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The Tar BabyA Global History$
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Bryan Wagner

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691172637

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691172637.001.0001

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Ideas of Culture

Ideas of Culture

(p.1) Chapter One Ideas of Culture
The Tar Baby

Bryan Wagner

Princeton University Press

This chapter traces the tar baby's intellectual reception in anthropology, literature, history, and folklore—disciplines that were being professionalized in the same decades when collectors were publicizing their surprising discoveries about the scale of the story's worldwide circulation. Although the most elementary questions asked about the tar baby—how it traveled from location to location, why it traveled as far as it did—have never been, and likely never will be, answered empirically, this has never put a stop to speculation. The mystery of the story's diffusion, in particular, helped to shape the terms in which it became possible to think more capaciously about culture.

Keywords:   tar baby, anthropology, literature, history, folklore, culture

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