Since its publication in 1969, Émile Benveniste’s Vocabulaire—here in a new translation as the Dictionary of Indo-European Concepts and Society—has been the classic reference for tracing the institutional and conceptual genealogy of the sociocultural worlds of gifts, contracts, sacrifice, hospitality, authority, freedom, ancient economy, and kinship. A comprehensive and comparative history of words with analyses of their underlying neglected genealogies and structures of signification—and this via a masterful journey through Germanic, Romance, Indo-Iranian, Latin, and Greek languages—Benveniste’s dictionary is a must-read for anthropologists, linguists, literary theorists, classicists, and philosophers alike.
This book has famously inspired a wealth of thinkers, including Roland Barthes, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Derrida, Umberto Eco, Giorgio Agamben, François Jullien, and many others. In this new volume, Benveniste’s masterpiece on the study of language and society finds new life for a new generation of scholars. As political fictions continue to separate and reify differences between European, Middle Eastern, and South Asian societies, Benveniste reminds us just how historically deep their interconnections are and that understanding the way our institutions are evoked through the words that describe them is more necessary than ever.
While working in Africa, anthropologist Julien Bonhomme encountered an astonishing phenomenon: people being accused of stealing or shrinking the genitals of strangers on the simple occasion of a handshake on the street. As he soon discovered, these accusations can have dramatic outcomes: the “sex thieves” are often targeted by large crowds and publicly lynched. Moreover, such rumors are an extremely widespread practice, having affected almost half of the African continent since the 1970s. In this book, Bonhomme examines the story of the “penis snatcher,” asking larger questions about how to account for such a phenomenon—unique in its spatial and temporal scale—without falling prey to the cliché of Africa as an exotic other.
Bonhomme argues that the public belief in sex thieves cannot be considered a superstition or form of mass hysteria. Rather, he brings to light multiple factors that explain the rumor’s success and shows how the cultural dynamic can operate on a vast scale. Analyzing the rumor on both transnational and local levels, he demonstrates how it arises from the ambiguities and dangers of anonymity, and thus that it reveals an occult flipside to everyday social interaction. Altogether, this book provides both richly ethnographic and theoretical understandings of urban sociality and the dynamics of human communication in contemporary Africa and beyond.
Trust occupies a unique place in contemporary discourse. Seen as both necessary and virtuous, it is variously depicted as enhancing the social fabric, lowering crime rates, increasing happiness, and generating prosperity. It allows for complex political systems, permits human communication, underpins financial instruments and economic institutions, and generally holds society together. Against these overwhelmingly laudable qualities, mistrust often goes unnoticed as a positive social phenomenon, treated as little more than a corrosive absence, a mere negative of trust itself. With this book, Matthew Carey proposes an ethnographic and conceptual exploration of mistrust that raises it up as legitimate stance in its own right.
While mistrust can quickly ruin relationships and even dissolve extensive social ties, Carey shows that it might have other values. Drawing on fieldwork in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains as well as comparative material from regions stretching from Eastern Europe to Melanesia, he examines the impact of mistrust on practices of conversation and communication, friendship and society, and politics and cooperation. In doing so, he demonstrates that trust is not the only basis for organizing human society and cooperating with others. The result is a provocative but enlightening work that makes us rethink social issues such as suspicion, doubt, and uncertainty.
Though his work was little known outside Italian intellectual circles for most of the twentieth century, anthropologist and historian of religions Ernesto de Martino is now recognized as one of the most original thinkers in the field. This book is testament to de Martino’s innovation and engagement with Hegelian historicism and phenomenology—a work of ethnographic theory way ahead of its time.
This new translation of Sud e Magia, his 1959 study of ceremonial magic and witchcraft in southern Italy, shows how De Martino is not interested in the question of whether magic is rational or irrational but rather in why it came to be perceived as a problem of knowledge in the first place. Setting his exploration within his wider, pathbreaking theorization of ritual, as well as in the context of his politically sensitive analysis of the global south’s historical encounters with Western science, he presents the development of magic and ritual in Enlightenment Naples as a paradigmatic example of the complex dynamics between dominant and subaltern cultures. Far ahead of its time, Magic is still relevant as anthropologists continue to wrestle with modernity’s relationship with magical thinking.
