Anthropology in 1982




  1. University of Michigan (4), University of Cambridge (4)
  2. University of Florida (4)
  3. University of California, LA (3)
  4. University of Illinois, Urbana (3)
  5. London School of Economics and Political Science (3)


  1. Carleton University (2), Harvard University (2)
  2. State University of New York, Albany (2)
  3. University of Chicago (2)
  4. University of Stockholm (2)
  5. University of Calabar, Nigeria (2)*

*Both papers were written by the same author.

The period between submission of a paper and its publication lies between a half to one and a half years (source: American Ethnologist).


Symbolism / Religion / Cognition / Consciousness (21) Symbolism / Religion / Cognition / Consciousness (7)
Kinship models / Indigenous classification systems / Passage rites (13) Theory and Methods (5)
Language / Rhetorics / Structural semantics / Conversation analysis (13) Gender roles / Sex and class (4)
Ecology / Agriculture / Peasants / Subsistence / Demography / Land-use (12) Kinship models / Indigenous classification systems / Passage rites (4)

Gender roles / Women and power (8)
Conflict / Inter-group and intra-group behavior / Ethnicity (4)
Theory and methods (8) Social organization/ Social Change/ Social Stratification/ Urbanization/ Industrialization (4)
Market / Exchange / Division of labor (6) Ecology / Agriculture / Peasants / Subsistence / Demography / Land-use / Fishing communities (2)
Social change / Cultural adaptation / Social contact (5)
Medical Anthropology / Culture and Illness (2)
Ethnicity / Race (4) Art/ Aesthetics/ Imagery/ Semiotics (2)
Hunter-gatherers / Tribalism (4) Market / Exchange / Division of labor (1)

The regions that are covered by the papers in the center journals are mainly:

Latin America (15 papers), Africa (10), USA / Canada (10), Europe (8), East Asia (5), India (5), and Melanesia / Oceania / Micronesia (5)

The main regions studied by the authors in the marginal journals are:

Africa (12 papers), USA/ Canada (6), Latin America (6), India (2) , and Europe (2)

by affiliation of Authors in 4 major Journals

1 Cultural Anthropology (46)

2 Archaeology (8)

3 Bioanthropology / Physical Anthropology (6)

4 Mathematics / Statistics (6)

5 Linguistic Anthropology (5)
6 7 Medicine / Health Studies (3)
8 Development Studies (3)
9 Sociology (2)


Guide to Departments of Anthropology 1982-83. Washington DC: American Anthropological Association.

Central Issues

Concerning methodology and epistemology, only a few of the papers are reflexive. Most authors included a paragraph on "data" or "method", but throughout the texts the persons of the ethnographers are mostly absent. No paper addresses ethnography as a process of writing, or questions of authority, authorship, and the rhetorical politics of writing. In 1982 it was obviously neither common to write in the first person, nor to incorporate "multiple voices," including those of the subjects of the studies. The authors do not reveal the nature of their relationships to informants, and rarely talk about their personal experiences in the field.

The only paper where the first person is employed, is "The Golden Marshalltown", which as discussed below, is the personal narrative of the author who writes in the form of a parable about the state of art in anthropology. Authors who write about the legacy of other anthropologists are more likely to use biographic material, but still maintain a personal distance.

Most studies are based on ethnographic, historical, and statistical data which are presented in a neutral, objective and scientific manner. Some papers are reflexive in the sense that they critically assess methods, theory, and concepts such as "lineages," (see for example "Where have all the lineages gone?" by Michael Verdon in American Anthropologist 84: 56-79, and "Methods in Caribbean anthropological research" by Joseph R. Manyoni in Anthropologica 24: 167-92), "primitive thought," and "cannibalism" (see "The myth-eating man" by Ivan Brady in American Anthropologist 84: 595-610). Critical articles that deal with epistemology focus on the language of anthropology (see "Toward an ethnographic language" by Michael H. Agar in American Anthropologist 84: 779 -95, and "The language of ethnohistory" by Rene R. Gadacz in Anthropologica 24: 147-66).

Volume 47: I-II of the journal Ethnos is a special issue with assessments of the development of "national anthropologies", anthropological disciplines in different countries. Included are India, Poland, Sudan, Canada, Brazil, and Sweden.

