Every year, leading social anthropologists meet to debate a motion at the heart of current theoretical developments in their subject and this book includes the first six of these debates, spanning the period from 1988 to 1993. Each debate has four principal speakers: one to propose the motion, another to oppose it, and two seconders.
The first debate addresses the disciplinary character of social anthropology: can it be regarded as a science, and if so, is it able to establish general propositions about human culture and social life? The second examines the concept of society, and in the third debate the spotlight is turned on the role of culture in people's perception of their environments. The fourth debate focuses on the place of language in the formation of culture. The fifth takes up the question of how we view the past in relation to the present. Finally, in the sixth debate, the concern is with the cross-cultural applicability of the concept of aesthetics.
With its unique debate format, Key Debates in Anthropology addresses issues that are currently at the top of the theoretical agenda, which register the pulse of contemporary thinking in social anthropology. It will be of value to students who are not only introduced to the different sides of every argument, but are challenged to join in and to develop informed positions of their own.
Tim Ingold is the Max Gluckman Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester