Loading Events

RAI President’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Tuesday 19 March 2019 at 3.30pm

at the Royal Anthropological Institute

The presentation of the RAI President’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Prof David Parkin.

3.30 Prof Richard Fardon, SOAS
The African foundations of David Parkin’s anthropological thought
The taken-for-granted relationship between ethnography and anthropology has recently become contentious, and rightly so. David Parkin’s career, to my mind, illustrates ‘anthropology thanks to ethnography’ rather than ‘anthropology contra ethnography’ (Ingold 2017). By dint of the unusually wide range of his ethnographic research in East Africa, its decades long duration, his mastery of several African languages and of the associated historical and regional records, David Parkin has employed the productivity of ethnographic immersion to enhance the distinctiveness of anthropological theory. Without ethnography in its fullest degree, anthropological theory is destined either to repeat itself or, and perhaps more regrettably, to import and repeat the conventional wisdom of other western disciplines.

4.00 Prof Elisabeth Hsu, University of Oxford
David Parkin, the pathfinder
David Parkin has been credited with having helped ‘save’ social anthropology when he was a member of the University Grants Committee which visited and assessed UK departments during the Thatcher years. He furthermore, under pressure to increase departmental income, strengthened the discipline pragmatically by setting up two medical anthropology masters courses in social anthropology departments at SOAS and Oxford, alongside other masters degrees. However, where elsewhere medical anthropology has been valued mainly for tackling applied problems of public health, David Parkin has always recognised its potential for addressing general anthropological and epistemological questions. Furthermore, by promoting the concept of ‘holistic anthropology’, he and his colleagues at Oxford recognised the potential of reinforcing the remit of social anthropology by opening it up to interface with cognitive, psychological, ecological, material, museological and evolutionary anthropology. Finally, in his research at the Max Planck Institute, Goettingen, on global mobility and superdiversity, he on the one hand extended his field locales from East Africa to East Asia, and on the other, returned to his roots in linguistic anthropology.

4.30 Dr Alex Pillen, University College London
David Parkin’s Anthropology of Language.
Distinct theoretical innovation led David Parkin to carve a path for an anthropology of language in the UK. Each conceptual moment merits attention in its own right.  His chapter in Bloch’s volume on political language in 1975, the notion of language as exchange in Kapferer’s ‘Transaction and Meaning’ a year later, as well as work on simultaneity in speech and the Curl lecture in 1979 on creative abuse constituted a first movement.  This was followed by two paradigmatic statements, the book Semantic Anthropology in 1982 and his Political Language in the Annual Review of Anthropology of 1984. Later texts make a contribution to an anthropology of indirect semiosis: the power of incompleteness, which was published in Masquelier and Siran’s Pour une anthropologie de l’interlocution: rhetorique du quotidian (2000), and recent work on allusion that mediates between lexicon and language shadows (2015).  The current development of the idea of Semiosis as Orchestration, continues a line of conceptual thought, already initiated in his early work. It is an intellectual engagement over decades, and form of revisiting both fieldsite and theory that led to unique scholarship. Not only to be briefly celebrated, but given a timeless place in our curriculum in linguistic anthropology.

5.00 Tea and Coffee

5.30 Prof David Parkin, University of Oxford
Reflections on experiencing sixty years of anthropology: 1959-2019
Happily exposed to anthropology from undergraduate in 1959 at SOAS and the LSE to current Oxford retirement musings, I comment on what I see as developments in and around the subject as witnessed in the course of teaching, research, writing and administration. The aim is not history but rather the tracing of personal perspectives.


This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://raiparkin.eventbrite.co.uk

Location : Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
United Kingdom