assumed as an article offaith or as a useful "heuristic," it furnishes an unexamined and prepackaged ground of differentiation for an anthropology thar would Iike to limit its scope to the srucly of collectivities and their organization. An analogic approach, by contrast, begins with the centrality of relationship-the fact that ali modes of "rebing" are basic;dly analogous-ancl asks how the c1ifferentiation of kincls of relationships, imposed by culture, controls the flow of analogy among them. Ir may be culturally appropriate, for instance, for an uncle to act "fatherly," or for a cousin to "be" a brotherj but treating son or brother as lover or husband, or a mother or sister as pammour belongs often to the inappropriate lIow of ;Ill;llogy that we call incesto Analogic kinship is a matter of rnaimaining a rnorally appropriate llow by balancing sirnilarity against e1ifferentiation, keeping generarion from tlIrning imo degenerarion, as it were. The flow of analogy, the interrelation among known, conventional relationships, articulates their sequentiality and significance in terms of cultural conceptions of ~eneration, nurturance, or whatever other terms the myth oflife might assume. The lIow itself Illay be deal! with, in part, throllgh the modes

I. Thc mos! cXlcndcd and cllmpl'chcnsivc discussilln ()f lhis issllc is D"vid M. Schncidcl"s ti Crili'l"e ,{,h. S",,1y ,{ Kill.lhil'. (Ann Al'hor: Thc Univcrsity (lf Michi~"n I'I'CSS, 1984).

and protocols in which people relate to one another-taboos, avoidances, jokin~, reciprocity-but its m:ljor symbols :Ire usually those of body subst:lnce, spirit, or line:llity. Understood as a native model of an:llogic flow, these symbols have less the character of "beliefs" or supports of a "structure" than that of motifs in a myth. The Daribi myth or trope of life :lnd ~eneration, which I shall exarninein this chapter, realizes its totality as part of a larger set of interlinked tropes, not as a model of marriage or society. Whatever orher significances they may be seen to have, for social, economic, or ecological, purposes, Daribi kin relationships derive their indigenous meanin~ fram the expansion of this trope. We are dealing, then, with relationship in depth rather than with relativesj more than this, however, we are dealing with the relations among relationships, the regularities through which they are constituted, transformed, and resolved. The objective reality of such a regime of kin construction Iies not in its referents-concrete behaviors, sets of people, or a'ctual gene flows-but in the meanin~s, the perceptions, that ir 'embodiel-' in the course of its expansion into :I lar~e-frame metaphor. Let us now examine this expansion as it occurs among the Daribi people of Papua New Guinea. ,: Daribi kinship begins with the act of betrothal, with ~ restrictive interdiction of ali social recognition (ali direct "relating") between a man (anel, usually, his male siblings) on one side, and his betrothed anel her mother, on the other. They may not speak to each orher, see each orher, lItter one another's name or the name of the thing it refers to, or hear such a na me spoken. The principal parties, the man and his betrathed's mother, are ("true") au 1to each otherj ali interaction between them must be mediated and commuted to exchanges of wealth. An infringment of the interdict must be rectified by a small gift of weai,!l to the female aUi the betrothal itself is formalizeel by the presentation of a sizable amollm of "rnale" goods to the woman's line, and the returtl of a smaller payment. The interdict is a .f1l6stitlltion of aflinal protocols, in the strongest sense, those of complete avoielance, for whatever









other relational analogies (such as their being friends, 01' distam second cOllsins) that lllay have prcviously involved the persons concerned. This substitution, anel the exchange through which it is cffectcd, establishcs a convcntional rcstriction of social illleraclion, rccognition, and prcscnlation, a lllarked behavioral microcoslll, alllong lhe principais to lhe belrolhal and their dose kin. 1 shall speak of it as sllbstitution A. In aelelition to the au relationship, affinilY involves lhat among 1V~1I; a man (anel his brothers) anel lhe father (anel father's siblings) of his belrolhcd, a guarded relalionship in which lhe rcccivers of lhe betrothal show especial restraim anel eleference, anel the similar bUI less strongly emphasizeel batc relalionship, bctween a man (anel his brolhers) anel lhe siblings of his belrolhcel. Thc major sanction on this microcoslll of relating through avoielance anel respect is lhe social compromise known as harc ("embarrassment," 01' perhaps "shame": elelineel as "that which we feel in ::the presence of w\li"), so llluch so that the interelict might also be elescribed as simply lhe imposilion of harc. Daribi marriages are traelilionally initialeel by betrothal 01' subsequently transferred hetrothal (49.6% in a sample of 702 m;u'l'iages1), 01' by leviralic transfer of wives (46.ll%), anel girls . \vere often betrotheel in infancy. Betrothals are saiel to be bestoweel "in relurn for wealth anel meat," anel the expectation is that a relalively constam supply of meat will lIow from the receiver of the betrothal to the girl's relatives. An imagery of meat anel wealth pervaeles the whole affair: thase who give generously can expect aelelitional wives fram the line of their lI''li (16.7% of ali comracled marriages after lhe fina), and at some point in the affair the betrotheel shouldvisit the householel ofher future husbanel (chaperoned dosely by his mother) "to see whether he is accumulating the bridewealth." Betrathal, then, amounts to the setting up of an analogy of relationship through a flow of detacheel, partible wealth items, traelitionally meat anel pearlshells. This "relationship" of "horizontally"
1. The Slalislics presenled here were originally published in Hoy Wagner, "Malhemalical Prediclion of Polygyny !lales among lhe Daribi of Karimui P,llrol Pnsl, Territory of Pilpua ,lI1d New Guinea," a.,'ania 41, no. 3 (March 1971). SOllle supplclllclllilry Slillislics werl' publishl'd );Iler in Hoy Wagner, "Analngic Kinship; A O"rihi EXillnple," AlIIt'f;can Erlrn%gt nu. 4 (1977).

