E.E. Evans-Pritchard

Roger Just

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online January 2012 | | DOI:
E.E. Evans-Pritchard

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Sir Edward Evans Evans-Pritchard (b. 1902–d. 1973), known to his friends, colleagues, and students as “E-P,” was arguably the preeminent British social anthropologist of the 20th century. As an ethnographer he conducted substantial periods of fieldwork between 1926 and 1939 in eastern Africa with the Azande, Nuer, Anuak, Shilluk, and Nilotic Luo peoples, producing five major ethnographic monographs and numerous articles and shorter notes. He also produced a sixth ethnographic monograph based on data collected during his wartime service in North Africa. Although a consummate ethnographer and fieldworker, Evans-Pritchard’s reputation rests equally on his theoretical contributions to social anthropology. However, whereas he produced a number of explicitly theoretical articles and chapters, his major theoretical contributions tend to be embedded in his ethnography and in the interpretations and analyses he offers of the empirical material with which he is dealing. Perhaps better than any other British social anthropologist of the period, his work exemplifies the idea of “cultural translation,” and, despite his early association with “structural-functionalism,” he led Oxford anthropology down a distinctively humanist path. By all accounts a strong and charismatic personality, he left his imprint on generations of scholars who worked in, or passed through, Oxford, and he became the defining figure, if not of British social anthropology, then at least of Oxford anthropology. Evans-Pritchard was educated at Winchester College, and then Exeter College, Oxford, where he read history. He went on to the London School of Economics (LSE), where he completed his PhD in 1927. He was appointed lecturer at the LSE from 1923 to 1931, and then, in 1932, was made professor of social anthropology at the Fuad I University in Cairo (now Egyptian University of Cairo). In 1935, he was appointed research lecturer in African sociology, University of Oxford, but undertook military service in Sudan and North Africa from 1940 to 1945. In 1945, he briefly became reader in anthropology at Cambridge University, and then in 1946 succeeded Radcliffe-Brown as professor of social anthropology (and fellow of All Souls) at the University of Oxford. He held this position until his retirement in 1970. He was also a visiting professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago in 1950, and, in 1957, a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University in California. He was knighted in 1971.

Article.  5942 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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