The Manchester School

The Manchester School by ANNA SCHMIDT

Basic Premises 

The Manchester School of Thought developed out of a substantial research project of anthropological fieldwork in both urban and rural localities of the British Central Africa of the 1950s and 1960s. This major research effort was coordinated jointly by the Manchester University department of Social Anthropology and the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. The theoretical and methodological innovations that developed out of this cooperative project were first begun in the field research conducted by Max Gluckman early in his academic career as a research officer for the Institute. He later became the first professor of social anthropology at Manchester University. His Manchester students in their research efforts further elaborated these theoretical and methodological approaches eventually developing a school of thought that has come to be known as the Manchester School (Werbner 1984). Gluckman throughout his career played the most instrumental role in bringing about The Manchester School of Thought. 

Some common themes have come to be considered characteristic of research approaches of the Manchester school. These fieldworkers examined situations of conflict contained within an apparent overriding order, that is continually threatened by the reluctance of individuals to accept compromises that do not fulfill their immediate desires. The Manchester theoretical approach is characterized by an interest in conflict and a methodological focus on the analysis of actual situations (Colson 1979). Students of the school collected data on the observed social actions of individual people and described these cases in great detail. Their investigations demonstrate a concern for social process in observable cases of conflict and conflict-resolution. All of these concerns have come to be regarded as common to the main strands characteristic of the Manchester school. Werbner identifies four different main strands associated with the Manchester school, (1) social problems, (2) processes of articulation, (3) interpersonal interaction, and (4) rhetoric and semantics (1984:158). 

Social Problems

Students of the Manchester School emphasized the importance of studying social problems in British Central Africa. Godfrey Wilson established this precedent while he acted as first director of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. The social problems in Africa were the products of colonialism. The processes of industrialization and labor migration encompassed these social problems. Max Gluckman, Wilson's successor, disagreed with his notion of "detribalization" as a gradual process largely based on the assumption that people opted between two systems of values and norms based on the two systems of subsistence: traditional and industrialized. In Wilson's view social actors were compelled to adopt one system instead of the other (c.f. Wilson 1942). Gluckman observed that in contrast, migrants and laborers tended to select out particular behaviors from either existing system to suit the specific social situations that they encountered. 

In his three early essays, Analysis of a Social Situation in Modern Zululand (1940), Economy of the central Barotse plain (1941), and Some processes of social change, illustrated with Zululand data (1942) Gluckman configured an approach for studying the processes of social change. His model could account for the situational selection of behaviors he observed in the colonial context. Individual actions as practiced by the specific actor with his own motives and interests were considered by Gluckman to be significant reflections of macroprocesses within the social system (Werbner 1984:162). This theoretical approach and requisite methods developed by Gluckman in his early research would form a central set of analytical concepts of the Manchester School of thought.

The theoretical approach constructed by Gluckman was a relatively unique version of Oxford structuralism. Gluckman's anthropology differed mainly from other pre-war Oxford structuralists because of his research interests in social problems such as apartheid, industrialization, and labor migration. His version thus represents more of a shift of emphasis than a complete departure from pre-war structuralism (Kuper 1983:148). Gluckman's analyses of social problems led him to develop the emphasis on social process and an analysis of structures and systems based on their relative stability. Gluckman de-emphasized the notion of gradual change. He formulated his idea of social change in terms of repetitive and changing systems. In his view, conflict maintained the stability of the system through the establishment and re-establishment of cross-cutting ties among social actors (Werbner 1984). These cross-cutting ties established a situation in which people formed a variety allegiances with others that often transcended the different cleavages resulting more in a system of smaller cleavages ultimately reducing the severity of cleavages. In other words conflict maintains the repetitive destruction and recreation of ties ultimately resulting in a situation of social cohesion. The fieldworkers who were influenced by Gluckman ultimately came to an understanding of social reality in a way that differed profoundly from the relatively conventional views of the students of Evans-Pritchard and Fortes (Kuper 1983). 

Processes of Articulation

In attempting to develop a theoretical position on social problems Manchester anthropologists came to emphasize the relative correspondence and contradiction between different systems and disparate domains of social relations. Werbner characterizes this second strand of Manchester School theory as a concern for the "management of systems" or "spheres in articulation" (Werbner 1984: 166) In many cases their structural paradigms of "fit" and "contradiction" described social processes in areas of articulation between the disparate spheres. Such processes were observable in relations between village organization and the state, relations between industrial and tribal spheres, or the connections between worker organization and the larger system of urban, industrial relations. 

