# The Double Twist: From Ethnography to Morphodynamics

## Description

Contains Illustrations

$65.00

ISBN 0-8020-3525-8

DDC 306

## Publisher

## Year

## Contributor

Joan Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and ethnohistorian

in British Columbia.

## Review

In 1955, French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss introduced a

mathematical formula that attempted to represent his understanding that

every myth was an aggregate of all its variants. (The formula is

expressed as the canonical formula: fx(a):fy(b)::fx(b):fa-1(y), where :

means “transforms itself into” and :: “is a resemblance between

two transformations.”) Despite its long existence, few working

anthropologists use it.

The Double Twist presents an excellent collection of 10 papers by

international scholars from a variety of disciplines who explain the

formula, test its applicability, and illuminate its value as both

metaphor and mathematical formulation. The collection is introduced by

Lévi-Strauss, who extends his formula to cross-cultural religious

architecture, focusing on the hourglass forms of Fijian temples. Luc

Racine demonstrates how the formula cannot be reduced or understood as a

simple analogy. Erich Schwimmer considers the ability of structuralism

to cope with history by testing the formula on cultural data from Papua

New Guinea. Pierre Maranda explores gender relations in Melanesia

following the advent of Christianity and uses the formula to map this

transformation. Lucien Scubla provides a detailed historical review of

the canonical formula and applies it to Hesiodic myth. Sбndor Darбnyi

uses data from Asia Minor to demonstrate the correspondence between the

geometric and spatial interpretation involved in the formula.

Christopher Gregory compares two kinds of binary logic (Boolean and

Ramistic) by analyzing an Indian myth, and concludes that the formula

based in binary logic is actually Ramistic. The volume concludes with

technical mathematical papers by Alain Cфté, Andrew Quinn, and Jean

Petitot.

These authors confirm that the canonical formula is an intelligent

means of grasping mythical transformation and cognitive structures.

Structuralism is based on a concept of universal truth, which is

contrary to postmodernist thought: that may partly explain why the

formula has been widely ignored. The difficulty in understanding the

formula is probably another reason. Although this collection adds to

that understanding, it is most suitable for advanced students of

anthropology and semiotics.

## Citation

*Canadian Book Review Annual Online*, accessed November 1, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/9628.