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Foreign Bodies: Performance, Art, and Symbolic Anthropology Hardcover – July 7, 1992

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

When the strange becomes familiar, boundaries of all kinds dissolve. Napier covers such diverse topics as art, immunology, and social psychology yet manages to create conceptual bonds that hold these five essays together. Here, humans are not mere toolmakers, but meaning makers--pivotally speaking, meaning maintainers. Without the category of "stranger" there could be no separation into "us" and "them." The trouble lies in our collective choice of metaphor. What we conceive is what we believe, and our behavior, for better or for worse, is its flower. This is not light reading. Stimulating relevant theories are often shrouded in needlessly ornate language. At times, Napier seemingly strenghtens his arguments through simplistic West-bashing. However, he also gives his straw man many useful ideations that can help him to become less of a stranger to himself. Recommended for academic libraries.
- Susan M. Olcott, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., Ohio
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Illuminating. . . . Napier introduces the idea that one of the most defining aspects of culture is that of the foreign, a concept he uses in interpreting art and mythology of Western culture." -- Catherine M. Compton, Art Documentation

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 223 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (July 7, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520065832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520065833
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,407,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This is the second book in what I like to think of as Napier's trilogy. If you have not read Masks Transformation, and Paradox, I recommend reading that one first and then this wonderful book, to be followed by The Age of Immunology: Conceiving a Future in an Alienating World. Napier's work is not light reading. His treatment of the concept of the stranger is relevant to the process he traces out in the first book which deals with the way(s) in which notions of alterity and difference are central to societal rituals of transformation. He says that "the recognition of change hinges both on the apprehension of identity and on the awareness of a potential for paradox." (Myths, 3) In this work he takes that thesis a step further and attempts to prove that this process is universal by examining it in different cultures. In the latest work, he introduces the same ideas but in a brand new context using immunology as a trope. I highly recommend all of Napier's work. Although it is anthropology, don't think that his ideas do not have relevance to other areas of study. I used his book for an analysis of Oscar Wilde's uses of paradox and masks in his dramatic and critical work. Jack Worthing's reference to Lady Bracknell as a Gorgon in "The Importance of Being Earnest" came alive to me after reading Napier's meditations on the apotropaic.
This work brings up crucial questions about how we perceive alterity in our society, no small question. People who enjoy philosophy, mythology, literature, psychology, and of course, anthropology will need to be acquainted with Napier's work. You can start here or buy the whole trilogy as I did. You will not be sad you did.
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By A Customer on September 3, 1998
Format: Paperback
Makes an important contribution to the understanding of Indian and Greek art and myth.
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