Anthropology 87-01

The Development of Anthropological Theory

Fall 2000

MWF 2:20-3:20

Carnegie 005



Arjun Guneratne

Office Hours: MWF

Office: Carnegie 004D (x6362)


This course is an introduction to the development of social and cultural theory from its foundation in the Enlightenment in Europe, the evolutionism of the 19th century, the foundational work of Marx, Weber and Durkheim to the three main schools of anthropology in its formative years: the development of American cultural anthropology under Boas, British structural-functionalism, and the Année Sociologique of Durkheim and his students in France. The course ends with a review of some themes in anthropology's theoretical diversification in the post-1960 period. The aim of the course is to make the student familiar with the key concepts of anthropology in its formative phases and the broader intellectual currents in which they were placed.

Class format


This class will be taught as a seminar. As such, its success depends on your active participation. You should come to class having completed all the readings. As the reading load is at times quite heavy, organize your time carefully and pace yourself ­ don't do all the reading the day before class; this will affect the quality of your participation.


Presentations ­ our discussions will begin with a concise 10 minute presentation of the material by one of you. These presentations count towards your grade for class participation. The purpose of the presentations is (a) to enable me to assess how concisely and well you can present the argument of the book or a set of readings and (b) to provide a springboard for our discussion of the topic.

You should be able to draw out the main argument of the book and show how the subsidiary arguments relate to the main argument. Your presentation should also include your assessment of the extent to which the author has demonstrated the validity of his or her conclusions. Finally, you should be able to pose a question or problem that can act as a catalyst for our discussion. A mere listing of the points made in the book chapter-by-chapter does not constitute a good presentation. Remember, to understand a book, you must be able to understand the argument the author is making ­ so abstract and summarize. You haven't understood the book until you are able to boil the author's arguments down and render them in your own words. When you make a presentation, you should also prepare a concise, one page summary of the author's main ideas, in point-by-point form if necessary.


Final Exam ­ You will be given a final exam towards the end of the semester. The exam will cover everything you've done in the course, and will include a take-home component and an in-class component.


Class participation and attendance ­ Regular attendance in class and participation in all class activities is a requirement of this course. You are allowed one unexcused class absence during the semester. All other unexcused absences will be reflected on your grade for class participation.


Grade ­ The grade will be calculated as follows:

Class participation 10 %

Mid-term take home exam 40 %

Final Exam 50 %


Written assignments ­ All written assignments should be double spaced, in either Times 12 or Palatino 12 and with margins of 1 inch on the left side and 1.5 inches on the right. Proofread your papers before handing them in.

Books ­ The following books are available for purchase at Ruminator Books; a copy of each is also on reserve.

Elvin Hatch, Theories of Man and Culture

R. Jon McGee and Richard L. Warms, Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History.

Several chapters have also been assigned from Bohannon & Glazer's High Points in Anthropology. One copy of this book is on reserve and copies of all readings assigned from it are on the table outside my office door.

In addition, a number of papers and book chapters have been assigned. All these are on reserve in the library.


Abbreviations in syllabus:

Bohannon and Glazer: B & G

McGee and Warms: McG & W

Class Meetings


Wednesday, 9/6

Introduction to the course

No readings assigned


I. The Enlightenment Background


Kant, "What is Enlightenment?"
Condorcet, "The Perfectibility of Man."
Evans-Pritchard, "Ferguson"
Bronowski and Mazlish, "Hobbes and Locke" and "Rousseau."
Harris, "Enlightenment." The Rise of Anthropological Theory, pp. 8-52.

Friday, 9/8

Lecture: Empiricism: Hobbes and Locke

Hobbes on the Natural Condition of Mankind
Locke on the source of ideas

Monday, 9/11

Lecture: Reaction to the Enlightenment: Herder, Rousseau and Ferguson



II. The Nineteenth Century: Evolutionism

Wednesday, 9/13

Spencer, "The Social Organism" McG & W, ch. 1.
Spencer and Social Darwinism

Friday, 9/15

Tylor, "The Science of Culture" McG & W, ch. 2.

Hatch, pp. 13-37.

Monday, 9/18

Morgan, "Ethnical Periods" McG & W, ch. 3.

Kuper, The Invention of Primitive Society, ch. 3.


III. The Foundations of Sociological Thought:

Marx, Weber, Durkheim

Wednesday, 9/20

Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, "Feuerbach: Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook." McG & W, ch. 4.

Friday, 9/22

Max Weber, "Class, Status, Party." McGee & Warms, ch. 9.

Max Weber, "Ideas and Religious Interests." In Parsons, et al, Theories of Society. pp. 724-729.

Monday, 9/25

Durkheim, "What is a social fact?" McG & W, ch. 6.

Durkheim, "Totemism and the idea of class" McG & W, ch. 7.

Wednesday, 9/27

Mauss, "excerpts from 'The Gift'" McG & W, ch. 8.

Van Gennep, The Rites of Passage, pp. 1-25; 146-65.