flowing wealth is substituted for the expectation of ordinary human interaction that has been restricteel by the interdict, anel for any "f1ow" of common substance that caulel be seen to relate the parties beforehanel. We can distinguish this analogical consequence of lhe interelict from lhe "vertical" llow of body substance that is felt to "relate" people. 1 shall speak 01' lhis as substitution B; it contrasts with the "conventional" substitution

A in that it does not elirectly set up a social elislinction, but

rather moelels relationship analogically. Daribi commonly speak of.the betrothal of a waman as the "taking of heI' soul" (noma 'sabo) bythe praspective husband's line. A soul (noma' also means "shaelow" 01' "reflection") is a partible identity, as the giving of meat anel wealth is partible analogy, anel the usage here is comparable to Mauss's notion of the M;jori hau, as the spirit of a gift that compels reciprocation.1 The lI'cgi "oma' ("girl-soul"), then, is the social identity of the betratheel "taken" as a kind of pledge for heI' ultimate bestowal as a return on the prestations of meat and wealth, the acknowlcelgmellt and affirmatioll of re\;ltionship as horizontal Aow.
'1'1 I. 1 (It le " tYlllg . " or "I' ." o f' le ael o f' marnage, lI'C ":oo lastelllllg the woman, thus redeems the t:xpectation 01' elebt set up by the How of presl;llions. In so eloillg it also grants the hori;"ontal f10w a distinct gender polarity, it "sexualizes" it by establishing a two-way Aow of women (as female relatives of the briele now become Ilormatively marriageable in the same elirection) as agaillst meat and wealth. This substitution, the conventiollal rile of marriagc cxchallge that I shall identify as substitutioll c: condenses a rich spectrum of implications and perceptual possibilities into a single dramatic act. The rite consists of the presentation of the bride price before the brides father's house, and its acceptance by the bride. The groom and four ar five other men of his line assume an attire called the ogwanoma' (Iiterally "boy-soul," but spoken as one word): a covering of charcoal over the entire visible body, a
3. M"rccl Mallss, Tire C/fi. lrans. lan Cllnnison (GIl'ncoe, 11I.:The Free I'ress, 19~4). Sec "Iso lhe e~lended disCIIssioll of lhe Maori 11<111 in Milrshall Silhlins, Stone Age Economia (Chicago: Aldine Press, 1971), chapler 4.




black, cassowary-plullle headdress, and contrasling whitc shell decorations-the traditional male batde dress. The men assume a tense, maintain rigid stance, silence, in single file facing the house door, some 01' the pearl 01' the bride pricecomplete and each holds

39 that the woman she is not "re01' women's

net bags, and trade c1oth. Ir is most signilic;mt is compensated placed," for with items 01' male wealthj for instance,

as a female, with a prestmion


the major component

in the left hand, ,md a bow and sheaf 01' arrows in the right. The bride emerges from the house splendidly attired, and walks down the file, collecting the pearlshells from each man, and then takes them to heI' father. As each man is refieved 01' his shells, he takes one 01' the arrows rigidly back to "attention." The "boy-soul" that is "taken" into his left hand and snaps 01' the girl's "soul" on the very occasion

things. This is because she is viewed by heI' natalline as a part 01' their own vertical mal e f1ow, and heI' loss to this f10w must be compensated for by male wealth. "We," for the Daribi, are always male contingency. (A bride's indebtedness to heI' maternal line is terminated out 01' heI' bride price.) the wife-givers to the wife-takers as women. Suhstitlltion at heI' marriage by a payment taken 1t is only the husband's line that sees themselves as well microthe giving 01' female wealth

as a female f1ow, and they represem through

is the literal countcrpart it is displayed so to speak, 01' a woman

in betrothalj

when the girl's "soul," herself, and the promise wealth is fulfiJled. but merely displayedj

is replaced by the girl in return for a fiow 01' that are transmitted,

C marks a retllrn to the convemional

But the oglVanoma' itself is not transmitted it is the pearlshells

cosmic pole 01' the dialectic, establishing B as the analagical mediator between two poims of conventional reference (betrothal and marriage). But it also stands as ,. Hegelian symhesis, mediating between the imerdict set up in A and the horizomal f10w 01' wealth in

and when this Occurs they are very ostentatiously replaced with an arrow. Unlike the girl-soul, the boy-soul is retained, and retained in a martial posturej moreover the formation assumed by the groom's aphor party is that which serves in birth order the Daribi as a met(e tun"hadli, the for succession and fineafity

B by


a marital


through a reciprocation of the fiow. Ir makes the horizmal f10w sexually complementary, like the interdict, and st;pplemems the interdict with a relationshipj motivates the sexual complementarity providing a f!ow-based rationale and female ali as initiators (lig. 4). but it also retroactively 01' the original interdict for the pairing 01' nale .

"and at his back is ... "). The groom 's party and lhe ogwal/oma' dramatize horizontal the continence outfiow 01' male vertical flow as against bearing 01' male wealth. The and demeanor of this fiowj


01' the men, furthermore, suggest the contingency it is something to be defended and safeguarded. The composition bOlh cmphasizcs this gcnder idcntilicalion

As a point 01'mediation, C also (as indicated by the triangular configuration 01' figo 4) stands hetlVeen the microcosmic and macrocosmic poles represemed hy

01' lhe bride pricc and ilS COllnlcr preslalion and exposcs ls rel-

and Bj its status

as a con-

,ltivity. The bridc pricc consists 01' ma/c wcalth-pigs, pcarlshells, and adjuncts 01' m,de productive activity, sllch as axes and bushknivesj it is divided into two parts: were oromalVai ("given without as compensation paYll1elll rema maho, consists and/or return for the woman")-the part that goes for the woman-and we pona siare ("woman

vcmional poim 01' reference 01' horizontal f!ow provided 01' a convenlional male analogic arbitrary wife-takers. lI1etaphor coumerflow

is aehit'ved hy vil'tlle 01' lhe analogy 11. Its constitution by sllbstitlllion lhrollgh lhe consll'ucrion only in relation 01' a fesomewhat to the its is to that degree rendered

and relative,

for it is "female"

