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Edmund Leach
An Anthropological Life


  • Date Published: February 2002
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521521024

£ 34.99

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • 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'
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    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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    Product details

    • 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

  • Author

    Stanley J. Tambiah, Harvard University, Massachusetts
    Stanley J. Tambiah is the Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. He received his PhD from Cornell University in 1954. He joined the faculty at the University of Cambridge, where he taught for ten years, and was a Fellow of King's College. He went to the University of Chicago in 1973, and moved to Harvard Univesity in 1976. He began field work in Sri Lanka (1956-59), the island of his birth, and and later worked in Thailand. He is the author of eight books.

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