What do we mean when we refer to the world? How does the world relate to the human person? Are the two interdependent and, if so, in what way? What does the world mean for the ethnographer and the anthropologist? Much has been said of worlds and worldviews, but are we really certain we know what we mean when use these words? Asking these questions and many more, this book explores the conditions of possibility for the ethnographic gesture and how those possibilities can shed light on the relationship between humans and the world in which they are found.
As João de Pina-Cabral shows, important changes have occurred over the past decades concerning the way in which we relate the way we think to the way we are—as a humanity—embodied. Exploring new confrontations with a new conceptualization of the human condition, Cabral sketches a new anthropology, one that contributes to an ongoing separation from the socio-centric and representationalist constraints that have plagued the social sciences over the past century.
Jeanne Favret-Saada is arguably one of France’s most brilliant anthropologists, and The Anti-Witch is nothing less than a masterpiece. A synthesis of ethnographic theory and psychoanalytic revelation, where the line between researcher and subject is blurred—if not erased—The Anti-Witch develops the contours of an anthropology of therapy, while deeply engaging with what it means to be caught in the logic of witchcraft. Through an intimate and provocative sharing of the ethnographic voice with Madame Flora, a “dewitcher,” Favret-Saada delivers a critical challenge to some of anthropology’s fundamental concepts.
Sure to be of interest to practitioners of psychoanalysis as well as to anthropologists, The Anti-Witch will bring a new generation of scholars into conversation with the work of a truly innovative thinker.
In anthropology as much as in popular imagination, kings are figures of fascination and intrigue, heroes or tyrants in ways presidents and prime ministers can never be. This collection of essays by two of the world’s most distinguished anthropologists—David Graeber and Marshall Sahlins—explores what kingship actually is, historically and anthropologically. As they show, kings are symbols for more than just sovereignty: indeed, the study of kingship offers a unique window into fundamental dilemmas concerning the very nature of power, meaning, and the human condition.
Reflecting on issues such as temporality, alterity, piracy, and utopia—not to mention the divine, the strange, the numinous, and the bestial—Graeber and Sahlins explore the role of kings as they have existed around the world, from the BaKongo to the Aztec to the Shilluk and beyond. Richly delivered with the wit and sharp analysis characteristic of Graeber and Sahlins, this book opens up new avenues for the anthropological study of this fascinating and ubiquitous political figure.
C. A. Gregory’s Gifts and Commodities is one of the undisputed classics of economic anthropology. On its publication in 1982, it spurred intense, ongoing debates about gifts and gifting, value, exchange, and the place of political economy in anthropology.
Gifts and Commodities is, at once, a critique of neoclassical economics and development theory, a critical history of colonial Papua New Guinea, and a comparative ethnography of exchange in Melanesian societies. This new edition includes a new foreword by anthropologist Marilyn Strathern that discusses the ongoing response to the book and the debates it has engendered, debates that have only become more salient in our ever-more-neoliberal and evermore- globalized era.
Whether it’s childhood make-believe, the theater, sports, or even market speculation, play is one of humanity’s seemingly purest activities: a form of entertainment and leisure and a chance to explore the world and its possibilities in an imagined environment or construct. But as Roberte Hamayon shows in this book, play has implications that go even further than that. Exploring play’s many dimensions, she offers an insightful look at why play has become so ubiquitous across human cultures.
Hamayon begins by zeroing in on Mongolia and Siberia, where communities host national holiday games similar to the Olympics. Within these events Hamayon explores the performance of ethical values and local identity, and then she draws her analysis into larger ideas examinations of the spectrum of play activities as they can exist in any culture. She explores facets of play such as learning, interaction, emotion, strategy, luck, and belief, and she emphasizes the crucial ambiguity between fiction and reality that is at the heart of play as a phenomenon. Revealing how consistent and coherent play is, she ultimately shows it as a unique modality of action that serves an invaluable role in the human experience.
The Art of Life and Death explores how the world appears to people who have an acute perspective on it: those who are close to death. Based on extensive ethnographic research, Andrew Irving brings to life the lived experiences, imaginative lifeworlds, and existential concerns of persons confronting their own mortality and non-being.