For the wife-givers,

since every fine perceives


. glven

. II IIle Wll

parr compt'nsatt'c1 orremate

for hy lhe relllrn

I WOll1an. '1'1' IIS (owry,


"11 ca

e( I .I'ogll'llartifacts

own f10w as male and vertical, it is a depJetion, to be compensalt'c1 with mal<' wl'allh. Thlls rht' l'OnSII'IIl"lion 1'I'll(ll'rs ilst'lf transparent lu lhe eXlenl th,lI il rn;.kes it obviulIs lhallhe gender identity of the flow depends upon one's poim 01' view. This is t1lt' second ml'aning
()f "o!>vialion"

largely 01' wholly

adjll:<:ts 01' won1l'n's

sueh as hark c!oaks,


il a




metaphor 01'metaphoric crreet); it renders its eonstructions progressivcly more obl'ious as their cumulative medialions 01' the elialectic beco me inereasillgly rc1ative. /\s perceptual symboli7.ations medialillp; within lheir OWII constilutive lIow, the stap;es 01'obviation beco me perceptions within that 1I0w. The firsl clos1ll'e ill the seqllellee 01' Daribi kin relations establishes analogic flow as the medium 01' kin construetion. But the point 01'c1osure, at C, also serves as a point 01'referenee mediating between two macroeosmic expressions, and there~ fore leads to a new "opening," via a Hegelian "antithesis," at substitlltion D. This substitution involves the procreative acayn\heala

provided by the woman in the conception 01'a child. lt 1'01'1115 the inner layer ofthe embryo: bones, viscera and other internal orp;ans, anel lhe circlllalOry syslem. Menstrllation rcleases paf.,'ckamiflc for procreative purposes. The crllcial elifference between these 1I11iels anel the characterisitcs they objectify is the rclative contingency uf maleness and 01' a man's supply 01' kawa, and the re1ative sufficiency 01' femaleness and 01'a womn's supply 01'paf.,'ckamiflc. Quantities 01'both fluids are necessary to the formation 01'an embryu, anel although the amount 01' blood felt to be sufficient for this, the man receives from his father is anel must be allp;mented. It is in a woman's body is always amount 01'seminal lIuid that a never suflicient for conception, replenished and sllpplemented


by the juices and fat 01'meat that is eaten, which enter the alJlI'(/ system (in a woman they are transformed into maternal milk). Meat is, therefore, the external complement 01'male reproductive potential, its partible and portable accessory, and it is also, therefore, the link between horizontal and vertical analogic flow. The exigencies 01'acquiring, controlling, and assembling meat in the right quantities at the right times, since these aCtivities are social and reciprocal ones, make male physical contingency into a social contingency. The Daribi put it succinctly: "we marry lhose (tines) wilh whom we do nol eat ml'al." The conceplon anel birth 01'offsprinp;, however, model what has heretofore been negotiated in terms 01' external analop;y, the How 01' gifts 01' meat and wealth as against the gifts 01' women and female goods, in terms 01' internal Aow-that 01' bodily substance. Thc marriap;e that was enacll'd solc1y through the reciprocation 01'horizontal Hows is now replicated analogically in the form 01' vcrtical flow, the substantial connection 01'parent to offspring, and 01'lineap;e to lineap;e. Thus the substitution 01' internal, vertical flow for external, horizontal f10w (anel 01'a "marriage" 01' f1l1idsin tlll' former for marrial~e in the \utter) elirectJy controverlS anel "cancc1s" lhe sense 01' interdict at A, which was to abrop;ate any relationship between the lines involved. We can, lhercfore, diap;ram lhis slIbstillllioll, D, directly above A, because although it represents the opposite dialectical mode, it addresses the same isslle as A (fig. 5)





t t t 4 t



4: First c10sure in lhe Daribi kinship scqucnce.


tivity culminating in thc birth 01'ofrspring, and is best lIndcrstood via the Daribi notion 01' conception. Daribi consider maleness to be an efrect 01'seminal fluid, kawa, contained and elevc\opeel wilhin a system 01' tlIbes (af.,"wa bafiO) and nodes (agwa gc) that we know as lhe lymphalic syslem, anel lransmitted by a man in cOitllS. lt 1I0ws arollnd the blood in the uterus, anel fonns lhe oUler laycr 01'lhe embryo: lhe skin, eyes, teeth, and hair, as wel1 as the Iymphatic system and genitalia 01'a man, and lhe lymphalie sysll'm and mammary glands 01'a woman. Femaleness is tonsidered to bc an effeet 01' maternal blood,paf.,'ckamiflc. contained within the circulatory system, and







Substitution D corresponds to the median point of the sequence, the st:lte;lt which relationship, interdicted at the olltset, comes into its own ;lJld be~ins to carry the externa I anal~y also compounds relalivi~;ltion noted in Subslitution of the cultural represents of the exch;lI1!!;e alon!!; with ir. This substitution perceived incarnate ity of male as against ogy that links person

of view one adopts, however, the anal~y scrves to relate the two linealities involved and to crode and render ambi!!;uous any expression of their distinctncss. Thus relational general an addilional analogy. social convenlional to interdict internal reslriclion, or social point f10w of of exter"norof referencc, is neccssary lhe untempered (vertical)

C, for lhe relariv-

female Aow in that instance to person,

here becomes The anal-

This takes the form of a modeling Aow upon convention

in the constitution


nal, or horizontal,

f10w as the

and unit to unit (and it must such an analogy),


that I have called

be kept in mind that every person

Intlr".1 for

mative patriliny,'14 lt correlates the shanng of meat and wealth with mal e substantial flow, and the exchanging of meat and wealth statement male female with female contingency-the sufficiency. (pagekamlne) necessity The latter Aow. As the definitive of men to pool social of geneler in relation to social conslitlltion, it opposes and share that a kind by taking . motivated implic10-

t.r"11 flowl

meat and wealth

for both social anel physicaI is manifested

procreation-to in the notion

the pagebidi have, by virtue of the bonel of"base-blood," of primordial

.e C mlrraagl: r.clproclUon

right to the child

rim can

be exercised


of the child in case of default by lhe falher or, failing the child with illness or death.

that, by cursing



Substitution exchange, cations.

