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The Bear and the Barber

Author(s): Claude Levi-Strauss

Source: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol.
93, No. 1 (Jan. - Jun., 1963), pp. 1-11
Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland
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The Bear and theBarber
TheHenry Memorial
Myers Lecture


expressaffiliationwiththe groupinto whichtheywere born.Amongthesewe shall
singleout twostrongly contrasted ones.In one case,a givenindividualwillmakesucha
statement 'I a
as am bear', in the othercase he willmakesucha statement as 'I am a
barber'.One case exemplifies the so-called 'totemic' groups,the other the caste system.
My purposeis to examinethenatureofthestructural relationship-iftherebe one-
The words'bear' and 'barber'werenot chosenat random.Barberscut and shave
otherpeople'shair,while-at leastamongtheChippewaIndians-people bornin the
Bear clan werereputedto have long,thickhair and neverto growbald. This doubly
invertedrelation-presenceor absenceofa giventraiton theone hand,in respectto
selforotheron theotherhand- plusperhapsan opposition betweennatureand culture
(sincethekindofhairone growsis a naturaltrait,whileto removeit is a culturalcus-
tom), thisthreefold relationthenis endowed,as I shall tryto show,withan inner
meaningsince it symbolizesso to speak the structure of the schemeI am about to
As a preliminary, I shouldliketo cautionthereaderwithregardto myuse of the
AlthoughI shall use it freelyin the courseof mytalk,I fullyendorsethegeneral
trendthathas prevailedfora good manyyearsamonganthropologists to considerthat
thereis no realinstitution whichcorresponds to theterm'totemism' and thattotemistic
theoriesproceedfroman arbitrary carvingout of the objectivefacts.Nevertheless, it
wouldbe tooeasysimplytodiscardall pastand presentspeculations concerning whatis
generallyreferred to as 'totemism'. If so manyscholarswhomwe all admirehavebeen,
as it were,fascinated by theidea of'totemism', it is probablybecause,at a deeperlevel
than the one theyhave been mistakenly considering, phenomenaarbitrarily put to-
getherto makeup a pseudo-institution are endowedwithsomeinnermeaningwhich
makesthemworthyofinterest. This I believewas firstdiscoveredby Radcliffe-Brown,
whosepositionin respectto 'totemism'startedby beinga purelynegativeone in his
earlypaper,'The SociologicalTheoryofTotemism'(I929), but who twenty-two years
later in his Huxley MemorialLectureentitled'The ComparativeMethod in Social
Anthropology', withoutreverting in theleastto a conceptionof'totemism' as an actual
institution,succeedednevertheless in unravelling theimportanceofthe use of animal
and plantnamestocharacterize therelationship betweenthesegments ofhumansociety.
But thisprocessled Radcliffe-Brown to modifyconsiderably his earlierconceptionof
In I929, he believedthat primitivepeople attachedan intrinsicimportanceto

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animalsforthereasonthat,as food,theyweresupposedto arouseman's spontaneous

