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On the Order of Chaos: Social Anthropology and the Science of Chaos

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On the Order of Chaos

Social Anthropology and the Science of Chaos

Edited by Mark S. Mosko and Fred Damon

296 pages, 33 illus., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-023-6 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (October 2005)

ISBN  978-1-84545-024-3 $34.95/£27.95 Pb Published (October 2005)

Hb Pb   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“Through a sequence of theoretically stimulating and ethnographically diverse contributions, the volume engages with ‘chaos models’ developed by mathematicians and natural scientists studying complex dynamic systems.”  ·  Anthropological Forum

"I have rarely seen such an excellent collection of articles. And it cannot be more timely. Within the covers of this volume we find some of the most original and brightest minds in anthropology today…this is a truly unique volume that will make a major and original contribution to anthropology and far beyond."  ·  Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney


Over the past two decades, “chaos theory” – the perception of order previously hidden in phenomena of apparent randomness and disorder – has fundamentally transformed the natural sciences. In recent years, numerous scholars in the social sciences and humanities have attempted to adapt the insights of chaos theory to their studies of human cultural and social systems. Several of the world’s leading anthropologists, such as Roy Wagner, Marshall Sahlins, Marilyn Strathern, and Arjun Appadurai – have similarly drawn upon particular elements of chaos theory for their inspiration, but as yet there is no focused, comprehensive treatment of the applicability of chaos theory to anthropology’s distinctive ethnographic and cross-cultural materials. This edited volume fills the gap, with both accessible theoretical discussions of chaos theory applications in anthropology and detailed ethnographic and historical illustrations from Africa and Melanesia.

Mark S. Mosko is Professor of Anthropology in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University.

Fred Damon is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia.

Subject: Theory & Methodology in Anthropology Sociology


List of Figures and Tables
List of Contributors
Preface and Acknowledgements

Marilyn Strathern

Chapter 1. Introduction: A (Re)Turn to Chaos: Chaos Theory, the Sciences, and Social Anthropological Theory
Mark S. Mosko

Chapter 2. From Lévi-Strauss to Chaos and Complexity
Jack Morava

Chapter 3. Fractal Figurations: Homologies and Hierarchies in Kabre Culture
Charles Piot

Chapter 4. “Pity” and “Ecstasy”: The Problem of Order and Differentiated Difference Across Kula Societies
Frederick H. Damon

Chapter 5. Fractality and the Exchange of Perspectives
José Antonio Kelly

Chapter 6. Fluids and Fractals in Rwanda: Order and Chaos
Christopher C. Taylor

Chapter 7. Peace, War, Sex, and Sorcery: Nonlinear Analogical Transformation in the Early Escalation of North Mekeo Sorcery and Chiefly Practice
Mark S. Mosko

Chapter 8. Afterword: Order Is What Happens When Chaos Loses Its Temper
Roy Wagner


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