By Gilbert Lewis
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:1980
Online Publication Date:October 2009
Anthropologists, in studying other cultures, are often tempted to offer their own explanations of strange customs when they feel that the people involved have not given a good enough reason for these customs. The question how the anthropologist can justify interpretations of customs which go beyond those offered by the people themselves runs through this book. The book focuses on the various interpretations that have been offered by anthropologists of ritual and symbolism. It offers a critical discussion of theories in this field in general, identifying their strengths and weaknesses when applied to the particular case of puberty rituals in a West Sepik village in Papua New Guinea. It then goes on to suggest an alternative approach, which draws on aesthetic as well as anthropological theory, and pays particular attention to the emotional and aesthetic experiences of people as they perform the rites.