1st Edition

Social and Cultural Anthropology for the 21st Century Connected Worlds

By Marzia Balzani, Niko Besnier Copyright 2022
    316 Pages 62 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    316 Pages 62 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Social and Cultural Anthropology for the 21st Century: Connected Worlds is a lively, accessible, and wide-ranging introduction to socio-cultural anthropology for undergraduate students. It draws on a wealth of ethnographic examples to showcase how anthropological fieldwork and analysis can help us understand the contemporary world in all its diversity and complexity.

    The book is addressed to a twenty-first-century readership of students who are encountering social and cultural anthropology for the first time. It provides an overview of the key debates and methods that have historically defined the discipline and of the approaches and questions that shape it today. In addition to classic research areas such as kinship, exchange, and religion, topics that are pressing concerns for our times are covered, such as climate change, economic crisis, social media, refugees, sexuality, and race. Foregrounding ethnographic stories from all over the world to illustrate global connections and their effects on local lives, the book combines a focus on history with urgent present-day social issues. It will equip students with the analytical tools that they need to negotiate a world characterized by unprecedented cross-cultural contact, ever-changing communicative technologies and new forms of uncertainty.

    The book is an essential resource for introductory courses in social and cultural anthropology and as a refresher for more advanced students.


    1 Society and culture in the 21st century

    2 Anthropologists at work

    3 Kinship

    4 Marriage

    5 Gender, sex, and sexuality

    6 The body

    7 The senses

    8 The life cycle

    9 Gifts and exchange

    10 Religion

    11 Rank, caste, and social class

    12 State, nation, and citizenship

    13 Mobility and transnationalism

    14 Media and the technological transformation of social relations

    15 The environment


    Marzia Balzani is research professor of anthropology, New York University Abu Dhabi. She has published on the anthropology of South Asia, political ritual, diasporic Islam, and gendered and religious persecution. In 2003–08 she was chief examiner for social and cultural anthropology for the International Baccalaureate and in 2010–12 she was chief examiner for Anthropology for the A level (AQA).

    Niko Besnier is professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and honorary research fellow at La Trobe University. He has published widely on globalization, sport, sexuality and gender, economic relations, and language. In 1998–2003, he was chief examiner for social and cultural anthropology for the International Baccalaureate, and in 2015–19, he edited the journal American Ethnologist.

    "Marzia Balzani and Niko Besnier have embarked in a most challenging journey: that of writing an introduction to sociocultural anthropology. A discipline that constantly interrogates the fields of power that surround the production of knowledge is difficult to introduce, yet the task needs to be done. Balzani and Besnier speak to the reader in simple terms that explain complexities: they engage with classical themes such as kinship in new ways; they underline process, relations, and mobilities; they address scale from the immediate intimacies of the body to global transnational power, and they do it brilliantly. They tell the story in a clear language, beautifully interlaced with ethnographic cases and historical grounding, without forgetting to present some important theoretical and methodological debates. Social and Cultural Anthropology for the 21st Century is a masterful feat that underscores how anthropology is about exploring the connections that make life possible."

    Susana Narotzky, University of Barcelona

    "Anthropology textbooks have all too often relied on discussions primarily of traditional societies for an audience mainly of Anglo-American readers. Social and Cultural Anthropology for the 21st Century: Connected Worlds is expressly designed to avoid both of these pitfalls, and does so admirably, in its discussions of the present and future as much as of the past, and in its vast array of examples from societies across the globe. It is also really interesting and fun to read: I will certainly use it in my own introductory anthropology class."

    Gordon Mathews, Chinese University of Hong Kong

    "Over the decades that I’ve been teaching anthropology at university, students at all levels have asked for an introductory text that clearly explains the discipline, its perspectives, practices, and insights. This is the book, leading the pack by a mile. It is authoritative, up to date, engagingly written and strikingly illustrated.

    The book’s chapters focus on topics long central to the social sciences, among them, kinship, marriage, sex and gender, exchange and gift-giving, nation and state, and rank, caste and class. The book couches an understanding of the history of ideas in contemporary examples that bring these topics to life, making them thinkable and discussable. The book’s style is sure to get readers reflecting and debating, as they convey the combination of observation, contextualization and critical interpretation that is central to anthropology.

    Written by two anthropologists with extensive research experience in the Pacific, Asia and Western societies, this book will richly reward its readers with an understanding of the discipline."

    Francesca Merlan, Australian National University

    "This book is a much-needed and timely introduction to social and cultural anthropology for a new and media-savvy generation of learners. It is accessible and visually attractive, but also suitably and refreshingly challenging. By making global connections and marrying classic themes with contemporary concerns, the authors have brought the subject bang up to date and have provided a compelling introductory textbook for our time."

    Jeanette Edwards, University of Manchester