The Reinvention of Primitive Society : Transformations of a Myth book cover
2nd Edition

The Reinvention of Primitive Society
Transformations of a Myth

ISBN 9780415357616
Published August 9, 2005 by Routledge
288 Pages

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Book Description

The Invention of Primitive Society, Adam Kuper’s best selling critique of ideas about the origins of society and religion that have been much debated since Darwin, has been hugely influential in anthropology and post-colonial studies.

This topical new edition, entitled The Reinvention of Primitive Society, has been thoroughly revised and updated to take account of new research in the field. It coincides with a revival of the myth of primitive society by the ‘indigenous peoples’ movement’, which taps into a widespread popular belief about the noble savage and reflects a romantic reaction against ‘civilisation’ and ‘science’. By way of fascinating accounts of classic texts in anthropology, classical studies and law, the book reveals how wholly mistaken theories can become the basis for academic research and political programmes. In new chapters, Kuper challenges this most recent version of the myth of primitive society and traces conceptions of the barbarian, savage and primitive back through the centuries to ancient Greece.

Lucidly written and student friendly, this is the must-have text for those interested in anthropological theory and current post-colonial debates.

Table of Contents

Preface   Part 1:The idea of primitive society  1. The myth of primitive society  2. Barbarian, Savage, Primitive  Part 2: Ancient law, ancient society and totemism  3. Henry Maine’s patriarchal theory  4. Lewis Henry Morgan and ancient society  5. The question of totemism  Part 3: Evolution and diffusion: Boas, Rivers and Radcliffe-Brown  6. The Boasians and the critique of evolutionism  7. From Rivers to Radcliffe-Brown  Part 4: Descent and Alliance  8. Descent theory: a phoenix from the ashes  9. Towards the intellect: Alliance theory and totemism  Part 5: Back to the beginning  10. The return of the native  11. Conclusion  References  Index


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Adam Kuper is Professor of Anthropology at Brunel University, UK and a Fellow of the British Academy.  He is the author of a number of books, including The Chosen Primate: Human Nature and Cultural Diversity (Harvard 1994), Anthropologists and Anthropology: The Modern British School, third edition (Routledge 1996) and Culture: The Anthropologists' Account (Harvard 1999).  The founding president of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, he ws for many years editor of Current Anthropology, and is co-editor of The Social Science Encyclopedia, third edition (Routledge 2003).