New Publication and Virtual Book Launch: ETHNOGRAPHERS BEFORE MALINOWSKI, edited by Frederico D. Rosa and Han F. Vermeulen

The History of Anthropology Review is pleased to announce the release of the edited volume Ethnographers before Malinowski: Pioneers of Anthropological Fieldwork, 1870-1922. Published by Berghahn Books in June 2022 this lengthy tome is the result of over three years of dedicated effort by the editors and a team of twelve scholars from ten countries in four continents, exploring largely neglected aspects of the ethnographic archive and renovating the history of anthropology. Focusing on some of the most important ethnographers in early anthropology, this volume explores twelve defining works in the foundational period from 1870 to 1922. It challenges the assumption that intensive fieldwork and monographs based on it emerged only in the twentieth century. The so-called age of armchair anthropologists was also the era of ethnographers, including female practitioners and Indigenous experts.

The volume is a 540-page comment on the thesis that Bronisław Malinowski invented intensive fieldwork, and that he and A. R. Radcliffe-Brown founded social anthropology in the annus mirabilis 1922. Largely neglected by their followers, 220 ethnographers worldwide produced at least 365 ethnographic monographs in the fifty years before 1922. Presenting a selection from this vast archive, the twelve case studies demonstrate that sensitive fieldwork resulted in ethnographic accounts with multiple layers of meaning, style, and content. By proposing a new reading of this largely neglected literature, Ethnographers Before Malinowski is a vital source for recapturing—and rewriting—the history of anthropology.

For the Table of Contents and more information about the book:

A virtual book launch will take place during a Round Table at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London, 7 July, 1.00pm-4.30pm (BST) / 2.00-5.30pm (CET). Chaired by David Shankland and Thomas Hylland Eriksen, this two-part event, entitled “Before and After Malinowski,” celebrates both the appearance of the edited volume Ethnographers Before Malinowski (2022) and the centennial of Bronisław Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922). An invitation has been sent to all fellows of the RAI and all members of the History of Anthropology Network (HOAN). The programme and further details are now live.

Three theses will drive discussion during this Round Table:

1. In the fifty years before the publication of Argonauts of the Western Pacific at least 220 ethnographers produced 365 ethnographic monographs worldwide, but much of their work was side-tracked or neglected by Malinowski and his followers.

2. Malinowski is still celebrated as the inventor of intensive fieldwork in a single society, despite the fact that he had many predecessors in other societies and continents pursuing the same goal.

3. The success of British social anthropology has been partly due to its marginalizing the relative importance of other approaches such as non-functionalist ethnographies, comparative studies and ethnohistory.

Rosa, Frederico Delgado and Han F. Vermeulen (eds.) Ethnographers Before Malinowski: Pioneers of Anthropological Fieldwork, 1870-1922. Foreword by Thomas Hylland Eriksen. New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books (EASA Series 44), June 2022. xviii + 522 pp.  

John Tresch: contributions / website / / Warburg Institute, University of London

1 Comment

  1. Roberto Pineda c

    July 2, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    Que bueno ya era hora.felicitaciones a los autores.

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