E, internally

motivated expression sequence

for externally


a wiele range of social and perceptual it forms a synthetic togcther



As a conventional

sure to the thesis-antithesis at C; it organizes internalized ciency, af lhe illlerdicl. (who regard their "sisiwntal As the definition it provieles dramati~ation

that begins with marririge at C, and and priorities. and female suffifor the ogwanoma of horup internal, subsliIntial Aow (fig. 6). that deAow

the two Aows, brought point for male contingency a retroactive motivation upon


at D, in terms of moral contingencies


FIGUIIE~: Cancellation is perceived

at the marriage

rite. (C). As a modeling su1>slitution

Aow or exchange


as male by the wife-givers attituelinally

f1ow, it controverts of a horizontal fine lineality Most significantly,

and cancels it organi~es relational

B, lhe setting

ters' chilelren"

anel terminologically

as lheir oll'n)

Aow In lieu efinternaJ

or vertical

and fem;I!e by the wife-t:lkers. F rom its own point of view, each siele regarels the chilel thar forms the analo!!;y as its own internal IIsal~e tl'l'als l\te I'l'sultill~ wifc-tilkers, are child's maternalline, analo~y f1ow, thou~h

lhe pagehabo payments analogy,

as against

and the leviratic


of wi\jes lI'ithin the Iineality. wilhin lhe sharin~

Finally, as il foslers a f!ow of wives willl lhe IlIalemal

lhe viewl'oinl blood.

lhe The

unil, and a kind !lI' sharin~

as a f10w of page~'al1/1ile, or maternal represented owners

, 1'"l:e I'}'" IlS 11m,

""1 or

p;enerally >ase-peop

I"'Y/I'I e. W uc

by iI maternaluncle,

' ICver POlllt

4, Hoy

W;l~Ill'r, T/,( lllru or SOIlIl': I'ri""'i'/"" or /),,,i/,i Ct.1II /)4,,,ill;1II ",,,I (Chiea~o: Ullivl'rsilY (J"Chic;l~ll !lress, ")67). '47-10,








uncle outside of the unit, substitution E advances the rclativizalion o( inlemal as againsl l'xlemalllow ;tlmosl to the limir.
Pagl!habo (fi"olll pagchail!, "to pay thc pagl!/Jlili") alllouJlts 10 a series 01'sllbstitlltions 01'male wealth that is elue to a chilel's

case as a young man approaches adulthood, and begins to aSSlInll' rl'sponsihilily for Illaking his own paynll'Jlts, anel is clllphasizeel in a popular cUslolll. MosI Daribi cxchanges involve the reciprocation of a smaller prestation, callcd .ro{:lI'arefila, hy Ihc rccdvcrs 01' Ihc Illain prcslalion. In lhc case 01' a male child, however, the sogwarema wealth will often be withheld by the pa{:ehidi until the boy grows up and begins to assell1ble his Iniele price, anel then be lllrnecl over to him for this purpose. Even if the sogwarema has not been withhcld, however, a request to the pagehidi for a bride price contribution should be honored. However it is made, this contribution has the effect

"agell/ili so as to l'eelcclll lhc chilel's hcahh anel Illcmhcrship status with regard to the pagehidi's prerogatives. Pagehaho is given a few years aI'ter birth, at initiation for males or marriage for fClllalcs, anel again aI elcalh. PaYlllcnl is oftcn elelaycel 01' negotiated, anel is customarily demaneled only for a woman's
Inlernll lor ,,'.r"11 flow

IXchlngl 'nl.rnlll)' for "lern.lI)'


. " exc IJangmg ." mto . "I ." among I' o I'turnmg s lanng lI1eage mates, particularly since bride-price contributlons are a significant indicator 01'such sharing.
Pagehaho models the exchange 01'wealth between units upon internal tlow (to the point 01'modeling the relativization 01'this flow according to Iineal viewpoint)j the junior levirate models the exchange aI' wives upon internal ana/ogic f10w lI'/ihll the unit. Moreover, the norma tive model upon which the levirate is organized emphasizes flolV:wife (ar betrothal) inheritance sholllcl proceecl Iineally (rom cicieI' to YOllnger. TIIl' clclest 01'a set 01' male siblings is referred to as the gominaihidi; the "head man "" or source man, "h on t e ana Iogy o I'a lI'(!-gomo, or " water head," the height ar the source 01' a stream. (A "f1ow" frolll father to offspring is also encouraged, provided the WOlllan did

E ................. "1 rO~'CIlV. " moi Iv 1110"