interest;whereas,in 195I it was his theorythatboth animalsand plantswereto be
regardedas merefigures ofspeech-symbolsas it were.Thus,whilein I929, Radcliffe-
Brownbelievedthatinterest was conferred upon animalsand plantsbecausetheywere
'eatable',in I95I he saw clearlythatthereal reasonforthisinterest lay in thefactthat
theyare,ifI mayusetheword,'thinkable'.It is interesting tonotethateach oneofthese
twosuccessivetheoriesis in one way moreabstractand in anotherway moreconcrete
thantheother.The first theory is moreabstractsinceall animalswhichcanbe consumed
are mergedintoa vague categorycharacterized by theone singleaspectthathas been
abstracted:thatof constituting merelyanimalfood.Fromthispointofview,animals
thatcan be eatenare all regardedas similar,whilemenwho partakeofthiscommon
food are also held to be similar.Thus the linkbetweenthe distinction of biological
speciesand thesegments ofsocietyis notperceived,thoughthisfirst theoryis also more
concrete,sinceit onlyenvisagesthepointofviewofpracticalutilityand physiological
need. In itsturnthesecondtheoryis moreabstract,sinceit reliesfarlesson theanimals
themselves than on the discoverythat theseanimalsor plants,or rathertheirpro-
perties,can be put to use as symbolsto expresscontrasts and oppositions. Nevertheless,
it is moreconcrete,becausewe are nowaskedin each specialcase to lookfora definite
reasonwhichcan accountfortheselectionofa givenanimaland notofany other.So
thechoicemadebyone cultureamongthewholegamutofanimalsand plantswhichare
empirically presentbecomesa meanstoexpressdifferences betweenmen.
If Radcliffe-Brown's
secondtheoryis valid,as I believeit to be, we mustadmitthat
behindwhatwas erroneously called 'totemism'lie threeverypreciseideas. First,the
idea of a culturallydiscreteset, thatis, a segmentary society;second,the idea of a
naturallydiscreteset,thatis, the awarenessof the empiricaldiscontinuity of the bio-
logicalspeciesand third,theidea thatthereis somekindofhomology betweentheabove
twosystems ofdifferences.
Thereforetotemicideas appear to providea code enabling
man to expressisomorphicpropertiesbetweennatureand culture.Obviously,there
existsheresomekindofsimilarity withlinguistics,sincelanguageis also a code which,
through betweendifferences,
oppositions permitsus to conveymeaningsand sincein the
case oflanguageas wellas in thatof'totemism', thecompleteseriesofempiricalmedia
providedin one case by vocal articulation, and in theotherby theentirewealthofthe
biologicalworld,cannotbe calledupon,butrather(and thisis truein bothcases) only
a fewelementswhicheach languageor each cultureselectsin orderthattheycan be
organizedin strongly and unequivocallycontrasting pairs.Such beingthe answer,we
maybe in a positionto solvetheproblemraisedby Boas (I9I4) in hispaper 'Mytho-
logy and Folk-talesof the NorthAmericanIndians', where he says, 'the essential
problemregardingthe ultimateoriginof mythologies remains-whyhumantalesare
preferably attachedto animals,celestialbodies and otherpersonified phenomenaof
nature.'The answerlies,so it seems,not,as the functionalist schoolassumes,in the
utilitarianpropertiesof biologicalspeciesas mankindconceivesthem,but ratherin
theirlogicalproperties,thatis,theirabilityto serveas symbolsexpressing contrastsand
oppositions.This was demonstrated fora limitedarea by Dr Freeman(I961) in his
recentpaper'Iban Augury',in whichhe showshowtheIbans byselectinga fewspecies
ofbirdsout of a verylargesetprovidedby theirforestenvironment, and by selecting

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foreach speciesa verysmallnumberof significantproperties, have been able to use
elementsby opposingthemand also combiningthemso as to convey
X Havingclearedup thesegeneralproblems,I shallnowenterintomysubjectproper.
Whengoingovertheworkofearlyinvestigators in Australia,I was struckby thefact
betweenI830 and I850, theseauthors,
thatapproximately although
Australiansectionsand sub-sections wereprobablyconnectedwiththe laws of inter-
marriage,nevertheless believedthemto differ in rank;and to describethem,theyfre-
quentlyusedtheword'caste'. This,I think,shouldnotbe neglected.In thefirst place,
becausetheremayhave been something more'caste-like'in thesedivisionsthanwhat
was subsequently foundamonginterior,mostlydesert,people and because it seems
obviousthatevenfroma superficial pointofview thereis something similarbetween
Australiantribesand castesocieties;each segmentperforms a specialtaskwhichbene-
fitsthe community as a wholeand whichis complementary to functionsthatdevolve
upon othersegments.This appears clearlyamongthe Australiantribesdescribedby
Spencer& Gillenin whichmoietiesor clansare boundtogether by a ruleofreciprocity.
The Kaitishand theUnmatjera,who are northern neighbours oftheAranda,knowof
rulesthatrequirean individualwho gatherswild seedsin a territory belongingto a
totemicgroup named afterthose seeds, to obtain permissionfromits head before
consumingthem;accordingto theserules,each totemicgroupis obligedto provide
otherswithplantsor animalswhose'production'it allegedlycontrols.Thus thetotemic
foodprohibition appears to be in such a case merelya negativeway of expressing a
positiveobligationtowardstheothers.This is clearlyshownin a fewwelldocumented
examples presented bySpencer& Gillen(I904, pp. I59-60). The lonehunter belong-
ing to theEmu clan cannottouchthebird,but in companyhe can and mustkillit so
as to presentit as foodto huntersbelongingto otherclans,and conversely thehunter
belongingto the Water clan is permittedto drinkalone, but whenin companyhe
can drinkonlyif the wateris presentedto him by membersof the oppositemoiety.
Amongthe Warramungatoo each totemicgroupis held responsibleforthe natural
speciesconsumedby othergroups.The Warramungaand theWalparihave secondary
prohibitions againstconsumingthe maternaltotembut theseare liftedwhenfoodis
obtainedfromtheoppositemoiety.Generallyspeaking,and foreach totem,thereis a
threefold distinctionbetweenthosegroupswhoneverconsumeit becauseit is theirown
totem,thosethatmayconsumeit whenobtainedfromtheoppositemoiety(in case it
shouldbe the maternaltotem),and thosethat can consumeit in all circumstances,
becauseit is not theirtotem.The same is trueforthesacredwellswhichwomenmay
neverapproach,while uninitiatedmen, thoughtheymay approachthem,may not
drinkfromthem,whilestillothergroupsof uninitiatedmen may bothapproachthe
wellsand drinkofthewater,providing itis offeredthembymenbelongingto thegroup
thatis allowedtodrinkfreely.
Notwithstanding betweentotemicgroupsand castes,it is clear
thatthe line whichI have followedso faris too generalto be convincing.It is well
knownthatcastesand totemicgroupsare widelydifferent and opposedinstitutional
systems, that one is linkedwiththe highestculturesand the otherwiththe lowest
cultureswithwhichanthropologists are acquainted.In a traditional way,totemism is