Encompassing twenty years of working alongside persons living with HIV/AIDS in New York, Irving documents the radical but often unspoken and unvoiced transformations in perception, knowledge, and understanding that people experience in the face of death. By bringing an “experience-near” ethnographic focus to the streams of inner dialogue, imagination, and aesthetic expression that are central to the experience of illness and everyday life, this monograph offers a theoretical, ethnographic, and methodological contribution to the anthropology of time, finitude, and the human condition. With relevance well-beyond the disciplinary boundaries of anthropology, this book ultimately highlights the challenge of capturing the inner experience of human suffering and hope that affect us all—of the trauma of the threat of death and the surprise of continued life.
How people conceive of happiness reveals much about who they are and the values they hold dear. Drawing on ethnographic insights from diverse field sites around the world, this book offers a unique window onto the ways in which people grapple with fundamental questions about how to live and what it means to be human. Developing a distinctly anthropological approach concerned less with gauging how happy people are than with how happiness figures as an idea, mood, and motive in everyday life, the book explores how people strive to live well within challenging or even hostile circumstances.
The contributors explore how happiness intersects with dominant social values as well as an array of aims and aspirations that are potentially conflicting, demonstrating that not every kind of happiness is seen as a worthwhile aim or evaluated in positive moral terms. In tracing this link between different conceptions of happiness and their evaluations, the book engages some of the most fundamental questions concerning human happiness: What is it and how is it achieved? Is happiness everywhere a paramount value or aim in life? How does it relate to other ideas of the good? What role does happiness play in orienting peoples’ desires and life choices? Taking these questions seriously, the book draws together considerations of meaning, values, and affect, while recognizing the diversity of human ends.
Anthropology has recently seen a lively interest in the subject of ethics and comparative notions of morality and freedom. This masterclass brings together four of the most eminent anthropologists working in this field—Michael Lambek, Veena Das, Didier Fassin, and Webb Keane—to discuss, via lectures and responses, important topics facing anthropological ethics and the theoretical debates that surround it.
The authors explore the ways we understand morality across many different cultural settings, asking questions such as: How do we recognize the ethical in different ethnographic worlds? What constitutes agency and awareness in everyday life? What might an anthropology of ordinary ethics look like? And what happens when ethics approaches the political in both Western and non-Western societies. Contrasting perspectives and methods—and yet in complimentary ways—this masterclass will serve as an essential guide for how an anthropology of ethics can be formulated in the twenty-first century.
When Emily Martin delivered the annual Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures at the University of Rochester in 1986, she took as her subject the meaning of money in China and the United States. Though the topic is of perennial interest—and never more so than in our era, when economic forecasts of China’s growing economy generate shallow news stories and public fear—the lectures were never edited for publication, so their rich analysis has been unavailable to anthropologists ever since.
With this book—the first volume in a collaboration between Hau Books and the University of Rochester—Martin’s lectures are brought back, fully edited and richly illustrated. A new introduction by Martin herself brings her analysis wholly up to date, while an afterword by Jane I. Guyer and Sidney Mintz discusses Martin’s work, influence, and legacy. The Meaning of Money in China and the United States will instantly assume its rightful place as a classic in the field, with Martin’s insights as germane and productive as they were nearly thirty years ago.
Scan down a list of essential works in any introduction to anthropology course and you are likely to see to see Marcel Mauss’s masterpiece, Essay on the Gift. With this new translation, this crucial essay is returned to its original context, published alongside the profound works that framed its first publication in the 1923–24 issue of L’Année Sociologique. With a critical foreword by Bill Maurer, this is certain to become the standard English version of this important anthropological work.
Included alongside the “Essay on the Gift” are Mauss’s memorial accounts of the work of colleagues lost during World War I, as well as his scholarly reviews of influential contemporaries such as Franz Boas, James George Frazer, Bronislaw Malinowski, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, and others. Read in the context of these additional pieces, the “Essay on the Gift” is revealed as a complementary whole, a gesture of both personal and political generosity: his honor for his fallen colleagues; his aspiration for modern society’s recuperation of the gift as a mode of repair; and his own careful, yet critical, reading of his intellectual milieu. The result sets the scene for a whole new generation of readers to study this essay alongside pieces that exhibit the erudition, political commitment, and generous collegial exchange that first nourished it into life.
Few scholars have had a more varied career than Sally Falk Moore. Once a lawyer for an elite New York law firm, her career has led her to the Nuremberg trials where she prepared cases against major industrialists, to Harvard, to the Spanish archives where she studied the Inca political system, and to the mountain of Kilimanjaro where she studied the politics of Tanzanian socialism. This book offers a compelling tour of Moore’s diverse experiences, a history of her thought as she reflects on her life and thought in the disciplines of anthropology, law, and politics.