.... 1 . ./ I.... ,: I ~ : I .. .. I



C rlclproclllon



,.. /-------_

I 'I

8 horllont.1


f10w ('or Ihlpl


FI<;UIIE 6: Sccond

c10slIrcj cancclling

()f SlIhSlitllliun


first three chilelren. All adult man should pair 01'1' with one 01' his maternal uncles in an ongoillg exchange relationshipj the status 01'pagchidi with regarei to a grown womall is commllted to her brothers at marriage (part 01'the retroactive motivation 01'sllostitution C by E, in which ,1l1e1 0f:1l'anoma' are C<lstin terms o( fell1ale sllfliciency anel m<llecol1lingency). Pagehaho is relativized by the fact that, insofar as the child C,Il1be seen to share lhe lineality (especially that 01' male analogic 1I0w) of the pa{:ebicl/; the paYll1ents can be constrlled as a

not nllrture the !atter.) The flow does nOl always corresponcl to this norlll (though statistics indicate that it cloes in a Illajority 01' cases\) and there is a very small (3.8%) incidence 01' inheritance between maternal uncle and nephew. "Sharing" in Daribi exchange generally connotes the sharing (giving, that is, without expectation 01' immediate return) 01'male wealth itemsj "exchanging" generally involves the giving 01'such wealth against a perceived female tlow. By the time the child conceived in substitlltion D has reacheel aelulthooel, one has, even excluding such anolllalies as leviratic exchange
5 floy Wil~ner, "An;llnv;ie K)nship," 6}7. In iI s;lI11plenf 3?7Ievir;llie rrilnsfers, 116, ur 54.}%, involved innerililnce frum iI nOl"llliltivl'!y preferred sOlll'ce of wives, 40, 01' 104'Yo, from a permissible blll nOI preferred sOllree, lhe orhers bein~ 100 disliIlll to lrilce 01' ;1I11hi~1I0IlS Wilh re~;lrlllo normilliVl' SI;lIl1s.

between chilcl anel l'a{:I!/,/'di. This is particlllarly the




between maternal uncle and nephew, a situation of sharing across lineal boundaries, and a flow of wives within male linealilY. Relativization has reached the point where the normative alip;nment of sharin~ and exchanp;ing with flow has been compromised, because lhe IWOkinds 01' f10w have come to modcl one another completely. Thus the perception 01' arbitrariness in the elislinction between lhe kinds 01' flow, firsl encountered in substitlllion C, h<ls increased in acuity to the extent that a definite analogy can be discerned between lhem. This analogy, then, mediates lhe final transition. The children, respeclively, 01'a brother and sisler are relaled through a combinalion 01' male and female lies (laking into considerarion lhe perspective 01'the sister's husband's line)j the man who is I'agebicli to one set is father to the other. These cross-cousins, or hai: as Daribi call them, belong generally 10 elislincl ,lIlel separale palrilines, lines rim remain elislincl by virlue 01'lhe pagehaho given to medi ale lhe ("female") analogic link between them. 8ut il is also true lhat lhe same man who shares bride wealth Wilh one seI 01'males as their falher shares it wilh the Olher seI as pagehidz; lhal, because 01'mutual mode1inp;, lhe lWO flows lhal meel in lhis man beco me lhe same f1ow. Daribi say lhal I,ai' "are lhe same as siblings," lhal lhey should lreat one anOlher and think 01'one another as siblings. Ineleeel, insofar as male anel female analogic flow can be seen as equivalent, "s lhe "same" f1ow, hai' are like siblings. Insofar as a discrimination can he maele hl'lween the kinels 01'f1ow, rhe Illcwphor of"sibli 11 J,';S hip" bl'COllll'S<Jualificcl.This <Jualifil'alioll involves the facl thal male malrilaleral hai' are characlerized as
pagehiclt: anel may be referreel to as dll'ano pagehidi ("lilrle pagebicli"); rhey are enlirled to share lhe wealrh from ego's pagehaho payments, and may exercise lhe pagehidi's curse. The normarive relarionship among lrai' is, clespire lhe qual-

widows. Sut because of the qualificatian, and specifically, perhaps, because the equivalence 01' the flows is mediated by a mUlual "sharing" 01'weahh Wilh the pagebiJi 01'the qualifying link, the rights and obligations 01' hai' are expressed through lhe idiom 01' exchangillg. The leviratic c1aims 01' hai' musl, lherefore, be validaled by equilateral exchanges amon~ lhe respeclive co-heirs (paymems lhal are refundable should lhe inheriwnce nOl take place). Beyond rhis, rhe marrilareral asymmelry is coded as a slighl implication 01' leviralic seniorilY on lhe parI 01' a palrilaleral I,ai: who, if a gominaihiJi (lhe eldesl male 01'his sibling series), should nOl inheril lhe widow 01'his hai'pagehidz; "because his mOlher carne from there." In a sense, lhe flow 01' pagehaho weahh to lhe malrilateral hai' is lransformed, via rhe siblingship meraphor, imo a quasi-lineal f10w 01'wives. SlIbSlillllion F emerp;es as ,lIl analogic consequence lhal "happens to" lhe conventional reslriclion 01'substilution E as the lWO kinds 01' flow come to model one anolher. We ean speak 01' lhe SUbSlilulion 01' equivalence 01' flows for nor:malively dislinCl male and female Aows, an expression lhal serves to conlrovere anel cancel the "marriage" 01'dislincr and oppo~ed f10ws in SUbSlilulion c:; and lhal slilnds in a rclalion 01'obvialive implicalion to lhe interdicl, A, lhal inilialed lhe sequence (pp;. 7). lI' relalionship is commured to analogic f1ow, and lhe f10w is sexllally reduplicaled, and rhe l'Cdllplicalion is illlernali;-.ed, rhe interllillizarion modelin~ exrernal l'xchan~l', which in !Um I11l'1c1s tltl' two inll'mal f!()WS inl() ()lIl', tltl'1I Wl' alTivl' ai a universal, Ilongendered rc1alional analogy, derived ullimalely from lhe interdicr, blll absolurc1y antirherical to ilS (gendered, abrogation aI' relationship) intent. This can be expressed, in lhe lerms 01'lhis analysis, as a final SUbSlilulion, G, cOlerminous wirh A, lhe original imposition 01'rhe inrerdicr, bur supplanting

ificarion, grounded in lhe eqlliv"lence 01'lhe lwo kinds 01'f10w and lhe "siblingship" implied thereby. Thus male hai' should contrihlllC ro one anOlher's hriele prices, as hrorhers should, and lhey are enlitled to a sh"re in lhe bride weahh received for their respeclive fem"le hai: as wilh sisters. As "brothers," male hai' may exercisc a c1aim (rared as being jusl bclow lhal 01'a younger brother in priority) on the inheritance 01'one another's


Such a SUbSlilulion, being so slrongly implied, is in no more netld 01' execlllion lhan a maling move in chess. Bur it would be yseful indeed, for analytical purposes, to delermine lhe nalure of lhe SUbSlilulion and ilS ranp;e 01' implicalion. As lhe obviarional supplanter ()f sll!>slilution A. it slallds in a Ill'gativc or antilhelical relalion to it; bUl il is ,liso, bccause 01'ilS position





in thc diagralll (i.c., l'Otcrlllinous with /1), placcd in a rclation mutual controvcrsion and cancellation with substitution D.