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linkedto exogamyin itsstrictest forms, whilein a gameoffreeassociation, ninety-nine

out of a hundredanthropologists would probablyassociatethe word 'caste' withthe
Thus thedistinctive characteroftheextremecasesis clear,but wouldtheseappear
as extremeifwe could disposeofintermediary forms?In earlierwritings I liave tried
to show thatexchangein humansocietyis a universalmeansof ensuringthe inter-
lockingofits constitutive partsand thatthisexchangecan operateat different levels
amongwhichthemoreimportant are food,goodsand services,and women.Two cases
shouldbe distinguished, however.Sometimesthe threeforms(or two of them) are
calledupon,so to speak,to cumulatetheireffects and to complement each other,either
positively or negatively. In thesecondcase,one formonlyis retainedbecauseit supple-
mentstheothers.A good positiveexampleofthefirstcase is providedby thoseAustra-
lian groupswhereexchangeofwomenand foodprohibitions (which,as we have seen,
can be equallywellexpressedas an obligatory exchangeoffoods),reinforce each other,
and we finda negativeexampleofthesame phenomenonin somepartsofMelanesia
and in peasantEuropeofthepast,whereendogamyor exogamyunwillingly practised
seemsto be connectedwithwhatwe may call 'endo-agriculture', thatis, an extreme
unwillingness to exchangeseeds.Turningnow to thesecondcase, we mayperhapsbe
permitted to considerthe typeofstructure to be foundin theso-calledCrow-Omaha
kinshipsystems as beingin diametricaloppositionto theArandasystems in so faras, in
theformer, everything notforbidden is allowed,whilein thelattertheexactoppositeis
true:everything notallowedis forbidden. Nowifthisbe granted,itis ratherremarkable
thatin an Africangroupsuchas theNandi ofKenya, whosekinshipsystemhas been
classifiedrightly or wronglyby Radcliffe-Brown as Omaha, thereshouldbe an extra-
ordinarydevelopment ofclan prohibitionsbearinguponfoodand costume,and accom-
panied by individualmarriageprohibitions based, not on clan affiliation, but on
peculiareventspertaining totheindividualhistory ofeachprospective groomand bride,
whichmeansthat,in sucha case,thestructural arrangement ofthealliancenetwork-
if any-would resultfromstatisticalfluctuations, exactlyas happens with rules of
marriageoftheCrow-Ohamatype.Let us considera finalexample:thatoftheBaganda
such as describedby Roscoe (i 9II). We are told thatthe Baganda had about forty
clans,each possessing twototems,thefirstone beingsubjectto foodprohibition 'so as
to makeit availableto othersin greaterquantity',whichis a modestcounterpart ofthe
Australianbeliefthat,by refraining fromconsumingits totem,each clan acquiresthe
powerto multiply it. As in Australiatoo,each clan was linkedto a territory which,in
thecase oftheBaganda,was usuallya sacredhill. In addition,each clan had a great
manyprivileges, obligations,and prohibitions as, forinstance,eligibilityto kingship
and otherdignities, providingkinglywives,makingand caringforregalia,providing
otherclans withcertainkindsoffood,and also special occupations.The Mushroom
clan,forinstance,was said to be sole makerofbarkclothand all theblacksmiths were
supposedto come fromthe clan of the Tailless Cow. In such cases,we may well ask
ourselveswhetherwe are dealingwithtotemicclans,occupationalcastes,or withan
intermediary formpertainingto boththesetypes.Let us tacklethisproblemthrough
We haveseenthattheso-calledtotemicconceptamountsto a beliefin an homology

