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Out of the Study and Into the Field

Out of the Study and Into the Field

Robert Parkin | Anne de Sales


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Outside France, French anthropology is conventionally seen as being dominated by grand theory produced by writers who have done little or no fieldwork themselves, and who may not even count as anthropologists in terms of the institutional structures of French academia. This applies to figures from Durkheim to Derrida, Mauss to Foucault, though there are partial exceptions, such as Lévi-Strauss and Bourdieu. It has led to a contrast being made, especially perhaps in the Anglo-Saxon world, between French theory relying on rational inference, and British empiricism based on induction and generally skeptical of theory. While there are contrasts between the two traditions, this is essentially a false view. It is this aspect of French anthropology that this collection addresses, in the belief that the neglect of many of these figures outside France is seriously distorting our view of the French tradition of anthropology overall. At the same time, the collection will provide a positive view of the French tradition of ethnography, stressing its combination of technical competence and the sympathies of its practitioners for its various ethnographic subjects.

This volume is fascinating and, in my view, particularly interesting in that it offers a considerable contribution to the history (even ethno-history) of anthropology.”  ·  L’Homme

Anne de Sales holds the position of Chercheur at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in association with the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre. Her doctoral research focused on the shamanic tradition of the Kham-Magar of Northwestern Nepal and resulted in a monograph entitled Je suis né de vos jeux de tambours (Nanterre, Société d'ethnologie, 1991). Her recent work concerns the social and cultural impact of the Maoist uprising in rural Nepal that began in 1996, with special attention to local narratives.

Robert Parkin is a Departmental Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford. In 2002 he delivered five lectures on the French school of anthropology at the opening ceremony of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany, since published as part of Fredrik Barth et al., One Discipline, Four Ways (Chicago UP, 2005). His other principal interests are in kinship, religion, and identity, and he has conducted field enquiries in Orissa (India), Poland, Italy, and Brussels.