The Chimera Principle
An Anthropology of Memory and Imagination
Distributed for HAU
Available in English for the first time, anthropologist Carlo Severi’s The Chimera Principle breaks new theoretical ground for the study of ritual, iconographic technologies, and oral traditions among non-literate peoples. Setting himself against a tradition that has long seen the memory of people “without writing”—which relies on such ephemeral records as ornaments, body painting, and masks—as fundamentally disordered or doomed to failure, he argues strenuously that ritual actions in these societies pragmatically produce religious meaning and that they demonstrate what he calls a “chimeric” imagination.
Deploying philosophical and ethnographic theory, Severi unfolds new approaches to research in the anthropology of ritual and memory, ultimately building a new theory of imagination and an original anthropology of thought. This English-language edition, beautifully translated by Janet Lloyd and complete with a foreword by David Graeber, will spark widespread debate and be heralded as an instant classic for anthropologists, historians, and philosophers.
“The translation of The Chimera Principle: An Anthropology of Memory and Imagination is a major event in Anglo-American anthropology. Remarkable for its scholarly depth, its ability to recast the whole field of memory and imagination through its relation to visual and sound images, and above all its complete mastery over comparative ethnography, this book is a stunning landmark in anthropological theory.”