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notbetweensocialgroupsand naturalspecies,but betweendifferences existing,

on the
one hand withinthe social system,and on the otherwithinthe naturalsystem.Two
systems ofdifferences are conceivedas isomorphic, althoughone is situatedin nature,
and theotherin culture.
Let us now supposethatin additionto an homologyofrelationships, we have an
homologyof terms,and goingone step further, that the homologyof relationships
and becomesan homologybetweenterms.The resultwillno longerbe thatClan
i can be held to differ fromClan 2 as forinstance,Eagle differs fromBear, but that
Clan i is in itselflikeEagle and Clan 2 in itselflikeBear. The systemofdifferences will
continue, to exist,but, first,it will be conceivedin reference to natureinsteadof to
culture,and second,exogamywillinevitablybreakdownbecauseit impliesthatwhile
womenare sociologically conceivedof as being different, theyare naturally(though
unconsciously) conceivedofas similar,or elsetheycould notbe exchanged.
It so happensthatthistheoretical transformation may be exemplified by concrete
examples.In volume5 oftheHaddon-RiversExpeditionto TorresStraits(p. I84) we
findthatat Mabuiag,forinstance,'A definite physicaland psychological resemblance
waspostulatedforthehumanand animalmembersoftheclan.Therecan be littledoubt
thatthissentiment reactedon the clansmenand constrainedthemto live up to the
traditional characteroftheirrespective clans.' Thus the Cassowary,Crocodile,Snake,
and Sharkclanswerereputedto love fighting, whiletheShovel-nosedSkate,Ray and
Sucker-Fish clansweresaid to be peaceable. Intermediate betweenthefierceand the
gentleclanswastheDog clan,whichwas thoughttobe sometimes pugnaciousandsome-
timespacific,just likereal dogs.The men ofthe Crocodileclan weresaid to be very
strongand ruthless, whilethe men ofthe Cassowaryclan werereputedfortheirlong-
legsand theirabilityto runfast,likereal cassowaries.Similarobservations have been
made in NorthAmericaamongEasternIndianssuchas theDelaware,theMenomini,
and the Chippewa.Amongthelatter,people oftheFish clan werereputedto be long
lived,frequently to growbald or to have thinhair,and all bald peoplewereassumedto
come fromthisclan. People of the Bear clan had long,thick,coarsehair thatnever
turnedwhite;theyweresaid to be bellicoseand quick to anger.People of the Crane
clan had loud, ringingvoices.Oratorswere alwayssupposedto come fromthisclan
Froma theoretical pointofview,we maynowappraisetheimplications ofthesetwo
oppositeconceptions.In the firsthypothesis, societyon the one hand, natureon the
other,willeach retainitssystematic Social segments
integrity. willbe referredto social
segments;each naturalspecieswillbe referred to othernaturalspecies.In thesecond
hypothesis,insteadoftwo'horizontal'systems situatedat differentlevels,we shallhave
a pluralityof'vertical'systems,considerably impoverished in fact,sinceinsteadoftwo
systemseach consistingofnumerous elementswe shallhave numerous systemseach consisting
heterogeneous(one natural,one cultural)instead of homogeneous
of two elements,
(entirelynaturalor entirelycultural).Should thisinterpretation proveto be true,it
shouldbe possible,firstto translateor re-codea 'totemic'systemintoa castesystemand
conversely,and also to giveconcreteexamplesofsocietieswhichhave actuallydone so.
Thisis whatI intendto exemplify now.
TribesoftheMuskogilinguistic groupin the South-Eastern UnitedStatessuchas,

