Cosmologies in the Making: A Generative Approach to Cultural Variation in Inner New Guinea (Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)

Fredrik Barth

Cambridge University Press, 1990


In examining the changes that have taken place in the secret cosmological lore transmitted in male initiation ceremonies among the Mountain Ok of Inner New Guinea, this book offers a new way of explaining how cultural change occurs. Professor Barth focuses on accounting for the local variations in cosmological traditions that exist among the Ok people, who otherwise share largely similar cultures. Rejecting existing anthropological theory as inadequate for explaining this, Professor Barth constructs a new model of the mechanisms of cultural change, emphasizing the role that individual creativity plays in it, and maintaining that cosmologies can be adequately understood only if they are regarded as knowledge in the process of communication, rather than as fixed bodies of belief.