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SOME BRITISH MAVERICKS: EVANS-PRITCHARD, LEACH

Durkheim and Mauss, Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski,


were intellectual innovators in their own right
However, they became a sort of intellectual establishment
within anthropology through their teachings
And R-B and Malinowski in particular became the
acknowledged authorities on their subjects through their
teaching and lecturing (Malinowskis seminar at LSE, e.g.),
the circle of followers with whom they surrounded
themselves, their rather dogmatic positions (esp. R-B), and
in R-Bs case his activities in setting up departments of
anthropology throughout the English-speaking world
But there were reactions to them, even from within their
circles, e.g. Evans-Pritchard, Edmund Leach, Max
Gluckman (founder of the Manchester School) and Fredrik
Barth (a Norwegian anthropologist who studied under
Leach at Cambridge)
All these figures, if in very different ways, rejected the
rather static and tautological character of R-Bs structuralfunctionalism in particular
And instead they placed more emphasis on individual
agency (Barth), the dynamics of social systems as more
than just restoring social equilibrium (E-P, Leach) and the
impact of colonialism and migration in an obviously
declining British Empire (Gluckman and the Manchester
School)
Of course, in their time they too became part of a new
orthodoxy, E-P at Oxford, Leach (always in intellectual and
other forms of rivalry with Meyer Fortes) at Cambridge,
Gluckman at Manchester
I will deal with E-P and Leach here, Barth, Gluckman and
the Manchester School in a later lecture

E.E. Evans-Pritchard was associated as a student with a


number of figures, including Charles Seligman, an

evolutionist and diffusionist anthropologist at LSE, and R.R.


Marett, a late evolutionist who was also Rector of Exeter
College (hence memorial lecture), as well as R-B, whom he
succeeded as Chair at Oxford in 1946
Although E-P, as he was known, is perhaps most famous
for his work on the Nuer of the Sudan, his first major work
was Witchcraft, magic and oracles among the Azande,
who straddle the border between what is now South
Sudan and Uganda
This work is seen as anti-colonialist, in the sense that it
treats Zande witchcraft beliefs as involving a logic in their
own right, rather than seeing them as primitive mumbojumbo
In some ways, though, Azande witchcraft is untypical of
witchcraft elsewhere in Africa
Briefly, unlike so many other cases, close kin are not
accused of witchcraft, as here it is seen as inherited (F>S,
M>D), so any accusation would amount to an admission
that one was a witch oneself
Nor are social superiors (princes, nobles) accused, nor do
they accuse their subordinates
Also, Azande consider that anyone can be a witch and that
witchcraft is a matter of insidious psychic attack rather
than a form of capture of anothers body (unlike zombieism in West Africa)
Azande do not fear witchcraft but are rather annoyed by it
And they have a number of oracles, especially the poison
oracles, to detect witchcraft or its perpetrators
And when witches are confronted, they invariably disclaim
all knowledge or intention, but also agree to cooperate in
the water-blowing ritual that lifts the curse
In other words, it is unlikely that any actual practices of
witchcraft take place here, though counter-magic certainly
does
It is the beliefs and accusations that are important to the
anthropologist, not the actions themselves

One of the implications of E-Ps work here is that, while


witchcraft may not objectively exist, Azande are logical or
rational in the pursuit of their beliefs, following the
suspicion that they have been bewitched through a series
of actions designed to identify the witch and get the
witchcraft lifted
E-P also argues that witchcraft reveals their view of
causality to be rational as well
Azande dont believe that witchcraft causes accidents,
such as a brew of beer or a batch of pottery going bad, a
boy stubbing his toe on a rock or a granary collapsing on
people sheltering under it; those all have purely physical
explanations
What witchcraft explains is the aspect of chancewhy a
rock that has always been there should hurt that particular
boy at that particular moment
And chance or luck is a concept the Azande lack, though it
is prominent in western thought
The Azande are therefore no different from the rational
westerner in their ability to think things through in a
rational fashion; they just start with different assumptions
An argument that recalls the evolutionist idea of
reasoning from false premises, perhaps a reflection of
Maretts influence
But E-P was not an evolutionist in that sense, and it is the
intellectualist aspect of 19-cent. anthropology that is
prominent here

E-Ps work on the Nuer can be seen as similarly anticolonialist, in that it shows that a people who perpetually
seem to be feuding for no good reason in fact do have
reasons for doing so, and that the violence that results
actually has a discernible and logical structure
The Nuer are divided initially into groups that can be seen
as at once territorial (the tribes) and descent-based
(patrilineal clans and lineages)

However, in either case the structure of groups is


segmentary in the sense that sub-, sub-sub- etc. groups
emerge from it at lower orders of the structure
For example, E-P talks of clans divided into maximal,
major, minor and minimal lineages in segmentary fashion
Thus two minor lineages may feud in one context, but
they come together as a major lineage if a dispute arises
between anyone of them and another major lineage
Similarly the whole clan may join together, despite its own
internal feuding, against another clan, i.e. another such
unit at a similar structural level
And ultimately one reaches the levels of tribe against
tribe, of the Nuer as a people against the neighbouring
Dinka or Anuak, and, before the separation of South
Sudan, of the whole of the south against the Islamic north
(it is significant that Nuer-Dinka fighting has resumed
since South Sudan became independent)
This has been compared with the Arab dictum, myself
against my brother, myself and my brother against my
cousin, myself, my brother and my cousin against the
world
What it means is that no one group can become dominant,
as others will gang up on it to prevent this happening
There is therefore no permanent leadership: the Nuer are
the classic acephelous society
And this is, at least in part, a study of the political
implications of kinship (as represented here by the
descent system)
Also, among the Nuer, the level and intensity of violence
increases with structural order: no blood to be shed within
a local community, but killings of women and children as
well as armed men by spearing at the highest levels (of
course, today guns are used)
E-P was thus able to show that social groups were not just
static, permanently in existence, as tended to be true for
R-B

Instead groups appear differently according to context,


and only emerge as groups doing something in conflict,
not as part of the process of restoring equilibrium after a
conflict, as for R-B
Instead conflict resolution among the Nuer is a matter of
the so-called leopard skin chief, really the priest of a local
earth shrine, and nothing more than a mediator
Though another ritual figure, the prophets, who emerged
as an incipient leader as a reaction to contact with the
British, may have succeeded in uniting the Nuer had the
British not removed them as a threat to their own rule
E-Ps most explicit and famous intellectual break with R-B
concerned the place of history in anthropology
In two lectures, including his inaugural, E-P rejected R-Bs
dismissal of history, or at least the speculations of
evolutionism and diffusionism, in favour of his pseudoscientific structural-functionalism
For E-P, anthropology was not a science but a form of
history
This may reflect the influence of Marett again, for whom
also the two disciplines were seamlessly connected
And E-P put this shift in position to use in his study of the
Sanusi of Cyrenaica, an Islamic sect he had encountered
while in the army in WWII and which eventually produced
the monarchy of independent Libya, only to be overthrown
shortly thereafter by Col. Gaddafi
But in his study, E-P incorporated history and anthropology
in equal measure in a way unthinkable to R-B

Edmund Leach was another figure who broke apart the


simplistic equilibrium models associated with structuralfunctionalism in his book Political Systems of Highland
Burma of 1954
And once again there is the coming together of politics
and kinshipin this case systems of matrilateral cross-

cousin marriage among the Kachin, another group of


patrilineal tribes, this time in upper Burma
I will not explain cross-cousin marriage in full here, but
simply emphasise two of its properties as a system: 1) the
asymmetric direction in which spouses are transferred,
giving rise to a clear distinction between wife-givers and
wife-takers; and 2) the equally clear hierarchical property
of the system in that wife-givers are invariably superior to
wife-takersthe famous mayu-dama dichotomy of the
Kachin, among whom the dama are virtually the slaves of
their mayu, who, in giving them women, also give them
life
Politically, Kachin have two forms of organization: 1)
gumsa, or rule by chiefs, whose hierarchical positions in
relation to one another depend on their positions within
another system of segmentary lineages, in which the
youngest lines are the superior ones; and 2) gumlao, a
more egalitarian system without chiefs
Leach sees these two systems as alternating over time,
perhaps several generations, but sooner or later the one
system will give way to the other through a process of
oscillation
Also, combining the chiefly system with the principles of
matrilateral cross-cousin marriage, it is Kachin chiefs who
give wives to their followers, not the other way round
At this point another people have to be brought in to
explain how this happens: the Shan, a lowland people
ruled by minor princes for whom, unlike the Kachin, wifetakers are superior to wife-givers
i.e. Shan princes, at the apex of the hierarchy as the
rulers, accept women from subordinate chiefs in tribute
Shan princes also represent an imitation model for Kachin
chiefs
But in going Shan, they are confronted with this conflict
in the hierarchical structure of marriage and the values
associated with it

In particular, they are no longer prepared to give their


women to their followers as wives, but expect to receive
them instead from their followers
This sets up a reaction in the form of a rebellion by the
followers, who expel their chief and institute the more
democratic system
However, they continue to marry in the same way, which
essentially continues to be asymmetric and hierarchical
And sooner or later some lineage head or another is able
to re-establish the chiefly system
Some, such as the Marxist-oriented Jonathan Friedman,
have suggested that there is no oscillation here, but a
permanent tendency for democracy to give way to chiefly
rule because chiefs are able to exploit both agricultural
surpluses and ritual associations of chiefs with
supernatural powers
or vice versa, i.e. the democratization of chiefly rule
(Steven Nugent)
but whatever the case, Leach managed to highlight the
political dynamics of an aspect of kinship, like E-P, but
more explicitly, rejecting structural-functionalist models of
equilibrium and its maintenance
In neither Leachs nor E-Ps models of the Kachin and Nuer
is there any point of rest, but rather a perpetual fluidity of
situations
Yet neither posits permanent social change; instead we
have oscillatory processes in both cases
Leach went on to do field research in what is now Sri
Lanka, a study arguing that here kinship is completely
unimportant as a structuring factor in society compared to
economics, in particular the economics of irrigated rice
cultivation
This rejection of the importance of kinship was seen as
undermining one of the foundations of structuralfunctionalism in the work of R-B and Meyer Fortes
And when both Leach and Fortes were in the Cambridge
department, this led to some lively debates

But Leach also moved closer to structuralism in his


analyses of myth (especially Genesis as Myth), of the
symbolism of animals, etc.
And also took the lead in interpreting L-Ss new
structuralism to the British anthropological public

THE MANCHESTER SCHOOL; THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF


GENDER
Max Gluckman was the first anthropologist to be
awarded a doctorate at Oxford, in 1936, for a study of the
supernatural in South Africa
However, he is most famous for founding and leading the
Manchester School of anthropology at the University of
Manchester, which is still an important department,
though no longer at all Gluckmanesque
Among his followers perhaps the most famous is Victor
Turner, but others included Scarlet Epstein, F.G. Bailey
(both worked in India), Godfrey and Monica Wilson, J.
Clyde Mitchell, Philip Mayer and Abner Cohen, most of
whom worked in Africa, especially the south and centre,
i.e. South Africa and what are now Zimbabwe, Zambia and
Malawi (Cohen in West Africa)
Their unity and identity as a School reinforced by
Gluckmans insistence that they all attend the matches of
Manchester United on a weekend
And also by the fact that he had already worked out their
main approach before forming the group
Like the other major figures mentioned already, he was
clearly a forceful and charismatic personality, and the
group of scholars he created was highly integrated when
view from the outside, though far from single-minded
internally
The group was also seen as subversive by the Manchester
University hierarchy because of the left-wing politics of
many of them
Thus Ronald Frankenberg, one of their number, was forced
to do fieldwork in a Welsh village, where he could be kept
an eye on, rather than in the Caribbean as he had wished,
where he might have got up to mischief
But as a result he became a pioneer in the study of British
communitiesusually rural onesin anthropology

Also associated with the School was the RhodesLivingstone Research Institute in what is now Zimbabwe,
later relocated to Zambia
In many ways there was less of a shift away from
equilibrium models than with E-P or Leach, and some early
studies still focused on a particular village in isolation
Thus there was still a focus on conflict and its resolution in
the tradition of structural-functionalist equilibrium models
but greater attention was also paid to ideas of social
process, e.g. the ways in which different social groups like
lineages were both separated through conflict but also
united through cross-cutting ties
and greater use was made of survey methods and
extended case studies
also, attempts were made to take into account irreversible
social changes brought about by colonialism among the
colonized
Thus a lot of work concerned the impact of African
migration to the towns and mines in southern Africa, to
which was linked considerations of ethnicity, or what was
originally called tribalism
Godfrey Wilsons original prediction was that migration
would detribalise, e.g., African miners, who would become
an African working class instead
However, it soon became evident that this was not
happening, and that while there was some rejigging of
tribal identities to make them simpler, migrants still
thought in tribal rather than class terms
or sometimes in both, depending on context, which Wilson
had not allowed for
An example of what the School called situational
variation
which in this case could apply to different situations in the
migration area, or to the simple divide between town or