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forinstance,the Chickasawand the Creek,did have clans and moietiesthe firstof

whichwere perhapsexogamousand the second endogamous.In any case moieties
werenotedforovertmanifestations of exclusivism
thatborderedon hostility. Ritual
was jealouslyguardedby each moietyand membersof anothermoietywho had wit-
nesseda ceremony, even inadvertently,
wereput to.death (an attituderecallingthat
held by the Aranda in relationto theircult groups).What is even moreimportant,
moietiesweresaid to differ waysoflifeand theirdisposition
bytheirrespective ofmind;
one wassaid to be warlikeand toprefer opencountry, theotherone to be peaceableand
to livein thewoods.They mayalso have been hierarchized, as is suggestedby someof
the names under which theywere known,one moietybeing called 'their-hickory-
choppings', meanlngthattheyhad substantial lodges,whiletheothermoietywas called
'theirworn-outplace', meaningthatit consistedofinferior peoplelivingmostlyunder
treesand in thewoods. These differences werebothmorecomplexand moremarked
betweenclans,lineages,and hamlets.When informants werecalled upon to describe
thesesecondaryunits,theyused as a kindof leit-motiv, practicallyalwaysthe same
words.'These people had waysof theirown ... theywereverypeculiar... different
fromall others... theyhad theirowncustoms.'These peculiarities weresaid to belong
to different types:environment, costume,foodpreferences,
economicactivities, talents
and tastes.
For instance,peopleoftheRaccoon clan fedmostlyon fishand wildfruits. Those of
thePantherclan livedin mountains, avoidedwater,whichtheygreatlyfeared,and fed
on game. PeopleoftheWild-Catclan sleptin thedaytime,huntedby nightsincethey
weregiftedwithan especiallykeensight,and werenotinterested in women.Those of
theBirdclan wokeup beforedaylight:'theywerelikerealbirdsin thattheywouldnot
botheranybody... thepeopleofthisclanhavedifferent sortsofminds,just as thereare
different speciesofbirds... theyhad manywives... theydid notworkat all, buthad
an easytimegoingthroughlifeand wentanywheretheywantedto ... theyhad many
offspring, as birdshave.'
PeopleoftheRed-Foxclan livedonlyin thewoods,made a livingby stealingfrom
otherpeople. . . doingwhatevertheyliked.The 'WanderingIska' or 'No-HomeIska'
werea shiftless people'whodid notwantto ownanything ... theydid notdo anything
forthemselves ... theywerehealthylooking,strong,fortheydid not do anythingto
runthemselves down... theymovedveryslowly... theythoughttheyweregoingto
liveforever ... theydid notcarehowtheydressedorappeared. . . sometimes theywore
dirtydresses... theywerebeggarsand lazy'.
The same kind of differences are emphasizedbetweenhamlets,forinstancethe
Bending-Post-Oak-House Grouplivedin thewood,theywerenotveryenergetic, they
loved to dance. They wereproneto anxiety,had no foresight, were earlyrisers,and
made manymistakes, whilepeopleoftheHigh-Corncrib House Groupwerenotmuch
esteemedby othersbut thoughta greatdeal of themselves:'They wereindustrious,
raisedlargecrops,did nothuntmuch,barteredcornforvenison.Theywereverywise,
peopleofone mind,truthful, and theyknewa greatdeal abouttheweather.'
All thesestatements, whichI have borrowedfromSwanton(I928), cannotbe taken
literally.Theyreferto a periodwhenthetraditional culturehad alreadybrokendown
and wereobtainedfromold informants. They clearlybelongto folkethnologysince,

