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Identity and Mimetic Conflict in Melanesia and the West
192 pages, bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-57181-680-1 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (December 2005)
ISBN 978-1-84545-097-7 $27.95/£22.95 Pb Published (December 2006)
eISBN 978-1-78920-413-1 eBook
"This book offers a counterintuitive and innovative approach to the politics of cultural difference and social order. The appeal of Harrison’s argument is enhanced because he shows that currently dominant approaches to the politics of identity and difference are likely to be misguided, but does not resort to a wrongheaded appeal to universalism that simply collapses difference." · Anthropological Forum
“Simon Harrison has written a thoughtful short book. It is clearly written and well argued. It uses diverse ethnography to explore proprietary forms of identity, where culture is a form of property to be possessed or selectively given out to others. The book is comparative anthropology at its best…a powerful thoughtful book, [whose] controversial ideas deserve serious debate.” · Dialect Anthropol
"I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is clearly and convincingly written, covers a large number of fascinating and diverse ethnographic cases, and its central theoretical propositions are well worthy of consideration and debate." · American Anthropologist
Western societies draw crucially on concepts of the 'individual' in constructing their images of the ethnic group and nation and define these in terms of difference. This study explores the implications of these constructs for Western understanding of social order and ethnic conflicts. Comparing them with the forms of cultural identity characteristic of Melanesia as they have developed since pre-colonial times, the author arrives at a surprising conclusion: he argues that these kinds of identities are more properly and adequately viewed as forms of disguised or denied resemblance, and that it is these covert commonalities that give rise to, and prolong, social divisions and conflicts between groups.
Simon Harrison is Reader in Social Anthropology at the University of Ulster, and has carried out ethnographic fieldwork among the people of Avatip in Papua New Guinea. He has published extensively on Melanesian warfare, ethnopsychology, cultural identity, and indigenous forms of intellectual property.
European Association of Social-Anthropologists (EASA)