mine and rural place of origin, i.e. one acted as a


townsman or a tribal respectively
Hence also the later notion of the retribalization of
migrants in an urban or mining situation (Mitchell here:
the Kalela dance as an expression of this; but also Cohen
and Mayer)
Indeed, the impact of mining, industry and the urban-rural
migration it led to was a persistent theme
As were the consequences for rural areas, e.g. agricultural
under-production because of the loss of labour through
migration
In itself, this came to be called a dual-sphere model of
integration
Migration also stimulated studies of inter-tribal or interethnic relations, especially in urban or mining
environments, and including relations with the white
colonizers, e.g. Gluckmans famous study of the opening
of a bridge in Zululand
Politics was another sphere of research, originally linked to
the politics of office (village headman, district
commissioner), but later to men of influence generally
E.g. the micropolitics of being a village headman, with
conflicting demands from family, other villagers and the
colonial state, led to the idea of intercalary roles
And related to this were studies of the law and of courts in
both tribal and colonial settings

Gluckman himself worked partly on ritual, especially the


idea of rituals of rebellion, in which chiefs and kings,
perhaps upon installation as such, perhaps periodically
during their rule, are abused by their subjects at ritual
events, whether verbally or physically or both
Gluckman saw these events as cathartic, i.e. as releasing
social tensions periodically, whereafter everything returns
to the status quo, which is also thereby confirmed
This therefore resembled the earlier equilibrium models

This was taken further by Victor Turner, working among


the Ndembu of Zambia, among whom the tensions were
just as much those of a matrilineal people living
patrilocally
However, he also pointed out that these tensions gave rise
to crises, which was precisely when norms are restated
and upheld, thus expressing the unity of all Ndembu as
transcending these tensions
Thus he advanced understanding of the mechanisms
whereby equilibrium is re-established and its dialectic with
the tensions it overcomes
Turner is perhaps more famous for adopting and extending
Arnold van Genneps ideas of the structure of ritual, with
an initial rite of separation from an old status and a
subsequent rite of reincorporation into society with a new
status, with a liminal period in between
This liminal period came to be known as communitas, a
temporary, unstructured situation of a lack of status
distinctions, contrasted with the more hierarchical
structures of day-to-day life, or societas
Except that in, e.g. monastic situations or cultic
environments, communitas might become a permanent
state of seeking access to the sacred that also involves a
turning away from ordinary life
And these ideas also fed into Turners later work on
pilgrimage, another ritualized phenomenon where
transcendence with the divine is more important than
everyday affairs
As for Abner Cohen, he emphasised the importance of
symbols in political action in a book entitled Twodimensional man
But he also took earlier insights into retribalization further
by studies of what he called instead ethnicity
Cohen did not define this term, and he often used it in a
way that suggested identity in general rather than what
we call ethnicity today

His approach was also fundamentally functionalist, in that


he saw particular forms of ethnicity as reflecting the
emergence of political or economic needs in the context of
migration
For example, in Nigeria Hausa were migrating from the
north into the southeast city of Ibadan, where they
managed to maintain a separate identity in what was a
Yoruba-dominated city
Cohen suggested they do this because of their economic
interests, as they trade kola nuts with their co-ethnics still
in the north, who produce cattle
First, the Hausa ethnicity acts to keep the Yoruba and
other groups out of the trade, and secondly trading within
the Hausa ethnicity allows relations of trust to develop
that protects the trade and its financing across several
hundred miles of activity
Similarly, in Sierra Leone in the colonial period the
Creoles, descendants of repatriated slaves from the
Caribbean, had an interest in maintaining a separate
ethnicity from the African population of the interior as they
helped the British run the colony in a subordinate capacity
However, at independence this ethnicity became a
liability, as politics and administration were both
Africanized
The Creoles therefore began to stress their African
heritage, though they also kept the Masonic organization
which had supported their business activities and also
provided an alternative source of identity
Some other anthropologists of the time were not members
of the Manchester School but similarly attempted to go
beyond structural-functionalism
One who was also interested in identity and ethnicity, but
was a product of Cambridge, was Fredrik Barth
He anticipated Cohen in certain respects, but also differed
from him and was criticized by him