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it would be impossiblefora humansocietyto mimicnatureto such an
extentwithoutrunningtheriskofbreakingdownintoseveraldistinct groupshostileto
one another.However,the testimony collectedby Swantonis so rich,so concordant
evenwhenit comesfromdifferent tribes,thatit mustcontainifnottheliteraltruthat
leasttheexpression ofa conceptualmodelwhichmusthave existedin themindsofthe
Allowingfor these restrictive considerations, these statementshave a threefold
importance.In thefirstplace, theydescribewhatappearsto have been a kindofcaste
system.In thesecondplace, castesand theirmutualrelationships are beingcoded,so
to speak,accordingto a naturalmodel,afterthediversity ofnaturalspecies,as happens
withtotemicgroups;and in the thirdplace, froman historicalpointof view,these
Muskogitribesconstituted a kind of linkbetweenthe 'true' totemicsocietiesof the
Plains and the only 'true' caste-societies whichare knownto have existedin North
America,such as theNatchez.Thus, I have establishedso farthatin twopartsofthe
worldtraditionally conceivedas 'totemistic', Australia'sso-called'totemic'groupscan
be interpreted as occupationalgroups,whilein America,social segmentswhichcan
actuallyfunction as castes,wereconceivedaftera 'totemic'model.
Let us now shiftto India, also a classicalland,thoughofcastesratherthantotemic
groups.Here,insteadofcastesbeingconceivedaftera naturalmodel,vestigesoftotemic
groupstendto be conceivedaftera culturalmodel.But beforeexemplifying thispoint
letme remindthereaderthatI am usingtheword'totemic'in sucha wayas to be able
to leave entirelyaside the questionof whetheror not thereare actual vestigesof
totemismin India. From my presentpointof view, the problemis irrelevantsince,
whenI makelooseusageofthetermtotemism, I neverreferto a pastor presentinstitu-
tionbut to a classificatorydevicewherebydiscreteelementsofthe externalworldare
associatedwithdiscreteelementsofthesocialworld.Bearingthisin mind,we maybe
struckbythefactthatwhereasso-called'totemic'namesin Bengalare mostlyofanimal
or vegetableorigin,further southan increasingproportionof namesborrowedfrom
manufactured objectsis to be found.For instancethe Devanga, who are a caste of
weaversin Madras, use veryfewplant namesfortheirclans and almostno animal
names,butrathernamessuchas buttermilk, cattle-pen,money,dam,houses,collyrium,
boat,claylamp,femalecloth,clothes,ropesforhangingpots,old plough,
monastery, cart,funeralpyre,tile,etc., and the Kuruba of Mysorewho have sixty-
sevenexogamousclans,withfewplantand animalnames,designatethembynamessuch
as, amongothers,drum,booth,cart,cup, woollenthread,bangle,gold,pick-axe,hut,
gold ring,bell-metal,colouredborderof a cloth,stick,blanket,measure,metaltoe-
ring,moustache, loom,bambootube,lace,ring,etc.(ThurstonI 909).
These manufactured objectsare notonlyused as clan names,but theyalso receive
attention, and serveto expressobligationsand prohibitions as in totemicsystems.It is
truethattheuse ofmanufactured objectsas totemicnamesis wellknownelsewherein
the world,particularly in NorthernAustraliaand in somepartsofAfrica,verygood
exampleshavingbeen recently(I96I) presentedfortheDinka by Dr Lienhardtin his
bookDivinity andExperience. However,thisneverhappensto suchan extentas in India.
Thusitseemsthatwhilein Americacastesconfusedly conceivedhavebeencontaminated
bytotemicclassifications, in India,whereproductsor symbolsofoccupationalactivities

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are clearlydifferentiated as suchand can be put to use in orderto expressdifferences

