Anthropology in 1985

Beth Barrie



  1. Australian National University – Department of Anthropology RSPAS
  2. University of Chicago – Department of Anthropology
  3. Cornell University – Department of Anthropology
  4. University of Durham – Department of Anthropology
  5. London School of Economics and Political Science – Department of Anthropology


  1. University of Copenhagen – Institute of Archeology and Ethnography
  2. McMaster University – Department of Anthropology
  3. University of Lund – Department of Sociology, Social Anthropology
  4. Stockholm University – Department of Social Anthropology
  5. The rest of the departments were represented by one author, and were predominantly located in Europe.
*Tied with two authors from each institution.

NOTE: Three authors represented each department in the mainstream thus, this list of top 5 is alphabetical. Three authors also represented Northwestern University Department of Anthropology.

The top five lists are indicative of the general trend in authorship. The mainstream journals are dominated by American, Australian and European departments. The marginal journals contained a more diverse selection of departments including institutions in the Middle East which were completely absent in the mainstream journals.


Symbolism/Representation (12) Household/Organization (8)
Ecological/Land Use (11) Methodology (5)
Social & Cultural Change (10)  Ritual/Myth (5)
Methodology (8) Theory (5)
Linguistics; Sociobiology; Cognition/Consciousness (7) Social and Cultural Change (4)
Theory; Economics (5) Symbolism/Representation (4)
Household/Organization; Ritual/Myth; Kinship; Market/Exchange (4) History (3)
Gender; Politics (3) Sociobiology; Politics; Market/Exchange (2)
Postcolonial studies; Commodification (2) Postcolonial studies; Alterity; Religion/Cosmology; Linguistics (1)
Religion/Cosmology; Ethnohistory; Race/Ethnicity (1)  Economics; Gender (1)

by affiliation of Authors in 3 major Journals

1 Religion

2 Economics

3 Linguistics

4 Social

5 Political
6 Development
7 Ethnohistory
8 History
9 Ethnology
10 Semiotics


Examining a sample of journals from 1985 revealed that each journal had a distinct voice and a popular topic. In the mainstream, Man published more articles on symbolism and meaning, American Ethnologist published more on religion and ritual, Current Anthropology favored articles related to the Middle East and American Anthropologist published more on gender issues and market issues. In the marginal journals Ethnos favored articles relating to Scandinavia and Ethnology included more articles on topics relating to marriage. Anthropologica in 1985 was a special tribute to Victor Turner so each of the articles emphasized aspects of Turner’s career.

Aside from the differences between the journals there were trends that cut across the journals. Overall the range of topics in the journals was broad and reflected the diversity of the discipline. It was interesting to see that the topics popularly perceived as anthropological such as kinship and ritual were not the main issues in these journals. Kinship seemed to be eclipsed by investigations into social change so much so that the articles addressing family/household issues and land use almost exclusively focused on changes in these phenomena. There seemed to be an implicit belief that any culture being studied was in the process of changing.

There was not agreement on the role of rituals in a culture. Some authors asserted that ritual reflected society (e.g., Battaglia in American Ethnologist, Layton in Man). Other anthropologists felt that rituals enabled societies to resolve conflict or change (e.g., Harrison in Man, Schiefflin in American Ethnologist). It was clear there was little consensus in the field on the function of ritual in society.

For certain topics such as ritual, dowry or reciprocity the functionalist approach was popular. However, there seemed to be somewhat of a paradigm shift occurring during 1985 because various authors emphasized the need to examine meanings and symbols (e.g., Mayer in Man, Goodale in American Ethnologist, Lundmark in Ethnos, Healey in Ethnology). The study of symbols and meaning was represented by an article by Taylor in Current Anthropology which examined the dominant symbols in anthropology texts.

The theme that was most prevalent in both the mainstream and marginal journals was the importance of history. The marginal journal Ethnos devoted an entire issue to the topic of history and anthropology with articles tracing the connection between history and anthropology (Hannerz), examples of historical analysis in anthropology (e.g., Olwig, Lofgren, Harbsmeier) and an article calling for a “clearing of the air” between historians and anthropologists (Friedman). Historical studies were present in all of the journals (e.g, Trak in Current Anthropology, Frake in Man, Rappaport in American Ethnologist, Finney in American Anthropologist, Burton in Ethnology, Barnard inAnthropologica). It was clear that historical studies were acceptable in anthropology and that perhaps the number of historical investigations was on the rise.

Overall the mainstream and marginal journals appeared more similar than different. The variety of topics was broad in both types of journals and although each journal seemed to favor a certain topic there did not seem to be radical differences between the topics favored by the mainstream journals and those favored by the marginal journals. The most telling difference between the mainstream and the margins was the diversity of universities represented in the marginal journals. American authors dominated the mainstream journals. The marginal journals included more authors from outside of Europe and the United States. If the mainstream journals become more open to foreign authors there will be little difference between the mainstream and marginal journals.

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