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Tribute to Roy Wagner


Anthropology mourns one of its greatest practitioners, Roy Wagner, who died on 10 September 2018. To honour Wagner and his intellectually inexhaustible work, we are re-issuing for free access a Special Issue of Social Analysis that was first published in 2002. The eponymous “Reinventing The Invention of Culture”, edited by David Murray and Joel Robbins, sought to assess the influence of Wagner’s renown book, following the twenty-fifth anniversary of its publication.


We re-issue this Special Issue to recognize Roy Wagner’s contributions to the field of anthropology. The texts it assembles were written by an array of authors who were in different ways touched by this brilliance and seek to convey it by transposing Wagner’s thinking in their own fields of interest. The collection adds to a steadily growing body of work that seeks to extend Wagner’s astounding insights in ways he would tag as ‘metaphoric’ (1981). To aid readers who may be inspired to navigate this literature, we have included below a bibliography of Wagner’s major works, as well as a list of works by others in which his vast and influential ideas can be experienced.


Social Analysis (Vol. 46, Issue 1)

Special Section


Introduction: Reinventing the Invention of Culture by Joel Robbins and David A. B. Murray

On the Critical Uses of Difference: The Uninvited Guest and “The Invention of Culture” by Joel Robbins

The Gift of Shame: The Invention of Postcolonial Society by Karen Sykes

Reinventing “The Invention of Culture” by Richard Handler

On Being ‘Natural’ in the Rainforest Marketplace: Science, Capitalism and the Commodification of Biodiversity by Sandra Bamford

Recursive Tricks and Holographic Infinities: “The Invention of Culture” and After by Doug Dalton

The Art of Losing One’s Own Culture Isn’t Hard to Master, It’s Obviation: Roy Wagner, Gregory Bateson, and the Art of Science Writ Large by Elizabeth Stassinos

“The Invention of Culture,” Magalim, and the Holy Spirit by Dan Jorgensen

Queering the Culture Cult by David A. B. Murray

Afterword by Marilyn Strathern


Selected works by Roy Wagner:

In Press – The reciprocity of perspectives. Social Anthropology 26(4)

Forthcoming. The Logic of Invention

2012 – “Luck in the double focus”: ritualized hospitality in Melanesia. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 18: 161-74.

2010 – Coyote Anthropology. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press

2001 – An Anthropology of the Subject: Holographic Worldview in New Guinea and Its Meaning and Significance for the World of Anthropology. Berkeley: University of California Press.

2000 – The reprojective basis of human society. Soumen Antropologi, Journal of the Finish Anthropological Society 25(1): 4-14

1991 – The fractal person. In M. Godelier and M. Strathern (eds.) Big Men and Great Men Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

1989 (edited with Fred Damon). Death Rituals and Life in the Societies of the Kula. Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press.

1986 – Asiwinarong: Ethos, Image, and Social Power among the Usen Barok of New Ireland. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

1986 – Symbols That Stand for Themselves. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1984 – Ritual as communication: Order, meaning, and secrecy in Melanesian initiation rites. Annual Review of Anthropology 13: 143–55.

1978 – Lethal Speech: Daribi Myth as Symbolic Obviation. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

1977 – Analogic kinship: A Daribi example. American Ethnologist 4(4): 623-642

1975/1981 – The Invention of Culture. University of Chicago Press.

1972 – Habu: The Innovation of Meaning in Daribi Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1967 – The Course of Souw: Principles of Daribi Clan Definition and Alliance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Selected works influenced by Roy Wagner or, in some cases, about him:

Corsín-Jimenez, Alberto. 2013. An anthropological trompe l’oeil for a common world. Oxford and New York: Berghahn.

Crook, Tony. 2007.  Exchanging Skin: Anthropological Knowledge, Secrecy and Bolivip, Papua New Guinea. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Dulley, Iracema H. 2018. Difference and Ethnography in Roy Wagner. London: Routledge

Goldman, Marcio. 2018. The end of anthropology. OAC Press. Available online at

Holbraad, Martin. 2012. Truth in Motion: The Recursive Anthropology of Cuban Divination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Holbraad, Martin, and Morten A. Pedersen. 2017. The Ontological Turn: An Anthropological Exposition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Johnson Clay, Brenda. 1975. Pinikindu: Maternal Nurture, Paternal Substance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Keisalo, Marianna. 2018. Perspectives of (and on) a comedic self: A semiotics of subjectivity in stand-up comedy. Social Analysis 62(1): 116-135.

Kelly Luciani, Jose Antonio. 2011. State Healthcare and Yanomami Transformations: A Symmetrical Ethnography. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

_____________________ . 2016. About Anti-Mestizaje. Desterro, Florianópolis: Cultura e Barbárie. Available online at

Mimica, Jadran. 1988. Intimations of Infinity: The cultural meanings of the Iqwawe Counting Sysytems and Number. London: Berg

Mosko, Mark S. and Frederick H. Damon 2005. On the Order of Chaos. Social Anthropology and the Science of Chaos. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Moutu, Andrew. 2013. Names are Thicker than Blood: Kinship and Ownership amongst the Iatmul. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Murray, David, and Joel Robbins. 2002. “Reinventing The Invention of Culture”. Special Section of Social Analysis 46(1): 1-91.

Nielsen, Morten. 2013. ‘Analogic Asphalt: Suspended value conversations among young road workers in Southern Mozambique’. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3 (2): 79-96.

Pitarch, Pedro, and José Antonio Kelly. In press. The Cultures of Invention: The Anthropology of Roy Wagner in the Americas. Canon Pyon: Sean Kingston Publishing

Strathern, Marilyn. 1980. ‘No Nature, No Culture: The Hagen Case’, in C. MacCormack and M. Strathern (ed.), Nature, Culture and Gender, pp.174–222. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

_____________. 1988. The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo. 2014. Cannibal Metaphysics: For a Post-Structural Anthropology. Translated and edited by Peter Skafish. Minneapolis: Univocal Publishing.

Weiner, James F. 1988. The Heart of the Pear Shell: The Mythological Dimension of Foi Sociality. Berkeley and London: University of California Press.

_____________. 1995. The Lost Drum: The Myth of Sexuality in Papua New Guinea and Beyond. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.