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Stanley J. Tambiah discusses the life of Edmund Leach (1910–1989), one of Britain's foremost social and cultural anthropologists, and a man of extraordinary versatility, originality and intellectual breadth. His substantial contributions to anthropology deal with topics including kinship and social organization, hill tribes and valley peoples, tenure and peasant economy, aesthetics, British structural-functional methodology, the structuralism of Levi-Strauss, biblical narratives and the myths of Classical Greece. Leach was not wedded to any settled orthodoxy: what makes his work exciting is his experimentation with new ideas, and his expansions of the horizons of the discipline. His distinctive view of the comparative method allows him to transcend the stale dichotomy between 'them primitives' and 'us moderns', finding instead a dialectic between 'us' and 'them' which opens up the possibility for illuminating common human propensities and capacities.Read more
- The first comprehensive biography
- Conveys the extraordinary range of issues discussed by Leach
- Highlights the special view of the comparative method transcending the 'primitive' vs 'modern'
Reviews & endorsements
'… a more important contribution of Tambiah's is to have clarified Leach's understanding of structuralism and functionalism and to explore how he reconciled them in quite innovative ways. … he offers an interpretation of Leach's work from the point of view of a distinguished contemporary …'. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
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- Date Published: February 2002
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521521024
- length: 538 pages
- dimensions: 228 x 152 x 33 mm
- weight: 0.84kg
- contains: 7 b/w illus.
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Edmund Leach (1910–1989): Achievements
2. Childhood and youth
3. Apprenticeship and the Second World War
4. The anthropologist at work: teacher and theorist
5. The Political Systems of Highland Burma
6. The Frontiers of Burma
7. Pul Eliya: the challenge to the descent group theory
8. Hydraulic Society in Ceylon: contesting Wittfogel's thesis and Sri Lankan mytho-history
9. The engagement with structuralism
10. The comparativist stance: us and them
11. The Structural Analysis of Biblical Narratives (with illustrations)
12. Anthropology of art and architecture (with illustrations)
13. Individuals, social persons and masquerade
14. Leach and Levi Strauss: similarities and differences
15. A Runaway World?
16. British anthropology and colonialism: challenge and response
17. Retrospective assessment and rethinking anthropology
18. The work of sustaining institutions
19. Retirement, retrospection and final illness
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