The essays range from studies of myths of incest and sexuality to those of economic development projects, from South America to Africa. The result is an astonishing assortment of works from one of the most respected legal anthropologists in the field, one who brought together disparate places and ideas in enriching comparisons that showcase the possibilities—and impossibilities—of anthropology.
Bronislaw Malinowski’s path-breaking research in the Trobriand Islands shaped much of modern anthropology’s disciplinary paradigm. Yet many conundrums remain. For example, Malinowski asserted that baloma spirits of the dead were responsible for procreation but had limited influence on their living descendants in magic and other matters, claims largely unchallenged by subsequent field investigators, until now. Based on extended fieldwork at Omarakana village—home of the Tabalu “Paramount Chief”—Mark S. Mosko argues instead that these and virtually all contexts of indigenous sociality are conceived as sacrificial reciprocities between the mirror worlds that baloma and humans inhabit.
Informed by a synthesis of Strathern’s model of “dividual personhood” and Lévy-Bruhl’s theory of “participation,” Mosko upends a century of discussion and debate extending from Malinowski to anthropology’s other leading thinkers. His account of the intimate interdependencies of humans and spirits in the cosmic generation and coordination of “life” (momova) and “death” (kaliga) strikes at the nexus of anthropology’s received wisdom, and Ways of Baloma will inevitably lead practitioners and students to reflect anew on the discipline’s multifold theories of personhood, ritual agency, and sociality.
The Pitt-Rivers Omnibus brings together the definitive essays and lectures of the influential social anthropologist Julian A. Pitt-Rivers, a corpus of work that has, until now, remained scattered, untranslated, and unedited. Illuminating the themes and topics that he engaged throughout his life—including hospitality, grace, the symbolic economy of reciprocity, kinship, the paradoxes of friendship, ritual logics, the anthropology of dress, and more—this omnibus brings his reflections to new life.
Holding Pitt-Rivers’s diversity of subjects and ethnographic foci in the same gaze, this book reveals a theoretical unity that ran through his work and highlights his iconic wit and brilliance. Striking at the heart of anthropological theory, the pieces here explore the relationship between the mental and the material, between what is thought and what is done. Classic, definitive, and yet still extraordinarily relevant for contemporary anthropology, Pitt-Rivers’s lifetime contribution will provide a new generation of anthropologists with an invaluable resource for reflection on both ethnographic and theoretical issues.
Set against the backdrop of anthropology’s recent focus on various “turns” (whether ontological, ethical, or otherwise), this pathbreaking volume returns to the question of knowledge and the role of translation as a theoretical and ethnographic guide for twenty-first century anthropology, gathering together contributions from leading thinkers in the field.
Since Ferdinand de Saussure and Franz Boas, languages have been seen as systems whose differences make precise translation nearly impossible. And still others have viewed translation between languages as principally indeterminate. The contributors here argue that the challenge posed by the constant confrontation between incommensurable worlds and systems may be the most fertile ground for state-of-the-art ethnographic theory and practice. Ranging from tourism in New Guinea to shamanism in the Amazon to the globally ubiquitous restaurant menu, the contributors mix philosophy and ethnography to redefine translation not only as a key technique for understanding ethnography but as a larger principle in epistemology.
Available in English for the first time, anthropologist Carlo Severi’s The Chimera Principle breaks new theoretical ground for the study of ritual, iconographic technologies, and oral traditions among non-literate peoples. Setting himself against a tradition that has long seen the memory of people “without writing”—which relies on such ephemeral records as ornaments, body painting, and masks—as fundamentally disordered or doomed to failure, he argues strenuously that ritual actions in these societies pragmatically produce religious meaning and that they demonstrate what he calls a “chimeric” imagination.
Deploying philosophical and ethnographic theory, Severi unfolds new approaches to research in the anthropology of ritual and memory, ultimately building a new theory of imagination and an original anthropology of thought. This English-language edition, beautifully translated by Janet Lloyd and complete with a foreword by David Graeber, will spark widespread debate and be heralded as an instant classic for anthropologists, historians, and philosophers.
Highly innovative and theoretically incisive, Two Lenins is the first book-length anthropological examination of how social reality can be organized around different yet concurrent ideas of time.
Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov grounds his theoretical exploration in fascinating ethnographic and historical material on two Lenins: the first is the famed Soviet leader of the early twentieth century, and the second is a Siberian Evenki hunter—nicknamed “Lenin”—who experienced the collapse of the USSR during the 1990s. Through their intertwined stories, Ssorin-Chaikov unveils new dimensions of ethnographic reality by multiplying our notions of time.
Ssorin-Chaikov examines Vladimir Lenin at the height of his reign in 1920s Soviet Russia, focusing especially on his relationship with American businessperson Armand Hammer. He casts this scene against the second Lenin—the hunter on the far end of the country, in Siberia, at the far end of the century, the 1990s, who is tasked with improvising postsocialism in the economic and political uncertainties of post-Soviet transition. Moving from Moscow to Siberia to New York, and traveling form the 1920s to the 1960s to the 1990’s, Ssorin-Chaikov takes readers beyond a simple global history or cross-temporal comparison, instead using these two figures to enact an ethnographic study of the very category of time that we use to bridge different historical contexts.
Written in the early 1970s amidst widespread debate over the causes of gender inequality, Marilyn Strathern’s Before and After Gender was intended as a widely accessible analysis of gender as a powerful cultural code and sex as a defining mythology. But when the series for which it was written unexpectedly folded, the manuscript went into storage, where it remained for more than four decades. This book finally brings it to light, giving the long-lost feminist work—accompanied here by an afterword from Judith Butler—an overdue spot in feminist history.
Strathern incisively engages some of the leading feminist thinkers of the time, including Shulamith Firestone, Simone de Beauvoir, Ann Oakley, and Kate Millett. Building with characteristic precision toward a bold conclusion in which she argues that we underestimate the materializing grammars of sex and gender at our own peril, she offers a powerful challenge to the intransigent mythologies of sex that still plague contemporary society. The result is a sweeping display of Strathern’s vivid critical thought and an important contribution to feminist studies that has gone unpublished for far too long.
Not since Clifford Geertz’s “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight” has the publication of an anthropological analysis been as eagerly awaited as this book, Terence S. Turner’s The Fire of the Jaguar. His reanalysis of the famous myth from the Kayapo people of Brazil was anticipated as an exemplar of a new, dynamic, materialist, action-oriented structuralism, one very different from the kind made famous by Claude Lévi-Strauss. But the study never fully materialized. Now, with this volume, it has arrived, bringing with it powerful new insights that challenge the way we think about structuralism, its legacy, and the reasons we have moved away from it.
In these chapters, Turner carries out one of the richest and most sustained analysis of a single myth ever conducted. Turner places the “Fire of the Jaguar” myth in the full context of Kayapo society and culture and shows how it became both an origin tale and model for the work of socialization, which is the primary form of productive labor in Kayapo society. A posthumous tribute to Turner’s theoretical erudition, ethnographic rigor, and respect for Amazonian indigenous lifeworlds, this book brings this fascinating Kayapo myth alive for new generations of anthropologists. Accompanied with some of Turner’s related pieces on Kayapo cosmology, this book is at once a richly literary work and an illuminating meditation on the process of creativity itself.
The late anthropologist Valerio Valeri (1944–98) was best known for his substantial writings on societies of Polynesia and eastern Indonesia. This volume, however, presents a lesser-known side of Valeri’s genius through a dazzlingly erudite set of comparative essays on core topics in the history of anthropological theory. Offering masterly discussions of anthropological thought about ritual, fetishism, cosmogonic myth, belief, caste, kingship, mourning, play, feasting, ceremony, and cultural relativism, Classic Concepts in Anthropology, will be an eye-opening, essential resource for students and researchers not only in anthropology but throughout the humanities.
This volume is the first to collect the most influential essays and lectures of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. Published in a wide variety of venues, and often difficult to find, the pieces are brought together here for the first time in a one major volume, which includes his momentous 1998 Cambridge University Lectures, “Cosmological Perspectivism in Amazonia and Elsewhere.”
Rounded out with new English translations of a number of previously unpublished works, the resulting book is a wide-ranging portrait of one of the towering figures of contemporary thought—philosopher, anthropologist, ethnographer, ethnologist, and more. With a new afterword by Roy Wagner elucidating Viveiros de Castro’s work, influence, and legacy, The Relative Native will be required reading, further cementing Viveiros de Castro’s position at the center of contemporary anthropological inquiry.