tracking the “bongo-bongo” meme

(Should I put meme in quotes too? I leave that as an exercise for the reader.)

Browsing an old review by Eric Alden Smith (ref below) I came across the following:

I do not advocate the venerable but ultimately sterile anthropological practice of countering every generalization with an exception located somewhere at some time (a practice often termed “bongo-bongoism”).

I’ve heard this term before and have used my own version at times, but I’m curious as to when and where it originated.

The article:
Data and Theory in Sociobiological Explanation: A Critique of van den Berghe and Barash
Eric Alden Smith
American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 81, No. 2. (Jun., 1979), pp. 360-363


2 responses to “tracking the “bongo-bongo” meme

  1. Hi Fiona,

    After a bit of searching, it seems the term was first used by Mary Douglas on p15 of her book Natural Symbols. Not seen the original yet, just found various references.


  2. Hi Vaughan,

    Cheers for that! Interesting too, considering that Mary Douglas had a long association with my institution.

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