Any interpretation of another culture is itself embedded in a specific cultural context and historical moment. In this book, James A. Boon investigates the history, dialectics and practice of the symbolic analysis of cultural diversity. His aim is to formulate a general comparative approach to the study of symbolic processes, integrating the major different theories about symbolic forms that have been developed by other writers. In so doing, he discusses the varying theories and practice of such figures as Durkheim, Weber, Marx, Mauss, Frazer, Saussure, Peirce, Lowie, Malinowski, Sapir, Hocart, Benedict, Parsons, Levi-Strauss, Geertz, Barthes, Foucault and others; and brings together a wide range of related issues in anthropology, linguistics, intellectual history, the sociology of religion and comparative mythology and literature. This original integration of social scientific and literary analysis will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in anthropology, history, philosophy and literature.