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Title: Social anthropology and British society, c. 1920-1975
Author: Foks, William
ISNI:       0000 0004 7968 3894
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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At the beginning of the twentieth century anthropology was a discipline marked by an interest in measuring skeletons, collecting ornamental curios and speculating about the evolution of society. From the 1920s onwards, however, anthropologists were increasingly urged to leave their armchairs and enter the field. The figures leading this transformation in Britain were Bronislaw Malinowski and Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. This methodological revolution transformed anthropology. But it also rippled outwards: irrigating neighbouring disciplines with new concepts and techniques, undermining the idea of the British Empire's 'civilising mission', and inspiring readers to compare and contrast the wide range of social relations evident amongst the world's different peoples. These changes occurred amidst contemporary debates about colonial policy, discussions about marriage reform, conceptions of urban community and re-imaginings of Britain's past. The opening chapters of the thesis investigate the relationship between social anthropology and colonial rule in Africa and tell of its rise and relative decline in the policy sphere. The following chapters proceed to show how, over the same period, anthropologists' relativist ideas and ethnographic methodology were gaining ever-greater prestige in the British academy. During the 1960s anthropologically-inspired scholarship was proliferating. By 1975, an anthropologically-inflected discourse of cultural relativism had become widespread in the social sciences. The thesis thus reveals a rich tradition of inquiry that troubles divisions between histories of colonial and metropolitan social scientific research.
Supervisor: Mandler, Peter Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Social anthropology ; modern British history ; African History ; History of Social Science ; Intellectual History ; History of Anthropology