According to Gluckman's structural model, a point of articulation within the encompassing political hierarchy of colonial Africa could be understood from looking at interhierarchical roles. The interhierarchical role, often filled by the village headman, was subject to the conflicting interests and pressures from both the higher political order and the villagers underneath the leadership of the headman. To these theoretical ends Manchester School anthropologists described and analyzed the political activity surrounding the holders of the intercalary or interhierarchical roles especially in terms of the social actor's negotiation of power within the environment of conflict surrounding the role. Anthropologists observed how a politically conscious individual in the intercalary role could negotiate the different levels in the hierarchy or recruit support from outside the hierarchy. The theoretical objective for examining such roles was to gain insight into the realities of political power and allegiances in the shifting economy of colonial systems (Werbner 1984).

With the dual-spheres model Gluckman discussed his observation that in the situation of colonialism, industrialization and labor migration actually strengthen tribal political and kinship systems where one would expect them to break apart. Gluckman insisted on considering in his analyses of the economy of the Barotse plain (1941) and his analyses of Lozi royal property (1943) the total social field as comprised of two spheres, the urban, industrial sphere and the rural, tribal sphere. According to Gluckman these two fields maintained a functionally coordinated relationship through the process of labor migration as follows. Under the colonial circumstances land control was limited under the tribal authorities. By being a tribesman one was assured through the rights of kinship bonds and obligations of having land ownership. Tribesmen were thus spared the burden of being part of the landless, urban poor in times of unemployment. Tribal peoples therefore found it to their advantage to migrate to urban areas for wages only to return to their families subsisting in the villages. Accordingly, within this system the urban sphere benefited by obtaining the needed labor and forgoing the burden of the social costs of reproducing that labor in situ. Gluckman suggests that the two spheres articulate in a symbiosis and have achieved a degree of stability or equilibrium (Kapferer Werbner 1984).

 On Interpersonal Interaction 

Manchester anthropologists asserted the existence of multiple sets of social interaction or spheres of social relations. Social change occurs over the entire social system, however some spheres are affected more than others. As a result, disparities in beliefs and values arise leading to an urban environment characterized by internal inconsistency. In colonial situations such as that observed in central Africa tribal values persist side by side with industrial values despite inherent racial divisions. The internal inconsistency can be best understood using the concept of situational selection. Situational Selection posits that social actors choose their beliefs that seem appropriate to whatever sphere they happen to be operating in at the time. 

On Semantics and Rhetoric

Werbner considers the pioneering efforts of Manchester anthropologists in the study of ritual and judicial process. He places these developments under the label, semantics and rhetoric. In Gluckman's work describing judicial processes among the Lozi he pioneered the exploration of: (1) the relation between concepts of the person, (2) the language of rules, and (3) the logic of situations. He seeks to investigate the process by which culturally constituted notions of the person are manipulated by judges to inform their rhetoric and finesse the ambiguity inherent in rules. Gluckman thus established a framework for investigating such forms of ambiguity within a hierarchy of norms and values. (Werbner 1984: 179)

In Manchester Anthropology ritual is generally seen as functioning to displace conflict. "In ritual…the ultimate emphasis is that harmony among people can be achieved despite the conflicts, and that social institutions and values are in fact harmonious--ultimate statements that are belied to some extent by the ritualization itself. Ritual can do this since each ritual selects to some extent from the gamut of moods, of cooperative links, and of conflicts" (Gluckman & Gluckman 1977, p. 236…cited in Colson 1979: p 245). Gluckman predicted that moral dilemmas were likely to be more complex in less complex societies. He points out that in such societies each individual must simultaneously fill a number of varied roles and consequently face the differing expectations of the other members within society. Gluckman characterized simple societies by their multiplex ties. He observed that within the different spheres of relations, for example: political, kin, and religious, a person in a simple society would have ties to the same people in many of these different spheres. On the other hand, he observes that a person in a more complex society will have fewer overlapping relations among spheres. He calls simple societies, multiplex and complex societies simplex. He suggested that within multiplex societies that ritual functioned best, because it simultaneously marked roles and convinced people that despite their many conflicts, they shared overarching values. 

The Scope of Manchester

The scope of the Manchester school extended beyond Africa, especially in the work of successive generations of the school. Gluckman established the Bernstein Research Project in 1965 for research in Israel. Barth and Bailey concentrated their work in India and Pakistan. Despite this broader scope, the Manchester school is inevitably associated with African studies because the majority of theoretical and empirical ground-breaking occurred in these works. The idea of the Manchester school has transcended the department in Manchester since 50s and 60s. It now refers to a the empirical and methodological orientations of that set of students educated in Gluckman's program who have spread those ideas to their following generations of students. 