Hatch, Theories of Man and Culture, ch. 4



IV. Boas and American Anthropology

Friday, 9/29

Video: The shackles of tradition

Hatch, Theories of Man and Culture, ch. 2, pp. 37-73.

Kuper, The Invention of Primitive Society, ch. 7.

Monday, 10/2

Boas, "The methods of ethnology." McG & W, ch. 10.

Boas, "The limitations of the comparative method of Anthropology." B & G, ch. 4.

Wednesday, 10/4

Kroeber, "On the principle of order in civilization . . ." McG & W, ch. 11.

Kroeber, "The Concept of Culture in Science." B & G, ch. 6

Hatch, Theories of Man and Culture, ch. 3, pp. 74-112.

Friday, 10/6

Video: Coming of age

Monday, 10/9

Mead, "Introduction to Sex and temperament . . ." McG & W, ch. 17.

Benedict, "Psychological types in the cultures of the Southwest." McG & W, ch. 16.

Wednesday, 10/ 11


Friday, 10/13

Sapir, "The Status of Linguistics as a Science." B & G, ch. 8.

Whorf, "The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language." B & G, ch. 9.



V. British Social Anthropology

Monday, 10/16

Kuper, The Invention of Primitive Society, chs. 8 & 9.

Wednesday, 10/18

Video: Off the Verendah

Friday, 10/20

Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific. "Introduction: the subject, method and scope of this enquiry." pp. 1-25

Malinowski, "The Essentials of the Kula." McG & W, ch. 13

Hatch, Theories of Man and Culture, ch. 6

Monday, 10/23

Radcliffe-Brown, "On the Concept of Function in Social Science" and "On Social Structure." B & G, chs. 18-19.

Wednesday, 10/25

Radcliffe-Brown, "The Mother's Brother in South Africa." McG & W, ch.14.


Friday, 10/27 Mid term break


Monday, 10/30

Evans-Pritchard, "The Nuer of the Southern Sudan." McG & W, ch. 15.

Hatch, Theories of Man and Culture, ch. 5, pp. 239-271.


Wednesday, 11/1

Video: Strange Beliefs

Friday, 11/3

Leach, "Introduction" and "Gumlao and Gumsa" in Political Systems of Highland Burma, pp. 1-17 and 197-212.

Service, "What are Descent Groups" in A Century of Controversy, pp. 111-132.

Monday, 11/6

Anthropology and Colonialism

Kuper, Anthropology and Anthropologists, chapter 4.

Talal Asad, "Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter."


VI. Structuralism

Wednesday, 11/8

Levi-Strauss, "Structural analysis in linguistics and in anthropology." McG & W, ch. 25.

Friday, 11/10

Leach, "Genesis as myth." McG & W, ch. 26

Ortner, "Is female to male as nature is to culture?" McG & W, ch. 27.



VII. Ethnoscience and Cognitive Anthropology

Monday, 11/13

Conklin, "Hanunoo Color Categories." McG & W, ch.28.

Tyler, "Introduction to Cognitive Anthropology."

Wednesday, 11/15


Friday, 11/17

No class ­ American Anthropology Association Meetings in San Francisco


VIII. Cultural Ecology and Cultural Materialism

Monday 11/20

Steward, "The Patrilineal Band." McG & W, ch. 18.

Steward, "The Concept and Method of Cultural Ecology." B & G, ch. 20.

Hatch, pp. 112-128

Wednesday, 11/22

Harris, "The Cultural Ecology of India's sacred Cattle." McG & W, ch.22.

Rappaport, " Ritual regulation of Environmental Relations among a New Guinea People." McG & W, ch.23.


Friday, 11/24 Thanksgiving break


IX. The Neo-Evolutionists


Monday, 11/27

Fried, "On the Evolution of Social Stratification and the State." McG & W, ch. 21.

Sahlins, "Evolution: Specific and General." B & G, ch. 23

Wednesday, 11/29

White, "Energy and the Evolution of Culture." McG & W, ch. 19.

Hatch, Theories of Man and Culture, ch. 3, pp. 128-161


X. Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology


Friday, 12/1

Douglas, "External Boundaries." McG & W, ch. 35.

Turner, "Symbols in Ndembu Ritual." McG & W, ch. 36.

Monday, 12/4

Geertz, "Thick Description" B & G, ch. 29.

Geertz, "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight." McG & W, ch. 37.


XI. The Feminist Critique


Wednesday, 12/6

Slocum, "Woman the gatherer." McG & W, ch. 32.

Leacock, "Interpreting the origins of gender inequality" McG & W, ch. 33.



XII. Postmodernism and the critique of ethnography


Friday, 12/8

Rosaldo, "Grief and the Headhunter's Rage." McG & W, ch.38

Crapanzano, " The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description." McG & W, ch.39

Monday, 12/11

Clifford, "On ethnographic authority."

Asad, "The concept of cultural translation in British Social Anthropology."

Wednesday, 12/13

Comaroff and Comaroff, "Ethnography and the Historical Imagination."


Friday, 12/5

Review session for final exam.