This article speculates on the place of contradiction in the symbolic construction of the world. There has been much anthropological work on the ubiquity of symbolic classification in human society and culture, but insufficient attention has been paid to the contradictory as a desirable cognitive resort: to playing with, and denying, symbolic classifications at the same time as assuming them.
Juxtaposing literary theoretical and empirical sources, the article therefore outlines a thesis concerning the importance, the prevalence and the purpose of recourse to the contradictory as a conscious feature of the use of language. Construing the existence or 'words', of 'communities' and of 'individuals' can be seen as attempts symbolically to define, make singular, limited and congruous what is at the same time recognized to be multiple, unlimited and incoherent. Empirical evidence for the thesis is provided by an account of contemporary American immigrants in the State of Israel.
|Number of pages
|Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
|Published - Dec 1997