Points of Reaction

Gluckman along with his other students adapted the functional doctrines then dominant in social anthropology under the influences of Bronislaw Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown. They used some of these functional ideas to formulate a statement about the interrelationships between such factors as a high standard of living of South African whites, the existence of pass laws, low wages for Africans, malnutrition in the reserves, dilemmas of chieftainship, eroding agriculture in the reserves, and so on.

Gluckman adopted the views of Durkheim, Radcliffe-Brown in which society is a moral order that manages to maintain itself despite conflict among its members who follow their self-serving desires and sometimes rebel against symbols of social constraint. However, he departed from Radcliffe-Brown as he came to emphasize the predominance and harshness of the conflicts with which society inevitably has to contain. He saw law and ritual as the main upholders of the social order, because they contain in them the functional, mediating mechanisms that allow harmony to be reinstated after breaches of the social order have occurred (Kapferer 1987). 

In the late 1930s, just prior to the development of Manchester theory, E.Evans-Pritchard and Meyer Fortes were establishing fundamentals for the study of political anthropology. Their collaborations eventually produced African Political Systems (Fortes and Evans-Pritchard 1940). Contributors to this volume developed the ideas of segmentation and balanced opposition. That same year Evans-Pritchard published his monograph, The Nuer. Gluckman sought to develop the implications of these two works in his Custom and Conflict in Africa (1955) and Politics Law and Ritual in Tribal Society (1965). Departing from the approaches of Evans-Pritchard and Fortes of emphasizing the existence of stable cognitive structures and balanced opposition of social units, Gluckman chose to observe the individual. There he realized that the rules by which people are expected to live and function are often contradictory and ambiguous. People thus find themselves at odds with themselves as well as with their social relationships and ultimately with society. The early Manchester monographs, particularly the rural studies emphasized this ubiquitous situation of inconsistency and contradiction inherent in the social system, which results in situational variation in individual behavior and processes of social conflict (Werbner 1984). The early work of the Manchester school has thus been characterized as using a structural-functional paradigm that was restricted to the internal dynamics of small-scale societies (Werbner 1984).

Leading Figures

Max Gluckman (1911-1975) was born in Johannesburg, South Africa to Russian-Jewish parents. He studied anthropology at the University of Witwatersrand from 1928-34. There he studied under Mrs. A. W. Hoernl� and I. Schapera. In 1934 he attended Oxford as a Transvaal Rhodes Scholar and received his D Phil. in 1936. Between 1936 and 1938, Gluckman carried out fieldwork in Zululand. In the essays he produced from this field experience, The Kingdom of the Zulu of South Africa and Analysis of a Social Situation in Modern Zululand, Gluckman developed further his examination of issues of segmentary opposition, a key focus of Oxford theory. In addition, he developed his own theoretical concerns for modes of opposition and conflict in which he espoused the idea of the expression of equilibrium through conflict in segmentary opposition, and emphasized the multitudinous social allegiances formed by the actors of opposing groups. He was influenced by the work of the neo-structuralists of Oxford, specifically by the earlier works of Evans-Pritchard (Kuper, 1983). In 1939 Gluckman traveled to Northern Rhodesia as a research officer for the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. There he carried out field work among the Lozi of Barotseland. In 1941 Gluckman's work in Barotseland was suspended when he took on the directorship of the Institute. Sometime later, Gluckman returned to Barotseland where he focused his studies on judicial processes in the Barotse tribal courts. From these field experiences Gluckman later published his two significant books, The Judicial Process among the Barotse of Northern Rhodesia (1955) and The Ideas in Barotse Jurisprudence (1965). In these descriptions and analyses Gluckman demonstrates his overall concern with the courts as their role as moral agents (Colson 1979: 244). In 1947, he left the institute to take a teaching position at Oxford. Two years later he relinquished his post at Oxford to accept an appointment at the University of Manchester as the first professor of social anthropology. Gluckman's involvement with the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute continued with his position at Manchester (Colson, 1979). He took with him some of his colleagues from the Institute, thus establishing close ties between the school and the institute that would persist for several years. Gluckman trained most of the Institute's appointed research officers and subsequently provided an academic environment for these researchers when they returned from the field in central Africa. The first reports of their fieldwork were generally presented in Gluckman's Manchester seminars. These seminars are well remembered because of Gluckman's style of interaction with his students. Furthermore, the seminars were remembered for their primary concern for the analysis of field data (Colson, 1979).