Barth worked initially among the Pathans of the Swat


valley in Pakistan, long before current conflicts in the area
arose (the Pathans are now a mainstay of the Taliban)
Here he sought to get away from the traditional
anthropological focus on the tribe, each with its own
culture, though cultural convergence was recognized in
earlier studies
For Barth, boundaries had to be problematized, since he
found that the boundaries between ethnic groups were not
necessarily the same as the boundaries between cultures
This insight had probably been influenced by Leach, for
the Kachin were not a tribe but a series of tribes, each
with its own identity in respect of language and dress, but
sharing much in basic social organization and religious
ideas
However, in the Pathan case it was the other way round: a
large and dispersed ethnic group divided internally in the
cultural sense, partly reflecting the nature of their
relations with neighbouring ethnic groups
Thus in Hazara areas Pathans acted aggressively to take
over pasture land, a field for the assertion of Pathan
values of self-reliance in warfare and internal
egalitarianism among men
Whereas in Baluchistan they were subordinate to Baluchi
chiefs, who protected Pathans defeated in feud or lacking
the resources to live in exchange for those Pathans
becoming Baluchi in return
While for Pathans political subjection to a man of power
was a disgrace, for Baluchi it was normative
Thus acceptance of protection here meant a shift in
ethnicity
And this was permanent change: one could practically see
the ethnic frontier taking over more and more territory, as
more and more Pathans became Baluchi
But in other respects Pathans also shared much with their
neighbours, e.g. in being Islamic, in being patrilineal, and

in protecting the chastity and morality of wives and


daughters
Thus for Barth, ethnicity was fluid, relational and reflective
of situation, with porous boundaries which individuals
could cross
This was a great advance on the static notion of the tribe
and its own, specific culture
Another influence on Barth was Erving Goffmans book,
The presentation of self in everyday lifehere, the
avoidance of disgrace that a defeated Pathan achieves in
ceasing to be a Pathan and becoming a Baluchi
There is therefore a focus on the individual in Barths work
that one does not find in classic structural-functionalism,
nor even in the work of the other mavericks to any great
extent
However, it does recall Malinowskis doctrine than, while
we are certainly social animals all right, we also thread our
way through our society and the constraints it imposes on
us in pursuit of our own individual interests and plans
Barth was thus dismissed as a behaviourist, though in fact
he fully recognized the dialectics between individual
behaviour and the social expectations that drive it
Nonetheless of all our mavericks he probably succeeded
the most in freeing himself from the constraints of
structural-functionalist thought
All the othersE-P, Leach, Gluckmanstill thought in
terms of social processes rather than social change, and of
systems rather than individual interests, however dynamic
these systems were
And they continued to be infected by theories of
equilibrium and its maintenance
It was as if the systems moved, not the individualsin
large measure it was the opposite for Barth

Other figures and currents to mention more briefly: one


was Jeremy Boissevain, who applied similar ideas to

Europe, which he felt was being tribalized by the focus


on Mediterranean villages in relative isolation from their
surroundings
What were needed were studies which took full account of
regional and national influences, industry, migration,
bureaucracies, etc.
Another current, to which Barth contributed but can also
be identified in the Manchester School, was
transactionalism, which essentially sought to say
something about the social by tracing the links and
exchanges between individuals, whether acting on their
own as part of impermanent networks or representing
more normative social groups
And many of the anthropologists I have mentioned drew
on sociology for such concepts as networks, action groups
and sets, non-groups and quasi-groups, role sets, etc., all
of which highlighted social processes and the ways in
which the individual actor could partake in many such
processes serially or simultaneously

GENDER
Anthropology originally male-dominated, both
anthropologists and informants
problem of access to women for male anthropologists
but some early female anthropologists, e.g. Audrey Richards,
Lucy Mair, Phyllis Kaberry, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict
In the 1970s Edwin Ardener talked of women as a muted
group, though there were other such groups, e.g. Roma
but his idea was that women were encompassed within a
male discourse that failed to give them a voice
which gave rise to the question as to whether there are
separate male and female models of society, or just one
model viewed from different perspectives
in Britain, at least, it was ironic that it had to be Ardener, a
man, who made the initial plea for a greater focus of women
though behind him stood the figure of his wife, Shirley, who
strongly supported gender studies in Oxford for decades
initially such studies took the form of studying women as a
sort of compensation for their earlier neglect
but from about the 1980s it began to be felt that this should
be replaced by an approach with emphasised gender
relations more, i.e. brought the men back in
and in recent years a few studies specifically of masculinities
has brought the wheel full circle, though it is now a very
different wheel

Initially gender was taken to be social and cultural aspects of


differences between men and women, sex the physical
aspects
but an influential article by Sylvia Yanagisako and Janet
Collier suggested that the latter were also subject to
variation in cultural interpretation
while a further article by Signe Howell and Melhuus drew
attention to the merger of gender with studies of kinship and
personhood

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