betweensocialgroups,vestigesor remnants oftotemicgroupshave cometo makeuse of
a symbolism thatis technological and occupationalin origin.
This appearsless surprising when one attemptsto expressAustralianinstitutions
(thefirstoneswhichwe have envisaged)differently, and in a moredirectway,in the
languageofthecastesystem.What we have done thusfarwas to compareAustralian
totemicgroupsone to anotherfromthestandpoint oftheirspecialization in controlofa
given animal or vegetablespecies,while occupationalcastes 'control'the technical
activitiesnecessary to thewell-being ofthewholegroup.
There are nevertheless twodifferences.In thefirstplace, a pottercastemakespots,
a laundryman castedoesactuallaundrywork,and barbersdo shave.The performances
of Australiantotemicgroups,however,are unreal,imaginary,and even thoughthe
participants believein theirreality,we shall see laterthatthischaracteristic makesa
greatdeal ofdifference. In thesecondplace, theconnexionbetweenthesorcererand
thenaturalspeciesthathe claimsto controlis notofthesame typeas thelinkbetween
the craftsmanand his product.Only in mythicaltimesdid the animals or plants
actuallyoriginatefromthe ancestor'sbody.Nowadays,kangaroosproducekangaroos
and mancan onlyhelpthemtodo so.
But thesimilarity is muchstronger ifwe adopta different pointofview.An Austra-
lian sectionor sub-sectionactuallyproducesits womenforthe benefitof the other
sections,muchas an occupationalcaste producesgoods and serviceswhichthe other
castescannotproduceand mustseekfromthiscastealone.Thus,it wouldbe inaccurate
to definetotemicgroupsand castesystems as beingsimplyone exogamousand another
endogamous.These are notreal properties existingas such,butsuperficial and indirect
consequencesofa similarity whichshouldbe recognizedat a deeperlevel.In thefirst
place,bothcastesand totemicgroupsare 'exo-practical':castesin relationto goodsand
services,totemicgroupsin relationto marriage.In the secondplace, bothremainto
some extent'endo-practical':castesby virtueof theruleof endogamyand Australian
groupsas regardstheirpreferred typeofmatrimonial exchange,whichbeingmostlyof
the'restricted' type,keepseach tribecloselyself-contained and, as it were,wrappedup
in itself.It wouldseemthatallowingforthe above restrictive considerations, we have
now reached a satisfactory formulation,in a commonlanguage,of the relationship
betweentotemicgroupsand castes.Thus we mightsay thatin thefirstcase-totemic
groups-women,thatis, biologicalindividualsor naturalproducts,are begottennatur-
ally by otherbiologicalindividuals,whilein the secondcase-castes-manufactured
objectsorservicesrenderedthroughthemediumofmanufactured objectsarefabricated
culturallythroughtechnicalagents.The principleof differentiation stemsin the one
case fromnatureand in theotherfromculture.
However,thiskindofparallelismwouldbe purelyformaland withoutanyconcrete
basis,foroccupationalcastesare trulydifferent fromone anotheras regardsculture,
and also complementary. The same cannotbe said, as regardsnature,of exogamic
groupswhichspecialize,so to speak,in theproductionofwomenbelongingto different
'species'.Occupationalactivitiesare truesocial species; theyare objectivelydistinct.
Women,on the otherhand, even when theyare born in different sectionsor sub-
sections,belongnevertheless toone and thesamenaturalspecies.

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Social logic appearsat thispointto be caughtin a dialecticaltrap.The assumed
parallelismbetweennaturalproducts(actually,women)and socialproductsis wholly
imaginary.This explainswhyexogamousgroupsare so ofteninclinedto definethem-
selvesas totemicgroups,foroverand above exogamytheyneed an objectivemodelto
expresstheirsocial diversity. In societieswheredivisionof labour and occupational
specializationdo not exist,the onlypossibleobjectivemodelhas to be soughtin the
naturaldiversity ofbiologicalspecies;forthereare onlytwoobjectively givenmodels
ofconcretediversity: one on thelevelofnature,made up by thetaxonomicsystemof
naturalspecies,theotheron thelevelofculture,made up bythesocialsystemoftrades
and occupations.
The rules of exogamyestablishan ambiguoussystemwhich lies somewherein
between:as regardsnature,womenare all alike,and onlyas regardsculturemaythey
be claimedtobe different.
If thefirstpointofviewprevails,thatis, whenmenborrowfromnaturetheircon-
ceptualmodelofdiversification, theymustunconsciously abide also by a naturalmodel
of womankind.Exogamousgroupsmake the overtclaim thatwomenare culturally
differen,tand, consequently, may be exchanged.But actually,theycan onlybe ex-
changedbecause,at a deeperlevel,theyare knownto be similar.This providesan
explanationtowhatI havesaidearlierand permits, so tospeak,todeduceexogamyfrom
Conversely, when the overtconceptualmodel is cultural,as in the caste system,
womenare acknowledged to be similaronlywithinthelimitsoftheirrespectivesocial
groupsand this being projectedon to the natural plane, theirexchangebetween
groupsconsequently becomesimpossible.
In otherwords,boththe caste systemand the so-calledtotemicsystems postulate
isomorphism betweennaturaland culturaldifferences. The validationofthispostulate
involvesin each case a symmetrical and invertedrelationship.Castesare definedaftera
culturalmodel and mustdefinetheirmatrimonialexchangeaftera naturalmodel.
Totemicgroups patternmatrimonial exchangeaftera culturalmodel,and theythemselves
mustbe definedaftera naturalmodel.Women,homogeneousas regardsnature,are
claimedtobe heterogeneous as regardsculture,and conversely,naturalspecies,although
heterogeneous as regardsnature,are claimedto be homogeneousas regardsculture,
sincefromthestandpointofculture,theysharecommonproperties in so faras man is
believedtopossessthepowertocontroland tomultiply them.
In totemicsystems, menexchangeculturally thewomenwhoprocreatethemnatur-
ally,and theyclaimto procreateculturally theanimaland vegetablespecieswhichthey
exchangenaturally:in the formof foodstuffs which are interchangeable, since any
biologicalindividualis able to dispensewithone and to subsiston the others.A true
parallelismcan therefore be said to existbetweenthetwoformulas, and it is possibleto
code one intothetermsoftheother.Indeed,thisparallelismis morecomplexthanwe
believedit to be at the beginning.It can be expressedin thefollowing tortuousway:
castesnaturalizefallaciously a trueculturewhiletotemicgroupsculturalizetrulya false
nature.'False' in tworespects:first,froma naturalpointofview,womenbelongto one
and the same naturalspecies;and second,as a naturalspecies,men do not have the
powertoincreaseand controlothernaturalspecies.

