A HISTORY OF ANTHROPOLOGY
THOMAS HYLLAND ERIKSEN AND FINN SIVERT NIELSEN
This is an ambitious book, but not a pretentious one. It is ambitious in that it tries, within the space of relatively few pages, to make sense of the diverse history of anthropology. Our priorities, omissions and interpretations are bound to be contested, since there can be no single authoritative history of anything, least of all a sprawling, dynamic and disputed field like anthropology. Still, the book is unpretentious, since our aim throughout has been to offer a sober and balanced account of the historical growth of anthropology as a discipline, not to propose a radical re-interpretation of it. There exists a growing scholarly literature on the history of anthropology, which this textbook does not try to compete with. Nevertheless, we know of no existing book with exactly the same scope as this one. The scholarly literature is often specialised, and existing textbooks on anthropological history are either more theoretically oriented or more committed to one or a few professional traditions. Although we may not always have succeeded, we have strived to give an impression of the parallel, convergent and interdependent developments of all major traditions in social and cultural anthropology.
The book is chronologically ordered. Beginning with the ‘proto-anthropologies’ from ancient Greece to the Enlightenment, it continues with the creation of academic anthropology and the growth of classical sociology during the nineteenth century. The third chapter concentrates on the four men who, by general consensus, are considered the founding fathers of twentieth-century anthropology, and the fourth chapter indicates how their work was continued, and diversified, by their students. The fifth and sixth chapters both deal with the same period – from about 1946 to about 1968, but concentrate on different trends: Chapter 5 discusses the theoretical controversies surrounding concepts of society and social integration, while Chapter 6 covers concepts of culture and symbolic meaning. In Chapter 7, the intellectual and political upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s are presented, with emphasis on the impulses emanating from Marxism and feminism. Chapter 8 deals with the 1980s, concentrating on the postmodernist movement and its close cousin, postcolonialism, two critical trends, which seriously challenged the discipline’s self-confidence; while the ninth and final chapter presents a few of the major post-postmodern trends that emerged during the 1990s.