Gluckman's theoretical development was largely determined by his academic experiences at Witwatersrand and Oxford. Initially when Gluckman entered the university in South Africa, he intended to study law and become a lawyer. Upon taking a lecture class taught by Winifred Hoernle, Gluckman chose to study social anthropology. He began to develop his theoretical approach under the guidance of Hoernle. His approach was thus largely influenced by the approaches of Emile Durkheim and A. R. Radcliffe-Brown. In addition, Hoernle and Isaac Schapera taught anthropology as a study involved with contemporary people. Schapera and Hoernle suggested that the most pertinent questions for anthropologists in South Africa lay in the analysis and documentation of the cultural and social impacts of the concurrent multiethnic environments. At Oxford Gluckman studied under Robert R. Marett, E. E. Evans-Pritchard, and later Radcliffe-Brown (Colson 1979:244). Gluckman agreed with the latter two in their ideas about social structure, functional relationships, social cohesion and political order. These ideas referred back to Durkheimian formulations already congenial to Gluckman from Hoernle's teaching. For him societies were moral systems rather than simple collectivities of competing, calculating individuals. Gluckman in his early intellectual development read much of Karl Marx and thus saw the span of history with a Marxian outlook. He also read much of Freud. He did not devote himself to psychological explanations in social anthropology. As a result of his agreement with Freud, Gluckman acknowledge the occurrence of conflict within the individual in addition to between people (Kapferer 1987). 

Victor Turner (1920-1983) obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of London. He went on to pursue Graduate Studies at Manchester University under the tutelage of Gluckman. He finished his degree in 1955 and subsequently took a job in the department. His field work among the Ndembu had provided anthropology with a classic, Schism and Continuity in An African Society, innovative both methodologically and theoretical. His work focused on the explanation of four central ideas: (1) ritual meanings are coded social meanings; (2) ritual codes have a profound effect on the mind; (3) the social drama is a repetitive set of patterned activities; (4) liminality is the way people stretch beyond limitations of their roles. He further posits that communitas, the integrated, individual experience of cultural harmony, allows the social fabric to stay together since it allows for the structure and function of social existence (Bohannen and Glazer 1988) In Schism and Continuity Turner uses the detailed case-study against a "background of generalized systemic analysis. " He thus demonstrates how particular principles of organization and certain dominant values operate through both schisms and reconciliations. Individuals and groups involved in these social dramas try to manipulate principles and values to their own objectives (Gluckman in the forward to Turner 1957:xi)

Elizabeth Colson (1917- ) became the third director of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute after she succeeded Gluckman upon his move to Manchester University. She co-authored with him Seven Tribes of British Central Africa (1951). She stood just to the side of the mainstream of Manchester studies in her essays on Tonga neighborhoods and cross-cutting ties (Colson 1958, 1960, 1962). In these essays Colson explores the question of how individuals as part of a dispersed community ritually associated with the land based political economy and political authority. She developed the focus of her research on shrines, public places around which people arranged the foundations of public peace. Additionally she found that people organized the flow of ritual goods and services (Werbner 1984). Colson thus provided an impetus for later investigation of arguments exploring the historical change in the organization, ideology, and experience of religion (Werbner 1984). Colson's demonstrated the need for Anthropologists to conduct long-term observations. In this way anthropologists can gain a historical, sociological perspective on processes of change and innovation in the societies they study. In her work she used the extended case analysis method to observe these patterns of change and innovation.

F. G. Bailey (Fredrick George) (1920- ) was a student of Gluckman, distinguishing himself from others by his work in India, the domain of Leach and the neo-structuralists. He developed a different thread of Manchester theory until it converged with Barth (Kuper 166; 1983). Among his many ethnographic and theoretical books many regard Strategems and Spoils as his seminal work.

Edmund Ronald Leach (1910-1989) was born in Sidmouth, England. He was educated at Marlborough and Clare College, Cambridge. After traveling with a British company in China and joining an ethnographic expedition in Botel Tobago Leach returned to England to pursue post-graduate studies at the London School of Economics. There he attended Malinowski's seminars. In 1947, after a prolonged interruption of his studies by WWII, he completed his dissertation, Cultural Change with Special Reference to the Hill Tribes of Burma and Assam, under the supervision of Raymond Firth. He took a lecturing position at Cambridge University in 1953 and became Professor of Social Anthropology there in 1972. His first major work, Political Systems of Highland Burma, was a novel approach to theories of social structure and cultural change. His notion of culture as consisting of competing and contradictory ideologies in an unstable political environment most associates him with ideas espoused by Gluckman and colleagues. In Pul Eliya: a Village in Ceylon, Leach suggested that kinship relationships were mainly ways of representing and establishing economic and political agendas. 