As lhc nc~a!ion, 01' "no!," 01' A, il is also in thc rathcr paraeloxical silualion oflll'in~ lhc "nol" 01' IJ, ilselr lhc "no\" ol'A: it is in I:\ct what Hicharel Schcchncr would call thc "not-not" aI' A-the negation 01' its ncgation that is yet not the thing itsclf. It has bccn noteel abovc that the obviating antithesis 01' A, arrived at via the melding 01' internal Aows through external wealth cxchange, woulcl bc somc form aI' universal, nongenInt,rnll

"rcproelucc" hUlllan bcings by Illoving cxtcmally and invcrscly to their own analogic flow. Substitution G forms thc synthetic c1asllre 01' the thircl c1iaIl~clical Illeelialion in lhe Sl'<jucnCl" anel also rl'alii',l's Ihl' rcsolution 01' the se<jucnce itsclr. As a synthesis, G Illceli.ltes between the internal rnodcling 01' external How 01' exchange at and the equation 01' interna I Hows, mediated by exchange, at F, in its assertion 01' the paralleling af universal internal How by a universal externa I How. The Haw aI' rneat anel pearlshclls




o Int'rnal lor 1.I.rnal flow

1"llrnllly motlVlt.d for



E ',....

..1 .. :' c

r.clproc.lIon ,",1



F .----.,. .quIVlI.nce 01

" ,,';,'

":*:,, .i " I .... " I ~ " I . I..... .. "" I'

,"" I ....

'.... I







1 ...

------_ ~.

1.'::"11 tlow

horl~onl'l tlow

m.I., I.mll.


horl~ont.1 lIow (for r.llllonlhlp)

7: The paint af abviative implicatian.


8: Third c1asurej resolution af lhe scquencc.

dered relational analogy. Considering the role of externa I flow in mediating F, as wc:1Ias the terms 01' substitution D (internal, vertical Aow, via conception, for external Aow), it becomes apparent that this "not-not" invalves alsa some kind 01' external conception, that is, one involving wealth objects. We can write substitution G, then, as "universal relational analogy via conception through wealth objects for internal relationship through equivalence 01' Hows," and understand this to mean that human beings are ali interrelated through the circulatian aI' meat anel pearlshells, which, though ungendered,

elicits universal substance analagy, This supplies a retraactive pagehidi in substitution

to the "sharing" between an adult man and his E, for the Aow of wealth elicits an "internal" analogic relationship between them (fig. 8). As the "not-not" 01' substitution A, G marks the ultimate


sta:~e in relativizatiun, for it poses the paradox af universal relationship via the external, partible wealth abjects that were substituted f(Y-'relationship in B. In another sense however the sequence never ends, for G (supplanting A) forms the meeliative transition between the equivalence aI' internal flows via




externa I tlow, in F, and externa I tlow in lieu 01'relationship, in B (fi~. 8). Substitution G is c1~arly nO! th~ "r~sult" 01' summation 01' th~ s~qu~nc~ as a whol~, but rather a kind 01' ultimate Iimit, wh~r~ relativi1.ation has resonated through to an exh'lustion 01' its possibilities. Ambiguous in that it bO!h referentially negates and negatively references A, G is also ambivalent in that it both m<lrks th~ conclusion 01' the sequence, by suppl<lntin~ its beginning point, <lnd also facilitat~s its continuanc~ by brid~ing b~twe~n F and B. Th~ consequenc~ 01' the sequence is the formation 01' a large-frame meraphor 01' bilateral relationship through th~ obviation and exhaustion 01' restrictive kin convention 01' point 01' reference (as in figo 3D). The meaning 01' the sequence, because it encompasses the development 01' a "symbol that stands for itself," is embodied in its working out, and also exhausted in the processo Decause it requires several generations for its working out, but largely because its transition points form the stable axes 01' long-term relationships among people, and because any giv~n person may engage a number 01'different axes simultan~ously, the sequence is seldom apparent as such. The tendency, for D<lribi"s well <lSfor outsiders, is to focus on the rd<ltivdy lixed combinations and complementarities among relationships-families, Iineages, kin terminologies, "nd the like. 13m if w~ keep in mind that th~ thing modeled h~re as "Ilow," in its various forms .md transitions, is neither meat, nor pearlshells, nor hlood, Ilor Sl'llll'll, hul l't'latiollaIIlH'allilll~, dll'll il is dl'al' Ihal the openings anel c10sings 01' the obvi tion sequence are the pulse that drives families, Iineages, and kin terminologies. Kin or~<lni1.;ttion is the W<lYill which people pel'ccive <llId ell<lct their relationships with one another, and obviational tlow modeIs that perception and enactment. A trope that negotiates the transformation 01'microcosmic kin r~strictions nd conventions into macrocosmic relationship, the sequence we have foJlowed is also the processual enactment aI' a myth, the myth aI' Daribi kinship. Obviation as process encompasses the very same o?~ration <lSdoes lhe form<llion 01' a lroPl' out of symholic points<',or

reference. We can, therefore, speak 01' any instance 01' trope, ar tropelike usage, as n instance 01'obvi tion, nd consider an obviation sequenc~, such as the one we h'lve just explored, as \ a trope. Any verbal explication 01'the proeess 01'e1iagrammatic analysis is adequate anel helpful only insof'lr as it remains faithfuI to the holographic correspondence between point metaphor and frame metaphor. Beeause a true holographic correspondence involves a degree 01' condensation, 01' im;lge intensity, and recursiveness that e1efiesreduetion to the linear and referential relations necessary for analysis, however, my explication 01'the obviational process cannot adequateJy describe 01' enact the process itself, but only serve to elicli it, as a verbal metaphor elicits a trope. A trope cannot "happen" in words 01'diagrams, but only as a result 01' the analogic 01' interpretive "competence" 01' those who pereeive them, and therefore perceive tltrouglt them. It is completely ad IlOminem, and ex hominem. What appears as a dialectic, even an involute, recursive dialectic, is actually a dialectic at work mediating its own polarity, moving into, and through, its own limen, and, if we are lucky, facilitating a perception 01'its own constitution in the processo A verb.t1 explieation is adequate insofar as it ean elicit verbal tropes (rnetaphors of rnetaphor) to "figure" the proceSSj a "structural" diagram is adequate insofar as its structure is obviated to the s"me end. T<lken te~ether, the verbal and strlietural explications ean serve to e1ieit the tropie movement that neither aI' them can ac!C(llJatelyconvey by itself. 'I'hlls d'l' diagrallllllalil' l'xplil'alioll Ihal I have ilttl'oduCl,d as a "g;enerie" 01'large-frame metaphors is totally artificial and inrroduced, a "mode!''' It is not obviation, bllt a eondensation 01'the Hegdi<ln dialeclic <lnd lhe lem ry di<lgraJllrning of mediation inro a closed, recursive formato Its main virtue is that it packs a number 01'complex interrelationships into a coneise image-a counterpart at the macrocosmic pole 01' the microcosmie sequence 01' verbal explication. As words elicit trope, so ima~e models the hol~"'lphic expansion 01'point-referential trape into a larger whole. Holography means that the sllbstitutions we have encountl~nd in analyzinl!, Darihi kin rl'larions rl';dizl' dll'ir whole IllC:ln-






in~ ("Illeanin~" consielereel as a perceplion in referential valuc space) solcly lhrollgh lheir illlegralion wilhin lhe larger lrope. Any other consideration 01' them, for instance, as aspects 01' a social structl\re, is subsidiary to this point. Holop;raphy also implies lhal linear corrdales 01' conelensalion c<lnhe relrieved by "unpackinp;" the diap;ralllmatic model into its constitucnt Illeclialions, anel thal this can hc donc in a nllmher 01' ways. 'fhc Lillagcry 01' the expansion fWIll point Illetaphor to fralllc metaphor is that 01' the ternary, mediative-dialectical format that wc cncountercd in cxamining thc dialcctic 01' perception and reference, and the holographic condensation 01' this imap;ery involves the universal replication within ali 01' its constitucnt relations.

paradoxical point G is reached, at which point a double cann'lIalion (01' a cancdlatioll 0(' canccllalion-lhe \.'lIivaknt 01' obviation) occurs. lI' we follow the consecutive cancellations, D-A. E-E. and
1"-C, it bccollles apparent that the Illeeliative serics /)-/:'-1"


01 -I -I




the overall format



. Among the possible "deconstructions" 01' the model are a number that can help provide conjunctive e1icitations 01' the movclllcnt anel rcsollllion 01' Darihi kin obviation. Qnc 01' th~se-that 01' three successive mediations and mediative cIosllrcs, elovctailed sllch thal lhe conduelinp; substitution 01' each corresponds to the beginning 01'the next-we have been 1'01lo~ing in the preceding pages and diagrams as our guide to the obviation processo The first cIosure completes the articulation 01' kin relations, via betrothal and marriage, in terms 01' external, analop;ic flowj the second resolves the internalization 01' f10w into a norlllative systelllj the third rcali;"es the analogy 01' a universal, bilateral relationship, but does so in terms 01' external, analo~ic flow, anel so rejoins the seC]llcncc, via a paradoxical substitution, at its beginning point. In the triangular metaphor 01' mediation, a point 01' synthesis must stand between the thesis and antithesis that it mediates. But in an ongoing dialectic, the next point, the antithesis to the synthesis, is itself the synthesis 01' a series 01' three beginning with thc previous antithesis, and excIuding the original thesis. The recursiveness 01' the obviation diagram registers this exc111sionas a cancellation, in that cvery fourth point is sitllalecl oppositc the lirst point on the ligure, and represents the opposite "side" 01' pole 01' the dialectic (fig. C)A). Thus substitution f) controverts anel cancds A, I:' cancels H. anel 1" cancels C. Each cancellation reprcsents a step in the total obviation, until the


.. '.


original medlatlon



9: Canccllation

and axial cncompassmcllt.

replaceel the sel"es A-E-C, 01' in OlheI' worels lhat the conslitution 01' rclationship through conception and internal (vcrtical) analogy has encompassed the constitution 01' rclationship throllp;h external (hori;"ontal) analo~y (fip;. C)B). lhe Illovelllent 01' obviation here takes the form 01' a countercIockwisc twist 01'




