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"...presents a powerful case for anthropology that provides a full and whole account of the contemporary world, as well as some dilemmas...Taken together, the different approaches and case studies presented in this volume amount to an important and refreshing perspective...showing how contemporary social anthropology, with [its] 'interdisciplinary turn,' offers explanations that can help us understand the interplay of culture, society, biology, genetics, and ecology." -JRAI
Given the broad reach of anthropology as the science of humankind, there are times when the subject fragments into specialisms and times when there is rapprochement. Rather than just seeing them as reactions to each other, it is perhaps better to say that both tendencies co-exist and that it is very much a matter of perspective as to which is dominant at any moment. The perspective adopted by the contributors to this volume is that some anthropologists have, over the last decade or so, been paying considerable attention to developments in the study of social and biological evolution and of material culture, and that this has brought social, material cultural and biological anthropologists closer to each other and closer to allied disciplines such as archaeology and psychology.
A more eclectic anthropology once characteristic of an earlier age is thus re-emerging. The new holism does not result from the merging of sharply distinguished disciplines but from among anthropologists themselves who see social organization as fundamentally a problem of human ecology, and, from that, of material and mental creativity, human biology, and the co-evolution of society and culture. It is part of a wider interest beyond anthropology in the origins and rationale of human activities, claims and beliefs, and draws on inferential or speculative reasoning as well as "hard" evidence. The book argues that, while usefully borrowing from other subjects, all such reasoning must be grounded in prolonged, intensive and linguistically-informed fieldwork and comparison.
David Parkin is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford, All Souls College, having held the chair from 1996-2008. He was previously from 1964 to 1996 at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. From February 2010 to October 2011 he was Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, Germany. He works in Eastern Africa among Muslims and non-Muslims on religion, healing, language, human bodily intelligence, and material culture. His books include Sacred Void (CUP, 1991); Islamic Prayer across the Indian Ocean (with Stephen Headley) (Curzon Press, 2000); The Politics of Cultural Performance (with Lionel Caplan and Humphrey Fisher) (Berghahn Books, 1996); and Bush Base, Forest Farm (with E. Croll) (Routledge, 1992).
Stanley Ulijaszek is Professor of Human Ecology at the University of Oxford, and was previously at the University of Cambridge. Current research interests include human evolutionary nutrition, and biocultural determinants of nutritional health in transitional economies of Eastern Europe and the Pacific. He has conducted research in Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands, Poland, the UK, Australia, Bangladesh, Nepal and India. His books include Human Energetics in Biological Anthropology (CUP, 1995); Nutritional Anthropology; and Prospects and Perspectives (with Simon Strickland) (Smith-Gordon & Co., 1993).