Despite the fact that Gluckman and Leach usually criticized each other, they shared common orientations toward action or practice-oriented analysis. Leach admitted the similarity between his and Gluckman's theoretical approaches despite his dislike for Glukman (Leach 1984) For this reason Leach is being included in this discussion of the Manchester school despite the fact that he never formally allied himself with the Manchester program or with Max Gluckman. Kuper points out that similarities between Leach and Gluckman can be readily observed in convergence of theory and methods demonstrated in the work of their students, Fredrik Barth and F. G. Bailey. In his view, Bailey and Barth continued in their work the empirical and theoretical traditions of Manchester thus marking the innate correspondence between Gluckman's and Leach's ideas (Kuper 1983). Leach and Gluckman mainly differed over the issue of whether one could reduce and understand personal, psychological factors independently of their formation within the structured processes of the social and cultural environment. Gluckman distinctively disagreed with such a notion (Kapferer 1987). 

In his later works, Leach shifted his theoretical interests more toward the structuralism of Claude Levi-Stauss. Leach, never considered himself a part of any school of thought or tradition listing as his mentors Malinowski, Raymond Firth, Roman Jakobsen and Giambattisto Vico (Macintyre, 1991) 

Fredrik Barth (1928- ), a student of Leach, focussed on "individual strategies and the manipulation of values, and elaborating 'transactional' models of social relationships" (Kuper 1983: 166). Espousing the idea of ontological individualism (Vincent 1990: 358) Barth draws a distinction between political systems in which individual actors have some degree of choice about whom to establish allegiance with and those political systems where no such choice is offered to individuals. His primary concern is with political systems of the former type. He observed a certain degree of choice available to actors in Swat, a remote area of Pakistan. In Political Leadership among Swat Pathans, his central methodological objective is an exploration of the types of relationships established among persons in Swat and the way in which these relationships may be systematically manipulated to build up positions of authority. Barth explains that the existing organization of a society is the result of a collection of choices. There are yet certain structural features, 'frameworks' that serve as boundaries both providing and limiting the choices available to each actor. He explains that the political system in Swat does not define the set of formal structural positions rather it emerges as a result of these individual choices. These choices represent the attempts of individual actors to solve their personal problems, some of which come forth from features of formal organization. The form of the political system then can be observed through the analysis of choices (Barth 1965)

In Swat the political circumstances in which Barth conducted his ethnography are those of relative local autonomy. This situation differs from the systems chosen for study by Gluckman and colleagues. Generally, with the Manchester school the political environments are those of intersecting relations between colonial powers and local rule. Barth seized the unusual opportunity in Swat to study political developments only in terms of internal factors. He notes the recent political developments in the partition of British India in which Swat joined Pakistan. He explains that despite such developments the area is so remote that at the time of his study the conditions most closely approximate local, statutory autonomy. 

In his analysis Barth emphasizes the importance of understanding frameworks in which the individual operates. He distinguishes between fixed frameworks and those that may be altered by an individual's actions. Barth observed the following fixed frameworks in Swat: territorial habitation framework, hereditary caste framework, and patrilineal descent patterns. He notes the following examples of changeable frameworks in Swat: neighborhood and association, kinship through marriage. Barth bases his analysis on the actions whereby leaders are able to maintain their positions by accruing supporters against his rivals and the manipulations of tensions between groups. His approach is thus most similar to that exemplified by Manchester researchers in his focus on individual, action oriented analysis.

Key Works

Bailey, F. G.

1957 Caste and the Economic Frontier. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 

1960 Tribe, Caste, and Nation; a Study of Political Activity and Political Change in Highland Orissa. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 

1969 Strategems and Spoils. Oxford: Basil Blackwell

Barnes, J. A.

1954 Politics in a Changing Society. London: Oxford University Press for Rhodes-Livingstone Institute.

Barth, Fredrik

1965 Political Leadership Among Swat Pathans. London: University of London, Athlone Press; New York, Humanities Press. 

Colson, E.

