This book presents an overview of important currents of thought in social and cultural anthropology, from the 19th century to the present. It introduces readers to the origins, context and continuing relevance of a fascinating and exciting kaleidoscope of ideas that have transformed the humanities and social sciences, and the way we understand ourselves and the societies we live in today.
Each chapter provides a thorough yet engaging introduction to a particular theoretical school, style or conceptual issue. Together they build up to a detailed and comprehensive critical introduction to the most salient areas of the field. The introduction reflects on the substantive themes which tie the chapters together and on what the very notions of ‘theory’ and ‘theoretical school’ bring to our understanding of anthropology as a discipline.
The book tracks a core lecture series given at Cambridge University and is essential reading for all undergraduate students undertaking a course on anthropological theory or the history of anthropological thought. It will also be useful more broadly for students of social and cultural anthropology, sociology, human geography and cognate disciplines in the social sciences and humanities.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Echoes of a Conversation Matei Candea
1. Severed roots: Evolutionism, diffusionism and (structural-)functionalism Matei Candea
2. Structuralism Rupert Stasch
3. Marxism and Neo-Marxism Caroline Humphrey
4. From Transactionalism to Practice Theory David Sneath
5. Anthropology and History Susan Bayly
6. From the Extended-Case Method to Multi-Sited Ethnography (and Back) Harri Englund
7. Cognitive anthropology as epistemological critique Richard D.G. Irvine
8. Interpretive Cultural Anthropology: Geertz and his ‘Writing-Culture’ Critics James Laidlaw
9. The Frankfurt School, Critical Theory and Anthropology Christos Lynteris
10. The Anthropological Lives of Michel Foucault James Laidlaw
11. From ‘the body’ to ‘embodiment’, with help from phenomenology Maryon McDonald
12. Feminist Anthropology and the Question of Gender Jessica Johnson
13. No actor, no network, no theory: Bruno Latour’s Anthropology of the Moderns Matei Candea
14. The Ontological Turn: School or Style? Paolo Heywood
15. Persons and partible persons Marilyn Strathern
Matei Candea is a Lecturer in the Division of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, UK. He is a fellow of King's College, and Director of Studies for the college.
"In this highly original contribution, leading anthropological scholars from the University of Cambridge provide a new and compelling approach to the history of anthropological ideas.... With each chapter authored by different anthropologists at the University of Cambridge, one gets a powerful sense of the perspective of that important school and at the same time original individual contributions from well-known anthropologists on key themes or thinkers that have impacted anthropological thought over the years. Insightful, succinct but also consistently challenging, I expect that these essays will inspire students of anthropology for years to come."
Adam Reed, University of St Andrews, UK
"A useful antidote to the presentism of much current anthropological theorizing, this rich and variegated collection – which takes account of some of the deepest roots and freshest sprigs – especially reflects the influential view of the discipline from the venerable Cambridge tradition, which displays in these pages an impressively global and historically comprehensive reach."
Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University, USA
"Anthropological theory does not exist per se. It has been conceptualized and formulated on the basis of our own academic work, developing and sometimes changing substantially over the years and decades, influenced by very personal experiences, social settings and political constellations. In fact, theory is as much a product of time and space as it is the achievement of intellectual forebears. Likewise its reception and critique is subject to change and ongoing discussion. The authors of this book, junior and senior, offer broad contexts and detailed knowledge without hiding their personal views and sympathies. A truly committed introduction."
Magnus Treiber, LMU München, German