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However,thissymmetry can neverbe rigorous;soon enoughit reachesits limits.

Duringtheirprocreative period,womenare naturallyequivalent;anatomicalstructure
and physiological function are,grossly in all femaleindividuals.On
theotherhands,foodsare notso easilyreplaceable.SpeakingoftheKaruba ofMysore,
ThurstonquotestheArisanagotramwhichbearsthename ofturmeric. But sinceit is
noteasyto go withoutturmeric it has adoptedas itsfood-prohibition korra seedswhich
can be moreeasilydispensedwith.And in his book alreadyreferred to, Dr Lienhardt
statessomething similarabout clanswhosedivinityis thegiraffe. This is an all-impor-
tantfood,and insteadofprohibiting it,theseclanscontentthemselves withavoidingto
sheditsblood. The same limitationexistswithoccupationalcastes. They too have to
remainto someextentendo-functional, in orderto renderthemselves theservicesthey
givetoothers.Otherwise whois goingtoshavethebarber?
By way ofconclusionI shouldliketo emphasizefourpoints.First,totemism which
has been formalized in whatmaybe called the'languageofprimitiveness' can equally
wellbe formalized in the'languageofcastes'whichwerethought tobe theveryopposite
Secondly,in its social undertakings, mankindkeepsmanoeuvering withinnarrow
limits.Social typesare not isolatedcreations,whollyindependentof each other,and
each one an originalentity, butrathertheresultofan endlessplayofcombinationand
re-combination, foreverseekingto solvethesame problemsby manipulating thesame
fundamental elements.This game alwaysconsistsin a give-and-take, and whatis given
or takenmustalwaysbelongeitherto therealmofnature(naturalproducts)or to the
realmofculture(goodsand services),the exchangeofwomenbeingtheonlyformula
that makesit possibleto overcomethisduality.Thus exchangeof womennot only
ensuresa horizontalmediationbetweengroupsof men,it also ensuresa mediation,
whichwe mightcall vertical,betweennatureand culture.
Thirdly,as we have seen, the tremendousdifferences existingbetweentotemic
groupsand castesystems, in spiteoftheirlogicalinvertedsimilarity, maybe ascribedto
thefactthatcastesare rightand totemicsystems arewrong,whentheybelievethatthey
providereal servicesto theirfellowgroups.This shouldconvinceus thatthe 'truth-
value' is an unavoidabledimensionofstructural method.No commonanalysisofreli-
gion can be givenby a believerand a non-believer, and fromthispointof view,the
typeofapproachknownas 'religiousphenomenology' shouldbe dismissed.
Lastly,by analysinga specificexample,I have attemptedto validate a methodo-
logicalapproachwhichI have been tryingto followin Franceand whichDr Leach is
followingin England. Accordingto thisapproachsocietiesare not made up of the
flotsamandjetsamofhistory, but ofvariables;thuswidelydifferent institutions can be
reducedto transformations of the same basic figure,and the wholeof humanhistory
maybe lookedupon merelyas a setofattempts to organizedifferentlythesame means,
butalwaysto answerthesamequestions.


The authorwishesto thankMrs M. C. du Bouchet,a native Englishspeakerassociatedwith the

Sociale',whohas kindlyhelpedhimtoimprovehisclumsyEnglish.

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