1953 Social Control and Vengeance in Plateau Tonga Society. Africa xxiii, 3.

1958 Marriage and the Family Among the Plateau Tonga of Northern Rhodesia. Manchester: Manchester University Press for Rhodes Livingstone Institute.

1960 Social Organization of the Gwembe Tonga. Manchester: Manchester University Press for Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. 

1971 The Social Consequences of Resettlement. Manchester: Manchester University Press for Institute of African Studies, University of Zambia.

Cunnison, I. G.

1959 The Luapula Peoples of Northern Rhodesia. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Epstein, A. L.

1958 Politics in an Urban African Community. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 

Frankenberg, R.

1957 Village on the Border: A Social Study of Religion, Politics and Football in a North Wales Community.

Gluckman, Max 

1940 Analysis of a Social Situation in Modern Zululand. Bantu Studies. 14:1-30.

1941 Economy of the central Barotse plain. Rhodes-Livingstone Paper 7. Reprinted 1968

1942 Some processes of social change, illustrated with Zululand data. African Studies. 1: 243-60. 

1943 Essays on Lozi land and royal property. Rhodes-Livingstone paper 10. 

1945 The seven year research plan of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. Journal of the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. 4:1-32

1947 Malinowski's contribution to social anthropology. African Studies 6: 57-76

1949 Malinowski's Sociological Theories. Rhodes-Livingstone Paper 16. Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia: Rhodes-Livingstone Institute.

1954 Political Institutions, in The Institutions of Primitive Society, pp 66-80

1955 Custom and conflict in Africa. 

1955 The Judicial Process among the Barotse of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). Manchester: Manchester University Press for the Institute of African Studies, University of Zambia.

1958 Analysis of a Social Situation in Modern Zululand, Rhodesian-Livingstone paper no. 28, 1958 

1963 Order and Rebellion in Tribal Africa. London: Cohen and West.

1965 The Ideas in Barotse Jurisprudence. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.

Holleman, J. F.

1952 Shona Customary Law. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

1969 Chief Council and Commissioner. Assen, The Netherlands: Royal Van Gorcum for Afrika-Studiecentrum.

Leach, Edmund Ronald

1954 Political Systems of Highland Burma: a Study of Kachin Social Structure. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 

1961 Pul Eliya: a Village in Ceylon: A Study of Land Tenure and Kinship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Mitchell, C.

1956 The Kalela Dance, Manchester: Manchester University Press. 

Marwick, M. G. 

1965 Sorcery in its social Setting. A study of the Northern Rhodesian Cewa. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 

Scudder, T. 

1962 The Ecology of the Gwembe Tonga. Manchester: Manchester University Press for Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. 

Swartz, Marc J. (ed.)

1968 Local Level Politics; Social and Cultural Perspectives. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co. 

Turner, Victor Witter 

1957 Schism and Continuity in African Society; a Study of Ndembu Village Life. 

Van Velson, J. 

1961 Labor Migration as a Positive Factor in the Continuity of Tonga Tribal Society. In Social Change in Modern Africa, A. Southall (ed.) London: Oxford University Press. 

1964 The Politics of Kinship--A study in Social Manipulation among the Lakeside Tonga of Nyasaland. Manchester: Manchester University Press for Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. 

Watson, W. 

Tribal Cohesion in a Money Economy. A Study of the Mambwe People of Northern Rhodesia. Manchester: Manchester University Press for Rhodes-Livingstone Institute. 

Principal Concepts

Cross-Cutting Ties/ Cross-Cutting Alliances The principle of cross-cutting ties depends on the assumption that conflicts are inevitable in social systems and may actually serve toward the maintenance of these social systems. Groups have an inherent tendency to break apart and then become bound by cross-cutting alliances. In this way, conflicts in one set of relationships are assimilated and compensated for in the resulting alliances. The quarrels are thus directed through the medium of alliances and allegiances. When these alliances and allegiances are broken and reformed the social system is still maintained (Gluckman 1963)

The Dominant Cleavage Gluckman developed the principle of Dominant Cleavage in a series of hypothesis he put forth that explained the cultural expression of social movements of politically opposed groups in interethnic relations. The dominant cleavage is thus is the most apparent cleavage between two groups. In a changing system there may be other cleavages concerning the two groups involved, e.g. within the groups, however the groups will place greater value on their individual endocultures (Werbner 1987). In this way they are able to expressively emphasize the dominant cleavage and downplay any of their internal conflicts.

