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Modernism, method and the making of Anthropology

Dr David Mills, University of Oxford

Wednesday 12 November at 4.00 pm

In 1922, proclaimed as modernism’s ‘Year One’ by Ezra Pound, the anthropological project was redefined by the publication of Bronislaw Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific, and A. Reginald Radcliffe-Brown’s The Andaman Islanders. This paper starts by exploring their contrasting commitments to ‘methodological’ as opposed to ‘aesthetic’ modernism, and how this shaped the ‘new’ science they competed to champion, in Britain and beyond.

After the Second World War, Radcliffe-Brown’s more systematic and institution-focused approach to discipline-building was in the ascendant, galvanised by anxiety over social anthropology’s intellectual distinctiveness and emergent anti-American sentiment. With the ending of Colonial Office funding, the transatlantic traffic in people and ideas catalysed by both anthropologists began to stall, and by 1963 a watershed ASA ‘Anglo-American’ summit instantiated the divide between two national scholarly communities.

Drawing on a range of archival sources, I explore the challenge of disentangling the relative influence of ideas and everyday institutional practices in documenting the emergence of disciplines, and reflect on the legacy of aesthetic modernism within anthropology today.

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