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The Mythology in Our Language

The Mythology in Our Language

Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough

by Ludwig Wittgenstein
Translated by Stephan Palmié
Edited by Stephan Palmié and Giovanni da Col
With critical reflections by Veena Das, Wendy James, Heonik Kwon, Michael Lambek, Sandra Laugier, Knut Christian Myhre, Rodney Needham, Michael Puett, Michael Taussig, and Carlo Severi

open access PDF | 250 pp. | 6x9 | $35.00 order hardcopy here

"This volume is an important intellectual event"
Sandra Laugier

"An invigorating, dazzling contribution carried out with rare intellectual care."
Paul C. Johnson

"Wittgenstein's engagement with Frazer's Golden Bough was one of the most remarkable intellectual encounters of the 20th century."
Geoffrey E. R. Lloyd

In 1931 Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote his famous Remarks on Frazer’s “Golden Bough,” published posthumously in 1967. At that time, anthropology and philosophy were in close contact—continental thinkers drew heavily on anthropology’s theoretical terms, like mana, taboo, and potlatch, in order to help them explore the limits of human belief and imagination. Now the book receives its first translation by an anthropologist, in the hope that it can kick-start a new era of interdisciplinary fertilization.

Wittgenstein’s remarks on ritual, magic, religion, belief, ceremony, and Frazer’s own logical presuppositions are as lucid and thought-provoking now as they were in Wittgenstein’s day. Anthropologists find themselves asking many of the same questions as Wittgenstein—and in a reflection of that, this volume is fleshed out with a series of engagements with Wittgenstein’s ideas by some of the world’s leading anthropologists, including Veena Das, Wendy James, Heonik Kwon, Michael Lambek, Sandra Laugier, Knut Christian Myhre, Rodney Needham, Michael Puett, Michael Taussig, and Carlo Severi. Edited by Giovanni da Col and Stephan Palmié, this book will interest anyone concerned with that most fundamental question in anthropology: the differences that hold among description, interpretation, and translation.

The Mythology in Our Language is available for purchase as a paperback distributed by The University of Chicago Press. In keeping with the open-access commitment that has inspired HAU Books, the full text is also available for download immediately at

Praise for The Mythology in Our Language

"This volume is an important intellectual event—in particular, because of the decisions by the editors to showcase some of the most important anthropological perspectives on this text. This will perhaps be taken as a provocation by philosophers, but for me, the strength of this project lies both in its teaching and in its content: after all, many philosophers, including Wittgenstein, have had no problem proclaiming that they are doing anthropology. It is now anthropology’s turn—as an established discipline in its own right—to take on this text and its significance and provocation for it."
Sandra Laugier
author of Why We Need Ordinary Language Philosophy
"Palmié’s new translation of Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Frazer’s "Golden Bough", joined to a set of super-commentaries by anthropological luminaries, is revelatory. This volume restores Wittgenstein’s Remarks to its own lifeworld. In the process, Wittgenstein’s intervention appears again as necessary, and as necessarily unfinished, today as it was in mid-century. An invigorating, dazzling contribution carried out with rare intellectual care."
Paul C. Johnson
editor of Comparative Studies in Society and History
"Wittgenstein's engagement with Frazer's Golden Bough was one of the most remarkable intellectual encounters of the 20th century. With Frazer, the young discipline of anthropology had staked a claim to hold the secret to answering the question of what it is to be human. Wittgenstein found much in anthropological inquiry that was relevant to his thoughts on language, meaning and understanding, though for that he had to overturn many of Frazer's fundamental assumptions, out-anthropologising, one might say, the anthropologist. This series of commentaries brilliantly demonstrates how crucial the issues raised in this exchange remain."
Geoffrey E. R. Lloyd
author of The Ambivalences of Rationality: Ancient and Modern Cross-cultural Explorations

HAU Books Titles 2015-2019: 

Available from the University of Chicago Press

Gifts and Commodities by Chris Gregory (with a foreword by Marilyn Strathern)
The Anti-Witch by Jeanne Favret-Saada (Translated by Matthew Carey with a foreword by Veena Das)
The Chimera Principle by Carlo Severi (Translated by Janet Lloyd with a foreword by David Graeber)
The Meaning of Money in China and the United States by Emily Martin (with a foreword by Eleana Kim and an afterword by Jane Guyer and Sidney Mintz)
Magic: A Theory from the South by Ernesto de Martino (Translated by Dorothy Louise Zinn)
Four Lectures on Ethics by Michael Lambek, Veena Das, Didier Fassin, and Webb Keane
Translating Worlds edited by William F. Hanks and Carlo Severi
The Relative Native by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro (with an afterword by Roy Wagner)
Comparing Impossibilities by Sally Falk Moore (with a foreword by John Borneman)
The Gift: Expanded Edition by Marcel Mauss (Selected, introduced, and translated by Jane I. Guyer and with a foreword by Bill Maurer)
Before and After Gender: Sexual Mythologies of Everyday Life by Marilyn Strathern (Edited with an introduction by Sarah Franklin, and with an afterword by Judith Butler)
Why We Play: An Anthropological Study by Roberte Hamayon (Translated by Damien Simon and with a foreword by Michael Puett)
The Sex Thieves: The Anthropology of a Rumor by Julien Bonhomme (Translated by Dominic Horsfall and with a foreword by Philippe Descola)
Dictionary of Indo-European Concepts and Society by Émile Benveniste (with a foreword by Giorgio Agamben)
Values of Happiness: Toward an Anthropology of Purpose in Life edited by Iza Kavedžija and Harry Walker
Reciprocity and Redistribution in Andean Civilizations: The 1969 Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures by John V. Murra (Prepared by Freda Yancy Wolf and Heather Lechtman)
World: An Anthropological Examination by João de Pina-Cabral (Malinowski Monographs Series) 
Ways of Baloma by Mark S. Mosko (Malinowski Monograph Series)
The Art of Life and Death by Andrew Irving (Malinowski Monograph Series)
Mistrust: An Ethnographic Theory by Matthew Carey (Malinowski Monograph Series)
From Hospitality to Grace: A Julian Pitt-Rivers Omnibus by Julian Pitt-Rivers, edited by Giovanni da Col and Andrew Shryock
On Kings by David Graeber and Marshall Sahlins
Two Lenins by Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov (Malinowski Monograph Series)
The Fire of the Jaguar by Terence S. Turner (foreword by David Graeber)
The Owners of Kinship by Luiz Costa, with a foreword by Janet Carsten (Malinowski Monograph Series)

Acting for Others by Pascale Bonnemère, with a foreword by Marilyn Strathern
Being and Hearing by Peter Graif (Malinowski Monograph Series)
Capturing Imagination by Carlo Severi
Classic Concepts in Anthropology by Valerio Valeri
 – The HAU Books Editorial Team

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