the axis of cancellation, until it reaches the paradox of selfencompassment (G-D). Each image of movemeOl presented thus far has been dialecticalj forward movemenl has proceeded from pole 10 pole of lhe dialeclic until a poiOl of dialeclical coOlradiclion is reached: lhe original poiOl becomes parI of a paradox, lhe axis of cancellalioll cancels ilself. Concurrently, a sequence of encompassmeOl lakes place: each successive closure can be said 10 encompass ilS predecessor, in lhm il includes lhe previous sYOlhesis in ilS medialion, and resolves that medialion with a new sYOlhesisj the movemeOl of cancellation proceeds 10 nullify lhe original medialion, poiOl by poinl, uOlil il is supplaOled by lhe final one. Each version of lhis sequence is, Iikewise, dialeclical. But il is also possible to view lhe seqllellce atemporally, as lhe direcl encompassment of one dialeclical pole or mode by the olher. The overall shape of lhe diagram corresponds 10 a medialing lriangle, B-D-F, comprising one of the poles or sides of lhe dialeclic (fig. 10). In lhe case of Daribi kin relations, this agenlive or obvialing mode is the macrocosmic. Belween each two points on lhis larger medialive scheme a poim corresponding lhe opposite pole or side is placed, in lhe order of dialeclical alternalion. These points belong 10 lhe obviated mode, in lhis case lhe microcosmic, and lhey are poiOls of opening and closure. As each closure is reached, a relroactive implicalion or mOlivalion (showlI in lig. 10 as a dolted line) is extended back 10 lhe "lhesis" or opening poinl 10 complete lhe medialion. Thus, in lhe completed figure, an inscribed medialive lriangle is precipilaled wilhin lhe oUlline of lhe obvialing lriangle by lhe relroaclive implicalions of each closure. This lriangle, AC-E, amollnts to a mediatioll withill the ellcompassed or ohvialeel moele.

rection of A-C-E in lig. 10), augmenting the relativity of its perceptions through the implications offuture resolutions. Retroactive implication gives lhe actor a glimpse of lhe futililY and arbitrariness of lhe underlaking, againsl which he may redouble his effortsand his commilmem. Ir corresponds 10 whal 1 have called lhe "precipilation" or "collmerinvemion'J6 Df one mode in lhe course of deliberate conslruclion or articulalion o

E .

.. \ \.. \.. \ //i/i ------- ..





Dialectical encompassment



wilhin lhe olher. As obvi;llion progresses, lhe process ilself becomes lranspareOl anel rehllivi7.ed to the poim where lhis internal motivalion overpowers the actor's will to resisl it. This aspect of the model suggests thal human beings act against their percCJaioll of re1alivi7.atioll. To what eXlem, lhen, does the expallelillg perceptioll emaibl ill J)arihi kill ubviation culminale in a realizalion of lhe sequence as a whole, as impressionism depicted the painter's awareness of his own lechnique,
6. Roy Wagner, The Invention o[Culwre (Chicago: Press, 1981), 4S-49. UniversilY or Chicago

The dialeclic is generaled by lhe intermedialion of a macrocosmic and a microcosmic medialive lriangle. BUl, whereas mOlion in lhe encompassing mode moves forward and carries lhe movemeOl of lhe sequence as a whole, lhal in lhe encompassed mode moves backward in time against it (note lhe di-







01' as lwclvc-lonc Illllsic playcel IIpon lhc arbilrariness 01' the traelitional sede? The perceplion at point G, 01'wealth moving in a cycle of"external conceplion" 10 p;enerate an interna I f10w 01'relal ionship, cln Ill' IIndcrsllloel as Ihe lransvcrse 1ll0VClllCnl 01'we.dth alllong c1ans ap;ainst the f10w of hlllllan Illarriage and procreation. Does such a transverse flow operate within the sequence of meanings as well? The inscribed triangle, A-C-E (01'A-E-C) moelcls a meeliation among the three crucial conventional (~\'t';'(IIIJ:C.l' 01' preslalions: belrolhal, Illarriagc, anel chilel price, as the encompassing triangle B-D-F models the three analogic f10ws that meeliate amclI1g lhese exchanges. Because Daribi (traditionally) betroth their elaughters in infancy, at a time when lhe wealth receiveel in belrothal payments is most in elemand for pagcllabo payments for the elaughter anel heI"siblings, it will most likely be used this way, and flow from A .to E. We have seen, too, that a Daribi maternal unele will whhhold the sogwarcma reciprocation for pagehaho payments U11til his nephew is assembling his bride price, so as to "share" with him anel make a contribution. This wealth will f1aw from

logic conccption anel f10w fOl'mcel against lhe relwgraele liow af pearlshells. The f10w af pearlshclls forces life farwarel against its o\Vn rclativization; life forces pearlshells back \Vard intiml', obvialing lhl'ir cycll' anel inthl' process o!Jvialing ilsl'll: Thus the myth 01'geme 01'rclationship, with its o\Vn internal oppositions, relations, contradictions, and relativization, unfolds as a self-motivating and ultimately self-assimilating invention, a symbol that stanels for itself. It is ,dso, ho\Vever, a Illacrocoslllic metaphor mediating symbolically bet ween actuality and the social collectivity, and formeel by the exhaustion of the cultural dialectic that spans them. But it represents only one possible mediation within this larger span, and to speak of it as scIf-contained serves only to pose thc question of ilS relation to the other gemes 01' myths of Daribi culture. What of pearlshells, and of the social shame 01'estrangement invoked in the affinal interdict that begins the sequence? The invention of this particular genre is contexted in a range, a dialectic, of other myths and genres. Let us explore this colltext by turning, in the chaptcr that follows, to some other examples.


C, when the nephew uses it in marriage. Finally, Daribi u~age explicitly marks the wealth received for a girl's bride pi'ice for heI' male siblings to use in betrothing wives of their own, so that this received wealth flows from C to A. The reality of a transverse cyele of wealth-in this case wealth that can be kept and accumulated-pearlshells, moving agaillSt the obviation cyele can serve to answer a burning question that may be forming in the reader's mind: What, if not some kind of mystical prescience, is the agcnC)' of retroactive motivation and its entailed relativization? It is elear that this

relativization is carried by the transverse, retrograde movement of pearlshells against the flow of analogy that figures kin relationship. Pearlshells in this sense embody the relativizing of the life processj they and the considerations and debts they entail restrict, channel, and redistribute the flow of relationship like a sort of escape mechanism. Immortal themselves, they f10w unendingly among elans and backwards against the relationships that constitute those clans. The metaphar af Daribi kin rcIationship is a trope of ana-