The Routledge Dictionary of Anthropologists

The Routledge Dictionary of Anthropologists

The Routledge Dictionary of Anthropologists

The Routledge Dictionary of Anthropologists


This detailed and comprehensive guide provides biographical information on the most influential and significant figures in world anthropology, from the birth of the discipline in the nineteenth century to the present day. Each of the fifteen chapters focuses on a national tradition or school of thought, outlining its central features and placing the anthropologists within their intellectual contexts. Fully indexed and cross-referenced, The Routledge Dictionary of Anthropologists will prove indispensable for students of anthropology.


Alongside the movements of Boasian relativism and culturalism, the period after the First World War saw a renewal of evolutionism (known as neo-evolutionism), the principal characteristics of which were the revival of totalizing approaches to human history and the rejection of the psychologization of social phenomena.

Two currents can be discerned: the main protagonist of the first was G. P. Murdock, critic of historicist particularism and instigator of the Human Relations Area Files; the second, less clearly defined, was represented by V. G. Childe, K. Wittfogel, L. White and J. Steward. Childe popularized the idea that the prehistoric evolution of mankind was founded on economic production, Wittfogel advanced the hypothesis that hydraulic civilization lay at the origin of the modern state, White considered culture and its evolution from an 'energetist' perspective, and Steward developed a schema of polygenic evolution based on determination by the natural environment.

Wittfogel, Karl August (1896-1988)

Born in Germany, Karl August Wittfogel became an active member of the German Communist Party and was associated with the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt. He was briefly imprisoned after Hitler came to power in 1933, and then fled to the usa, where he soon became a virulent anti-communist, albeit without giving up his deep admiration for Marx's work. He became an American citizen in 1941, and in 1951 he testified against the sinologist O. Latimore during the communist-hunting McCarthy trials. Wittfogel adapted the Marxist concept of mode of production (condemned in the Leningrad Congress of 1931) to develop his own notions of 'Oriental despotism' and the 'hydraulic society', whose history he traced in practice and theory from Montesquieu to Marx and Stalin. He held that large public works, such as irrigation projects in China, promote a bureaucratic state centralism which extends its power to all aspects of social life, and he sees in this dynamic, which he contrasts with the atomism of peasant societies, the origin of the modern state. Wittfogel became director of the Center for Chinese Studies at Columbia University. More information on Wittfogel can be found in The Times of 18 June 1988.

Murdock, George Peter (1897-1985)

George Peter Murdock was born near Meriden, Connecticut, into a family of prosperous farmers. He served in the National Guard on the Mexican border in 1916, and then in the artillery when the usa became involved in the First World War. He gained a ba in American history from Yale in 1919 and entered the law faculty in 1920. After interrupting his studies in 1922 to travel around Asia and Europe, he enrolled in the social sciences department at Yale, where he came under the influence of A. G. Keller. Keller was well known as the author of The Science of Society (4 vols, New Haven: Yale written by his mentor W.G. Summer has it, University Press, 1927), which, as a note 'carried forward Spencer's grandiose plan for a total picture of world evolution' (Harris, 1968:607). Murdock obtained a Ph.D. in 1925 for his critical translation of Julius Lippert's The Evolution of Culture. He taught at the University of Maryland from 1926 to 1928 and then worked as Keller's research assistant at Yale from 1928 to 1931. From 1931 he occupied a post which straddled the newly created departments of sociology and anthropology at Yale. in the summers of 1932, 1934 and 1935, Murdock travelled to the Haida on the Northeastern coast and to

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