the moral imagination of the Kaguru: some thoughts on tricksters, translation and comparative analysis



This essay questions some of the ways anthropologists employ the comparative method to understand the meaning of collective representations. To illustrate the argument, the category of trickster is examined for one East African people. Such anomalous figures serve didactically to stimulate the imagination which is essentially involved in moral rather than epistemological questions. It is argued that order and disorder, and indeed meaning, can be safely analyzed sociologically only within the terms of a particular system of beliefs and symbols, consequently posing serious problems for comparative study. [East Africa, Kaguru, trickster, epistemology, symbolism, comparative method]