In general, the papers published in 1982 seem to stand at the beginning of the tendency toward incorporating more qualitative, self-reflexive, and also feminist approaches.

In order to single out what has been written, it should be mentioned what has not been written about. Certain key-words that today are widely used and discussed, such as discourse, reflexivity, experimental ethnography, narratives, postmodernism, postcolonial identities, national identities, consumption and commodification, power and hegemony, authenticity, displacement, geographies of identity, space, dispora, public culture, identity, globalization and localization, mass media, transnationalism, modernity, the production of culture, imaginary, do appear, but very rarely.

Concerning migrant populations in industrial countries, studies focus very much on their kinship organization, networks, mobility, and related issues, rather than on "diasporic public spheres", or globalization through mass media and commodification. Also the major focus of current anthropology on the manifestations of "resistance," "negotiation," and "agency" in everyday life, was not dealt with significantly in 1982.

Ethnicities, nations, and other groups were obviously not understood as "imagined" boundaries to the extent that they are today. The only paper problematizing this is Galaty’s "Being Maasai, Being People of the Cattle: Ethnic Shifters in East Africa" (American Ethnologist 9: 1-20). Today’s popular analytical trinity of "race, class, and gender" was also not yet present within the publications of 1982.

Central Conflicts

One major issue of conflict in 1982 was how to conceptualize cross-cultural differences in thought and cognition. In the center of this controversy was C. R. Hallpike’s book "The Foundations of Primitive Thought," published in 1979. Review articles like "On Savages and Other Children" by Richard A. Schweder (American Anthropologist 1984, 84 : 354-66) criticized Hallpike for being evolutionist and developmentalist, and for his misinterpretation of the relation between the "structures" and the "contents" of thought. Debates are marked by the attempt to prove that the "native" is not primitive, but that fieldwork has shown that there exist very complex and abstract local systems of cognitive classifications and categorizations. Critiques challenge earlier ethnographies that did not take into account indigenous, emic concepts, and neglected their use for anthropological comparison. The cross-cultural validity of the concept of "law" is questioned, an eurocentric perspective rejected, and problems of definition are discussed. However, although the cross-cultural application of "eurocentric" conceptions is problematized, the person of the ethnographer and the question of authority are not yet issues of controversy. At that time, ethnographic epistemology is assessed and criticized at the stage of doing it, rather than writing it. There seems to have been a strong shift away from "armchair anthropology" toward a more interpretative approach; a focus on the "inside view" and how to translate it into ethnography. Biological models for the explanation of cultural and social change are questioned. An important issue was the question of whether the concept of "culture" still has explanatory power, or if it should be replaced by the notion of "behavior".

One important paper that shows central conflicts of this period of time is "The Golden Marshalltown: A Parable for the Archaeology of the 1980’s" by Kent V. Flannery (American Anthropologist 84: 265-78), an archaeologist whose critique addresses the whole discipline. The article addresses a number of issues, such as the difficult job market in anthropology, the uncertainty of the future of the discipline, a fear of a fragmentation of the field into various subdisciplines, and the question of what actually ties the field of anthropology together. This paper criticizes the overemphasis on epistemological theory and reflexivity, and defends the "good work" of truthful archaeologists who still believe in the concept of culture and in the possibility to say something meaningful about human history in general. It pleads for "down to earth" empiricism, and makes fun of those anthropologists who question everything, including themselves, making themselves incapable of doing any work.

A further controversial topic is the self-definition of economic anthropology as a field. The review article "New and old in economic anthropology" by Rhoda H. Halperin (American Anthropologist 84: 339-49) reflects the disagreements about whether the focus of economic anthropology should be on production, exchange, distribution, or all three. A debate was also going on around the concepts of coexisting modes of production (Althusser and Balibar), and the articulation of different modes (Rey). Anthropologists discussed whether there is a significant distinction between preindustrial and industrial economies, and how the theory of the world-system should be assessed.

Another controversy, outlined by Hunn in his commentary "Did the Aztecs lack potential animal domesticates" in American Ethnologist 9 (3): 578-79, centers on the question of whether Aztec cannibalism emerged from a lack of animal domesticates, or was shaped by symbolic factors that can not be fully inferred from material conditions. The discussion reflects an increasing awareness of the incapability of cultural materialism to fully explain cultural behavior, and the acknowledgement that cultural factors which are not purely produced by material conditions must be taken into account.

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