Thomas Crump

Thomas Crump teaches anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of the much-praised Anthropology of Numbers and of The Japanese Numbers Game.

Floating it away

Thomas Crump, 7 October 1993

The casual visitor to Japan does not have to wander very far from the beaten tourist track to discover two distinctive but contrasting phenomena of the country’s material culture. The first consists of a row of small stone statues, apparently of dwarfs, each with a red bib tied round its neck; such rows are to be found somewhere in the precinct of almost any Buddhist temple. The second is decidedly part of the modern rather than the traditional aspect of Japanese culture. In its most usual form it is a characterless concrete building, which could be a small block of flats, but whose clinical appearance makes it clear that it is a hospital. The Japanese themselves are left in no doubt: a large notice board invariably gives the names of the doctors who own and operate it.

The Meaning of Mngwotngwotiki

Eric Korn, 10 January 1991

When I was somewhere between one and nine I brooded over the possibility of finding a new number, an integer between one and nine that had somehow been overlooked. Their names and shapes seemed...

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