Inter-calary Roles (Inter-hierarchical Roles) The intercalary role provides, under the circumstances of alien or foreign rule, intermediate connections between two multifarious sets of political connections. In one way, the intercalary role represents the state, characterized by bureaucratic habits and dogma enmeshed in impersonal relationships. In the meantime, the role is profoundly involved in the complexly layered relationships within the localized political community. Cross-cultural studies of the intercalary role, especially under various conditions of sociocultural homogeneity, heterogeneity, and pluralism, provide valuable insights into the nature of local administrative processes (Swartz, Turner, and Tuden 1966). "I shall call these positions [inter-calary roles] because they are the administrative positions in which distinct levels of social relations, organized into their own hierarchies, gear into each other (Gluckman, 1968). The classic example of an inter-hierarchical role is the village headman. He serves as a 'middle man' subordinate to his higher command, the state, and simultaneously representative of his village's needs. He is caught between the demands of the state and the demands of his villagers. 

The Social Drama and it's Processual Form "In short, the processional form of the social drama may be formulated as (1) breach; (2) crisis; (3) redressive mechanism; (4) re-integration or recognition of schism (Turner 91:1957)." Turner developed his notion of the social drama from the work of the social psychologist, Kurt Lewin. Lewin initially suggested the idea that individuals and their dramas take on form in within fields (Kapferer 1987). In other words, Turner noted a particular pattern in which conflicts take on the form of social dramas. Initially there is a breach of the peace, which results in a crisis or conflict. The conflict is culturally addressed through either a ritual or a socially sanctioned process (going to a court of law). After such redressive mechanisms take place the system is reinforced by the assertion of common values and peace is restored by the recognition of the initial cleavage. 

Redressive or Adjustive Mechanisms Redressive or Adjustive mechanisms usually take the form of personal or informal mediation, formal or legal arbitration, or in cases resulting in a crisis, the performance of a public ritual. These mechanisms are mobilized to seal the rupture caused by conflict. Conflicting parties may invoke common norms of conflict or a common "frame of values" which organize the societies values into a hierarchy (Swartz, Turner, Tuden 1966)

Repetitive and Changing Social Systems "Every social system is a field of tension, full of ambivalence, of co-operation and contrasting struggle. This is true of relatively stationary -- what I like to call repetitive -- social systems as well as of systems which are changing and developing. In a repetitive system particular conflicts are not by alterations in the order of offices, but by changes in the persons occupying these offices. The passage of time with its growth and change of population produces over long periods realignments, but not radical change of pattern"(Gluckman 128; 1963, emphasis added). 

Repetitive Change Gluckman used this term to differentiate between transformation, change of the system, and repetitive change, processes reproducing the system. Bailey's definition of repetitive change is similar to Gluckman's. He argued that repetitive change, also known as social circulation or dynamics, ensures that environmental disturbances, such as death, do not result in the collapse of the social structure. Every society has rules governing which groups or roles people are born into, and who will succeed certain statuses when one member moves out. The cyclic process of the passage through roles by individuals in the society constitutes the notion of repetitive change (Gluckman 1969). 

Situational Analysis "In similar situations similar processes operate, but each has its variants (Gluckman 223; 1963)" Situational analysis forms one of the main impetuses of Gluckman's methodological and theoretical orientations. Situational analysis or events centered analysis involves the description of actual events and practices by social actors. Gluckman asserts that the function and structure of the system can better be understood by the way social actors put it to use in real life. In this way the inherent inconsistencies and contradiction within the system are brought out in the analysis. Gluckman stressed the importance of looking for comparisons in the patterns of action in actual cases or events. 

Situational Selection In situational selection the actor chooses from a selection of beliefs one belief for a particular situation and another possibly contradictory belief in a different situation. This selection of beliefs is based on the actor's differing roles in both situations. Inconsistencies observed in the beliefs of actors can be thus resolved using the principle of situational selection. The actors are mainly acting in accord with their social role and adjusting their beliefs for the situation. 

The Social Field Gluckman developed the idea of the social field in order to deal with conceptual boundaries within anthropology limiting researchers from comprehending fundamental dimensions of social and cultural processes in addition to processes of change and transformation (Kapferer 1987). The structure of the social field consists not solely of spatial relations and the "framework of persisting relationships" which anthropologists often call "structural," but also the "directed entities" at any point in time that operative in that field. Directed entities are the goal-oriented activities employed by individuals and/or groups, in pursuit of their present and future interests or aims (Turner 138:1968)


Gluckman emphasized, among many other skills the demands of language-learning, the formation of analytic skills for handling complex ethnographic field data, the elaboration of wide and detailed ethnographic knowledge extending beyond the anthropologist's own field experience as fundamental for training his students in Anthropology. His distinctive seminars were "serious working occasions…never mere presentations, performances, events of individual artistry, but moments when ideas and ethnography were explored in depth and worked out. Everyone participated, though Max Gluckman often took the central and integrating role" (Kapferer 1987:4) To a large extent Manchester anthropologists maintained their own interests, yet their common theoretical and methodological orientations and regional focus allowed them to analyze and compare their findings with ease. Gluckman's objective in promoting the regional focus was to escape the unproductive, anthropological syndrome "one society per ethnographer." Gluckman encouraged the regional focus among his students to develop a more universal understanding of the region (Kapferer 1987:5). 

Gluckman encouraged his students working in Central Africa to conduct their fieldwork in 'strategic' points of the region. These strategic points were areas where research would encounter 'analytic conundrums,' such as the matrilinial puzzle, state formation, and the capitalisation of tribal economies (Kapferer, 1987:5). The Seven Year Plan (1945) developed by Gluckman for the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute was a strategy for studying in this changing social environment of British Central Africa. He suggested that the area be broken up into representative parts. Plan towns and rural areas were distinguished into a typology. Rural areas were divided up according to whether they produced cash crops, whether labor was imported or exported, and if the town was situated near a rail line. The purpose of developing the typology was to coordinate research efforts to produce a working model of the differential effects of this labor migration and industrialization on the organization of the family and kinship, economic life, political values, and religious or magical beliefs in the region. This sample area method brings to the comparative perspective here a way to describe the diversity of responses to general forces of social change (Werbner 1987). The hope was to construct some universal theories and premises illustrative of the social processes within the region. 

The most characteristic empirical method of Manchester anthropology is the method of collecting data from observations of the social actions of actors operating in specific social spheres within the encompassing social system. This methodological trend is often called the an action-oriented approach. Rather than merely describing the structure of the system or the function of elements of the system, Gluckman and his students sought to describe the way the system actually worked with all of its encompassing contradictions, regularities, and inconsistencies. "Their data were about the observed social practice of specific, recognizable individuals; events were given in detail, with a characteristic richness" (Werbner, 1984: 157). A temporal and 'real-life' element is thus brought into the analysis. The rules of a social system are thus discussed not by how they are ordered and structured (structuralist) or what their functions are (functionalist) but how the rules are manipulated, bent, broken, contradicted, or followed (practice-oriented). 


The Manchester/Rhodes-Livingstone program of research established the general anthropological contribution of programs of systematic regional research. This project demonstrated the usefulness of having coordinated programs of regionally focused scholars who can cooperatively develop their ideas in a mutual critical discourse. Although the scope of the school was much wider, Manchester is remembered particularly for contributions to the studies of South-Central Africa. Many of the empirical and theoretical advances made by Manchester anthropologists were done in their African monographs (Werbner 1987). 

The practice oriented approach sought to more closely characterize how events and social actions come to be in real life scenarios. The Manchester school thus extended the structural-functionalist approach by applying it to the way situations occur in actual events. They divorced the structural-functional paradigm from the search for ideal types and applied it to the analysis of actual situations with their normative inconsistencies and contradictions. Thus, Manchester anthropology extended the life of the structural-functionalist brand of theories not only by developing an their empirically applicable version but by prolonging the period of time during which it was of theoretical interest in anthropology.


Gluckman's equilibrium model concept has been widely criticized. Kapferer suggests that Gluckman "confused positivist and anti-historical concepts of equilibrium with structural processes internal to cultural and political orders which are reproductive and transformational of them over time. 

The Structural-Functional paradigm used by Manchester anthropologists has been criticized mainly because it fell out of 'fashionable thinking.' "The paradigm became exhausted in its general theoretical interest; it missed too much, was too tied to the status quo, and suffered from being applied too often to the microhistories of village life, mainly the passing moments of micropolitics, such as the petty squabbles of headman and their rivalrous relatives" (Werbner 1987:159).

Manchester Anthropolgy has come under some criticism for the tendency of these researchers to have ambiguous political orientations. Notably, the early work of Manchester demonstrates a Marxist bent. Some of these scholars allied themselves with socialist, liberal political movements. This position could be difficult for anthropologists to openly maintain given their intermediate positions in the colonial context (funded by the British, working with Africans. Van Teefflen notes the importance of a fa�ade of neutrality for anthropologists to effectively negotiate their working circumstances (1980). 


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