The dangers of mathematical beauty: are “pure forms” of Australian hunter-gatherer kinship systems really old?

Abstract : In explicit or implicit terms, anthropologists often relate purity of kinship forms and relationships with the idea of precedence. Nick Allen’s tetradic theory, or Lévi-Strauss’ direct exchange model are probably the best-known elaborations in this respect. Algorithmic, self-explanatory and self-regulatory models of social category systems or of terminologies, depicted by Lévi-Strauss for Australia as being of “crystalline beauty”, are thought to reflect the elementary (and thus primordial) forms for institutionalising relationships on the basis of biological idioms. Correlating mathematic aesthetics with historical ancestry however remains largely an unproven proposition. Combining approaches from behavioural ecology with kinship studies in Aboriginal Australia and Papua New Guinea, this paper will attempt to demonstrate that one could as well inverse the statements and claim that the so-called features or layers such as cross-parallel neutralization or Crow-Omaha skewing reflect far better early and contemporary environmental adaptation than the “classic” Dravidian-type structures can. Indeed, models depicting early colonization of Sahul, research in historical and contemporary Australian hunter-gatherer societies, as well as the anthropology of Papua New Guinean riverine systems seem to indicate that a network-based model is far more appropriate to elucidate social structure and interdependence than binary models can.
Document type :
Conference papers
Complete list of metadatas

https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01198497
Contributor : Laurent Dousset <>
Submitted on : Sunday, September 13, 2015 - 4:56:53 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 1:29:59 AM

Identifiers

  • HAL Id : halshs-01198497, version 1

Collections

Citation

Laurent Dousset. The dangers of mathematical beauty: are “pure forms” of Australian hunter-gatherer kinship systems really old?. CHAGS 11 Vienna, Sep 2015, Vienne, Austria. ⟨halshs-01198497⟩

Share

Metrics

Record views

109