totemic-operator.jpg
totemic-operator.jpg
Amitai Romm
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(..) Let us therefore content ourselves (..) and return to the most simple properties of what I am, for convenience, calling the totemic operator. A description with the help of a diagram, and considering only a small portion of the cell (for we are making it begin at the species level and arbitrarily restricting the number of species, and also the number of parts of the body, to three each), is sufficient to give an indication of its complexity (figure 8). It can be seen that the species admits first empirical realizations: Seal species, Bear species, Eagle species. Each includes a series of individuals (also reduced to three in the diagram): seals, bears, eagles. Each animal can be analyzed into parts: head, neck, feet, etc. These can be regrouped first within each species: (seals' heads, seals’neck, seals' feet) and then together by types of parts: all heads, all necks…. A final regrouping restores the model of the individual in his regained entirety.

The whole set thus constitutes a sort of conceptual apparatus, which filter unity through multiplicity, multiplicity through unity, diversity through identity, and identity through diversity. Endowed with a theoretically unlimited extension on its median level it contracts (or expands) into pure comprehension at its two extreme vertices, but in symmetrically reverse forms, and not without undergoing a sort of torsion.

The Savage Mind, Levi Strauss p.151

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