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Wax, M.L. (1990). Malinowski, Freud and Oedipus. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 17:47-60.

(1990). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 17:47-60

Malinowski, Freud and Oedipus

Murray L. Wax


Bronislaw Malinowski claimed in the 1920s that his data from the Trobriand Islands served to invalidate the universality of 'the Oedipus complex'. Despite refutations of his claim, many scholars and the literate public have continued to accept its validity. In this essay, I direct attention both to the anthropological context of 'Totem and taboo' and to the form of its argument, which might have permitted Malinowski's distortions and encouraged the literate public to accept these as valid argument. I also note the personal histories of Freud and Malinowski that may have predisposed the theoretical confusions.

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