People and concepts to know

Must Know

[Variation] Franz Boas

1864 - 1942
  • Defined American cultural anthropology
  • Cultural relativism and historical particularism (every society has unique progression)
  • Studied inuits

[Theorist] AR Radcliffe-Brown

1881 - 1955
  • Inspired by Emile Durkheim
  • Structural-functionalism (all the parts, or institutions, of a society filled a particular function)
  • Ultimate goal of Anthro is precision like natural sciences
  • Rejected psychological explanations
  • Regarded individual as social product
  • Ideas mostly abandoned
  • Criticism: Believed his models were more truthful than social reality
  • Students criticized Malinowski’s students for writing extensive field accounts without an explanation or model tying details together

[Variation] Bronislaw Malinowski

1884 - 1942
  • British anthropology, classical functionalist (assumed entire societies are perfectly integrated)
  • Intensive fieldwork
  • Argonauts of the Western Pacific, 1922
  • Participant observation (ethnographer should live with people studied, participate in everyday activities, and make systematic observations)
  • Lifelong interest in individual psychology
  • Criticism: Unfocused and theoretically weak

[Relations] Marcel Mauss, "The Gift"

  • Nephew of Durkheim
  • Reciprocity (the exchange of gifts and services, is the ‘glue’ that ties societies together in the absence of a centralised power)
  • Criticism: Largely seen as irrelevant by young anthropologists studying conflict rather than integration

[Theorist] Raymond Firth, "Elements of Social Organization"

  • Actual behaviour of societies is separated from idealized rules of behaviour within the particular society
  • Critical of S-F faith in ability of norms and structure to regulate human interaction
  • Social organisation(actual interaction) vs social structure (system of interrelated statuses. Abstract template)
  • Persons acted according to their own will and modify social structure

[Analyst] Claude Levi-Strauss (Alliance)

  • Founder of Structuralism
  • Influenced by Durkheim
  • How the human mind functions, cognitive structure
  • Alliance, affinality
  • 1962, "The Savage Mind"

[Theorist] Fredrick Barth, "Models of Social Organization"

  • 1960s, “transactionalism” (Model of analysis putting acting individual as central. Does not assume social integration is necessary outcome of interaction.)
  • Methodological individualism

[Relations] Marshall Shalins, "Stone Age Economics"


Three types of reciprocity.
- 1. Balanced reciprocity: market trade, tit-for-tat
- 2. Generalized reciprocity: There is no acknowledged pricing mechanism and no explicit demands for returning gifts, but rules are known
- 3. Negative reciprocity: economic deception, where benefits are reaped without paying the cost.

[Theorist] Pierre Bourdieu, "Theory of Practice"


Distinguishes between opinion and doxa. Free choices are not illusory, but integrated factors restrict them.

Try to Remember

[Analyst] Henry Maine, "Primitive Society"

  1. Status societies: each person has fixed relationships to others
  2. Contract societies: Based on voluntary agreements

[Theorist] Herbert Spencer (Structure and Function)

  • Coined term “survival of the fittest”
  • Introduced “structure” and “function” as concepts

[Analyst] Ferdinand Tonnies


Local community vs anonymous large-scale society. Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.

[Variation] Margaret Mead

1928 - 1930
  • 1928, Coming of Age in Samoa
  • 1930, Growing up in New Guinea
  • Socialisation of children to understand cultural “variations in personality”

[Variation] Ruth Benedict, "Patterns of Culture"

  • Cultures have “personality traits”
  • Like Radcliff-Brown, saw cultures as consistent and seamless, but explained with psychology

[Theorist] Anthony Giddens

  • Theory of Structuration, Holistic view.
  • Social life is more than random individual acts, but is not merely determined by social forces.

[Analyst] Karl Polanyi, "The Great Transformation"

  • Development of the modern state goes hand in hand with development of modern market economies
  • Societies could be economically integrated.

[Theorist] EE Evans-Pritchard

  • 1951, confessed that structural-functionalism failed to produce a single general “social law” with precision as the natural sciences
  • 1956, book on religion of Nuer (Sudanese cattle people). May have coloured native terms with own religion.
  • Studies of witchcraft in Central Africa made him understand Stalinism
  • Wanted social anthropology to become an interpretive science

[Analyst] Julian Steward, "Theory of Cultural Change"

  • Distinguished between “cultural core” (technology, ecological adaptation, and property relations), and “rest of culture”
  • Derives from Boas

[Theorist] Marvin Harris, "Rise of Anthropological Theory"


Cultural materialism. Social life is response to practical problems of existence.

[Variation] Clifford Geertz, "The Interpretation of Cultures"

  • Interpretive/symbolic anthropology
  • Contrast to cultural materialism
  • Culture – “shared meanings expressed through public communication”

[Analyst] Marilyn Strathern, "After Nature"

  • The definition of "nature" and "man-made" may change
  • Artificial births

Probably Not That Important

[Theorist] EB Taylor, "Primitive Culture"


Culture = “complex whole which includes capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”

[Relations] Lewis Morgan


Established kinship as distinct domain

[Theorist] Edmund Leach


Societies are far from integrated equilibrium. Criticized definition of marriage in alliance.

[Theorist] Leslie White, "The Science of Culture"


The more energy a group or society exploited for its own ends, the higher it was placed on the evolutionary ladder.

[Analysts] Al Kroeber + Clyde Kluckhohn, "A Critical Review"


Those two guys who took the word "culture" way too seriously.

[Theorist] Gregory Bateson, "Steps to an Ecological Mind"

  • Applied ecological way of thinking to wide range.
  • One of founders of cybernetics.
  • Husband of Margaret Mead.

[Theorist] Edward O Wilson, "Sociobiology"


Darwinist view of societal progression.

[Relations] Ladislav Holy, "Kinship"